What would you rather lose?
Some people, such as diabetics or trauma victims, have had to face the painful dilemma of deciding whether to lose a limb or lose their life. Some others, for no reason greater than being caught in a period of perverse rumination, wonder: If they had to choose, what would they rather lose, an arm or a leg? Sight or hearing?
Put positively, what would you rather keep?
On many levels, the many decisions as to what to lose and what to keep confront us regularly. Even at the level of impulse-buying, we have to decide: Save our money or buy something that we don’t really need? At the level of the nation, the stakes can be far greater, like: Protect our territory in the West Philippine Sea, or allow its occupation by China?
Our emotional and mental makeup provides the basis for our decision-making. At the national level, what is our emotional and mental makeup? Where are we now in our life as a nation? What is important to us? About 120 years since the 1896 Revolution, are we freer and more prosperous as a people? Did we make the right choices on the way to where we are now?
There is no single answer. But if we compare the prosperity of our neighboring countries to ours, we were clearly left behind and only recently showed some signs of catching up. (To think that our neighbors threw out their colonial masters much later than we did—or maybe they had better colonial masters?) For example, according to International Monetary Fund 2016 figures, in terms of nominal per capita gross domestic product, the Philippines ranks sixth among the 10 Asean member-nations, being ahead only of Vietnam, Laos, Myanmar and Cambodia. Our nominal per capita GDP is US$3,002, compared to top-performer Singapore’s US$52,888. Will we finally choose to get our act together or continue to muddle through as a middling underachiever?
Often, the decisions we make in our daily life seem insignificant. Who are we, after all? Even in our individual lives we may sometimes feel we are not in control. This is precisely why we must make a choice. Whether the situation is of our own making (we ate too much sugar) or not (we were in some ill-maintained bus with “loose brakes” that fell into a ravine), the situation requires that we make a choice: What would you rather lose or keep? What would you rather have—the rule of law or killing with impunity? What would you rather do—value and safeguard life, or regard it as dispensable and trivial?
The choices we make define us as individuals and as a people, especially now that we have the sophisticated tools of information technology. For example, through our internet habits, personal interests and consumer behavior can be easily tracked and collated so that we can be targeted with advertising that would appeal to our individual interests. Thus, even the individual click of a mouse or a keystroke will represent a decision that, when put together with a million other similar decisions, will constitute a profile and a trend.
National decision-making need not be so “high-tech.” Internet profiling only illustrates how individual decisions can lead to a national consensus by reaching a critical mass of national sentiment that cannot be ignored by whoever is in power.
The world and reality being what they are, choices need not be limited to either/or. There is the option of compromise, or giving up something in exchange for something else, just as long as agreement can be reached. In politics, compromise is often the preferred arrangement. But the choice of life or death is absolute. After all, there is no such thing as being relatively alive or relatively dead, comatose states notwithstanding.
So, what would you rather keep? When we all consciously realize that death is the natural consequence of life, the answer is a no-brainer. Our deaths are preordained and life is the only choice in a game we cannot win.
Roderick Toledo is a freelance communication projects manager.
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