The more things change, the more they remain the same
In our small island province of Marinduque, one can feel and observe the struggle that our mostly agricultural economy is facing, particularly during this pandemic. One would assume we are significantly self-reliant in terms of food security. It will come as a shock that, in fact, we are dependent on the larger urban centers and national food granaries for our sustenance.
Just the other day, we had to share and portion out small bags of rice to help some of the small farmers we know in the far-flung areas to keep them from starving. People’s dependence on financial doles have exacerbated this situation; many have left their livelihoods or are in no mood to engage in any in exchange for meager cash. Is this also the grim legacy of patronage politics?
One of the revelations that this pandemic has brought to the fore is how much our colonial past continues to influence our way of thinking in the sense that we look outside of our borders for solutions. Our proclivity for putting higher value on things foreign is working against us. Why are our scientists and our science and technology community not being appreciated and supported for their talent?
Why are our agriculturists and our Department of Agriculture not being given subsidies like their counterparts in Thailand and Vietnam, for example? When I left for Vietnam in 1995 as an OFW, its economy was still in shambles. When I left in 2016, it had become one of the top global exporters of coffee, rice and, now, cashew. Thanks partly to IRRI and UPLB, Vietnamese experts applied their lessons well. Now they even have their own car: VinFast. Of course, all these came at a cost under an authoritarian but fiercely nationalistic regime—but that is beside the point.
We have so detached ourselves from our human nature with advances in technology that what we thought would make our lives easier have actually resulted in weakening our chances for survival, because we have taken away our bodies’ natural defense mechanisms. Our bodies are meant to be used for productive mental and physical labor, but we have taken much effort to prevent this. Our bodies crave for exertion, but we have taken that natural function away by reducing physical labor and in the process decimating our most vital life-support system—our environment.
A friend who is a specialist in internal medicine said this virus is going to be a part of our system and is not going to go away. We will be able to develop immunity from it just like we have developed immunity from the ordinary flu virus. But as we continue to forge on in this Faustian-inspired development trajectory, we will encounter more deadly infections in the future. We must heed the warning signs if we do not wish the human race to head toward extinction.
More than a month since the enhanced community quarantine and people are brandishing the post-pandemic term “new normal.” I can’t help but cringe at the idea. There really is no new normal. What we do need, though, is a thorough and honest examination of our collective consciences to determine where we all went wrong, and once discerned, admit our mistakes and do our best to rectify them. This involves acceptance of the fact that we have screwed up real big — all of us, no exceptions. Without that contrition, there can never be a better option. What is really needed is simply a return to fundamentals — going back to the basics, as it were, with the aid of history (not a repetition of it) and all the knowledge and technology that human ingenuity and creativity have come up with thus far.
“Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose.“ The more things change, the more they remain the same. New normal, anyone?
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