Inside more difficult times
The long years of life and experience will often prod me to think of the bigger picture – because there always is one. We often pay a lot of attention to the never-ending stream of details that act like dynamic currents controlling the tempo of our daily lives. Naturally, they distract us from the more constant and enduring layers of life that thrive more beneath our view of the surface.
Especially in difficult times, there are moments, incidents, and personalities that urgently draw our focus because they seem life-changing or life-threatening. Sometimes, they are; mostly, they are not. For sure, they are often emotional triggers that cloud our appreciation of reality as we see only the top-most layers. Life, however, is so much more.
From the eyes of the wise and learned, there may be thin but stark differences between the those stuck to unchanging behavioral patterns and those who somehow manage some meaningful change. We all age but some do not grow up. It is a human temptation, and trap, to miss the substance for the form, the body for the soul. The more relentless among us often can amass great wealth or ascend to great power. After all, those are life-long objectives they pursue.
Yet, human nature appears to be moving in a trajectory – of growing up and not growing down, of consuming less and producing more, of actually innovating and creating instead of copying and multiply the same thing. This trajectory or intuitive drive of life may be a blessing in disguise for most of us. When our circumstances. skills, and energies cannot match those who wield more power and build more wealth, we are shown other pathways that become meaningful as well, if not more.
I recall the stories of parents and grandparents of how their lives were, of how the Philippines was from over a 100 years ago and connect it now to today’s boomers in their 70s and 80s; I can say with conviction that their times were even more difficult under the Spanish, American, and Japanese rulers. The only things in the last 50 years that come close to their specific horrors have been the martial law years and the Covid-19 pandemic.
After their and our trying times, however, the country is not in grave disarray. We are nowhere near the horror of daily collective life in several African, Middle East, Asian, and South American countries. You know who they are just by listening to or reading international news. Some of them have been fighting like forever with brief periods of non-violence in between.
We may be poor compared to the global rich, but we are rich compared to the global poor. We are less poor than more than half of the countries in the world. That is a consolation, but a very small one. Because the suffering of the poor, our poor who have simply inherited their poverty, is felt daily by each victim without regard to how the poor in other countries may feel. What may be more painful is the daily comparison between themselves with the lifestyle of the Filipino rich and powerful.
For over a year and a half, the poor who were already all food-poor by their own assessment, have become even more poor. These may not be found in government statistics but the poor know because they are the ones buying their food daily. No one knows more than the poor how prices go up because they are the ones needing to buy their food as often as they have the money to do so. They do not have enough to buy food for a week.
When government and big business talk about inflation, they see numbers. But only those who are painfully affected by inflation know what it means in the flesh. It means sacrificing one or two meals. It means cooking less to save on cooking gas. It means staying in the dark longer to scrimp on electricity. It means walking more to lessen transportation expenses. They may not understand statistics inflation tortures them.
To many of my readers in this electronic version of The Inquirer, I realize that food and fuel prices do not represent the bulk of our expense budgets. How much rice can we eat anyway? Paying 60 pesos/kilo for a few kilos monthly is not such a heavy cost. Nor paying 10 pesos more per liter of gasoline. But our greater capacity to cushion food and fuel cost increases must not make us blind to those who will miss a meal or two a day. We must not allow insensitivity to numb us to suffering of less fortunate, or to forget we have a shared humanity.
It is also easy to criticize government as though we as a people do not have an intimate bond with government. When we become insensitive, government will slowly and surely become insensitive, too. When we become tolerant to lies and thievery, government will more quickly and much faster dive into corruption, especially if it already is infected. What we accept will become the norm, no matter if it is illegal.
Still, difficult times serve a purpose. All religious tenets will affirm that truism. History shows people survive them and may become better and stronger thereafter. Sometimes, though, some do not survive and push the descent to hell even more. We only have to look at countries where sustained conflict and violence keep happening to understand what hell on earth means.
Let hard times bring us together against the threats that endanger most of us. Let hard times make us understand that the common good must drive us into collective, even heroic, action. Work, produce, sacrifice, struggle, look to the future of our children.
We have to help make the bad times go away, though, not just hope they will on their own. We have to do what needs to be done, to find the courage as our forefathers did when they had to.