Dr. Emiliano Hudtohan

Educator, Business Writer, Industry Expert and Entrepreneur

Sensibility, Sensitivity and Civility

Manila Standard Today – October 31, 2011

by Dr. Emiliano T. Hudtohan

This month, Senator Edgardo J. Angara filed Senate Bill 2981 which calls for the creation of a Philippine Institute for Aging to respond to the needs of an aging civil society. By 2040, the institution is projected to serve about 20 million senior citizens. By then, through science research and medical technology, Senator Angara envisions a healthy and productive senior citizenry—a fitting way to treat them with sensibility, sensitivity, and civility.

Royal and genteel treatment 

It is sensible to give “free rides.” I was a beneficiary of the Elderly Filipino Week and Senior Citizens Month celebration. On Oct. 8, I gained access to a train ride by flashing my senior identification card. Admittedly, the Light Railway Transit has been sensitive to the elderly by providing a special section for them, together with pregnant women and those with disability. And the security guard makes sure that the seniors are seated. The free ride this month for the elderly and special treatment of the senior citizens makes good sense—financially, physically and psychologically. Much more, by insuring their safe and comfortable ride, the LRT’s management is sensible and sensitive to the elderly.

My recent Tube ride in London is a little different from Manila LRT. Sensibility and sensitivity are not driven by any physical presence of an enforcer. The Tube has no security personnel on board. Regular voice announcements with British clip [difficult at times to comprehend but audibly very pleasant] remind the riders the do’s and don’ts inside the train. Preferential treatment for the elderly seems to come naturally among London commuters; they are sensible, sensitive and civil in behavior. To further encourage civil behavior and warm relations, Tube management published a 60-word personal act of kindness stories of commuters at the station platforms. For me, these narratives add up to what I describe as the ‘royal and genteel air’ of civility in London. It is such that Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt are reported to be “so enamored with the British culture they are looking to buy a house on the outskirt of London… [They] love the place, the food, the area and they think the people are way more polite.”

This summer in London, my wife and I spent an evening with Yayah Qureshi and Mira Povalova [acquaintances through our daughter] at their neo-Victorian flat in Wimbledon. Yayah, upon knowing that we teach MBA ethics at De La Salle University in Manila, re-introduced us to Peter Singer’s book, How are we to live in an age of self-interest. Singer’s ethics of care goes beyond human sensibility, sensitivity and civility; he further extends it for animal care, which influenced organizations like People for the Ethical Protection of Animal and advocates of animal rights. My contention as an axiologist is that sensibility, sensitivity and civility under the umbrella of biospheric democracy will help us care for the elements of the earth and the universe because of their intrinsic values.

Rough and rugged pursuit 

Here in Manila, during rush hours, LRT commuters become insensible, insensitive and even uncivil. Understandably, everyone is going somewhere and must get there fast. In addition, when it rains everyone is extremely anxious and nervous to go home and reach dry land. This means boarding the train now or else wait for the next. Rushing to board the train delays the egress of passengers who are alighting. Many times, silence is broken by someone announcing, “Meron pang bababa.” Upon boarding, passengers have to be reminded to go to the center of boxcar to give space to the last passenger trying very hard to gain access, or else that person will get squeezed by the door and certainly the door will not close. Again, the guard makes an appeal for people to move forward; the door reopens to make a final close; and finally moves forward to the next station. Someone reminded me we are lucky because in Tokyo, a ‘pusher’ forces the passengers to pack like sardines to close the door. Our Asian mass transit behavior is a far cry from the British Tube sensibility, sensitivity and civility.

Should we continue to live our ‘rough and rugged’ pursuit of self-interest, Socrates will soon downgrade our ‘Republic’ to a mere ancient ‘polis.’ And if that ‘polis’ simply exists for “biological existence and a system of stable, intimate, simple social relations restricted to family and somewhat larger tribe’ without sensibility, sensitivity and civility—our society will be declared by Socrates as a City of Pigs. For him, the Republic should have the ideals of human life and for me sensibility, sensitivity and civility truly make us most human.

Congratulations to Br. Roly Dizon, FSC, Br. Gus Boquer, FSC, Br. Manny Hilado, FSC, and Br. Cris Moreno, FSC who celebrated on Oct. 10 their golden years as De La Salle Brothers. For 50 years, in the tradition of St. John Baptist de la Salle, they formed our Filipino youth to be sensible, sensitive and civil by teaching their minds and touching their hearts.

Dr. Emiliano T. Hudtohan teaches at the Management and Organization Department. Ramon V. del Rosario Sr. College of Business of De La Salle University, Manila; MBA and PhD programs at De La Salle Araneta University, Malabon, and MBA at Far Eastern University-Makati. He is an associate professor of PhD in social development program of Philippine Women’s University, Manila. For comments, e-mail him at dr.eth2008@gmail.com.

The views expressed above are the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the official position of De La Salle University, its faculty, and its administrators.

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