The headline news of Inquirer’s Jan 19, 2014 issue brought to the nation’s attention the growing incidence of child cybersex activities and crimes in the Philippines. It is very commendable that our law enforcers are doing their best to arrest the perpetrators and promoters of these crimes. We are faced here with crimes committed against people who are typically characterized by innocence and can hardly defend themselves: children. Hence, these crimes have a special seriousness.
But what can be even more distressing is the news that in some cases the crimes are committed with the complicity of their parents; these connive with the producers of the cybersex materials because they pay sizeable amounts that will help them tide over their dire daily straits.
Parents ought to be the first and best protectors of their children. We all know of stories of parents willing to give up their goods and comfort, even their lives, for their children. But if parents put down their defenses and become willing to give up their children to crime for some financial benefits, even if the reason might be for survival, then there must be something really awry here.
There is a value that I think we must always uphold, no matter what the circumstances might be: the dignity and worth of each person. Child cybersex converts the child into an object thus setting aside his or her dignity as a person. It is an affront against the child’s humanity. It destroys the child’s innocence and even his life from then on.
Related to this value is another one: chastity. This virtue is not very sellable in our day and time. To put it simply, chastity is the attitude of the person who respects the dignity of his or her own sexuality and that of others such that the person’s sexuality is ordered to love and communion that can be conjugal love (marriage) or celibacy for the sake of service to God and others.
Some two hundred and fifty years ago, Jeremy Bentham and John Stuart Mill theorized that man is driven by the passion to seek happiness and they identified happiness with pleasure. What is more Mill said that what is morally good is what gives man happiness and what causes pain is evil. Such claims are over-simplifications, as we know very well that certain goods cannot be attained without pain (no pain, no gain as the wise saying goes). But the disheartening thing is that Mill’s idea has stuck to many people’s minds so that legions these days think that what gives pleasure gives happiness and that such pleasure is morally good.
And so, we find people who cannot understand the value of chastity which might demand at times the restraint of sexual pleasures so as to safeguard the value of the dignity of persons and respect for them. This respect and restraint ought to be distinguishable in our public and private lives, in our TV programs and movies, in our dress codes and work ethics, in our fashion and arts, in our songs and theater, in our rest and recreation, in our family and professional dealings. We usually call it “decency”. I would suggest we Filipinos uphold this value and virtue as something very close to our culture and identity.