Presence

GLIMPSES
By Jose Ma. Montelibano

Social-MediaThe Internet and FaceBook are quite indispensable to me nowadays. My continuing interest in advocacy work, and the gradual tiring of a senior citizen’s body, force me to resort to working online to constantly reach the people I need to. It is a virtual world that many Filipinos are finding themselves in, and the world has never been smaller.

Almost twenty years ago, I discovered the Internet. Six years ago, I entered Facebook. Then, Twitter, then LinkedIn, etcetera, etcetera. It was so important for me to be wired to where the younger generations were largely playing their lives. Technology has become so powerful and needed in daily living that it needs discipline, or simply lack of opportunity, to be without it. Connectivity is not only informational, or educational, it also brings a lot of garbage, human garbage.

The Internet allows everything to be brought out to the surface, including State secrets, as the United States and other powerful nations are sadly experiencing. Nothing can remain hidden for long, and nothing is sacred anymore. Everything and everyone is fair game. The best and the worst are brought not only to the living room but to the kitchen, the garage, the swimming pool, even the toilet. Social media has become the most convenient tool for advocacies, or just plain gossip.

Considering the transparency that is forced on society, a transparency that makes confidentiality impossible and private lives open to public voyeurs, Even the Freedom Of Information (FOI) Bill which can be largely obsolete by the time it becomes law, if ever. Those who are resisting it might as well graciously give in because technology and social media are already far ahead than what the FOI Bill proposes. In fact, in a future not so distant, the opposite is likely to happen. The invasion against the most private and intimate aspects of our lives will make us demand stricter controls and harsher punishment for interlopers.

Still and all, humanity has been in darkness for so long, except for the elite of mankind who had used superior knowledge to entrench themselves in power and to amass personal wealth. The hoi poloi, which is most everybody else, had to grope for, not only the truth, but even simple information. Those who ruled by force and by superstition for millennia kept mankind mentally immobile and socially constipated. That is why the present counterforce we see with speed blazing technology and aggressive, even invasive, social media must have been propelled by accumulated frustration.

Vurtual reality is exactly that, both virtual and reality nonetheless. The thieves of yesterday would get our money and precious items, even steal our freedom. They still do so but new thieves have emerged in a new world that is now both physical and virtual. Hackers and cyber thieves can even steal your identity. It is not only critical data or information that is on call, but includes sex and pornography that can start in the bedroom and end up in smartphones. It is a world of free-for-all, almost. It is not syrprising to me that the law on cybercrime preceded the passing of the FOI, simply because technology had long overtaken the mentality and pace of Congress.

Human garbage is not only comprised of cyber criminals, though. Human garbage, in fact, is the garbage of each one of us netizens who throw out our emotional waste in collective space. The dimension of social media is quite egalitarian – the intelligent and the stupid have equal access, the truthful and the dishonest, the beautiful and the ugly. But since wisdom is a state or a virtue that is so difficult to attain, the chances are that human immaturity is much more prevalent. Unfortunately, the immature among netizens who cannot contain themselves will produce human garbage and share this with everyone else.

Human nobility is the only balancing ingredient to a virtual reality that can go crazy. For a few decades already, many Filipinos, especially concerned parents, have decried the promiscuity of media in depicting the sensational over the educational, in showing scandals over the inspirational, in creating news-for-profit over news for enlightenment. Well, virtual reality has multiplied that same capacity for the ugly over the beautiful. And it does not have to be for profit (even though mercenaries troll in social media as well), it can come from mere emotional disturbance, from people who are challenged with their own anger and frustrations, their own fears and doubts, or even their own psychosis. The Internet and social media give them an endless stream of reasons that trigger their release of their garbage.

The need, then, is for human nobility not to be overwhelmed by the preponderance from intensity of bad news. I am very happy to note that many netizens are determined to engage in the best of the human being as well. They write about, or share through social postings, the exemplary, the admirable, the greatness of the human spirit. And the response to all these positive news is very encouraging. The most encouraging, though, is a pattern that I have observed over all these years of being a netizen – that more and more tune out to the screaming and screeching that tries to dominate virtual reality, and they are mostly from the younger generations.

It remains most important for me as a Filipino with a great dream for my people and nation, knowing that my family for generations to come can only thrive if Filipinos and the Philippines have a nurturing environment, to do my share and more to raise the poor from their historical bondage and give them a chance to appreciate and love their motherland, to raise moral and work ethics to transcend historical weaknesses that lead to corruption and low productivity, and to return to mainstream life the way of the bayani, the way of bayanihan.

Virtual reality cannot be the only space to build a nation from the ground up. The basic principle to developing the confidence of the poor and the weak among us is presence. We are always reminded of this not only by Pope Francis but also by friends who immerse where the action is – on the ground. Presence physically, presence virtually, presence to lift and inspire.


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