Moving on for Philippine pro-life

Considering all the social and moral issues confronting the pro-life movement here in the Philippines and coming off the experiences in the last elections, one would think that pro-lifers would be very eager, to the point of being obsessed, to learn from their mistakes. Apparently not.

Simply put: not many pro-lifers really know what they want. Which leads to another problem: one can't go about achieving something if one does not know what that something is. Yes, many pro-lifers can tell you the formula for moving on with their advocacy: "First, prayer; then, atonement; in the third place-very much “in the third place”-action." (to quote St. Josemaria Escriva)

In love with crisis

But that formula does not mean that we're required to set aside our wits. And for most pro-lifers, it's one crisis management after another: gay marriage now, divorce the next day, implementation of the RH Law after that, pornography if there's time remaining, and then fight the Church bashers during holidays.

The thing with being in constant crisis mode is that it looks exciting, it makes people feel courageous, and - quite frankly - it excuses them from certain necessities like ... oh, thinking. So we lurch from one prayer rally to another, hold a Mass for (insert name of cause here), and then go trolling off to any social media site where something dramatic was posted. In the meantime, they talk amongst each other about Lumen Fidei and how 'tsk tsk' the rest of the country doesn't even know how important Pope Francis' first encyclical is.

In the end, it doesn't achieve anything except to give off the impression that pro-lifers are just a bunch of unthinking, noisy, repressed people. Which is far from the truth. Many pro-lifers are intelligent, sincere, and well meaning. Many still, in their professional lives, know how to get things done. But, still, no self-respecting organization would actually move the way the pro-life movement as a whole goes about things. And no self-respecting organization does. Unfortunately, like spoiled brats, just because they can appeal to a very important or powerful father (how much more powerful can you get than God), pro-lifers actually believe that they don't need to plan, act, and move with the same discipline that secular movements actually impose upon themselves.

Need for goals and objectives

A secular organization would lay down goals and objectives first: long term and short. And it actually spends time wording precisely what the overall goal and objectives are. "To defend the faith" is not an objective, it's a bumper sticker. The same with "To spread the faith". A goal is "a computer in every home and Microsoft in every computer. Or: "make disciples of all nations. Baptize them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit." An objective is: "By 2020 we shall have so and so number of pro-life congressmen and senators." Or: "By 2016 we shall have pro-life offices in every region." Objectives are measurable, indicators if something has been achieved or on the way of being achieved, within a schedule.

Another thing about objectives is that they must be doable. One of the most ridiculously impossible objectives I've heard in a long, long while was during the last elections and went something like this: "To educate all Filipino voters so that they can individually discern properly who to vote for come election day, refusing vote buying, voting by popularity, or voting by mere emotion, and so without us giving them names they can discern on their own that they must vote for pro-life candidates, thus overturning years and years and generation after generation of money and dynastic politics, all such to be done in a matter of three months".

Personnel is policy

Another thing that a secular organization would do is to acquire and then properly allocate its resources to achieve the objectives. Resources for these things normally come in two: people and money. Pro-lifers are proud that they move through volunteers. Which is well and good. But this must be propped up by a dedicated and paid core of individuals. The problem with people who work for free is that the quality they give shows it. And the problem with volunteers is that their work is what they are willing to volunteer: if they have time for it in between work, if they can show up in between their activities, if they feel well, if the pro-life people are making them feel special enough.

An important aspect of this is getting the right people for the right function. A secular organization would get the best managers, media, marketing, finance people, lawyers, strategists, to do specific functions. Thus, media functions are assigned to the best communications people and one defers to the best lawyers to fight legal battles. The pro-RH group did this marvelously: their best advertising people crafted their message, while Philippine Bar topnotchers organized their legal offense. A dysfunctional organization, however, would have it the other way around.

Hence, the pro-life movement: where seniority is infallible, family connection matters more than individual merit, and for the younger batch it's always the dullest and dimmest (thus, the most non-threatening to fragile egos or of the established pecking order) who are brought up. In meeting after meeting, I have seen incredibly smart young people almost brought to tears at the organizational inanity being supported by the rest of the group just because it was raised by the most inoffensive dimwit there. And why would you appoint spokesmen to appear before radio and TV who, granted they are so soft-spoken and liked by the pro-life leaders, actually have the effect of annoying the hell out of (or rather into) those yet to be sold on the pro-life movement?

Money, money, money

Then there is money. One can't run an organization or movement without it: you need it to attract and keep committed professionals, to buy materials, to acquire, keep and spread information, to buy for food for meetings (which, in the Philippines, is a must). Transportation costs must be shouldered, computers need to be upgraded. Pro-lifers like to say that have no money, essentially to convey the impression that their motives are pure and they are moved by volunteerism. Which is crazy.

If one works for and saves money so that our children get educated, then shouldn't we work for and save money to help save their souls? If a company can acquire funding for toothpaste or pipes, or an NGO can acquire money to save monkeys or some stupid bird, then why can't the pro-life movement get funding for something we know to be infinitely more important?

The fact that the pro-RH movement has huge funds while the pro-life doesn't is not something to be proud of. It's something to be corrected. 

Sticking to the plan

Then, when that is done, a secular organization plans. It sets metrics, timelines, accountability. Which leads to another thing: the discipline to achieve the objectives. No plan is executed flawlessly. Obstacles will come, the unexpected always crops up. But that, paradoxically, is the reason one plans. And that is also why one gets the best people: elitist as it may sound, one needs the best. Precisely because in achieving objectives, people don't realize how much improvisation quickly needs to be done. And for some reason, one needs brains to improvise. But that's the way it is. Even with all that planning. And you need the right people with the single-minded determination and mentality to clearly see the objectives, who can clearly see it despite all the distractions, noise, and criticism. Notice I used the word "clearly" twice because it's important. Pro-lifers usually mistake movement for achievement. Not so. It is to move with a defined purpose that would lead to achieving something.

A person who spurs and displays all that activity and sound so as to have a "better Philippines" and "brighter tomorrow" is somebody not seeing things clearly. A group of people that moves just so they can feel better about themselves are not seeing things clearly. People whose personalities don't allow themselves to engage in debate and yet criticize as 'uncharitable' those who do publicly defend the faith, when the latter merely resorted to facts and reason, are not thinking clearly. Pro-lifers who can't help but condemn people to hell and arrogantly label anybody who does not agree with them as sinners and perverts, when what they should be doing is to encourage them to get back into the Church, are not thinking clearly. Thus, the need for discipline, focus, and the clear mindedness to engage only in activities that is productive and gets us closer to reaching the objectives.

And also to achieve those objectives in accordance with the principles of the organization. Thus, there has got to be something wrong if the organization founded on certain virtues like charity, temperance, diligence, etc., engages in hating non-believers, indulges in flaky or sloppy thinking, or does things in a disorderly way.

Hence, the need for constant self-examination: are targets being achieved, schedules met, were performance lags corrected? Any effective organization does this to ensure competence, efficiency, and accountability. Unless, of course, you're one of those dimwits who believe that to demand accountability is to be uncharitable. The self-examination should extend to the personal level and, coincidentally enough, our faith provides us with a "mechanism" to do just that: the sacrament of reconciliation. Otherwise called confession. Everybody needs to do this, including this writer. Regularly. Particularly for people who are advocating in the pro-life movement. For obvious reasons, specially pro-lifers.

It's doable because it's been done

The point of all this is: If you're going to do something, do it right. The cliche is wrong: hell is not only paved with good intentions, it's lit, furnished, and gilded with it. For anybody who actually read the New Testament would see that Jesus, who is God, could have done anything with a flick of the finger. But no. Again, He went through the trouble to give himself up as a model: He set goals (prepare the way, then later 'make disciples of all nations,' etc), gave specific instructions (carry no sandals, no satchel, say peace to the household they enter, etc), allocated resources and planned (get a tied up donkey never ridden before, get a furnished upstairs room, etc., as well as giving parables about planning, such as about the man who built a tower without ensuring adequate resources, etc.), and improvised when things didn't go as planned (see Lk 9:51-56).

Most importantly, He hired and appointed the most appropriate personnel for specific positions. Nothing was stopping Him from hiring or promoting in a manner similar to Philippine practices: He could have engaged in nepotism by elevating his cousin James or resorted to favoritism by promoting his favorite John over the others, or gave in to pakikisama by acceding to James' and John's mother's request to give them special positions. But, no. He appointed the fearless and also quite tempestuous Peter to be Pope and the intellectually agile outsider Paul to be His number one spokesman. He goaded, praised, mentored, criticized, rebuked his people to stick to His plan and keep their eye on the goal. And, not giving way to distractions or flakiness, with determination and great sacrifice, achieved the objective He laid out.

Inasmuch as we Catholics are called to imitate Christ, the pro-life movement should do no less.