No true normal yet, just true survival

by Jose Ma. Montelibano

| Image courtesy of thecoalface.net.au

Do not believe that we are in a new normal, or building a new normal, because we are only in a true survival state. Every day, we are walking on a tightrope, trying our best to have a semblance of balance; or, for many, trying not to fall. We have listened to leaders and experts with an open and cooperative spirit. We complied with the rules and regulations they imposed in the belief that they knew best. And, up to know, we continue to do so, albeit with reduced confidence.

The difficulty of life today is not really the core of the problem. Filipinos have been through bad and worrisome times. One thing that is aggravating the difficulty is that it is nationwide, unlike calamity situations that found help and relief from other places. The closest Filipinos have had about a nationwide calamity was World War II and the Japanese occupation of the Philippines. That was too long ago, and too few who experienced it still alive to tell the story.

Today, we are in a calamity situation. But, today, we endure the calamity in place. We cannot move away from it, and neither can others come in to help. We are left to defend our health and lives as best we can and not despair though there is no clear way out. The silver lining, of course, is the prospect of vaccines coming to the rescue. However, even this once-believed silver bullet has lost its original sheen and stained by 1) doubts of their efficacy, and 2) possible adverse side effects.

“Today, we are in a calamity situation. But, today, we endure the calamity in place. We cannot move away from it, and neither can others come in to help. We are left to defend our health and lives as best we can and not despair though there is no clear way out.”

Vaccines were believed to be the total answer just months ago. Now, they have reduced power to give us the kind of confidence we desperately need today. My point, however, is to point out how projections of normalcy, better understood as the “new normal”, are truly so unreliable. Projections, images, and imagination of a new normal are difficult to conjure because no one is sure what that is and how to arrive at it. In other words, there may be trajectories but no established patterns.

Except for one undeniable trajectory that already is a pattern – the inevitable shift from many traditional physical forms to digital. This shift is not entirely new technology except we are shocked at the pace we have been hurled to use and learn it. Except for the younger generations, that is, because they had not been embedded in the old ways long enough. They are fluid, taking on with great ease what technology brings. It is unfortunate that too many of our youth cannot afford the devices and services that go along with technology.

“The generations of decision-makers in our country are struggling with how to contain the pandemic, spare millions from infections, and prevent the death of many thousands. This struggle occupies their attention and efforts.”

The generations of decision-makers in our country are struggling with how to contain the pandemic, spare millions from infections, and prevent the death of many thousands. This struggle occupies their attention and efforts. There is little left to visioning the future and how we can form the fundamentals of what the true normal may be. They are only in the state of figuring out true survival now.

I do not blame them. Survival is more primordial than development and makes demands that humans cannot deny. But the wisdom of national leaders from all fields must be like the wisdom of parents, mainly focused on the survival of their young yet never loses the peripheral vision of how the babies, toddlers and children are meant to grow up in health and character.

Our national leaders, too, are saddled by their age range. The new normal is so forward-looking that it is extremely difficult, if not impossible, for older generations to plan for something they cannot imagine. Yet, look at how old most of our national leaders are. Look at the Cabinet members, the heads of agencies, administrators of the academe, leaders of the religious.

The only exceptions, and only partly, is business and economics. This is where I am quite amused. When it comes to the stark probability that we will lose our money to those who know more and move faster than us, we are quite willing to allow our younger generations to manage our businesses. We recognize that the new ways are driven mostly by technological leaps. We in the older age range simply cannot understand, much more compete, in a global setting. So we utilize those who can – our children and grandchildren.

The country must plan for the next 50 years for those who have 50 years more to live. Yet, we are forced to accept what older leaders decide on. They cannot envision 50 years ahead; they simply cannot. It is not a lack of brains; it is a lack of capacity to leap forward at the speed and creativity of the young.

“Warriors, when they are the ones governing, will need wisdom most of all. They will need guidance, especially in morals and ethics. They will need to be taught and reminded of the history of folly and achievement of people and nations.”

That is simply the nature of humans. It does not mean that older people are of less value. It is only that their value has been shifting from physical strength and endurance, from extreme energy and pulsating imagination to generational wisdom. Governance of family, community, and country truly needs generational wisdom. But and this is a big BUT, the true running of country belongs to warriors with the energy and agility to engage and compete with everyone else in the world. Warriors must be governing every important field of national endeavor to keep pace, or outpace, what other nations are doing.

Warriors, when they are the ones governing, will need wisdom most of all. They will need guidance, especially in morals and ethics. They will need to be taught and reminded of the history of folly and achievement of people and nations. They will need character, the kind of character that reflects the best of our race and culture. For all these needs, the counsel of elders or a council of elders, must be there for them. For guidance, though, not dictation.

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