There are moments when our sense of security and stability are disturbed, usually triggered by events and personalities that upset our comfort zone. I have noticed more and more of these moments, not so much because I have them (I do, just not as much), but because friends who are experiencing them mostly express their sentiments and ask the proverbial question, “What is happening to our world/country/ community?”
Maybe, many pose the question to me because my friends know I have been writing weekly articles for quite some time. The assumption, I guess, is that writers somehow know more news, know more history (and patterns), and have more varied perspectives as a result. I am mostly amused when I do get asked by friends of the same generation. After all, we went through life is largely the same collective environment. My being a weekly contributor to an online publication does not get me special inside information because writing is a weekly hobby, not really a profession. Of course, I give my writing much thought. I accept the responsibility that those who read me might be seriously misled if I deliberately provide false or inaccurate information. Thank goodness that I am an opinion writer, which does not obligate me to be changing news as they happen. I can take my pick of subject matters, then share my perspective of them in accordance to my own experience and knowledge of history.
As an opinion writer, I had chosen to take a path that does not deliberately stoke controversy. It is easy to do so, and I may have on occasion indulged in issues that I know are heated. Even then, I try to stoke deeper, even different, thinking among my readers. I do like to provoke others by challenging conventional wisdom with contrasting possibilities, with less usual “what ifs”. I’m thinking that there are so many who are more exciting writers taking on the most controversial issues and personalities, and even use more controversial language. I prefer to stay with what I know, promote causes and advocacies close to my heart (like dismantling poverty), offer other ways of looking at and understanding things, and stimulate alternative approaches to perennial problems.
The question, “What is happening to our world/country/community?” is necessarily laden with some amount of alarm (or the question would not be asked at all). I do not mean to belittle the concern of those asking the question but I must admit that I have been asked that question, or have read or witnessed that question asked of others when I was much younger, with some regularity over the last forty years that I am not drawn to panic anymore. It comes across to me that different people at different times encounter circumstances that provoke fear or frustration leading them to ask such a question. I experience moments similar to that but I cannot help but notice my fears or frustrations are not that universally felt by many others.
Remembering my moments, though, and then how I finally got over the fear or frustrations, what sticks most clearly to me is that I survived without undergoing the horror and pain I anticipated. And I noticed that the world around me continued to function with reasonable normalcy. In other words, what I feared or felt were mine and not shared by a great many. It seemed I only assumed that they did – which intensified my worries with little basis. Senior citizenship has its advantages. We went through a lot over a much longer period of time. What panicked me forty years ago does not affect me as much today.
I am not hesitant to answer to give my advice to friends who ask and really want to listen. I tell them first that they must discern if their concern is shared by a minority or majority of Filipinos in our community or in our country. If it is mostly theirs and they are a minority, maybe they ought to look at the majority and wonder why they feel differently. It is deadly to assume that only we are discerning correctly and that others, especially the majority, are ignorant or stupid. Deadly because life often follows what the majority follows. It may be just a few people who are leading the way, and wrongly at that according to our view; but if the majority follows them, life most probably will as well.
I have often shared, as well, that in times when change is happening too rapidly and massively beyond our capacity to absorb and understand, or too radically for us to accept, then we have only our anchors to hold on to or to keep us as stable as possible. As in the midst of turbulent waters, we need our anchors to prevent us being tossed and turned violently. For many in the older generations, the fast and furious advances in technology are threatening. And we still have artificial intelligence about to penetrate and disrupt traditionally-led lives. Politics, too, is too often the trigger for fear or panic.
Whatever the cause, what else really can we hold on to but our anchors, the values, and virtues we accept as solid as gold and strive to live by? In the midst of confusion, there must not be any confusion about what is most important to us as individuals, as communities, as a nation. These are our anchors and we must dedicate special efforts to strengthen them during ordinary times so they can stabilize us during the storms. Unless we already have our anchors, there will be little or no opportunity to develop them when adversity hits us.
Today and every day is anchor-building time day. It is the same as nation-building, as character building, they are all daily efforts. But when the worst of times are upon us, truly our chosen anchors are all we have.