History always teaches us one constant lesson – that change is constant. The process is known as evolution, an eerie turn of life’s wheel that guarantees change at any cost, at all cost. There is an apparent trajectory that collective behavior creates, sometimes subtle, sometimes quite visible. The difference from era to era, from one society to another, is the rate of change. But even at its slowest pace, change happens. It always does.
The trajectory sets a direction for that change. When we are not keenly observant, that trajectory cannot be seen. We may think that our common wishes and frustrations have no weight, no power to bring about the change we want. Yet, with enough wanting the same thing, with enough actually trying to create that change, the trajectory is set and evolution has a mini direction within its greater purpose.
So it is with our society. The desire for change confronts at every moment the effort of the traditional or status quo to dominate. The power of the status quo cannot be underestimated. It became precisely the status quo became great numbers of society agreed for it to be so, whether actively by contributing to it, or passively by accepting it. Our collective agreement to cooperate, and the long periods of time that we do so, give power and momentum to patterns that only a more powerful and sustained counterforce can change, reverse or dismantle.
Because a few of us, an incredibly small percentage of the population, had consciously been aware of Philippine society’s dynamics in sustaining the status quo in the past five or six decades, it is easier to understand why the more recent investment that a growing number of Filipinos make towards change seem to bear little fruit, or so slowly do so. In the drama of life as I see and experience it, change has more than just been subtle, it is really as radical as it can get.
What would we as a people want to change? What would be the worst cancers in our societal life that we would want to confront and dismantle? If we find common agreement, that change would surely happen. If we put great common effort in making it happen, it happens faster. And if it does not, or if does so but we can hardly see and feel it, then it is time to examine how common, how committed, that desire for change is.
It would seem from the noise that advocates make, from the criticisms that media play up, that there are two major cancers, and one common consequence – corruption, poverty, and the violence that they spawn. Where, then, are the changes that we allegedly want in common? Or have these desires to dismantle corruption and poverty more rhetoric than a struggle?
From a boyhood more than fifty years ago, I have heard accusations of corruption hurled at politicians and government. I remember the golden “arenola” of Quirino, Stonehill of Macapagal, the Hydra monster spawned by Marcos all way to Estrada’s plunder and Gloria’s current karma with her own sins. It would seem as though a common desire for honesty and integrity in public service had no power to change the pattern of corruption. And the issue against poverty is even worse but poverty and hunger incidence seem impervious to efforts to address it.
Watching, though, the Philippine drama from the 50’s to today gives me a very different, and affirming, perspective. Studying and reliving history in imagination and empathy further clarifies the more visible forms of evolution.
The colonization of the Philippines must be the single most traumatic change that our people have experienced in recallable history. There must have been conflicts between tribes, there must have been some harsh or vicious “datus” mixed with many good ones in pre-Hispanic times, but in-fighting can be a normal occurrence in a society while an invasion, occupation and colonization is life-changing. And the Spanish conquest of our islands and society was truly and literally life-changing.
Colonization is out-and-out corruption. Its first purpose is to exploit using superior force, using its foreign governance for gain. Corruption did not evolve in our society, it was forced on us by the power of the sword, by the power of betrayal from a few of our own, by the use of a superimposed belief system that slept so soundly with the enemy. After its forcible imposition did the deepening of corruption happen in a warped, force-induced evolution over centuries until its acceptance became part of our daily life.
But the EDSA Revolution was as life-changing, not only as event, but a process that openly confronted the enculturation of corruption. It was a people’s expression of a collective desire to change. Considering the force of EDSA I versus the accumulated pattern of corruption that began with government itself, foreign as it may have been, obviously a few days of a peaceful revolt were not enough. They were not meant to be. They were meant to begin a new era, and they are doing so.
The EDSA Revolution did remove a dictator. It removed another president because of corruption just 15 years later, and it prosecuting another former president today. Whenever in our history has that happened, when three presidents were taken to task because of corruption? If they were not jailed, if they did not suffer and die in prison, that does not mean Philippine society is not creating great changes. From where it was, change could not have been more dramatic.
And today, the glorious today of Philippine history, society’s and government’s courage in even considering filing plunder and graft charges in wholesale manner against high-and-mighty officials is unprecedented in a democratic setting. It is democracy struggling to defend its birthing and evolve new societal ethics for both public service and what the public must not tolerate like before. This is a victory of a people, that with peaceful means, they show a political firmness and maturity that can be proud of.
As for poverty, let me reserve another article or more for that.