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GLIMPSES

Unpredictability in the world

12:05 AM May 05, 2017

I was able to take a trip to the United States, and a long cross-country drive while I was there. I wanted to savor not only what American looks in more areas, rural and urban, but to sense the sentiments of ordinary folks, those you see in diners, gas stations, markets and malls aside from the all more familiar city residents.

In America as well as the Philippines, two new presidents are most controversial. I read and watch news, from mainstream media and from online publications, plus lots from social media. I have a good idea of what is happening in the Philippines and I was very curious as to what is also happening in the United States. Like it or not, the relationship between two countries does not have only history behind it, it has lots of blood ties by now. With an estimated four million Filipinos in America, which includes children from mixed marriages, and more than a million of them who keep remitting money to relatives in the Philippines, there is no way but for the relationship to be actively strong.

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Geopolitics and economic globalization make the world smaller in many ways. We get to see and know what is happening anywhere with greater speed and clarity. Technology is fantastic, and it seems there will be no let up with more advances expected by the day, not by the year. Yes, there remains massive poverty for about two-thirds of the world, but not massive ignorance anymore. Technology and global commerce are not limited to the wealthy and urbanized areas; they target everyone everywhere. In India, for example, private data providers wants to wire all of their population to high-speed Internet in the immediate future, emphasis on immediate. Apparently, connecting people to the Internet is not only for knowledge, it is also an anti-poverty move.

Technology, too, is not only for the good but for everything. Terrorism rides on technology, too, and recruits new converts in very innovative ways. Russia has been accused of hacking America and influencing elections there. And the buzz words today are “fake news” that spread ever so quickly before they are discovered to be false. Yet, the world should be better with too much information than with too much ignorance. It just requires human intelligence to be more alert. What is fake feeds on lazy minds, those who are gullible, or those who are too blind to believe anything that does not agree with their sentiments.

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In America and the Philippines, both presidents hold a very critical view of mainstream media, even accusing these of malicious bias. They have reason to do so because mainstream media has not been largely favorable to them, not affording them of a reasonable honeymoon. Yet, fake news is not the exclusive domain of what is fake, false or biased news. Social media, in fact, growing by leaps and bounds and mainstream media contracts. is itself beset with what is not true. Worse, it is often used as the initiator of distorted and malicious information disguised as opinions or commentaries. In other words, falsehood and libel have grown too fast, too massive, for laws to catch up with them.

Yet, with all these fake news upsetting societies everywhere, it is still the traditional conflicts that are most dangerous. It is still physical violence, material poverty and deadly fanaticism that haunts the world. The phenomenon we call Brexit, the election of Duterte and Trump, and even the surprising competition in the French presidential race, are but similar expressions of global conservatism provoked by terrorism, political conflicts, economic slowdowns and massive refugee movements. In the Philippines, the fear of illegal drugs and its provocative impact on its victims have made the war against drugs acceptable to many despite the attendant killings.

America the Great is not so great these days. It is now thinking of building a wall to keep illegal immigrants from Mexico entering what used to be their ancestral lands. A fearful America wants to isolate itself, afraid of foreign terrorists, getting a mild taste of how Americans have long been considered terrorists by many other people and countries that it had attacked, or conquered, including the Philippines. The world is round, indeed. Of course, half of America disagrees but it is the half that has little say nowadays.

But most of us should do better by looking as America less and instead focus on China. After all, China is occupying islands we also claim as ours, and building infrastructure there that could house military facilities (if not already). I see nothing wrong in developing a strong relationship with China, a neighbor and a people with whom we have lots of blood ties, too. But if it insists on claiming and grabbing islands we also consider ours, then that friendly relationship simply becomes impossible. Unless, of course, we submit to their superior power as though they are now an emerging master as America once was. Sadly for us, it is a decision that is not all ours to make. It is more an East versus West thing, and we are just the ping-pong ball of global powers.

It is ironic but also obvious that technology has lit up the darkness we call ignorant, yet today we witness just how unpredictable things are. One would think that if human beings know more, their lives will be more secure. That is not the case, however. The world, and not just America or Europe or the Middle East, is in turmoil. There is no World War III, but the fear that precedes war is already there. And if it is not a global conflagration that we are afraid of. Even local conflicts already upset the stability of many nations.

Fear is the greatest destabilizer ever. Ask the fearful how they see ghosts where there are none. And ask the confident who see the what we can do rather than what we cannot.

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TAGS: America, economic globalization, geopolitics, Glimpses, opinion, Philippines
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