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Writing on Air by Jim Paredes

Archive for June 14th, 2015

Reimagining our nation 1

Posted on June 14, 2015 by jimparedes

HUMMING IN MY UNIVERSE By Jim Paredes (The Philippine Star) | Updated June 14, 2015 – 12:00am

Last Friday was our 117th Independence Day.

In the face of a predatory China slowly gobbling up parts of our country, the past few weeks have left me with a lot to ponder on.

How did this happen? Did all this have anything to do with PGMA’s decision to invite China to do joint explorations in Philippine waters? What is the right response? What will happen to our country in the event of an all-out war between the US and China?

A lot of you, I am sure, have asked the same questions.

While we have had many years of independence despite the American, then Japanese occupations, plus martial law, it seems we have not been proactive enough about enhancing our independence.

Sure, we’ve fought for our rights and freedoms many times. We’ve just never done anything significant enough to constantly improve our military capabilities through the years. (We have actually only begun to put some serious thought into developing our military capabilities for defense against other countries during this Aquino government.) We have also been remiss in strengthening our national character to be more responsive to challenges we face as an independent nation.

What good is our independence if we do not show the strength to guard, protect and enhance it? What good is it if our independence bogs us down more than it pushes us to respond to our problems?

I am one of those who believe that whatever the situation, we can find solutions or take steps that can alleviate this dangerous condition. I would much rather light a candle than curse the darkness.

Here are some thoughts and suggestions that, humble as they are, may help.

1. Seriously review our military preparedness and training. With political will, we can substantially improve and expand our military capability in the next five years. Let us improve training and purchase the necessary equipment to finally modernize our military, especially our navy. Only then can we be in a better position to deal with outside threats.

2. Align ourselves with nations that can help us deal with China while also protecting our long-term interests as an independent sovereign nation. (We are already doing this to some extent.)

There are also non-military steps we must consider that will make our nation and independence stronger and more functional. I am talking about ways to strengthen our national character.

3. Call on every sector of society to clean up its ranks, and, like Japan, inculcate a culture of honesty and constant improvement in efficiency, service and productivity. It is a dynamic and effective way of rebuilding our society and institutions. Surely, we can only become a stronger, more resilient nation and people.

4. An independent nation is an educated one. Let us pour more money and effort into education that gives more than just skills. I’m talking about educating Filipinos to think critically. This is crucial. This will make us more employable and will empower us to make better choices in life. It will also make us wiser about the issues that plague this nation, especially when we need to choose the leaders who will run the country.

5. Let us stop being negative. We are not the worst nation in the world, as some people might want us to believe. We are a young nation on the move, and the past few years have seen us making strides in many areas in our national life. Let us also cease blaming our colonial past. Almost every nation that was colonized has moved on and has gotten over their colonial trauma. We need to be done with this victimhood complex. We are a free people now. Let us imagine our own future and go for it.

6. Call on media to set a better agenda daily for national discussion. When influence peddlers decide that the Philippines is an awful place and broadcast this to the rest of the country, people tend to believe it. Media, whether we like it or not, dictates the national mood. The media, therefore, needs to be more intelligent, accurate, fair and holistic when they facilitate the national discussion of issues. The media must do more than inform and criticize. They must also inspire. What is happening now is far from this. What we get is an unrelenting daily stream of bad news and ranting, especially on AM radio.

Sure, everyone wants media to be free; that freedom is a good thing. But the truth is, a big chunk of media is far from being free, not because it is censored by government, but because powerful people have bought it and rule over it. Media wants self-regulation but can hardly regulate itself. I really don’t know if media is capable of doing its own policing. It does not even report on the corruption within its own ranks. It is simply quiet about it.

At the end of the day, if the national mood is that of hopelessness and helplessness, I’d say that media plays a big role in it.

Benedict Anderson, a writer who was largely influenced by Jose Rizal when he wrote Imagined Communities, says that “a nation is an imagined community.” The collective imagination of a people influences its actions and shapes their nation/community into what it is.

If we do not like what we are experiencing as a people, then let’s collectively reimagine what we want and act in ways that can change things.

I do not say this lightly. I mean it.

If we imagine that we are truly independent and free, and we all commit daily to making the ground we stand on a better place for everyone, it will be so.

Like a truly free and independent people, let’s reimagine ourselves and the Philippines in a much bigger, bolder way.

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