Age of Transition

by Jose Ma. Montelibano

I never realized that I was born in an age of transition. The myopic mind, attached so much to the narrow self, cannot grasp the nuance of unfettered time. It cannot appreciate history except for selected details, and is not able to flow to the future beyond imaginary images. The myopic mind sees only metered time, as though it were counting the miles traveled by minutes and seconds to measure a taxi fare. Indeed, time is directly proportional to one’s level of consciousness.

Fortunately, wisdom does seep in, even among the unwilling. Life is a teacher and insists on a minimum standard of learning. When one stubbornly refuses, life can be quite demanding and severe. Those who adapt quickly to the essentials being taught are not necessarily spared difficulties, but definitely spared the worst impact of those difficulties. The obstinate, though, learn the hard way, and often way too late to avert the inner pain that had to be absorbed along the way.

That inner pain is reflected by fear which haunts the hard-headed. Fear among the worst wrongdoers is not usually obvious because it is often cloaked with raw power and willfulness. The world outside sees only the a consistency interpreted as determination, which, when combined with power or wealth, effectively disguise fear. But human behavioral scientists quickly see how the fearful behave when their fears are active, the various ways of coping and compensating.

Born after World War II, baby boomers like me are said to have had a rare moment in human history. After particularly violent episodes called world wars, a brief respite from global conflict allowed a mini-renaissance. While artists and social scientists may disagree that such a development has been taking place, my own view is that technology found a special moment to grow in dazzling speed and now allows the most refined to be experienced, even virtually, by the majority of mankind. The Renaissance of yore was contained to the elite at that time. The Internet brings it to billions, many of whom may be considered poor.

Because the myopic mind sees mostly what happens to oneself, dramatic change can be happening yet be missed. Changes especially in human consciousness can be substantive but quiet until a trigger makes that change overtly erupt in contrasting behavior. Even societal change of radical proportions can be misread and dismissed as a special event rather than a manifestation of a quantum leap.
For example, in 1986, the world’s first known peaceful people-powered revolution toppled a dictatorship in the Philippines. It was a first sign of a collective option for political change, and other people and countries have followed. But ensuing conflicts around the world, and disappointments in post people-powered revolutions, have diffused in human appreciation a grand shift towards more refined means to effect collective, political change.

A continuing manifestation of the transitioning age is the growing awareness of poverty. Indeed, modern times may have aggravated poverty in many places, but it is clear that the poor have defined most of mankind more than abundance. And poverty had always been accompanied by slavery – which has lessened considerably over the last century. In other words, poverty is more recognized today because it has become more objectionable, not necessarily more massive.

There is a deepening distaste for tyrants where they were simply accepted as strong leaders in the past. And authoritarian or dictatorial governments are viewed as violative of human rights which really never found value among the leading powers fo the past. The appreciation of human rights was as rare as legends like Camelot, and the era of the Inquisition carried out by the Catholic Church showed that mankind, indeed, was made to get used to brutality and injustice even in the religious setting.

Power valued secrecy, and the arts of war of the most aggressive of societies in recorded history would consider secrecy as a prime and indispensable strategy. Even the occult world worshiped secrecy and elevated it to sacred levels. Thus, the most powerful weapons of both man and religion were hatched and preserved in the dark and the quiet.

The age of secrecy is now being battered badly by the age of information. This shift cannot be understated or underestimated. This is a 180 degree turn that will yet dictate the future of mankind in an earth-shaking way. Already, I submit that the openness of information and the speed by which it is disseminated has been an effective way of controlling the spread of violence.

In the Philippines, there is a growing wish for change. I call it just a wish at the moment, not yet a demand. The issue is not just the government and those who run it, but people and how they wish to be governed versus how they have been used to be governed. Colonial rule was not exactly a picnic, and a Gloria-Mike Arroyo tandem may not be worse than the king-queen, senor-senora tradition of the last 400 years.

It is the age of information, though, that is acting like a ripening agent for change. The example of how life can be much better is not seen via television only, it is now in cellular phones, too. Those who are marginalized and kept immobile by poverty will feel frustration more deeply when they can see and almost taste the better life. And the young will demand the change with more impatience than their parents.

Politics in the Philippines will experience change, too, in form and substance proportional to the stimuli that is titillating the public, even the poorest among it. What is not easy is to say when even though dramatic, radical change is a foregone conclusion. And it will not affect only politics; it will impact only all governance in all fields. It is a matter of evolution, of the young taking charge.

Woe to those who believe otherwise, that holding on to power by a fading generation is possible. I am extremely struck by what a young man said to his elders recently. He said, “There is no need to develop and hand over power to the next generation provided the first generation promises not to die.” From the mouth of babes, the wisdom of our world.

“There is always a philosophy for lack of courage.” — Albert Camus

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