Time to do better

The holidays are over. Time to put the rose-colored glasses back to the drawer. There is a whole real world out there that we cannot dismiss, basically because it feeds and shelters us. The good will of the Christmas season has given us respite from our daily trials, and filled many of us with a new resolve to do better. Now is the time to do better.

But we cannot if we do not know where we are. It is impossible for us to do better if we are lost, if we are blind. We do not know how to chart out path when we do not know where we are. Rose-colored glasses may not be that bad; it does not tell us the whole truth but we see its basic form. We only are optimistic without basis.

Going around with blinders, though, is deadly. We see a fraction of the whole and think we know enough. To some extent, that may be normal since we live in an imperfect world. But when others are putting the blinders on us, we have become sheep waiting to be herded – and fleeced.

I am old enough to know how a poor society, meaning one where most people are poor and dependent, is little more than just sheep that their leaders can manipulate. It does not make the leaders unusually evil; look around the world and most leaders want their people to be like sheep, especially the authoritarian. But not being unusually evil still makes them evil, which is not nice at all.

Evil is defined as profoundly immoral and wicked. That is the character of those who knowingly and willfully exploit the weaknesses of others for their personal gain. Evil is not the exclusive domain of the rich and powerful, but stands out when they are. Their wealth and influence create a terrible impact when our leaders become evil in their governance of business or politics. Unfortunately, there is little else that can stop or reform them.

Except the rest of the people. Except for a great number of people. Except the great numbers of the rest of the people finding unison for a brief moment in time. And, this, my friends, is a most exceptional miracle when it happens. People blinded by disinformation, weakened by their own poverty and needs, herded and orchestrated by the minions of the wealthy and powerful to follow their bidding will not just rise in unison against those who feed them.

That is the state of things today. There will be no quick solutions, and even the rare quick ones may have more consequences and blood than the problems they were trying to solve. Where there is no learning, there can only be repetition. Changing bad leaders is meaningless unless we change them with good leaders. And that assumes we know, as a people briefly united in one concerted action, what makes a good leader from what makes a bad one.

With seven decades tucked in my belt and going forward towards the eighth, I can see better only when I am not in a hurry. It is not what is the next step in front of us but also what have been the many steps behind us. Nothing will change much when we do not know what we are now and what we want to be. If it is quick and easy, it is a sure formula for a repeat performance in the near future.

We have to stop, look, listen, and then reflect deeply. What we are today is the running total of what we have been for decades, for most of our lives. In that reflection we need to do, there is an answer that all the wise people in our history will tell us – first look inside and discover how we each contributed to the mess outside we now want to change. When we find the answer, we suddenly have a chance to succeed.

If the journey of change, from the quiet transformation to the radical revolutions, begins with ourselves, we have to find anchors to hold on when the storms try to blow all of us away. When we are blown away, there will be no great numbers of people in concerted action, only a great number of disconnected pieces. Our anchors, the values most important to us, are the only thing we can hold on to. Yet, if we decide to have the same values, the same important things we can fight for, that keeps us anchored on the same beliefs.

We have to remember that we have little in common, we, the rest of the people. Some of us are very poor, not even making it a ridiculously low line of poverty. By the standards of the more progressive nations, their poverty line may catch more than 60% of us, with the balance just a little above it. There have been too many studies showing how a few hundred families control the majority of the wealth in the Philippines, with 9 billionaires having more wealth than half of the population.

What I am pointing out is nothing new – it has always been like that in my lifetime. What I am sad about is that the government has not been able to play its big brother role effectively, tempering the profit orientation of the super-rich so that the greater number of Filipinos can inch up in the income spectrum. Beside playing a regulator’s role in profitability, government is expected to provide equity and opportunities for the non-rich, and it has done badly here, too. We simply cannot stay with the formula of the rich getting richer while the poor get poorer. It is immoral, it is dangerous.

I am so sorry that it is us, the rest of the people, who must find our voice, our role, our dreams, and take the next steps to help ourselves. Because waiting for others is all we have done.