Saturday, May 12, 2012

Boxed in a corner

Could it be that we’re simply stoics that we constantly find ourselves boxed in a corner? But because of Divine Providence we would one day lift ourselves up?

As an economy pragmatism demands that we balance development and concern for the environment, for instance. But when even the secretary of environment talks of the blanket use of privately-owned land, one wonders who is left to uphold basic principles like fairness, propriety or even good and bad? Defining land use in a civilized society is so fundamental that no wonder the medical community has raised the alarm bells about the degradation of Metro Manila. Sadly, the threat on the environment – and the devastating impact on people as we’ve witnessed in past disasters – is not confined to the metropolis. But balancing development and concern for the environment may be asking too much when we can’t even keep our homes and businesses lit? And so even our best thinkers find themselves expressing fatalism? But didn't we learn that we can work on the Sabbath – the operative word being work? [As the writer’s sister-nun would proudly clarify, “we have a separate contemplative group praying in the chapel 24/7; and I am in the other group, and in our case, we work with farmers so that they employ organic farming methods.” And in order to elevate the effectiveness of their overall mission work, they stay abreast with technology, including tapping Western business consultants.]

Unfortunately, given the wretchedness of our reality we instinctively rely on our ‘abilidad and creativity.’ And the risk is when doing so we take our eye away from the ball and succumb to ideology. Economic development trumps ideology as Deng Xiaoping demonstrated? He simply begged the Americans: we need your money and technology! On the other hand, Juan de la Cruz has to jump through hoops because he has been unable to crystallize his way forward? And absent the light at the end of the tunnel, he then switches to survival mode? Which, unfortunately, brings about the absence of the sense of community or the common good? It has fascinated the writer to observe a similar pattern in Eastern Europe. For example, given the lack of clarity of the way forward, the powerful like water would seek their own level, lord it over and effectively stake their claim as being the “establishment.” And so the game becomes “signing up” – including those who are supposed to uphold basic principles like fairness and propriety or even good and bad – with the establishment while remaining a limited, narrow and exclusive group, leaving a great many marginalized.

What complicates the challenge for us Filipinos is our tendency to look back. And as the Americans would explain such a tendency, people instinctively keep “fighting the last war.” And thus we struggle and fail to create a vision of the future that is refreshing. And as one Filipino scientist laments, we are reduced to building a “barong-barong” – a lean-to or shanty – as opposed to, say, properly engineering our efforts. Neither history nor culture ought to be a people’s destiny. The human spirit is meant to soar – e.g., Adam and Eve had to set a forward-looking course for mankind?

The writer talks often about his Eastern European friends because they simply and unequivocally wanted to leave their dark past behind. All they knew was they wanted something better even if they didn’t know exactly how to get there. They continue to encounter challenges that baffle them yet they remain steadfast in pursuing that something . . . that is better. In the meantime, they have been enjoying the fruits of their daring journey – making it all worthwhile – while continuing to learn from both good and bad experiences. And like athletes training for the Olympics, they have the aches and pains to show for their hard work yet they keep raising the bar!

In the Philippines, meanwhile, we’re struggling with something as basic as lighting our homes and businesses? And worse, we find ourselves navigating a treacherous terrain – with oligarchy on the one hand and ideologues on the other and poor governance thrown in? Ergo: we simply keep creating more hoops to jump and thus a no-win situation for Juan de la Cruz? And if to be “sabog” (be all over the place) is our comfort zone (or our definition of freedom of choice) how would we ever chart a way forward that has clarity? We have to will it if we don’t want to be a non-entity!

No comments:

Post a Comment