A better world

Is the world actually getting better?

A colleague and I were having breakfast the other day when our conversation went from the weather to climate change, migrant crisis, and world progress. Really heavy stuff so early in the morning but it was a good talk.

He said that what we perceive as abnormal change in climate is actually normal. This of course, has been a big debate among scientists. Personally though, instead of these intellectuals arguing over who is smarter, attention should be on prevention and mitigation of the effects of extreme weather conditions.

I just saw on TV a news segment about the migrant crisis in Europe. The world’s attention has been caught by what these asylum seekers go through just to escape danger from their motherland. Countries are being criticized on how welcoming they are towards these migrants. But this is a tricky issue because as much as it is a matter of life and death, practically speaking, it’s just not possible to let everyone into your home.

With all these issues, you can’t help but conclude that we’re nearing doomsday but a quick Google search could lead you to statistics proving that things are indeed improving.

***

The world is actually getting better. Decline in infant mortality and poverty. The most peaceful time in history. Increasing access to education. Improved conditions enabling a historic rise in global population.

But we feel the opposite because bad news sell. Our survival nature makes us focus on the negative. And we fail to factor in other considerations when we try to analyze these worries.

***

It’s also getting better in the Philippines. A friend commented how people used to eat at McDonalds only on special occasions. Now, people eat there all the time.

Traffic congestion is getting worse, especially in the capital, Manila. But this is because of all the cars being bought.

There’s never ending construction of buildings and other structures. A sign of economic boom.

Traveling used to be just for the elite but these days, Pinoys travel everywhere and more often than before.

***

So the world IS getting better. But… despite all the progress, we take the environment for granted. We prioritize economic development without regard to how our actions impact the planet.

Life expectancy has increased but this era is also the rise of deadly diseases never heard before.

We have addressed problems. Came up with technological innovations. But this in turn is giving birth to new problems such as cyber hacking, privacy issues, and the like.

***

Is the world actually getting better or worse?

Cole Nesmith in his article gave a perfect answer. “There is potentially no greater self-fulfilling prophecy than the belief that the world is falling apart. When we believe something, we look for things that confirm our belief.” We see what we wish to see.

I mentioned earlier that it’s getting better in the Philippines. But I’ve been pessimistic about that. And so, all I see are the bad things and can’t seem to appreciate the positive things therefore generalizing that it’s hopeless in the Philippines.

You choose to be a cynic or a prophet. Nesmith said that they both have the same ability to see. “A cynic sees what’s broken about today while a prophet sees what’s beautiful about tomorrow.”

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How’s Work?

If we were having coffee right now, I would tell you how grateful I am with my job. Currently, I’m working for a solar energy company which is great because it’s all about renewable energy and I’ve always been passionate about the environment. In the past, I did logistics work for a textile company, did international volunteering, taught English to Korean and Japanese nationals, and taught third graders in a public school. I’ve been all over the place career-wise but it’s good this way as I got to experience a variety of things.

If we were having coffee right now, I would tell you how cool my boss is. I don’t know if it’s because he’s young, almost my age, or because he’s American (you know, how they’re quite progressive with their management style). But he’s so down to earth, very open to suggestions, appreciates the little things you do, completely trusts you, and randomly high-fives you! Which I have to say is the complete opposite of most bosses who gloat their superiority over their subordinates and can be a total prick.

If we were having coffee right now, I would tell you how slow days in the office can be unnerving. I got so used to doing a lot of things that while my present state is a welcoming break, being a restless guy as I am, I feel as if I should be doing more. I’m not complaining, it’s just that this is new to me. But hey, more time to read, to blog, and to think.

Enough about me. How about you, how’s work?

 

Dear Philippines

Dear Philippines,

You’re beautiful. I can’t deny that. You claim that with you, it’s more fun. And I would have to agree. Your natural wealth is envied. You are full of potential.

But… as the song goes, say something, I’m giving up on you.

Say something about poverty you’re trying to deny. Hiding it behind your economic progress façade. The poor getting poorer, the rich getting richer. The unfortunate being pitied. That’s not what they need.

Say something about corruption creeping through your veins. Where’s your conscience? You’re not at all bothered by destitution sneering right at your face?

Say something about dumbing the people with stupid TV shows and movies, and politicians who don’t have the faintest idea of what they’re supposed to do.

So many have left you already and I don’t blame them. Now I’m thinking of leaving you, too. I know you’re trying to get your act together but how long should I wait for change? Are you ever going to change? I’m losing hope.

Sincerely,

A Disgruntled Filipino

Invisible

I read Thomas Dohling’s post about the bitter joy of being a writer. And I could totally relate to what he wrote.

It’s that feeling of self-doubt. Questioning whether what you’re writing is being read or it’s simply brushed off. For me a write-up can be compared to an artwork that can be admired, understood, interpreted in different ways, or chucked in the irrelevant-uninteresting-bin.

“What’s the point of writing if you’re not being read?”

But I looked back to why I write. Self-expression, a tool to keep one’s sanity, second nature. I guess, being read is a bonus. If you were able to inform, encouraged someone, or made an impact on a reader, then that’s a plus – the cherry on top, if you please. The affirmation that you’re NOT aspiring to be a writer but IS a writer.

It is an age of free and open worldwide web where it’s so much easier to publish one’s works. This also has made it more challenging to stand out or to compete with others demanding for attention. We may grow desperate for likes and increasing blog traffic. In the end, you decide what matters to you as a writer. The public response or self-fulfillment of simply being able to write.

Be Part of the 5 Million

“Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better – It’s not.” -The Lorax, by Dr. Seuss

It started in one country. When 50,000 people gathered in Estonia in 2008 to clean up the whole nation and collected 10,000 tons of illegal waste. Others were inspired to do the same and the movement went global when Let’s Do It! World Cleanup was launched in 2012.

The planet is turning into one giant dumpsite as we generate 1.2 kg of waste per person per day (1.3 billion tons per year) according to the World Bank. These wastes end up in landfills and worst, in natural environments such as forests, rivers, and oceans.

So with the goal to clean up the country and be part of the solution, Let’s Do It! Philippines targets to mobilize 5 million volunteers, which is around 5% of the country’s total population, to participate in the National Cleanup Day on September 20.

Eco-warriors in different regions and provinces are coordinating with local government units, schools and universities, NGO’s, and other groups. This is not only to promote the movement but to encourage everyone to reduce waste, to be responsible in disposing garbage, and to maintain cleanliness.

With climate change, pollution, and other environmental problems, the Earth which we call our home needs our help more than ever. Be that someone who cares a whole awful lot. Be part of the 5 million!

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Where I Write

A quiet room
Or any space really where I can just type
Music playing on the background
Maybe coffee, or tea, or drink on the side
Notes scribbled on paper
Quotes, lines, facts all swirling within
Thoughts waiting to escape
A struggle to take form through perfect words
Type, type, type away
Hurry now
While possessed by creativity
The prompts prod me along
But sometimes I remain uninspired
What to write next?
I shrug
Would you please help me out?

‘School Sucks’

That’s how a lot of young people feel. That school is boring. It’s a burden. It’s the unfortunate road to success or to securing a job. The industrial economy’s way of “manufacturing” laborers.

Geopolitics.us explains why the school system is broken as school is compared to assembly lines. “The school assembly line is segmented into years. Students enter the schools and are sorted by age. Each day during the year students receive instruction on particular subjects and skill sets. Every subject is taught during a fixed time period in the day. Students are then tested on each subject to see if they meet the standards, so they can move along the line. Finally they receive their stamp of approval (diploma) at the end of the line.”

In the Philippines, the arrival of Thomasites or American teachers during the American occupation greatly affected the public school system. This mainly provided education to the citizens of this country, who consider being educated as the way out of poverty.

However, the sad reality is that a diploma wouldn’t guarantee employment. Not everyone can afford higher education. Poverty among other reasons hinder a lot of children to finish school and drop out instead. Plus the fact that school tend to be unattractive. Killing off creativity and self-expression. Considering music and art as unimportant. Subscribing to standardized tests and teaching methods that are supposed to cater to all types of learners.

“Do I need to learn x and y when I buy bananas?” students would tease especially when dealing with relatively tough subjects such as Science or Math. But the thing is, these develop analytical thinking and problem solving. And formal education which exposes you to seemingly irrelevant learnings actually prepare you indirectly to be productive members of society.

In an ideal world, you would choose the things you would want to learn and learn it the way you want it. But in a way, today’s generation is lucky to have the worldwide web that introduces endless opportunities for learning. From free online courses offered by Coursera, to how-to videos on Youtube, to creative ideas on Pinterest. Progressive schools are also emerging following the experiential learning ways of Waldorf and Montessori schools.

There are a lot of efforts toward the improvement of quality of education here in the Philippines. The country is transitioning to K-12, shifting from 10 to 12-year pre-university cycle. Also, organizations such as Teach for the Philippines contribute to educational equity by enlisting promising fresh graduates and young professionals to teach in the public school. They help address teacher shortage and they bring fresh energy to the schools.

It’s still a long way to go. But here’s to hoping to hear kids say, “School doesn’t suck at all.”

This is a writing 101 post inspired by EJ Koh’s tweet.