Why Imagine What Could Go Wrong?

by Jose Ma. Montelibano

“Stop thinking of what could go wrong and start thinking of what could go right.”

I saw this quotation a few days ago while surfing in the Internet and it struck me so powerfully that I posted it in my blog. I could not even identify who the author is, but that just means that the message, and not the messenger, had great meaning for me.

The earthquake that hit Bohol and other provinces came to mind immediately. I recalled how the leadership of Gawad Kalinga (GK) quickly decided to mount a relief effort for Bohol. Since GK started with no funds but have experienced generosity from many in times of calamity, it set a target of 7,500 food packs for affected families. Just a day or two after the earthquake, the extent of the damage to people, homes and communities was not yet clear.

The first wave of GK workers and volunteers arrived in Bohol almost immediately, simply because GK is currently establishing its presence there and had plans of expanding. The first reports from the ground confirmed what we all know now—that Bohol was badly hit and many towns and barangays were isolated. Perhaps, one of the worst consequences of the earthquake was it severely disrupted the water supply. It was not only about food shortages but water as well.

The next reports were about the aftershocks. Our workers and volunteers experienced aftershocks of up to 6 in the Richter scale. No structure in the areas where they were distributing food and water were considered safe. Even if they were, people were simply too afraid to stay inside structures. Residents and relief volunteers all slept outside.

The essence of the saying, “Stop thinking of what could go wrong and start to think of what could go right,” now applies to our experience in Bohol. If workers and volunteers who responded to the desperate needs of the people of Bohol could not stop thinking of what could go wrong, they would have waited until aftershocks and sinkholes faded away. And that would have increased deaths, illnesses and provoked riots everywhere. The point is, many things could go wrong and hurt or kill rescuers and relief workers.

Areas in crisis, however, already experience so much that is going wrong. Earthquakes, landslides, floods, fire, typhoons, all these are horrible, not just wrong. All these are dangerous, not just wrong. But when it is intervention time, what is wrong is already considered because it caused everything in the first place. What becomes necessary is to think of what could go right and make plans and strategies to make these happen.

Natural calamities are not the only source of disaster in society. On a more consistent manner, poverty and corruption are disasters that cause more death, illness, hunger, misery and despair. In the end, they cause violence, too, through crime or bloody revolution. There are many, and I fully agree that they have solid basis, who feel like disaster victims by simply being alive. I refer to the poor who inherited their poverty. By simply being born, they are disaster victims.

For a sector that can be as many as 50 million or the percentage of people who consistently rate themselves as poor, being poor by virtue of birth speaks must have a reason that is absolutely obvious. We do not have to think very hard about where the poverty came from, we just have to remember. And it was not because public officials stole the land, and consequently, the productivity of Filipinos, because we had no public officials except the throne of Spain and its appointees.

The massive poverty of Filipinos was caused a long time ago, not by a kind of corruption as we know it now, but a kind of worldview called colonization that could steal not just land but whole countries. This is the only cause of massive poverty in one of the richest land in the world peopled by among the most intelligent and creative human beings in the planet.

Yes, corruption today did not cause poverty but condemns the poor to remain poor. That is how corruption is intimately related to poverty, how the elimination of one leads to the elimination of the other. “Kung walang kurap, walang mahirap” went the campaign slogan of Noynoy the candidate. I will say it another way, though, like this, “Kung walang mahirap, walang kurap.” And I will point to the most honest people and countries who also happen to be the wealthiest collectively. That gives us two ways that could possibly make things right.

Like Bohol, the Philippines has been in a quagmire for a long time. Poverty was more massive before, even when old folks would like to claim that there was less corruption then. The OFWs are the single biggest reason why poverty has dropped. They were once part of the impoverished, maybe less than the very poor, but they are climbing to be the real middle class —by their own effort and sacrifice. As we became more corrupt, beginning with Marcos who is listed as the world’s second most corrupt leader, more Filipinos rose from poverty because they worked abroad.

The devastated areas of our society were hit by man-made disasters like corruption, corruption in all three branches of government and even in the Church. We all know what is wrong and it seems that many cannot speak of anything but—that which is going wrong. Well, change and progress never came to be by thinking what could go wrong but by thinking what could go right.

For those who have no agenda but the common good of the people, they will not waste more time in continuous barking at the tree of what is wrong. They know that is not the path we will condemn our children and grandchildren to. They just have to imagine everything that could go right, and go for it

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