A Travellerspoint blog

For Doc McGowan: Lockean Principles in a Filipino Prison

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This is perhaps the nerdiest (i.e. the most academic) blog I hope to write the entire year. Bear with me, but I understand if you don't actually read this one. (Wow, I'm really building this one up to be a popular one, eh?)

Several days a week, a group of World Racers headed to the local prisons to minister to the inmates. We bring food and offer encouragement at the smaller prison of several dozen inmates, while at the larger one we come bearing our joyful presence to the 700-something inmates. We sing songs with them, listen to their stories, and build relationships. The living conditions are deplorable, space is cramped, and the room is sweltering. Basically, I cannot imagine living there for years on end. But that is not the point of this blog. Sarah wrote a great piece on what it's like in the prison.

While at the smaller prison, I was talking with one of the men who had been there for several weeks. He was one of about 25 men sharing a small cell. He was telling me about his "leader." Curious, I inquired further. "Who was your leader? He's a fellow inmate? Did the guards make him leader or did you all pick him?" I learned that this leader was also an inmate and had been picked by his peers, not the guards, with a set of unknown criteria.

For some reason, I started thinking back to my time in class with Doc McGowan at Butler University, learning about the 17th-century philosopher, John Locke, who spent his free time writing treatises on human nature and the like (he had to be a hit with the ladies at parties, huh?). Locke reasoned that men are naturally outside of the confines of government. Without government, life in this so-called "state of nature" is anarchic and natural rights are not protected or secured. To remedy this, men put themselves under the rule of government in hopes that their natural rights will be protected. They give up some of their freedoms to gain protection and security.

Without knowing it, this man sitting in a Filipino prison cell has subscribed to the reasoning of a philosopher from 300 years ago who he has most likely never heard of. The inmates all decided to create and fill an underground leadership position in order to protect themselves. By electing this inmate as their leader and giving over some of the few freedoms that they do possess in prison to this man, they attempt to secure what little they have—their property is that valuable to them. This leader makes sure that everything stays "fair." I'm assuming he is the one who also sets the justice standards. (So they missed the separation of powers developed by the ancient Greeks, at least they unknowingly got Locke right.)

So, here's to you, Doc. I experienced Lockean principles lived out in a prison cell on the other side of the world. Nothing beats learning outside of the classroom. Be sure to hang this one on your office door for me. :)

If you've made it this far, thanks for reading. I know this one was rough.

Posted by lemorris 22:53 Archived in Philippines

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