Even the world is changing

by Jose Ma. Montelibano

Jose M. Montelibano

When people say change, it is normal. Change is not unnatural; it is not changing that is. Everything changes, everything is alive, even the dead or what we think is inanimate. Under the microscope, everything is dynamic. There are forms that change quite quickly, and there those that retain theirs for a long time. Human cells, for example, can live for a few days to a whole lifetime. The point is everything changes.

Beyond the dimension of time and matter, however, are many changes that are not as simple. Attitude, behavior, and culture can last generations, even eras. Yet, they change, just ever so slowly so that change advocates, rebels and revolutionaries think there is no change at all. For many, change is not visible unless they review and interpret history. It is history where change can be seen the slowest and where radical change, when it happens, sometimes takes just a moment. But the post-change form can be a severe contrast.

There is so much talk of change today, and there is more than enough basis. Modernity is marching without letup, speed, and volume as its minimum traits. Technology is almost outpacing human imagination, definitely the collective imagination. There are always the few whose creativity, whose inventiveness, and whose determination to keep pushing the possibilities beyond what most of us imagine.

The resources are there, too, for investors are more adventurous when they are funding what is ahead of the pack. It used to be electric cars but that is now a mainstream idea that is being translated to manufacturing. Now, the boldest in the private sector want to explore space. All of us who once said this or that was impossible have long been swallowing our words because the reality is far beyond what we thought was impossible.

It is in human behavior, though, that change seems to be the slowest. Relatively, and mostly because of the form of life today versus a long time ago, change seems to have gone on well. But changes in clothes are not changes in the person. The same greed or lust for power eat up human beings today, maybe more and at a faster clip. It may be that the old days had very much less opportunity for greed to be manifested, with the centralized authority having total or near-total control of resources then. Freedom was scarce, and so was a choice. Today, there is much more freedom and many more choices available.

When freedom was democratized, greed and lust for power attracted more people simply because they were new possibilities when once they were not. Might is not right as much as it used to be, especially since the most developed countries controlling much of the economy and military power take the pain to restrain their might. While they are unwilling to surrender power and influence, they are as reluctant to become violent in a situation where weapons of mass destruction alarm even those who have them. Besides, the developed nations find it is easier to control others without physical violence if they can do it via financial superiority.

When radical change crosses over to the point when it is already acceptable to the mainstream, then the collective mindset has to change as well. The latest world order with much of its face still intact nevertheless faces grave challenges today. The dynamics of the United States, China, Russia, Western Europe, and the Middle East are morphing rapidly and threatens the stability of the existing world order.

Within the United States and triggered by their own president, the established order is shaken and rattled. The domestic and global order that they helped form in the last seven decades is cracking up. President Trump is not interested in staying as the champion of democracy as he turns right, very right, including in his choice of friends. Suddenly, Trump and the GOP are embracing what conservatives hated and feared the most – Russia, China, and North Korea. Yes, there is a trade war between the US and China, but that can go away as fast as two presidents want.

Russia had its stint with Western-type democracy and has turned right, very right, as well. Many experts say that the Russian experiment with democracy did not uplift the economic situation of most Russians. Well, it seems that there remains a great gap between the have and the have-nots with a few very rich people and very many poor. However, Russians have their pride being controlled by their own rather than by the West.

China’s leadership had no plans of turning right because they never left that position. Their sudden and magnificent economic miracle, however, used very liberal commerce formats including the lure of individual profit. Their economic might from a massive poverty situation has given them impetus in China’s drive to dominate not only Asia but far beyond. It seemed that China was steadily rising to be the greatest global power, a matter of when rather than if. But now it has to deal with a restive Hong Kong led by their younger citizens. China cannot be sure that the spirit of the Tiananmen experience is not now being fueled by the rebellious young of Hong Kong.

The point is that change cannot be denied, not even by the great ones. When change takes on a furious pace, it is impossible that world order not to be rattled and shaken – unless it cooperates with the new spirit driving the change. As it is now, the world order is showing signs that it will soon writhe in catharsis. Its alliances are now threatened with individual leaders less friendly to old friends and more friendly to old enemies. Definitely, the European order is battered with Brexit, the Middle East as unpredictable with Iran and Saudi Arabia at odds – and Israel feeling insecure enough to trigger another war.

A world growing more partisan will stimulate the partisanship of the Philippines and the Filipinos. Fasten seat belts.

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