Unable To Rally Around The Flag

by Jose Ma. Montelibano

The commitment to light a candle rather than to curse the darkness is easier said than done. Most of us are driven to make a promise to try, but few make a promise to do. While orienting our lives to what is good and positive must be also a most beneficial way to go, distractions invade our space and we often succumb to negativity.

The super rise of the Philippine economy in the last several years is less appreciated than its real worth. I think the accolades that our economic performance have received, from their sheer frequency, has made it appear to many that the super performance has become normal. And before we can truly savor what a super performance is, many would prefer to give focus on its being not so inclusive.

I hate poverty, and I try to do my personal share in contributing to its dismantling, inspired basically by the resolve of groups like Gawad Kalinga. But a super economic performance, if it is not yet that inclusive, is better in its presence for the poor than by its absence. I wish the poor could benefit as much as the rich, but a successful rich is better than a depressed rich. We must assess how to discover quickly the formula of a more equitable sharing, including a much higher taxation of those who earn more. Meanwhile, is it impossible to cheer that our economy is doing better than the rest of the word?

We have become a people so vulnerable to following the lead of the more aggressive or even just the more noisy, especially in traditional or social media. It matters not that they often lead us astray, invite us to the edge of the cliff, and then blame the poor for being bobo by voting for politicians they don’t like—as though the politicians did not mostly come from economic classes higher than the poor voters. Those calling the poor bobo might do better if they can prove that they can help the poor more than the candidates they do not like.

Clinging to bad news or to belligerent personalities has become patterned pastimes. I do not know why a people with such a celebratory disposition is now ready to turn sour than hopeful. I would understand it easier if the poor turned desperate because their lives are miserable. But the noisy ones are not poor. In fact, many of them look down on the poor. The poor become meaningful only when the critical ones use the words “poverty”, the “poor” and the “people” (whose majority are poor) as though they were speaking for them. They do not, not when they insult the poor instead of lifting them.

I think the heavy downpour of information has influenced their recipients to become bored with ordinary news, even good news. A public that is bombarded with information from media outlets or personalities prefer to listen or read the sensational. Unfortunately, most good news are not sensational just good news. And most people doing good things have strong tendencies to remain quiet as their good works already speak for themselves. Unfortunately, again, the good that is seen, heard and felt on the ground, from real people to real people, cannot be massively disseminated via the Internet as quickly as bad or sensational news.

It is also sad and alarming that developments more relevant to our life as a nation, like the creeping invasion of China, receive only cursory coverage, as if China has to grab another island or shoot one of our very few navy boats. The only reason why China has not grabbed all our unpopulated islands is that they have to build military forces near our shores. And our government and armed forces have not yet been provoked so hard that they would initiate a shooting war, for fear that a war could lead to the fourth horrible disaster of our written history, our fourth subjugation as a people, our fourth time to lose our freedom and swallow a foreign master.

The bullying of China has not been impeded by anything, not even by the arbitration of the United Nations. Only American forces stand in between, preventing so far a more aggressive occupation of disputed islands, and a shooting war between the Philippine sardine and the China shark. To expect the United States to fight and die for us when Filipinos are in no way prepared militarily or psychologically to fight and die for our territory is a stupid fantasy. It may well be that the US will indeed take on China, but it will be for their interests more than ours. And we should be prepared to pay the price.

Instead of rallying around the flag, we are choosing to make the job of China much easier. We will shoot ourselves over the BBL, just as we almost did over the RH Bill. Whether the BBL becomes law or not, the stage is set up for more acrimonious debate and a divide of sentiments. China and the US are playing Russian roulette and the winner takes all, including us.

This is the lesson we must learn before we take on another tour as a conquered nation, that only a determined people, prepared to invest it all, life, limbs and resources, can prevent someone many times bigger in size, population and firepower from risking the total annihilation of the Philippines. Only if the world sees that millions are willing to fight and die to preserve their territory and their freedom will member nations step in. Only then, too, will China stop its modern day annexation of the Philippines.

But by then, China will have all of the islands in the West Philippine Sea, whose name will revert to the South China Sea.

By our choosing the bad over the good, the negative over the positive, division over unity, debate over preparation, shock over anticipation, subjugation over freedom.

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