Reap what we sow

Jose M. Montelibano

Our lives are full of fleeting issues, threads, and patterns. Because there are always issues that draw our attention, we often miss the forest for the trees. Fleeting issues come and go so often that we may not notice how some linger longer, connect to other issues, and form a thread. It also happens that some threats repeat themselves with consistency and establish patterns. These patterns become the dominant determinants of our behavior and attitudes.

What I described above happen to all individuals. One can imagine, then, what happens to a nation of 110 million Filipinos. One will be overwhelmed by the total number of issues, threads, and patterns and then decipher what they mean and where they will need. Instead of trying to make sense of a very large picture, most end up focusing on what their attention span and native intelligence are comfortable it.

Talking about the Filipino people and nation, however, is more about the collective than the individual. This is so because many among us would like to think that our opinion is not just ours, not just right, but is also shared by the “people” and in the best interest of the nation. We would like to ascribe to the majority an opinion or perspective which may be just personal or shared by very few. In other words, if we have not given enough attention to and intelligent discernment of collective dynamics, we would be in a very weak position to claim our personal opinion as shared by the greater number.

It is funny that we find it easy to talk about what we know less or very little of rather than talking about ourselves where we are the prime authority. In truth, if we are not aware or diligent enough to think intuitively from a historical, contextual, and collective understanding, we will be prone to reaching a limited and, therefore, wrong perspective and conclusion. Yet, if we end up talking about what we are an authority of, which is ourselves, others are not really interested in engaging us.

The amazing truth remains is that we reap what we sow, individually and collectively. Let me skip what is most personal to us because our interest if I am to gage from the shared noise in social media or the streets, is the collective. Our commentaries are related to national issues or concerns, from partisan politics and their more known players to corruption and poverty. It is difficult to understand how our commentaries about collective issues can be intelligent or reasonable when our grasp of the whole is so limited. In fact, not only limited but quite susceptible to the distorted or fake news.

The current state of affairs in our nation just a few weeks from the SONA (state of the nation address) is a snapshot of the running total of the investment in our collective soul. We tend to point to particular personalities or events as responsible for what we have become but often cannot see our own contribution to it. Control by an elite for centuries could not have happened if the vast majority had not tolerated it. Other nations in their own history chose at one point to reject the continuation of poverty our corruption and dismantled governments through revolutions. While we complain about the corruption in our country, we accommodate the corrupt. We complain about poverty but remain unwilling to go out of own comfort zones to raise people out of poverty.

It is true that some are stronger than others, and that the weaker group must accept the consequences unless they find ways and means to correct the imbalance. Injustice happens and even worsens when the majority allows it through their tolerance of what is wrong. In other words, even in the worst of times, people are not helpless. They can fight back, they can lose, even die, but they always have a choice.

There are historical anomalies like poverty and corruption where those directly responsible are but a measly few but with the vast majority of victims allowing themselves to be abused. In the end, we reap what we sow. We can procrastinate and blame others as though mere finger – pointing corrects the anomalies. In the end, we reap what we sow. We may not have enough at any moment to change things but things will never change on their own. When I listen or read the many commentaries about controversial issues, I hardly hear or read about what the commentator will do to begin the process towards change.

Social media is an awesome facility that allows a great number to express themselves. Millions of comments are made and shared every single day. Sadly, those comments remain comments most of the time. They do not translate to action, even from individuals who made the commentaries. It is “our” concern but it is “their“ responsibility. We raise the level of noise but contribute nothing else beyond that. In the end, we reap what we saw. Unless we understand this truism, we will continue to expect that change will come from others and not from us.

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