How Will We Survive?

by Jose Ma. Montelibano

The few days of almost forced rest gave me plenty of time to step back and understand better the global and local dynamics that substantially affect the Philippines.

From around the world, Libya stands out as the most spectacular development of people power. Then, there is that other kind of people power, a more dramatic one, in fact, when it fully emerges – the Occupy Wall Street movement. The only economic system of the West is under serious attack, less from protesters than from its own weight. The American economy and the current crisis in Europe with Greece in the center are stark examples of great uncertainty in the future.

Closer to home, China looms large over the Philippines not just from its dominance in regional commerce but also from its counter claim over the Spratlys.  Environmentally, the floods of Bangkok remind us loudly that our Ondoy experience may not be random and rare but part of a new normal. And if climate change is not yet enough of a problem for us, add the flared Mindanao situation with the MILF and rogue rebel groups.

There is a long list of concerns that put a wet blanket over the world, so much violent conflict, so much pain and indignity from global poverty, so much greed that it almost answers the question why we had a sitting president convicted of plunder and another one expected to face more plunder charges as well. Greed is not the exclusive vice of Filipino thieves but has become the Mammon of today.

Watching Filipinos go to cemeteries from Oct. 31 to Nov. 1, I realized how culture and tradition keep families together – in life and in death. I heard from a TV reporter that 800,000 people were in Manila North Cemetery by 9:30 am last Nov. 1. Our people are so intimate with not only worldly things and blessed with a capacity to value relationships past and present. Yet, Philippine society is not exactly presented as a picture of a people wired to spirituality and harmonious relationships.

Or, is it just the way media goes about its business? I saw in one recent study how bad news dominates the front pages of our newspapers, radio talk shows and television news. Of course, no one has to wait for statistics to know how influential bad news has become in our lives, in our very way of thinking.

Most of the bad news we read, listen to or watch are mostly true, maybe sensationalized but mostly true nonetheless. How does one deny the truth of the Ram Revilla murder has his own siblings as the main suspects? Or the death from stabbing by the father of Charice Pempengco? But the mood of our people is no way tragic, morose, depressed. It may be that ordinary Filipinos, 94 million of them, are not characterized by the horror of bad news. It may be that their lives are much more optimistic compared to news from media.

What is also true among the bad news is a poverty that defies solutions, especially the worst part of it – hunger.  Nothing upset me more than the latest reports of SWS on hunger incidence. I know that hunger is not as sensational as the Basilan and Zamboanga Sibugay deaths of our soldiers, but these deaths do not hold a candle to the unreported deaths of the poor by reason of their lack of food, shelter, clothes, medicine and simple hope? While there are noisy debates about contraception and abortion, who understands how poverty kills, how poverty maims, how poverty aborts life?

Yet, we have to find the wisdom and fortitude to rise above the bad news, true as most of them may be. The answer to bad news is not bad news. I hope more people will realize that we cannot solve the source of bad news if we cannot focus our attention and effort towards answers and actions. I know this is bad news for opinion makers in media, or even for many reporters. Answers and actions are not as dramatic or sensational as most bad news. They are daily thoughts and deeds that dismantle problems over time.

Most of us can read, listen or watch bad news try to dominate out attention, but we must all have to drag our minds and hearts away right after so we can direct our thinking and our doing towards the opposite direction. Bad news are a given, but it is their dominance that keeps us enslaved in a world that bears little or no hope. Our lives deserve better.

Social networking like Facebook and Twitter appeal powerfully to our young. If we take a short tour in the content of these social networking facilities, we will find a sharp contrast versus what we will see dominant in Philippine media. Communications over Facebook and Twitter tell us that our young, and even those who were young once who have become users of social networking, are focused with the lighter and brighter side of life. And this fact fills me with hope.

The Internet has shaken the old world of communications and is shaking the old form of media. It has given freedom of speech its widest highway of expression and evoked those who had been reluctant to speak out to share their sentiments more openly and publicly. It was not long, however, before the purveyors of bad news, of acerbic attitudes, invaded the Internet.

The younger generations have not lost their idealism, their optimism. They, by sheer default, are the answer to the ills of the world, the hope of the global poor and victims of violence. Because they are, they created Facebook and Twitter where they share their idealism and optimism. And through them, we are learning how we will survive.


“There is always a philosophy for lack of courage.”
–Albert Camus

 

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