Deadly patterns

by Jose Ma. Montelibano

A Belgian expert on de-stressing gave a four-day seminar on tapping into a dark chamber – our very own subconscious. I have carried a long-term romance with the subject of human behavior. Strangely, it was sparked by an interest in history, culture, religion and politics. Very early on in my career as an employee and eventually an executive in a major corporation at that time, I noticed how problems, even the most technical, revolved around individuals and groups. Yes, technology or a specialty field would give the impression that science and technical expertise were of the utmost importance. But life experiences do not support their dominance. Rather, the maturity of individuals and groups were always paramount.

In the course of a 15-year corporate career in the 70’s and 80’s, I started as a clerk and ended up as a Vice-President. At the highest level that I reached, I had all sorts of experts and field specialists reporting to me – and all I had was a lowly Business Management academic background. They were agriculturists with Masters and PhDs, finance officers and accountants, lawyers, chemists, several types of engineers, even journalism and Fine Arts graduates. But they reported to superiors with lesser degrees. When the going gets tough, as an old advertisement goes, the tough get going. And toughness in human behavior is about character and leadership.

It is desired that character and leadership conform to what societies have idealized. Those who have succeeded in their field of endeavors often are the very ones who are asked, and who set the tone, about the secret of their success. That is a reality that mainstream society openly promote. Yet, success, especially the great ones, has been often tainted with less than ideal behavior. Many business tycoons were not paragons of the highest ethics. Many still are not. However public relations people try to picture the best of them, insiders who have walked with the achievers throughout their journey to success know that most of them compromised their morals and demeaned the same ethical standards they demand of their employees.

In the last 50 years, I have observed many changes, some for the better, and some for the worse. The changes, however, have mostly been cosmetic at best. In other words, names and faces change, but ethics have remained low or had further degraded. That is why the main political issue every election that I can remember from as far back as the 60’s is corruption of the incumbent. When an incumbent loses to a newcomer because the allegation of corruption was effective, that newcomer is himself or herself accused of corruption in the next election. One unbroken cycle. A self-fulfilling prophecy. Deadly pattern.

I do not like to mention the government agencies or personalities that are the personification of corruption. Corruption is now considered endemic and systemic. Many well-meaning citizens try their hand in politics, believing they can change the system. Well, the running total says the opposite is true – it is the system that eats them up. The good ones who try to keep their integrity intact quit after one term. The ones who stay fight a losing battle. They justify their continuance in politics by saying that they have to play the game or else they will have nothing to give their needy constituents. Or their programs of development will never get the needed budgets. One unbroken cycle. A self-fulfilling prophecy.  Deadly patterns.

For many years, I participated actively in moves to demand reform. I believed then that political revolutions, meaning changing the corrupt with the honest, would be the answer to the nation’s most serious problems. Pursuing that belief led me to join protest actions and even plots to unseat sitting presidents. Of course, it felt justified. It was a matter of right versus wrong – I was right and they were wrong. When efforts to change leaders did not prosper, then I knew that it would be business as usual. But when efforts did succeed, I experienced shock when it would become business as usual as well – with different names and faces, of course. It saddened me no end when I saw people who had proven courage and patriotism would slowly crumble and pervert their unsullied past for undeserved gain, for themselves or for their families.

It is ironic that life teachers, spiritual masters and religious leaders have been guiding us all along. Yet, they fail. Or we fail. Because we see only what we can and try to address that. We forget what has been taught all this time about that known yet unknown – the powerful subconscious. Even science and doctors tell us that the subconscious is far more powerful than the conscious – and deadly when it has destructive patterns we do not know how to identify quickly and effectively resolve. Even when the conscious means well, the deadly patterns securely lodged in the subconscious are too powerful to reverse by just will power. Some manage to do it. Some. Very few some.

What we call the system that easily eat us up rather us reforming it is our collective patterns. Funny, but because they are collective and because they keep happening over and over again, we can identify them. Despite that, however, we do not embark on collective vision and action to develop opposite patterns. We would rather wait for the savior, the political messiah. Even if we have been disappointed with every one of them, we still hope that the next leader will be it.

Who was it that said if we do the same thing that it would end up with the same result? Who, then, is at fault? The leader who fails or the people who keep hoping for that elusive leader? I know it is a shared responsibility if we mean people, country and nation. It seems impossible to understand that the cancer of a society can be solved by an individual when the cancer is everyone’s. But if we cannot appreciate this simple truism, then our deadly patterns will remain our masters.

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