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"Improving Society Without Empty Rhetoric"

by Arturo J. Guzman

January 7, 2002
Copyright © 2002 SAN JUAN STAR. All Rights Reserved.

The Star’s headline on the second day of the New Year, "Stray bullets wound at least 20 people", serves as such a powerful indictment of our society that it compels me once again to raise my voice to openly question where our religious, civic and political leaders have been hiding.

Once again the illegal use of firearms, explosives and fireworks left many of our streets more in keeping with Kabul than with San Juan, Carolina or Caguas. Yet this is one and the same society where the accidental death of a person caused such a massive outcry that it affected our collective perception in the nation and significantly deteriorated our relations with Washington. In stark and telling contrast, these incidents of death and injury reported yearly are not accidental but the negligent and criminal acts of our own people and yet there is no will to demand their end with equal forcefulness.

Where are the massive demonstrations and the thousands of signs and bumper stickers demanding "Ni una mas" (Not one more)? They are as absent as our leaders, for their condemnation of such acts would be tantamount to proclaiming that "Puerto Ricans be out of Puerto Rico!" and that of course, would be unthinkable in a society that has nurtured a false sense that it can do no wrong.

Through the years we have descended into a society that is hypocritical and highly vulnerable to manipulation as long as it is done appealing to the inferiority complexes fostered by half a millennium of colonialism. If our concerns for human life were truly sincere, legitimate and beyond other considerations our leaders and we as a people would be consistent in our values and demands. But our values, like the wind, shift according to our momentary convenience and to demagoguery of self-appointed leaders.

We have come to believe that Puerto Rico as a society is exempted from the ethical, moral and legal standards that we demand of others. Lest anyone offer even the most benign and constructive form of criticism, and immediately they are labeled as "anti-Puerto Rican" for our individual and collective inadequacies and character flaws prevent us from admitting that as humans we are, as other societies, surrounded by the good, the bad and the mediocre. A healthy society must never substitute pride of accomplishment and realization, with blind pride or incapability of self-criticism.

For much too long, far too many of our own have become victims of myths of our own making. For them we live in an invincible and endless land of overabundance, populated by perfect people and ruled by an equally mythical system that represents not only the best of two worlds but the best the universe has to offer. We have been led to believe we are infallible and sadly few have had the fortitude, credibility and sincerity to warn and collectively bring us to our senses.

Our conscience is being influenced and formed by the printed and electronic media where often time truth is but an innocent by-stander and political, ideological and economic agendas substitute for accuracy. Where are the good examples?

Our inconsistencies and contradictions serve to underscore the dismal absence of true leadership in Puerto Rico. These are times when religion has become politics and politics a religion. These are times where civic duty is often conditioned to name recognition and budget.

These are times when public trust has much too often been betrayed by officials that seek office not to serve the people but to serve their pockets. And these are times when the masses drool and enjoy, like in the ancient Roman circus, the fate of fallen angels whose rightful presumption of innocence succumbs before the expediency of instant sidewalk judgment.

There are the thieves, and those who make illegal appropriations or misappropriations of public and private funds. That’s exactly what they are! But corrupt, no! Corruption has a name and it is not that of the particular group that becomes vulnerable to other’s self-expediency, but that of the society that engenders them and cynically condemns them not for the nature of the acts they have perpetrated but by the fact that they were caught by their own stupidity.

Unfortunately the spirit of Robespierre has reincarnated amongst us, and it will come to pass that the hunters will become the hunted, and the executioners will become the executed as another of these endless cycles becomes inevitable by the voracity of vengeance and the obligation to dispense true, unprejudiced and impartial justice.

It is a depressing and grim situation but such is the state of the state our society. The more things change the more they will remain the same unless we demand it. And our society will not improve unless we as citizens begin discarding the empty rhetoric of the false messiahs, the double standards and hypocrites and force change by leading with our own individual examples.

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