The master of the house

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    ‘Ultimately, as Jefferson pointed out, those so entrusted with power, even under the best arrangements, would slowly pervert those powers.’

    IMAGINE, if you can, a middle-income Filipino family of four. A father and a mother, both with 8-hour day jobs, and two children not yet in their teens. They live in a modest bungalow, perhaps inherited, with a lot area of maybe 200 square meters. Maybe also they own a car, but it is more than five years old; neither dad nor mom has a car plan in the private and government offices they work in, respectively.

    A common scenario, especially in those days when I was a pre-teen myself.

    Now add to the picture a househelp, maybe two. Sometimes, these extra hands at home are not paid hands, but blood relations, maybe wanting to escape the dreary life in the provinces and willing to do house chores in exchange for a roof over their heads and regular meals. So they stay with the family and grow old with the family. If they’re paid househelp, they usually come recommended by other relatives from the province. And usually if a family starts with one househelp, soon the latter will recommend another (a friend or a relative) and then there will be two.

    Again, a common scenario in those days. Agencies had not been thought of yet, so personal recommendations were important.

    Now, let’s put a twist to the story. Imagine the father and mother turning over a substantial portion of their take-home pay to the househelp. You see, it’s the househelp who run the household and they need the funds to do this. They’re the ones who decide what the family will have for dinner. They approve repair work or even extension work on the house. They set the TV times for the kids; heck, they even decide what channels are accessible on TV. In fact, they hold the keys to the house.

    Here’s more: for the protection of the family, there is actually a firearm in the house. However, only the househelp have access to the firearm. No one else from the household is “authorized” to even touch the firearm.

    Oh, and the househelp take their pay from the funds turned over to them. Don’t look now, but it may be that they end up with more money in their pockets monthly than do the father and mother after the “operating funds” have been collected by the househelp.

    A final twist: the househelp are only kept by the family for a short period of time. After maybe three years or six, they’re replaced by new recruits.

    What do you think can happen in this scenario? More importantly, would YOU set up your household in this manner?

    I wouldn’t, but think about this: this is how we have actually set up GOVERNMENT.

    In March 1812, Thomas Jefferson wrote to a friend: “Unless that mass (the people) retains sufficient control over those entrusted with the powers of their government, these will be perverted to their own oppression and to the perpetuation of wealth and power in the individuals, and their families, selected for the trust.” Four years later he said to another: “The functionaries of every government have propensities to command at will the liberty and property of their constituents…”

    And on a separate occasion, he said: “Experience hath shown that even under the best forms (of government) those entrusted with power have, in time, and by slow operations, perverted it into a tyranny; and it is believed that the most effectual means of preventing this would be to illuminate, as far as practicable, the minds of the people at large…”

    Imagine that: “…even under the best forms of government…”

    (Jefferson today might be called a “dilawan.” I can imagine him bristling if told “sumunod ka na lang.” This was the man who had said that, if forced to choose between a situation where there is “a government without newspapers, or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter…”

    “Sumunod ka na lang,, or a derivative, “wag kayong nagmamarunong” would have been so contradictory to his sense of democracy and faith in the collective wisdom of the people that whoever uttered them would be torn to bits in any debate.)

    And that is why in almost no single household in the Philippines would the househelp ever be entrusted with so much power, especially one left unchecked. Never would the father or mother surrender ultimate responsibility to any of them, even if they are next of kin, because that would be foolish. If not in fact ultimately dangerous.

    Ultimately, as Jefferson pointed out, those so entrusted with power, even under the best arrangements, would slowly pervert those powers. So one day father and mother wake up to see the firearm pointed at them, after which they are confined to the maid’s quarters. The househelp now occupy the master’s bedroom as master of the house! Oh, and the regular process of replacing househelp? That’s out the window. Why should a great thing come to an end?

    Power corrupts, you see.

    And absolute power corrupts the house help most absolutely!

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