lady luck casino nemacolin It was a humbling but also uplifting experience to attend the 65th Ramon Magsaysay Awards ceremonies last Nov. 11 at the Metropolitan Theater, in which four new awardees – including Filipino peace negotiator Miriam Coronel-Ferrer – were honored for their contributions to humanity. Long considered Asia’s version of the Nobel Prize and certainly its most prestigious honor, the RMA has now gone to over 300 recipients from all over the world in the fields of government service, public service, community leadership, journalism, literature, and creative communication arts, peace and international understanding, and emergent leadership.
This year’s four laureates represent a wide range of endeavors.
Miriam Coronel-Ferrer (Philippines) exemplified and championed the role of women in peacemaking, leading the negotiations with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front that led to a Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro. She has since lent her skills and wisdom to peacemaking efforts in East Timor, Cambodia, Afghanistan, Kosovo, and Iraq, among other conflict zones.
Eugenio Lemos (Timor-Leste) mobilized young Timorese to adopt permaculture, a holistic system to create and manage sustainable agrosystems. His approach and methods have been adopted by Timor-Leste’s schools and local governments. Going beyond food security, Lemos emphasizes the need for “food sovereignty,” a country’s ability to produce its own food, with a focus on local, natural, and nutritious food.
Ravi Kannan (India) set up the Cachar Cancer Hospital and Research Center in one of India’s most remote and poorest regions to bring cancer care to those who could least afford it. Dr. Kannan resolved not just to create a state-of-the-art facility, but also to make it accessible to the poor by offering free treatment, room and board, temporary employment for caregivers, and a homecare program for patients.
Korvi Rakshand (Bangladesh) began by helping poor Bangladeshi children learn English so they could find gainful employment. His JAAGO Foundation has since expanded to provide free English-language primary and secondary education to 30,000 students in both traditional and online schools, as well as embracing other causes such as women empowerment, children’s rights, and climate change.
One thing stood out in all of these awardees – and, indeed, in those who preceded them as RM laureates. It wasn’t about them. Their backgrounds, their education, their previous honors and awards were hardly even mentioned – and when they were, it was only to suggest that Dr. Kannan could have chosen to pursue a lucrative career as an oncologist in Chennai, and Rakshand could have parlayed his law degree from the University of London into success as a barrister.
It was all about what they did for others, the public service they performed with quiet dedication, selflessness, and humility. Rakshand would relate that when he got a phone call from RMAF president Susan Afan, his first thought was that he was being called to vet another candidate, not expecting to be told that he was the awardee.
All this made me think more deeply about mibo9 casino how the rest of us aspire for honors, by which we almost exclusively mean personal and individual recognition. Indeed, from the grades up, we’re trained to venerate valedictorians, summa cum laudes, board topnotchers, top salesmen, beauty queens, boxing champions, singing sensations, and best actors and actresses. To be one of them is to have achieved meaning in one’s life. Our living rooms and offices have long been excuses for trophy displays, but now social media has done them better by offering a free and wide platform for self-promotion, so that not a day goes by without someone announcing some new achievement.
And why not? I suppose it’s a natural human desire to rise above the herd and be known for something, be it physical beauty, vocal prowess, athletic skill, or mathematical genius. In a world where we’ve become increasingly commodified and homogenized, self-assertion (in many cases – think Instagram – to the point of narcissism) seems mandatory, if only to say “I’m here. I’m good – no, make that, I’m great!”
So we look around at what others are doing and try to do them one better. The internet has magnified expectations to such unrealistic extents that young people have committed suicide for reasons that people from a hardier generation would have found laughable were they not so tragic. In our quest for recognition – any recognition – we’ve fallen prey to a slew of awards, pageants, and prizes of doubtful value, even paying to play Cinderella for a day and half the night. The awards themselves have become commodified and homogenized.
To be honest, I myself have built up my own little stack of writing prizes, some of them worth more than others. But again, what is “worth” beyond oneself? Like a punch-drunk boxer with a rack of belts, all they show is that I’ve lived a life as a literary combatant, when a writer’s true prize should be the readership of his or her people, perhaps the world. In a society that gives little value to books, or is too poor to buy books, that’s an Olympian challenge.
The Ramon Magsaysay Awards and what they stand for remind us that while service to others is often thankless and sometimes even dangerous, it’s just as legitimate an aspiration as any other, and one we don’t emphasize enough in our personality-focused culture. Our historians and sociologists will have reasons for why we seem to value kani-kaniya over the tayo, or why the African concept of ubuntu, of finding one’s meaning in community, sounds foreign to many of us. I can only guess that the ruthless demands of surviving and succeeding in a cash-driven society have encouraged us to compete rather than cooperate.
The RM Awards are, of course, also a kind of competition, but one without losers, as everyone nominated has already won in his or her own sphere, has already done good by others. The chosen laureates merely stand for their co-workers, for the ideas and values they represent, and above all for an insistently optimistic and assertive humanity in a world splintered by violence, greed, and intolerance.
Greatness can be aspired for – I suspect the truly great don’t even think about it – but it cannot be applied for, much less paid for.
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