The Future Is Now

by Jose Ma. Montelibano

Politicians have become entertainers, and entertainers have become politicians. For as long as Filipinos seek entertainment more than good governance, then it will continue to be entertainers becoming politicians and politicians become entertainers.

Entertainment tends to distract us from our daily worries, or the exhaustion from our daily routine. With the kind of extreme poverty that a third of our people suffer from, and almost another third that are moderately poor, by our standards, of course, class struggle and bloody revolution could have overtaken our society a long time ago. But the capacity for entertainment to be a major and effective vent of frustration allowed the revolutions we had at Edsa I and Edsa Dos to be peaceful.

On the other hand, the armed rebellion that the Left has waged since the 60′s has not managed to expand its base and violent activities in 50 years. The Left knows by now that it can never win, and that it must stop progress from transforming the lives of the poor because that is their only chance of surviving. Sad, but true, that the alternative ideology of class war offered by the Left is the very feature of their revolution that guarantees failure – simply because that kind of ideology does not entertain, only causes conflict.

The unfortunate part about trying to establish a democracy is that we have to live through its maturing process. Within that process lie the excesses and shortcomings of governance by the majority. There is the pattern of learning from mistakes, and more mistakes before getting it right. Getting the majority to get it right can mean decades, and much pain in between. In many cases, such as the one the United States had to go through, civil war became part of the maturing process. It will seem crazy to many today that Americans had to fight one another just to determine that slavery was unjust and could not be tolerated in the land of the brave and the free.

Forgetting history extends the learning process, especially when younger generations retain little or no memory of what their father and grandfathers went through. many Filipinos have forgotten that we went through hell and back with the Marcos dictatorship, and that was only forty years ago. Money and technology can spread the truth through education and transparency, but these can also allow the truth to be revised. Decades after the fact, those who engineered martial law and profited from it at the cost of thousands and thousands of lives, of war in Mindanao, of a communist rebellion in the countryside, have managed to largely get away with it. Their children and grandchildren have inherited and legitimized wealth considered stolen, and much more may still be hidden. It may be that only justice from another dimension can right the wrongs committed.

Meanwhile, despite the relative freshness of those perverted times, a sitting president was accused and convicted of plunder, and another former president is accused and being tried for the same crime – and more. We don’t easily learn from history; we want to experience our own painful lessons before we do so. I wonder then how our children will process our mistakes, inherit our lessons, and save themselves another cycle of stupidity. I wonder because I have witnessed decades of elections and the political rhetoric today sounds strangely familiar. Much has yet to change, but much change has already happened. It is when we forget history that we cannot appreciate what we are accomplishing, especially when those who are stained by history will try to revise the past as best they can.

Despite my apprehensions, I am optimistic that change is not going to slow down. The fact remains that a younger generation of politicians is growing in number and influence. A quick look at the current list of senatorial candidates will show many of them are between 35 and 49 years old. Even if their family names may not be entirely new, it is still a generational change and promises a new way of looking at things. More than that, they have new ways of managing life. In the latest survey, I believe that there are only three who are above 50 years old. it may be that this present crop of winnable candidates may be the youngest in the last 65 years.

There is a transition from one generation to the other that is happening. This is how most peaceful changes happen, when the mindset of one generation fades away and another takes its place. When more people become decision-makers in our politics, in our economics, in our religions, more changes than usual will happen. The natural idealism of the young and the global behavior of the young in the world exert extraordinary influence in our society today. Old technology has given way to new technology. The very way we used to live our daily lives have given way to life of the modern times. Those who resist change are threatened by their own sons and daughters. They would do well to be more accommodating to their own mortality.

There is no doubt in my mind that we have reached our tipping point, that the youth of our tomorrow are not somewhere out there but actually co-running everything now. Our children did not have to rebel to take over, we simply let them. After all our frustrations and disappointments at government and other societal leaders, we may not have noticed that change had started without them. It was happening in our own homes because we looked to our children to do what we are too tired to keep on doing, or to handle new things we know little of.

Rizal was right. The youth are the future. And the future is now.

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