Writing on Air

Writing on Air by Jim Paredes

Archive for December 28th, 2008

2008: an ending and a beginning 4

Posted on December 28, 2008 by jimparedes

There was something perplexingly magical about 2008. Many rules about how the world is supposed to work were blatantly and irreverently violated and broken.

I call this the year of the amateur, or the year where the startups, or the non-pros, were on a roll. It was a David-beating-Goliath year, when total unknowns upstaged the sure thing. The winning horses were the ones nobody betted on initially. This is the year when all the experts were wrong so many times about so many things, the year of the left field upset.

Barack Obama, the upstart US presidential candidate from out of the blue, defied the odds in so many brilliant ways. First, he trounced the “unbeatable” Hillary Clinton. And despite a non-typical background, he also upstaged an all-American war hero who at the outset seemed more well-known, experienced and knowledgeable about many things, especially foreign affairs.

We all know what happened. Obama ran a fabulously non-conventional campaign. For one, his masterful use of the Internet helped him raise phenomenal amounts of money and cemented his connection to young voters. This Internet coup is the new template for future elections and will surely be emulated all over the world.

In the world of sports, all the experts predicted an Oscar de la Hoya win over Manny Pacquiao. The odds in Vegas were going against Manny 3 to 1. All the sportswriters put their money on De la Hoya even if their hearts were for the Filipino champion. After all, Manny seemed so puny beside De la Hoya whose reach was superior to his opponent’s shorter arms. But the unexpected happened, to the delight of Filipinos everywhere. That upset is something people will be talking about for a long time.

Then there was the biggest news of all — the economy — which is still unraveling. The major tsunami that hit the US financial system spread throughout the world, but seemed like it came from nowhere. The financial experts, bankers, Wall Street geniuses, the stock market traders, CEOs, CFOs, all the experts who were supposed to know everything in the universe of finance were caught completely unaware. The biggest banks and financial institutions began to fall like a house of cards.

People are losing homes and jobs in record numbers. The collapse is still ongoing with no end in sight. This is probably the biggest-ever threat to capitalism and it will probably transform it into something more reliable.

Oil prices, predicted to just keep going up and up in 2008, went down dramatically to their lowest levels in years.

Meanwhile China, which is regarded as the manufacturing center of the world, was exposed as a dubious producer whose products have become increasingly dodgy and were even killing babies and children.

The thing of it is, who among the so-called financial or political experts could have predicted that any of these would happen even just three months before they did?

It raises the question: In a world where the people who make the rules and are supposed to enforce them are turning out to be completely wrong, who can you trust?

It seems that everywhere you look, there is a feeling of instability. Events seem to suggest that the order of the world is rapidly changing. To some, this spells cataclysm; but to me, this is auspicious.

With everything seemingly going haywire, it is time to take stock of how we live our lives, how we impact everything on the planet and on each other. With Mother Nature behaving more and more like Mommy Dearest, it’s time to reevaluate everything and come up with new alternatives to how we can all live so that all of life may become more sustainable.

“The whole of the global economy is based on supplying the cravings of two percent of the world’s population,” author Bill Bryson wrote to sum up everything that is wrong with the economic model we have now.

I asked a friend in the US if he thought that all this would change the lifestyle of Americans and force them to live simply and more frugally. He answered in the affirmative, adding that the biggest impact of the crisis on the American psyche is the realization that there is actually an end to what has seemed like the constantly growing and seemingly limitless American wealth and power.

To one who is always on the lookout for the new wave, I like to think that 2008 is the birth of new models of thinking: leadership, politics, religious thought, economics and lifestyles. How can it not be if so much of the old ways are self-destructing? New ways must take their place.

Will 2009 ring in an end to the rule of the Mugabes of the world? Darfur? Terrorism? Will it usher in a greener lifestyle? I am not sure. But I know something is afoot and will make itself more tangibly clear.

And if things are happening all over, the zeitgeist of change will probably find its way to our shores too. Will 2009 bring in the leader who will deliver us from evil in 2010? Will we finally put an end to the silliness that is Cha-cha? Will we at last have automated voting that does not only count fast but is also credible? Will we see an end to the GMAs, the Garcis and corrupt politics that stand in the way of our becoming a more functional nation? I hope so.

While I may invoke the stars from time to time, I also know that we must do what we need to do on our end. After all, while the stars may deliver a winning lotto ticket, we have to work on our lives so we can’t blame anyone else for our own troubles. As Julius Caesar said in the Shakespearean play of the same name, “The fault, dear Brutus, lies not in our stars, but in ourselves, if we are underlings.”

Let us hope for the best and work like we have to prevent the worst from happening.

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