More Do, Da Less

by Jose Ma. Montelibano

Filipinos have never ran out of good ideas, even great ones. Unfortunately, many of those who have these good or great ideas, and especially those who don’t have, talk more than they act. In the end, they cause the “Mona Lisa” effect – “they just lie there, they just die there.”

I was first initiated into the Internet and email fifteen years ago, in 1996, when a very close friend had to live in the United States because of her serious renal problem. She was not married and all of her sisters with their families resided in America. Treatment was almost totally free as she was categorized as a dependent plus one brother-in-law was a doctor. In order to keep our friendship nourished while she was in a state of constant dialysis waiting for a kidney transplant, I ventured into the Internet and haven’t left since.

In the Internet, the last five years have been a radical shift from the first five. I have monitored mostly email correspondence between Filipinos in the United States and the Philippines. Without a doubt, the direction is now set and intensifying – Fil-Ams today are more interested in what is going on in the Philippines than they were in the mid-90’s when their jobs, their families, their children’s schooling and their vacations were the focus of their communications. From hardly an e-group to now where it is impossible to join so many e-groups out there, the armchair generals and kibitzers have mushroomed as well.

It has been a complaint of many in the Philippines since 1986 that the return of press freedom has gone overboard, as if to compensate for the lack of freedom during the conjugal dictatorship. I do not really believe that it is the number of people working in media that is the subject of criticism; rather, it seems to me that substantial chunks of the general public often complain about the quality of media, its lack of intelligence, objectivity and effort to ferret out the truth. It has been to many among the Philippine audience a “garbage in, garbage out” type of news reporting and news commentaries.

Well, the Internet, email and e-groups have exploded news and commentaries. They have become not only inaccurate but oftentimes wild and hysterical. Some are downright dishonest, as if they anticipate that many participants in email and Internet communications will not try to clear their doubts, if at all they doubt, by searching for second or third opinions. Lies then are spread from their malicious sources through a grapevine of careless, lazy and mindless Internet readers. In the end, the Internet has spawned so much disinformation that it is impossible to keep track of them.

On the other hand, though, the Internet has exposed to the light, or to massive human awareness, information that had once been the exclusive domain
of the elite or the learned, whether they be kings and royalty, or philosophers and churchmen. Whatever the level of deliberate distortion of truth, or general ignorance passed on as expertise, the truth that is now openly and quickly shared through the Internet is much more valuable than the lies that can be mixed with it. Better an overload of information than darkness.

When I was invited to write for the Inquirer’s version in the Internet, originally called INQ7, I asked how often I could do so from Monday to Friday. I chose to write once a week only even if it meant giving up the opportunity to write more often. I thought that if I wrote more than once a week, I would run out of good content to write about and end up being part of the rumor mill. Unlike writers who dedicate their lives to being professional journalists, I knew I would not give up work and advocacy on the ground which would demand most of my time. That left little time for frequent writing – unless, as I said, I would accommodate “chismis” (gossip) to substitute for substance.

Part of ground work for a cause or advocacy means being wired to sentiments and activities related to one’s priorities. I try to keep wired by traveling, by joining activities, and also by reading email from various sources. I monitor e-groups and certain websites, sometimes even participate in discussions. However, it has not been my good fortune to relate to many with consistent intelligence, imagination and objectivity. And I do not even mind personal interests of those in e-groups; they are the preferences of individuals which they do not force on others. What is unfortunate for the innocent and not so discerning is stupidity that is peddled as knowledge, truth or accurate information.

I guess it is the coping mechanism for those who cannot do much to engage in dada, pronounced in Pilipino. In other words, those who cannot act shift to talk. The Internet, being virtual in nature, is not geared for action, only words and images. It is not only ironic, but maybe even grotesque, that those who cannot not act, most probably because they have no record of doing so, would rather talk and talk. They more they cannot do what they say, they compensate by saying even more. When you read what they say, you are led to believe that they actually know what they are talking about, as if they had the experience or the empathy to understand the world of those who act. And for the lazy participants in the Internet, they are like the blind being led by the one-eyed king.

My New Year’s resolution is to be more determined to stay close to the ground, to be able to act and live out the values I treasure, even if I can hardly keep up with them. It is so much more convenient to write, and I will not shirk doing so when I can, but I must not forget that thoughts and words are not yet reality until they are translated in the flesh, in the tangible world, where we experience life unfolding day by day. Let’s do more, let’s da less.

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