Breaking down or growing up

by Jose Ma. Montelibano

Jose M. Montelibano

Half empty or half full. The volume of water is the same. The capacity of the glass is the same. So what is different? A lot.

Attitude counts for a lot. In fact, it can be said that attitude defines life more than its physical measurements. The truth is that it is both but attitude sways the mood and emotions so effectively that life can be lived so differently with each sway. Many would choose a happy 50 years over a miserable 70. And so would those who have to live your happy 50 or miserable 70.

A half empty glass will get emptier and a half-full glass will get more full. Because of attitude.

A broken country or a growing one? We can be quite selective and point to everything that seemed better in the past and then claim that the country had retrogressed. That is one view from one attitude from one person or a million others. For them, that is what life is today.

They can cry about it as they hold on to brighter memories, wishing for a time that is long gone and never coming back. Or they can struggle and commit themselves to make things right according to their criteria and recapture their old sense of contentment or appreciation. This is good. It’s impossible, though, unless they let go of forms and ways that belong to the past and embrace the opportunities of the present. Because to achieve and attain, memories may serve as guideposts but reality and attitude dictate the doable.

On the other hand, there are those who see the glass half full, who see the country growing up and going through the necessary process towards maturity. They struggle with life just as those with an opposite attitude but their struggle is not with their frustrations, just the struggle to reach their dreams. And each success, each attainment of what they never had before, is a celebration and a motivation for higher steps. Attitude.

Beyond attitude, though, is something just as important. One who sees brokenness and then wants to repair it back to what it was takes a different approach than one who sees a growing up and plans for the next stage. When the diagnosis is different, the therapy is different as well. May I repeat that – when the diagnosis is different, the therapy is different as well. Many a social or political conflict has emanated from this simple but vital difference of diagnosis and subsequent therapy.

I belong to a generation that started with a foot in the ’40s and ’50s when the world went into a global quiet after a recent World War. That global quiet translated itself into an economic recovery for most countries and actual economic boom for others. In other words, two World Wars one after the other devastated economies beyond the death of millions. Most of the world bounced back in the decades that followed, and my generation was born in and benefited from that bounce back period.

Older generations alive today, older than millennials, that is, all the way to baby boomers can have that sense of either frustration or depression when looking at present-day reality, remembering the booming days of the ’50s and ’60s. That period included the lingering influence of five decades of American governance which built a solid economy on the wings of international industrialization. That Philippine economy was second only to Japan’s then but inadequately credited to its true source – American governance.

I am an amateur but passionate student of history. I am drawn to studying how countries moved up the ladder of development from their more primitive stages to their present day status. Taking a historical approach in addressing modern day statistics made me conclude that we Filipinos and the Philippines are in our own journey of growth or maturity. It is difficult for me to see that we are breaking down unless we go selective in our historical data. Truly, for the elite and the elite – dependent, there may have been better times. But for the masa or ordinary citizens, the shift from virtual peasantry to present day citizenship has been a great leap.

The past decades did not have an accurate way of monitoring and assessing people’s sentiments except those of the upper sector of society. After all, at that time, it was the business sector and government officialdom that made most decisions and mostly for their interests. The phenomenon was not a Philippine anomaly, it was global. But recent decades have favored raising the status of the bottom of the pyramid, especially in nations where democracy took root. The value of citizens decidedly went up and the dominance of the elite decreased. Because the views and sentiments that were gathered and valued belonged to the upper crust of society, it can be that they had better times because their control was greater.

Today is a very different matter. The majority of citizens are below 40 years old. They have no direct memory of the boom days and have nothing to pine for in the past. They are thinking about the present and the future. They, too, can be considered the majority representation of today’s and tomorrow’s Philippines. In importance, in decision-making, their value will rise steadily because of the fading of the old guards and the rapid developments of technology. From my own lessons from history, my appreciation of the dynamics of today, and my acceptance of a tomorrow so different from what has ever been, I have to look at the glass half full, to embrace not a broken country but a growing nation, and to feel blessed that I had witnessed a rare time in these last 70 years.

My wish. May blessings abound for more Filipinos. May hunger and poverty disappear. May equality not remain a principle in the Constitution but a consistent struggle of becoming. And may our country attain according to the wealth of its human and natural resources.

Leave a Comment