Tuesday, July 21, 2009

“Smoking No, Sex Yes!”

Last July 1, 2008 marked a victorious milestone for anti-smoking advocates. On that day, the Tobacco Regulation Act of 2003, or Republic Act No. 9211 banned cigarette ads on television, radio and print in our country.

This significant legislation seeks to radically arrest the health risks that smoking brings to many especially the youth. The World Health Organization estimates that there are about 80,000 to 100,000 young people, half of which are from Asia, who pick up the habit every day. And many are strongly influence by cigarette advertisements.

Cigarette manufacturers will have to be more creative and entrepreneurial in finding ways to advertise and sell cigarettes. They have come a long way since the Second World War, –through carefully studied and manipulated marketing–, in converting smoking into something socially acceptable and a status symbol for successful men and women. Now all their efforts are going up in smoke!

Many parents will be more than overjoyed to say goodbye to the scenic and breathtaking ads of Marlboro Country and the enticing sportive worlds of Winston Cigarettes and Philip Morris.
Elders can now sit back and relax as another harmful influence is removed from their children’s path towards physical and psychological growth. Indeed, it would be a consolation to think of a new generation of children who will be fortunate enough to be born and raised in a smoke and nicotine-free world.

Still something seems amiss! As the smoke is cleared and the tar is brushed away, society seems to be unaware –or even indifferent in some public sectors– of the vicious and shameless invasion of indecency and immorality seething through both subtle and glaring modes through many billboards, advertisements, newspapers and magazines.

Imagine overhearing parents –coming out of a movie or after seeing an ad on T.V. and magazines– saying: “That was a great show! No one was smoking!” On the other hand how strange it would be for them to say, “The kissing and necking were really so romantic!” or “The bed scene was so realistic!” and worse, “Kids, don’t you think the young lady acted quite naturally wearing nothing?” If you think these reactions are only imaginary, you can think again.
It won’t be long before they become a reality in the form of increasing subtle attacks against the family’s intimacy and values.

For example, are we going to keep on guessing what GUESS conveys with its children’s fashion frequently displayed back-to-back with an adult counterpart? Are they saying they want to ‘start ‘em young’? Do you think that MOSSIMO, FOLDED & HUNG or BENCH are simply going to warm the benches by copying GUESS? Nope, they’re not. It’s all about competition, even to the point of playing ‘hard-ball’ with their soft-erotic billboards. Were you hoping that some Filipino teen idol or heartthrob could be our children’s model or heroine? Think again! Heroes never really get paid for being movie heroes until they start to publicly display the skin underneath the costume.

All these audio-visual moral garbage are polluting every inch of intimacy in our personal, social and religious spheres. Perhaps, advertisers and producers hope that the faint but intense bombardment of such type of ads and trends will gradually paralyze and eventually ruin the person’s moral defenses and remove from his vocabulary words like modesty and decency. These well crafted sensual ads and messages are among the many causes of today’s moral and social cancers degrading the dignity of the family and the youth.

In order turn around the red tide of indecency invading our society, parents, educators and children must first overcome the great obstacle of indifference. We cannot simply remain silent and wait for “what the Church has to say” or “what the authorities will do”.

We must strive to be the moral catalysts within our respective social spheres where we may exercise a certain amount of authority or influence (i.e. clubs, organizations, committees, etc.). This can positively begin at home, where we sow the proper ingredients of decency, modesty, sincerity and diligence. Our approach must be productive, for example, fostering the good use of time, having a sense of service, and helping kids to be sincere and loyal.

Afterwards, we have to study possibilities on how to extend our influence from the family towards broader social circles (i.e. school, office, malls and recreational centers). This can be done by writing letters to the board of directors, marketing heads, and even complaining to the local authorities so that the dignity of the person and the family are respected and promoted in every social level.

Finally, our concern must be constant and optimistic. Our efforts aren’t really meant to totally remove immoral pollutants from our world –since the devil, the world and the flesh will always attempt to lure man away from God– but it would already be a great victory for our children to develop the strength to say “no” to temptation and sin, and “yes” to loving God and neighbor more.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Spiritual Hyperlinks

One day God went to check Heaven’s pearly gates. He heard them squeaking badly and wanted to see if St. Peter had already oiled them. When He reached the gates He was not only surprised to see Peter –as usual– sleeping on the job, but also the gates left ajar. Every now and then they gave out a gentle harmonious squeak when a stray celestial breeze blew by.

“Peter, wake up!” God said trying to control Himself. “Didn’t I ask you to watch over the gates and oil them?”

“Uh? [HO-HUM] Ah…ehhr…,” St. Peter tried his best to hide a wide yawn escaping from his mouth. “Yeshh…, I mean, yes, Lord. I’m sorry. I know you’ll be saying something about the ‘flesh and the spirit’ or sumthin’ like that.”

“Never mind, Peter! But why haven’t you oiled them yet?

“[YAAHWN!] I’m sorry, Lord! I was up all night.”

“All night? Doing what?”

“Surfin’ the net…,” he rubbed both eyes trying to focus on the conversation.

“The net? But didn’t I tell you that it only wastes a lot of your heavenly time?”

“I know, Lord. But you should really check out this craze of social networks down there!” Peter said excitedly.

“You mean social not-working?”

“Oh, come on, Lord, just give it a try,” Peter insisted.

“Okay, okay, okay,” God said and took a seat. “Now what am I supposed to do?”

“It’s so easy, all you have to do is click on the links, Lord,” Peter felt proud to be teaching God a thing or two.

God took the mouse and started surfing. “Let’s see, I’m interested in checking out this priest who’s been writing silly articles,” God’s face lighted up with interest. “What did you say his name was again, Peter?”

“Oh, you mean Father so-and-so?” Peter scratched his head.

“Yeah, that one!” God’s concentrated intensely on the page as it started to load.

“Yup, that’s him alright,” Peter said rather blandly.

“You don’t look so excited,” the Lord noticed Peter’s expression.

“Oh, no, no…, except that… Oh, it’s nothing, go ahead, check him right out!”

God clicked on the profile. The browser took a while processing the request, and then suddenly the screen goes blank and the following error popped out: ERROR 404: Unresolved link. Please contact your internet provider.

“Now what’s that supposed to mean,” God was puzzled.

“Oh, nothing really, it’s just that most of the links in his page are broken,” Peter said.

“I thought you said you were working on him the other day,” God frowned at Peter.

“Yes, Lord, but you just have to give me…,”

“Wait, let’s see check out this link that says prayer life…,” God surfed back to the page and clicked on the link. The screen went blank and there was a longer delay this time. “This is taking an eternity,” God remarked. Then the same error popped out.

“He must have something at least,” the Lord said a little concerned.

“Why don’t you try that one that says Related links,” Peter suggested.

“What’s that supposed to be?” the Lord said.

“I don’t know,” Peter shrugged his shoulders.

The Lord clicked on the link and the screen goes blank and the message appears: PROHIBITED PAGE - MAY BE HARMFUL TO YOUR COMPUTER; TROJAN APPLICATIONS; MATURE CONTENT; ILLEGAL SOFTWARE, etc.

“I’m done with this priest, why don’t you erase his account!” the Lord said.

“Lord, be patient. Give me some time and I’ll figure a way to get his links connected,” Peter begged.

* * *

May the Lord who clicks on the links of our life not find them broken or unfortunately revealing that our hearts and minds are far from Him. The page of our life is the only one we will have. It is something our Lord always reads and it is up to each one to enrich and update that daily page so that we may be able to offer God a new love each time.

God clicks on some aspects of our life not because He’s out to investigate what’s wrong with us. Rather, He does this in order to see how He can help open us to new and fruitful horizons in our piety, sacrifice, good deeds, and above all, how you and I can abide more with His will.

Let us foster a firm resolve to review and improve our spiritual hyperlinks so that they truly link us back to God’s heart. These links are: our prayer, sacrifice, the sacraments, virtues and our sincere love for the souls around us whom we can link back to God’s love.

*Note to reader: HTTP Error 404 is an error message which means that the web page you are looking for cannot be found. The 404 error is also known as "File not found", "Not Found" and "Gone".