Our world tomorrow

HINDSIGHT - F. Sionil Jose (The Philippine Star) - December 16, 2019 - 12:00am

As a new decade approaches, let us pause and let the big thoughts come; we focus on the forest and not the trees, their leaves and their roots. The human body in itself is a miracle that can be analogous to everything that lives.

As my doctor, Vince Gomez said, a man may look perfectly healthy but all the organs in his body have aged and any one of them will fail anytime. Which means, at 95 I can go without warning.

Indeed, there is only one destiny for almost everything that lives. The scientists cannot totally explain the universe but even the stars died and their twinkling which adorns the sky is their light when they were suns alive, reaching us through the vast chasm of space and time.

I often argue with brilliant scholars and writers who seem to know everything and with their vast knowledge of history and geopolitics predict the future with great confidence; they think that they are right. They are wrong; they don’t know the surprises time brings. In fact, no one knows.

Within my lifetime I have seen changes without our being able to predict these cataclysmic events. For instance, who would ever think in 1967 when I first went to Moscow that within 50 years the Soviet Union would collapse? And much earlier, who could foretell the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in December 8, 1941, or later, the destruction of the World Trade Center in 2011? These are epochal events that changed not so much the American perception of themselves in the world; The bombing of the World Trade Center impinged not only on the United States but on all nations, how vulnerable everyone is now that the atomic bomb can be transported in a suitcase.

Sure enough, if countries also die, and empires wither away as did ancient Greece, so will America. Some empires (and nations) last longer than others; can geolitics, geography explain this longevity or the nature of their people and their leaders?

In our own experience, great events occured not because of mass movements or politics but because of what I call the human factor.

Would Cory Aquino be president if her husband was not assassinated? Would her son have became president if she did not die at that time?

Since we don’t know what tomorrow will bring, we can only hope for the future wherein the looming crisis of climate change can be aborted and of course the possibility of nuclear war being voided because world leaders can hold their cool in incidents which can trigger violent reaction. In the US-China conflict, I hope such restraint prevails.

When we look, we are continually amazed at the achievements of mankind, in the ruins of the Great empires and the monuments they left behind. In the so called discovery of the new world – how those brave sailors in their puny ships sailed across the oceans to find “new” lands. Perhaps, maybe just perhaps, the next great event is when we finally establish contact with intillegent beings not in our galaxy. For this, the Chinese have built the biggest radio telescope in the world, waiting for that signal from the heavens.

Are we ready to live in a new world empowered by artificial intelligence, with robots as neighbors? The Chinese already have a licensed doctor who is one. Thinking of these and the boundless majesty of the universe, we are humbled by our insignificance, by how little we can do.

We now look at ourselves, our copounded problems brought about by greedy leaders and an equally submissive, apathetic non thinking people. Our wealthiest businessmen – most are trapped in dinosaur mindsets, incapable of innovation and devoid of patriotism. Our tomorrow is bleak indeed.

With an exploding population and limited resources, we should now realize that we cannot compete with industrial nations who continually produce cheaper and better goods. Perhaps, our best chances for progress will be in the new entrepreneurs no longer shackled by the landlord mindset, who will bypass the oligarchs and venture into enterprises that will increase our food security. Agriculture is our saviour. Since we cannot accommodate all of our educated unempoloyed we will continue to send them abroad but not just as simple workers or domestics but better trained technicians, professionals; the developed world continues to need them.

We should also be aware of the dangers ahead, of China which has already occupied part of our territory, and hope that that vast country’s influence will redound to our prosperity and the stability of this region. Yes, all of Southeast Asia will be sinicized very soon, but should not be colonized.

Big thoughts, yes. Now we focus not on the forest, but on the trees, our times. We have only two options – be pessimistic or hopeful. I have been talking with a young lawyer who disdains politics but wants so much to work for the public good. I told him, if he is in fact interested in politics, that he should run for public office, improve it. It is politicians who actually shape the state, which in turn, is made by a strong people, united and motivated.

President Duterte has a slew of criticisms and why not? The most bitter are his dismissal of Chief Justice Sereno and his dalliance with China on the South China Sea. Almost always, when he opens his mouth, he says something wrong. But in the past three years, he remains popular, the economy has improved. Infrastructure projects are being finished in record time. People feel more secure, government officials seem to be less inefficient. And now, he is confronting the oligarchy – what he should have done on day one of his term. And wonder of wonders – the Bureau of Customs, the BIR and the police are less corrupt! The man must be doing something right. But what will happen when he, too, goes?

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