The context of things
The heat is on, so to speak. The temperatures have been so high that alerts are given to especially the elders to avoid heat strokes. And for everyone else, beware of dehydration. Thank goodness that rain has come every so often, not only easing the heat but signaling that there will be no drought. Imagine if this heat stays for many months without rain. Yet, in many countries, droughts are uncommon.
Which reminds me just how blessed I am that my motherland, the islands known as the Philippines, can seem like a tropical paradise in comparison. The truth is, it is. The Philippines is one of the richest, and I mean way up there, in bio-diversity. That means our motherland hosts one of the most number of life forms. We cannot be richer than that as a starting point. And I have not begun to count the minerals, the oil, and gas.
Which also is why I remain puzzled at man’s inhumanity to man – Philippine-style. Just a few days ago, I was celebrating the announcement by SWS that the latest self-rated poverty results of Filipino families are at an all-time low at 42%. We had achieved 43% levels twice in the past, in March 1987 and March 2010, and few more times at 44%. I can also remember that it had reached levels around 60% and thus my reason for celebrating when we hit the low 40’s. But even while I am happy at times like now, I am amazed in the first place how one of the richest nations on earth, not with money but with natural blessings, can host such poverty levels. If nature has always been kind to us, then it is only man’s inhumanity to man that can keep so many very poor and so few very rich.
For more than 30 years, I have observed poverty from both rural and urban settings. While poverty has surrounded me since birth, I just never paid attention to it. For the longest of times, I just assumed that poverty is part of a natural life equation. I believed that some are just more equal than others. And I knew, even up to now, that inequality abounds in very visible ways, not just here in the Philippines (we only seem like copycats) but all over the world. However, a more mature view by this time, thanks to a greater interest in the matter, more global exposure, and kind friends who encouraged me for over 30 years, has allowed me a perspective that keeps questioning what is, that keeps prodding me to imagine what else can be done.
I realize that many other nations had gone through their own stages when their poverty levels were just as high – and stood that way for hundreds of years as well. At the same time, I also realize that global consciousness then was not about poverty eradication. There seemed to be greater and more urgent concerns. For a shockingly long time, war and conquest occupied human activity – worsening the poverty of many yet eased the poverty of the victors. And I believe that expansion by conquest was the most apparent methodology by which the West grew rich enough to increase the chances of their poor to climb out of poverty.
Other than invading the land of others, grabbing their resources, enslaving their people, and expatriating their wealth back to the homeland of the conquerors, there have been kinder yet quite effective models of progress and poverty elimination. First of all, it is a refining human consciousness that drives the peaceful and progressive pathways. Moving further and further away from armed conflict and superior strength, many nations, and the United Nations as a representative personality, war is officially debunked and addressing poverty now a priority value. Present reality is far from the ideal, but present reality has also gone a long way from the reality of 70 years ago. Just the lengthening of lifespans in most countries is obvious testimony that the quality of life has been kinder, enough to allow longer life spans even for ordinary folks.
I would like to think that the lowering of self-rated poverty statistics of Filipino families has been following that path of peace and progress. It is hard to imagine that more widespread violence can lower the reality of poverty for people – even if insurgency, rebellion, and terrorism may still afflict us. Overall, our country must have improved substantially enough to both reduce poverty and allow our average lifespans to increase. This pattern must motivate us to increase our efforts along the same path. And the greater successes of other societies can be our additional initiatives for the same thing – peace and progress.
Again, the brighter models of success, measured by economics, quality of life and levels of happiness, are clearly from a higher consciousness that has raised the standards of life in those countries. They have resolved gender equality issues, strengthened the rule of law, aggressively pursue the rights and development of children, basic to upgraded human rights, more fairness in economic competition, higher educational opportunities, and greater cultural interaction and exchange with other countries. From their policies and programs, from their very successes, can spring alternatives in our own visioning for a brighter future. There are enough examples; we only need to question if we are ready to raise the common good as a greater goal over personal interests.
When I consider the current problems of the Philippines, be they be political, economic, religious or social, I look at all or any of them within the context that they have been in. No serious problem popped up from nowhere. All had their period of gestation. In other words, so many, or too many, had contributed to the growth of their malignancy. But without being judgmental, there is the greater possibility that we can move forward, beginning with lessons learned, driven by hope and vision. We just have to choose to build despite the temptation to destroy.
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