One’s greatest friend and one’s greatest enemy is one’s mind. It is where our knee-jerk responses are formed. The mind is so strong that one must either control or be controlled by it.
In many ways, the formation of our personality, our state of happiness or unhappiness and how we live life is directly affected by our minds.
Growing up during the oppressive Marcos years should have made me cynical about politics. But it did not, and it is probably because, despite the oppression and the seeming hopelessness of our situation at the time, I saw ordinary people awaken and transform into courageous citizens who risked life, limb and property to fight for freedom, truth and justice. Their bravery inspired me.
I felt alive in the light they cast which drove the shadows in retreat. Their light overpowered the darkness. They stood before forces much bigger than they and did not give up until they kicked out the dictator.
On the other hand, I also saw many people become cynical because of what they went through during Martial Law. On the surface, they were not too different from the brave ones. They too complained and criticized, but the difference was, they stopped there. Eventually they simply burned out, never translating their anger and disgust into action.
There are among us the whiners and whingers who, despite their seeming to be on high ground, are actually disempowered. Thinking that resorting to cursing is enough, they talk and talk, complain, criticize, point out, accuse, diss, blame the world, other people or even themselves for every wrong that they see. I have seen people who do this all day. And I’ve seen this behavior flare into a national past time. I have also seen that absolutely nothing happens when that is all people do. Problems and issues never get resolved.
To change things, one must take action.
Together with the complainers, the most toxic company we can find ourselves in are those who wallow in unwarranted pessimism and cynicism. They believe that everything that is happening is wrong or will go wrong. They talk tough, but often I detect that they are totally intimidated by a world which they have defined as having no escape from its past history.
In their view, negativity is monolithic. There are no cracks for the light of serendipity and synchronicity to possibly enter.
Such people feed on their negativity like a dog that has over-chewed a bone and sucked all sustenance from it, but still won’t let it go. They are fixated on being cynical. And when things go wrong as they “predicted,” they gloat and proclaim how “right” they are.
They complain about everything and do nothing, not even read up on a topic to get enough information that will allow them to have an intelligent conversation and make an informed choice. Their default mode is pessimism and gloom. It looks to me that they feel entitled to a better world without contributing anything to it.
For example, there are many people who like or are supportive of PNoy’s reforms but argue that the country’s future is doomed because there is no candidate in the horizon who is straight and honest enough to take his place. And so they say that the Philippines is hopeless.
In response, I always point out that it was only 4-and-a half years ago when we were sure that Manny Villar would be our next president. He had everything going for him — logistics, money, popularity — and he started his campaign early. But we all know how things turned out.
There was also the Corona impeachment trial and conviction. Remember how we felt that Corona would get away because we initially thought the prosecution was weak and inept and that the Senate would not shake the status quo? Further along, our legislators managed to pass the Sin Tax and the RH bills that everyone was dead sure would never become law. And who has not been surprised at how far the Askals and Gilas have gone?
The first thing we must do is believe that there are things we can do to get us to where we want to go. If we cannot believe we can do it, then surely it cannot be done. I am not being a Pollyanna here. I am not into magical thinking either. There is much to be optimistic about.
I am talking about how successful people do it. They have visions that take shape and the word becomes flesh. I am talking about how they have ambitions, dreams, how they recognize the hard work that needs to be done, AND actually showing up to do it.
Take a look around you, and you will see great people showing up and doing great things everyday. They are the ones who hold up the sky for everyone else. They keep the world turning.
It cannot be denied that our country has many problems. But this only means that there are lots of opportunities for people to do great work. The inertia of the past has often brought out the worst in our leaders and in ourselves. It is therefore right to call for vigilance. Vigilance means paying attention to people and processes, working and fighting for what we want and getting it. It is a doer’s world.
Another manifestation of cynicism is when we fall into the trap of either/or thinking, when we feel we must always give up one thing for another. This is often caused by a failure of imagination, a lack of openness, and fear. Either/or thinking presents an artificial range of choices, or more accurately, the lack of them. It forces us to see things only in black and white and as stereotypes.
A few examples: “All politicians are corrupt. So anyone who runs for public office must be corrupt.” “You’re either with us, or against us!” “If we want a fresh start, we must kill this generation of Filipinos that have been corrupted.” I know my last example seems extreme but I have heard this said by different people not less than 10 times during random political discussions.
Either/or thinking is powerful when you want to reduce choices into just two. It is effective in making propositions. And it is a tool often used by demagogues in a deadly manner. It breeds intolerance of a middle ground or compromise. It appeals to those who do not want to enter the world of complex thinking, where often, more choices present themselves because entering complexity demands that we study more. And very few really want to do this.
Sometimes, I admit there may just be two options left in a situation. Just the same, I do not wish to assume that either/or thinking is mostly the default option in life.
More often than not, I lean on the side of optimism and hope, sometimes cautiously, at other times enthusiastically. This I owe to the many people I have met who, despite great disadvantages in life, have managed to turn the tide in their favor.
People have told me I am too trusting and naïve. Maybe it is because when I hear someone give reasons why something cannot be done, I look at them initially as excuses and demand to hear how and why it SHOULD be done. It is true that I have had my disappointments with people, but trusting in the goodness of others, in people’s ability to strive for a higher self, has generally been a validating experience for me.
I believe in fresh starts. I look to the future and I see “Yes” more than I see “No.” I also believe in not holding on to attitudes, opinions and points of view that do not lead me to a higher experience of growth, joy and happiness. The drive to do something worthwhile almost always overrides my fear of failure. Early in life, I must have subconsciously chosen this positive path, and since it has worked for me, I have consciously adopted it.
Henry Ford was spot on when he said, “Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t—you’re right.”
We all have our own relationship with the world. Imagine our attitudes as the stipulations in our contract with reality. We may have chosen them ourselves, but most likely, we acquired them from others (parents, teachers, role models, etc.) without our even knowing it. In whatever way we acquired our attitudes, it is through them that we experience the world.
That’s why I am optimistic because when I am, the world always opens up to more possibilities. – Rappler.com
Jim Paredes is a singer-songwriter of the Apo Hiking Society. He wrote the song which became the anthem of the 1986 People Power revolt, “Handog ng Pilipino sa Mundo.” An activist through music, he’s taken his messages online through social media. He is also a columnist for The Philippine Star.