Global inter-connectedness

by Jose Ma. Montelibano

It used to be that we would connect to one another only by land and the seas separated us. Then, a man decided to build boats and ships so continents and islands could reach one another.

If there is one thing that the novel coronavirus, now officially called COVID-19, is screaming to us all is that the world is not such a big place after all. Or, maybe, it is better understood as our physical gaps to one another are getting smaller.

That not being fast enough for the more imaginative, however, and man’s inner desire to soar to the skies found flesh in the airplane. In the last 100 years, man continued to build bigger and faster aircraft to move huge numbers of people around the world.

Even outer space has not been spared and a few countries are trying to discover what kind of life is out there.

The deeper message about our inter-connectedness is not about technology; it is about an inner need of man to connect. Pushed by that natural need to connect, man’s intelligence and imagination simply translate and express that inner demand. On one hand, it is deliberate – the effort to connect in ever-growing ways.

That may be the way that we can best see or understand it. Yet, even before it becomes intentional, there is already irresistible energy in the human spirit to move in that direction.

The history of man, however, shows a mixed reaction to this inner need to connect. It has not been all that smooth as connection has often been translated as invasion, as forceful interference. Inter-connectedness is obviously qualitative as well and can be beneficial or harmful.

This is a good point to think about. It is up to us if we want to connect in a good or destructive way. The choice seems clear but man is a strange animal, often giving up intelligence for disturbed emotions.

What connects us the most, though, is the environment, the climate, the weather patterns, the air around us, and whatever can be transmitted by that same manner – like the COVID-19. We are discovering this is a really scary way as one variation of the coronavirus that we assumed had erupted in Wuhan, China, is now present in several countries and growing. Many experts say that two-thirds of the world will probably be infected. The world seems really small today as far as the COVID-19 is concerned.

And that should be our perspective from now on – that the world is smaller than we think and that we are closer to one another more than we know. If disasters and calamities connect us, why do we have to go out of our way to add to that misery by degrading the quality of our inter-connectedness? By nature, it seems impossible to ultimately keep ourselves separated from one another because a feature of our existence demands inter-connectedness. And we have generated so much tension and pain by coating our inter-connectedness with destructive qualities.

Even though mankind’s history with conflict and violence has been so consistent and voluminous, there remains an inner longing for harmony. Against all odds, some communities and societies have tried to sidestep the patterned violence that had gripped their countries from time immemorial, so to speak. In fact, a great man some two thousand years ago introduced the unthinkable formula for community life – forgive, love your enemy. Crazy, but the exhortation resonated, not with history, but with something in human nature. Crazy, but that exhortation grows rather than diminish.

As a result, mankind has grown less violent. There are wars that continue to cut wounds in mankind but they are decidedly less in number than what the world had gotten used to. The last war of the world was 75 years ago, and another one is intentionally being avoided by members of the global village. It may be that a nuclear holocaust frightens everybody enough to dissuade it from happening, but there is also that deeper and higher wish for harmony among peoples and nations. The inter-connectedness can destroy mankind from a global nuclear war, but it can also propel nations to raise the level of their relationships.

China thought it could get away with many things. One virus teaches it some humility. I am afraid that one lesson is not enough to force a powerful nation towards respect for smaller countries, but more will come. And China is not alone that needs to respect others. The United States and Russia, too, have illusions and delusions about what power can do. They are mostly right because they have the power. But one virus or its equivalent can jolt them, too. Ask America how its stock market just lost $1.7 trillion in two days from COVID-19.

What more us? We are not insignificant, now with Filipino workers in most of the countries in the world. But precisely that – our significance has been driven by more than just cooperation. We have reached out to more than 160 countries through the service we give their families and communities, even their trade.

That is our gift, that we can and will inter-connect in the most friendly or ways. Through the decades, we have seen a consistent upgrade of the manner of that service, and in the manner that the service is regarded by the families and societies we serve. It can only become better.

Domestically, too, our inter-connectedness will serve to raise the bar and reduce poverty, close the gap with those we have left behind for so long. The rest of the world, too, will continue to influence how we treat one another as they improve how they treat Filipinos working in their countries.

The reality of isolation is fast disappearing as both technology and friendly cultures lead change towards a new tomorrow. When the light of transparency and knowledge hits the dark streets of hate and violence, we will be even more interconnected. That is the direction that drives the younger generations today. What a blessing!

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