HUMMING IN MY UNIVERSE By Jim Paredes (The Philippine Star) Updated July 04, 2010 12:00 AM
People who have given serious thought to how to change things in the Philippines and make our collective lives better have gone through a gamut of emotions, moods, mindsets and paradigms, and in varying intensities.
I know many who have traveled the zigzag road that started with enthusiasm but quickly turned to frustration. The road lined with optimism and great possibilities quickly became a dirty, abandoned road of hopelessness and cynicism. Something about tackling such problems makes many weak in the knees the moment they start. Reality sets in big time. And that reality can seem like a dragon that is much bigger than anyone can slay. And one can’t really blame those who lose interest and abandon the effort.
I also know that as much as one can easily lose interest, the yearning to see a better country is never lost. The desire to change things lies dormant and builds up to periodic eruptions of patriotism. With the proper stimulus, idealism is awakened and we can again be filled with determination and commitment. Now is such a time. The yearning has been awakened.
Many who have been at this for a while have learned much just by watching themselves and others go through the challenge of transforming society. They have learned what works and what doesn’t in the pursuit of this noble goal of societal change.
Here’s a list of lessons I have learned through the years from other people and from my own experience.
1) It does not help to be overly pessimistic. The problems are daunting enough to begin with. Unwarranted gloom and cynicism do not help. Many times, people mistake their cynicism with simply being realistic, but more often than not, this is not so. Being realistic is knowing the facts, making judgments on how to tackle the problem and taking chances. Being realistic requires courage. But cynicism and pessimism are damaging to the spirit because they imagine things to be much worse than they are and can discourage us to give up before we even try. Pessimism bets on the side of failure while courage bets on the side of success.
2) You need a constituency for the changes you want to do. You can’t do it alone. Very often, all we do is wish aloud and hope someone hears what we are saying. We naively think that announcing our thoughts on Facebook, Twitter and letters to the editor are enough effort. The truth is we need to convince people, lots of them, to want the same things and be willing to take action to achieve them. Every important, positive step we have taken as a people in the past 20 years has involved this.
3) When you have a vision, share it initially with like-minded people who will encourage you. Birds of the same feather flock together. A vision needs to be nurtured and cared for before it is released to the world. Sad to say, there are many who feel a sense of twisted pride when best efforts fail because they can claim that “We told you so.”
4) Words and visions are great but there is nothing like action. As Barbara Streisand sang in Putting it Together, “A vision’s just a vision if it’s only in your head. If a vision’s just a vision it’s as good as dead. It’s got to come to life.” The word must be made flesh, as the Bible says. If a great idea is planted in your mind but does not translate into concrete action, it’s tantamount to creative abortion.
5) Talk is cheap. Criticisms of government, our leaders, policies or anything, for that matter, does not help if they are mere knee-jerk reactions or baseless, exaggerated claims by pundits out to win points. If they do not provide insight or do not propose real solutions, they will not help create change or raise one’s credibility with the body politic. People will see through false ideas sooner or later. It is best to think things through before opening one’s mouth.
6) Creativity and new approaches to problems are sorely needed. By new approaches, I suggest using new language in place of old worn-out phrases. The reason why our leaders have not been able to inspire us is because they are trapped in the old culture of “government-speak,” which is often in a different wavelength from the consciousness of most people. It could be a question of sincerity. The perceived lack of truthfulness or reality could be one reason why their words do not touch, much less move, their audience.
7) There will always be a gap between the views of people who work in government and those who don’t how the country is actually run. Government outsiders tend to be more idealistic (often unrealistic) while those in government are burdened with the inertia of the bureaucracy and years of bad governance that they have had to live with. In the process, they learn to accept this and, not wishing to rock the boat, may even end up resisting change. The source of conflict between even a good government and its citizens is high expectations versus the pace of change that the bureaucracy can handle. Those joining government should bridge this gap as quickly as possible.
8) People Power can really be a positive force for change. Think about it. P-Noy ran against a powerful machine with an unlimited war chest. Noy’s volunteers, for the most part, made their own posters, stickers, banners and used their own resources to launch a people’s campaign. People power did not have a monolithic structure and no one identifiable leader. It was a movement, a vibe, and the candidates who did not see it, much less believe in it, paid the price. Think about it. If Villar had won the elections, it would be clear that the next presidential election six years from now will be all about who has the most money. People Power has changed that. Future elections will be all about who can fire up and engage people more.
9) Lastly, just as one struggle is won, a new one begins. The story and mission of changing the country is a never-ending one. And, yes, it is true that change starts with ourselves. It was Gandhi who said that we need to be the change we want to see. This is not a single step but a continuous effort to improve, learn and grow so that we all embody the change this country needs to finally take off.
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