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The Fixer and Fixing Society: Two books in contrast

Dominador Awiten . 

WE have below a utilitarian contrast of two books – ala Charles Dickens’.  It was about a person’s redemption, it was about social reform.  It was about a fight for one’s innocence, it was about getting rid of the social malaise of corruption.  It meant the repair of an individual’s broken spirit, it meant valuing good governance.

One is The Fixer.  The other is Fixing Society. Both are excellent representations: of how one person’s  being human can overcome injustice, and how our society can fight and  overcome corruption.

The first was written by Bernard Malamud, published in 1966, awarded the Pulitzer and National Book Awards, hailed as a triumph of personal perseverance to declare one’s innocence, and questioned for being an alleged plagiarism of a true-to-life narrative. The novel, The Fixer, remains a good read, pertinent in these interesting times of false narratives and fake emotions.

The story is of a handyman who retains his optimism despite the bad experience that life deals him with.  He leaves his shtetl for the city in order to abandon his being a Jew, only to be unmasked as one, and accused, falsely, of killing a child in ritual murder.  All throughout and till the end of the story, he unceasingly proclaims his innocence, and wants only to have his “day in court,” in his firm and undying reliance in Spinoza’s philosophy (of which he has read some)  that he is a “rational being and a man must try to reason”.  

Fixing Society is the work of Dr. Ronie V. Amorado, director for Governance and Leadership Programmes of the School of Business and Governance of the Ateneo de Davao University, and national coordinator of the Ehem!  Anticorruption Group of the Philippine Province of the Society of Jesus.   The book is an understanding of the theory and practice of corruption in our country, highlighting the pernicious prevalence of fixing in the public and private workplace. 

The research that provided the context and content of the book included getting the experiences of the persons “on the ground,” – the fixers, and the “enablers” inside the office where transactions provide the fixers’ bread and butter and the illicit “share” of the insiders who, instead of acting as “gatekeepers” and “sentinels at the watch tower,” connive with the fixers, and give them aid and comfort.  

To do away with fixing, the Anti-Red Tape Law was enacted in 2007.  Years later, fixing still remains in the government work place.  No fixer has yet been convicted, and the main reason  is the aversion of the public to testify. 

Maybe, the real remedy is not legal, as Dr. Amorado insists. 

Recently, the law has been revised and is now referred to as the Ease of Doing Business – Efficient Government Service Delivery Law of 2018.  The full implementation of the new law is yet to materialize, awaiting the promulgation of the implementing rules and regulations and the formation of the Anti Red Tape Authority.   In the July 2018 Human Resource Management Summit in Davao City, Civil Service Commission Public Assistance and Information Office Director Maria Luisa Salonga Agamata termed the new law as a “revolution,” not in the sense of a violent upheaval, disturbance and disorder, but in the appropriate sense of a radical change of our values and aspirations, like in the espousal by John Lennon of a revolution without hate, an evolution that “frees our minds.”

In his continuing anti-corruption advocacy, Dr. Amorado in March 2012 wrote Kakistocracy: The Rule of the Unprincipled, Unethical and Unqualified, in Asian Horizons – Dharmaram Journal of Theology, which title says all about the subject.  This is also the fruit of an arduous ethnographic research.       

Perhaps, an elaboration and a refinement of the cultural and sociological milieu of corruption may give us a lasting solution.

The Ehem/Aha initiative, a joint undertaking of the Office of the Ombudsman – Mindanao and Ateneo de Davao University, should continue with the corruption sensitivity program already done in the past years.  The behavior change in the mindset of both the public and private sectors may, in the long run, render corruption not only a losing proposition but a vicious affliction, a malady that must be cut, and cut cleanly.  

To reform our society, we harness our social capital – our shared norms, and our common experiences and life dreams – as our investment for our future and for the generations to come.

(Dominador C. Awiten has been in government service ever since.  He studied Law at Xavier University – Ateneo de Cagayan and was admitted to the Bar in 1992.)

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