Money. That’s all that matters. You don’t have money? You’re a failure, a disgrace, a complete waste of space on the face of the Earth. Harsh as it may sound, that’s what I was taught ever since I was a little girl. Earn or be nothing.
I have lived in a building owned by my father’s side all my life, living amongst the siblings of my father and their children. Yes, we were all related, with the same blood coursing through our veins, but it hardly felt like a family. At a young age, I already felt the pressure of proving myself worthy of being the successor of the family business. My dad barely talked to me, and when he did, it was to remind me to study hard, get a good degree, and earn money, or I’ll be of no use, as if I were simply a machine expected to function well or else my fate was to be thrown away without a second thought. I felt no love.
Wanting love, I did everything in my power to get good grades and impress my dad. I even gave up my dream of becoming an engineer to take a business course, which was what my dad wanted. And I was right about my father’s love. The moment I got into the Ateneo with a business course, my dad started paying more attention to me. For the first time, he started really talking to me, asking me how my day was instead of what my grade was, telling me to enjoy college instead of reminding me that I need to earn a lot of money in the future. And so I was happy. For the first time, I felt that I was more than a potential money making machine. But now, as I sit and reflect, has it really been love that I’ve felt?
If there is one thing I have learned in my Philosophy 101 class, it is that the human being is not merely an object, but a subject. People are supposed to treat other people as people and not as mere things they can use. However, that is not how my dad has been treating me. It seems to me now that my dad sees me as a mere object, a potential money making machine, and now that I have a bigger chance of being chosen to be the successor of the family business and am on the track to making lots of money, he suddenly “loves” me? No, I don’t think it is love. I think he just realized that I can be “of use” in the future, and so I am worth more value now, as if I’m merely an object whose value can appreciate.
The main dilemma, in my opinion, is that my dad sees money as the end, not the means for something that can be much greater, and so maybe that’s why he turned into someone who does not understand subjectivity the way Levinas wants us to (putting others before yourself) because he prioritizes himself first before anyone else, why he is guilty of using people, of “cannibalism”, for his own good and nourishment. His ultimate goal is money, when money is not meant to be the ultimate goal.
This realization, however, will not cause me to develop ill feelings towards my father and the world. Yes, it is disappointing that he views me as such, that his end goal is something completely superficial, but that should not be a reason for me to hate him and eventually, treat others the same way he does as my form of vengeance. If anything, this should push me to do the exact opposite, to treat others as human beings and not as objects, to follow my passion and not have money as my end goal, to love deeply and have compassion. As Levinas has pointed out, being subject is about putting others first before yourself, not the other way around. So that is what I will aim to do – to genuinely care for the people around me and cheer them on as they follow their dreams. As Dr. Garcia once told us in class, to be truly happy, one must “make their passion their profession”, so I want to help other people reach this happiness, doing it because I want to help, not because I want to get something out of it. I want to genuinely be there for other people, to be truly subject. Right now with my track, I myself may not be making my passion my profession because of the business course I am in, but I won’t let that stop me from reaching what I am passionate about. I may not end up being an engineer, but in the future, I can use my business knowledge to get into the real estate business, even if I myself will not be the engineer for my projects. It will still be something I am passionate about.
In the end, what’s most important is that we all see and enjoy the beauty of life despite the challenges. Yes, many challenges may arrive, but these should not stop us from reaching our dreams. In fact, these challenges can even push us to become better people. Aim to appreciate the good things, overcome the bad things, live for others, and ultimately, be human.
Tiffanny T. Uy
Ph 101 JTA-A