The Savior Generation

by Jose Ma. Montelibano

Jose M. Montelibano

I keep wondering why my thoughts today are about a tomorrow I know I cannot see anymore. As a septuagenarian, I have hit the average life span of a Filipino. Every day, every year is a bonus, and I know it. I am regularly reminded about this because my classmates and I keep score, so to speak. So many have gone ahead, and many more are sickly. If we get lucky, we have ten to fifteen good years. Advances in science and medical technology have been quite encouraging, but it will be the younger generations that will benefit more.

So why am I so drawn to thoughts of life that only my grandchildren and their offspring can experience? Is it because the present life is overflowing with continuing vicious cycles despite amazing discoveries and the creeping takeover of the digital age? I belong to various Viber groups, and the ones who have older members are concerned about common subject matters. Age, illness and medical developments definitely are major issues. But so is speculation about the future, especially the future that is not for us anymore. And in between are reflections of the lives we have lived, including the collective one.

Because most of us have been the fortunate ones, born on the right side of the fence, blessed with formal education from the premier schools, there is a degree of regret at the kind of society we are leaving behind. I think that many of us, openly expressed or not, believe we could have done much better but did not. I suppose it is the way we can quickly and easily criticize the state of affairs of our country. Worse, and unjustifiably so in my opinion, the way we bash our own country and people. We do not even need an audience – it is almost a habit. Yet, we are among the blessed. We may be far from being taipans, but the vast majority would look at us as though we were in comparison to their own lives.

In an attempt to understand why things in our country and among our people are the way they are, I thought that the wisdom of those who had passed the world much earlier would be enlightening. I developed an appetite for history or patterns that defined history. Vicious cycles are not a modern-day phenomenon. Greek and Roman philosophers had constantly pointed out the repeated stupidity of their times, the same stupidity that afflicts humanity today. The difference is that wisdom was carried mostly by word of mouth and could reach only a limited number of people. Today, our stupidity can be spread and witnessed by billions of netizens. If we can spot stupidity, our opportunity to learn should be magnified.

Learning, though, is slow as before. Information truly is not a guarantee of learning and heightened intelligence. Education in the Philippines is still used to promote the skill of memorization when there is already so much artificial intelligence (unimaginably superior to a human’s memory). Artificial Intelligence (AI) and the Internet of Things (IoT) will dramatically disrupt our standard traditional pattern. Yet, those in charge of mainstream education continue to prepare our youth towards their own obsolescence. The only sector that is trying to keep pace with AI and IoT are big business because even a bigger global business is forcing them.

Colleges and universities whose students are comprised of the children of big business will be trying to keep pace, too. Only a few of the prime universities are somewhat competitive – somewhat. We have young Filipinos who are as gifted as their global counterparts, but the preparation process is still far behind. The most promising among Filipino students are prime targets for scholarships abroad. These scholarships come with job offers once they graduate. The best Filipinos may someday lead various fields of interest in the world BUT they will not be doing it for the Philippines. They will be contributing their brilliance to the companies and countries that have recognized their talent, believed and invested in them.

Our politicians are not our hope. For as long as their vision is framed in 3 or 6-year terms, they will not risk thinking 20 years ahead. If they do not, then who will prepare our country and our emerging generations? If our political leaders do not carry a vision of 2040 and beyond, there will be no adequate resources devoted to that future. Our educators who are inside government will not be thinking that far ahead either, especially if they believe they will not be properly supported and funded.

I see no one else but business whose need and attachment to profit leave them no choice but to compete – or be eaten up. Only they can think of how to survive tomorrow and the next twenty years. Big business is not a very good substitute for political statesmanship, but voids are dangerous for a fledgling nation. We do not have to be subjugated by raw force like previous invasions and occupations; we just have to be hired or bought. Even now, there are voices who warn us about Chinese loans. They are doing so from a political background, but they are more correct than they imagine. It does not even need to be China either although it is the most obvious and capable of doing so.

Today, though, we are most unprepared for a tomorrow that is already unfolding. The profit motive of big business or lust for political control by more powerful countries are not the ideal triggers that should drive our domestic capacity for growth. If there is no greater motivation, however, these will take over.

There is a thin possibility that I pray for, and even hope to facilitate with others who feel likewise. I see digitally-wired millennials as a collective whose idealism, creativity and sense of adventure will simply take over the reins of leadership. They must find a way to make politics follow them and no more the other way around.

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