• Kim’s Dream
  • Orlando R. Ravanera

“Where the mind is without fear and the head is held high, where knowledge is free, where the world is not broken down by narrow domestic walls, in that heaven of freedom my Father, let my people awake.”

These poetic lines by India’s greatest poet, Rabindranath Tagore, reverberated in India 55 years ago, as the once passive nation rose up against British imperialism and claimed its independence, not through a bloody revolution but through a persistent peaceful resistance called “Satyagraha” or love-force championed by the “Father of the Nation” named Mahatma Gandhi.

That Indian struggle against an empire which boast of colonizing a substantial portion of the globe thereby aptly earning the description of  “an empire where the sun does not set,” had put in clear terms the meaning of the slogan “the people united, can never be defeated.”

Whatever be the odds, be it against an empire or conditions that degrade human dignity such as dire poverty, the people, at the end, would always triumph.  But, first, they have to be capacitated to harness their collective strength, founded on a strong faith that they alone can solve their problems by resolving issues confronting their communities.

In our country, whether by law, by nurture and by its nature, cooperativism readily comes into picture as the only instrument now that can put to its knees another kind of “empire” that has caused the marginalization of the people and the ecosystems.  That “empire” is the primary cause of poverty, rooted in the powerlessness of the people.

That “empire” manifests itself in many ways.  It could be a mindset of the people that has become passive and apathetic, bombarded by gospels of materialism and consumerism that has produced a “throw away” society. Yes, there is so much veneration to the profit motive and denigration of spirituality in a world so enamored in so much externalities and trivialities.

That “empire” portrays itself as social injustice, perpetuated by a skewed socio-economic structure, putting the bulk of the people outside the development processes. It is seen in the life of the farmers tilling not their own or if they do, don’t control the mode of production and marketing. It is manifested in the life of the Indigenous People who were once upon a time the masters of the land that they use in the spirit of sharing and service but now is controlled by big Agri-business global corporations.

Its “tentacles” are the Dracula-like usurers that sip the blood of the poor through high interest rates, including financial institutions that do not give the farmers the fighting chance to pay their never-ending debt. These financial institutions are controlled by big businesses and global corporation dominating the market economy.

That “empire’s” foot soldiers come in the form of the loggers and their cabal of vested interest whose appetite to cut the remaining natural forests is equaled only by their greed to profit from the trees that they have not at all planted.

If India had “Satyagraha,” the Philippines has cooperativism whose time-honored and universally-accepted principles, when in fact practiced, can be the gateway towards dismantling the people’s passive and apathetic attitude; it can be the instrument to transform an iniquitous society; it can be the path towards social transformation based on the principles of sustainable development, social justice and popular participation.

Foremost of these cooperative principles is democratic control where the members decide on the how to manage their business that they themselves own and control. That is why in agrarian reform, the farmer-beneficiaries own their land and the mode of production.  That is why, it should be the member-consumers who must own and control basic utilities such as water and electricity through their cooperatives.

Putting people in control is in fact the essence of cooperativism.  It puts to work the real meaning of what it is to be a Republican State where sovereignty resides with the people and all powers emanate from them.

Today, the wind of change hovers over the land – empowering people to break the vicious cycle of poverty and nurturing the spirit to form a more formidable force to catapult us from the mundane to the sublime, for the greater glory of God!