Functioning in Chaos

chaos01Do you find the world to be a chaotic, out of control place? Where every nut known to man is on the front page killing someone, running a bus down a hill, complaining about the president, rallying to protest, offending Malaysia, Taiwan or Hong Kong, warning us of the dreaded global warming, stealing Philippine shoals and blaming the Philippines, stealing taxpayer money or evading taxes, kidnapping innocents, threatening God’s wrath on our souls if we put on a condom, hiring kids and forcing young women into prostitution . . . I’m sure you can add more ailments to the lunacy that surrounds us.

How to we stay sane in this environment? How do we become productive players?

Well, first of all, we have to recognize that the media are the message, and if a guy by the name of Marshall McCluhan confused America with that pronouncement in 1964, JoeAm is sure to test Filipino conceptual grasp with it in 2013 when our media are fast a’changing.

What exactly does McCluhan mean? Here’s an example:

  • . . .the message of a newscast about a heinous crime may be less about the individual news story itself — the content — and more about the change in public attitude towards crime that the newscast engenders by the fact that such crimes are in effect being brought into the home to watch over dinner. (From Wiki, The Medium is the Message)

So it was significant to McCluhan that a crime is less relevant than the fact we as a family are watching it on TV whilst eating our pancit.

And the chaos we see around us is NOT the real world, it is simply a quick and dirty portrayal of the real world:

  • Zipped to us fast.
  • Outside of context.
  • By companies trying to make money.

We get a lot of sound bites ripped from the lips of people like Senator Santiago and splashed on the front pages of the newspaper because the press knows a juicy story when it sees one, and Mr. President being castigated for doing something “illegal” is ripe for the splashing. It will raise circulation by tens of thousands of readers.

Never mind that attacking the leader of the land weakens the land.

We are operating within a surreal world edited and served to us by mass media.

Lies, distortions, incomplete pictures, meanings not intended . . . and with those distortions, a lot of emotional pressure. Maybe a feeling of helplessness, or hopelessness.

Well, JoeAm is here with a little first aid. Some CPR for citizens active in the various media, especially the internet and on-line social groups.

  1. Go for a walk in a garden on a sunny day. See the flowers and the grass and the birds and trees and know that they are good. This is a deep cleansing of your perspective as to what is real and important. Or you can pray, if that is your style. But don’t ask for anything. Just say “thanks”.
  2. When sitting down at the computer to go on-line, take a deep breath and say “time for our reality show”, so that you remind yourself that this is to a large extent a fiction, a game, a contrived piece of reality. Not to be taken COMPLETELY seriously.
  3. When working on-line, ask, over and over, what is missing in this message I am receiving? Recognize that you are likely getting a very small piece of the whole story.
  4. Withhold judgment until you are convinced you have enough of the story to make a decision that benefits you and others.

To this last point, let me emphasize the last part:

benefits you and others

It is my contention that Filipinos are notoriously weak at working for the benefit of others. Too many are too much self-consumed, and that kind of personal absorption works against building a strong nation. It divides, it pits citizen against citizen.

We will all feel much more hopeful if we can keep Philippine development on a positive track, and not succumb to the frictions and fighting that has led to coups and instability in the past. If we can care for one another better.

We can, in that way, create a positive, confident reality that serves us well.

19 Responses to “Functioning in Chaos”
  1. cha says:

    Great recommendations, JoeAm.

    No. 3 , “.. ask, over and over, what is missing in this message I am receiving? Recognize that you are likely getting a very small piece of the whole story”, should be copy pasted on, say, one’s screensaver such that it’s the first thing seen before the day’s newsfeed.

    And then there’s No. 4, “Withhold judgment until you are convinced you have enough of the story to make a decision that benefits you and others” which is a more positive statement of my own , somewhat more cynical, mantra “Just because someone says so doesn’t make it so.”

    I would also refer to Stephen Covey’s “Seven Basic Habits of Highly Effective People” as a handle for making sense of this seemingly complex mess the Philippine government and people have found themselves in. (Just highlighting here, the first 3 habits or what are usually referred to as the habits of self mastery.)

    “Be proactive” says habit no. 1:

    I don’t think the country is in any way short of proactive Filipinos at the moment, i.e. people who believe in taking action instead of waiting for others to do so for them. Those who initiated and responded to the call for the first Million People March are a fine example.

    Habit no. 2, “Begin with the end in mind” :

    This I suspect, is what drew the line between those who went on to the succeeding mutations of the Million People March (Edsa Tayo, Scrap Pork Rally/ Makati) and those who didn’t. Those who did appear to have latched on to the scrapping of pork, in all its forms, as their single end in mind (or one can also argue, that some appear to have more sinister ends in mind). Those who stayed home and chose not to support these other two events however seem to have gone further and asked, “And then what?”

    Fortunately, a lot of Filipinos see this the same way JoeAm does. There are reforms that need to be undertaken, corrections that need to be made to further progress the gains already made by this government in the areas of good governance and sound economic management. But the country would need a strong government and President to do all that. Even more so now. An inutile Aquino paves the way for Binay and cohorts to rule all over again come 2016 or even earlier. I hope the Scrap Pork 100%ers are ready to live with that.

    And so on to Habit 3 “Put first things first”:

    Let’s choose priorities. At the moment, there appear to be two sets of priorities from two different conglomerations out there. One is to get rid of Aquino and another is to get rid of the corrupt. One benefits those motivated by greed and one benefits the country. Easy choice. Country first.

    • Joe America says:

      Actually, I prefer your cynical mantra for number 4. At least it made me laugh this morning. Or I’d even descend to “Whatta you think I am, stupid or something?”

      Covey’s habits are excellent. Your point about the Philippines not lacking pro-active people keys into a blog I’ll be doing for next week. I’m wrestling with the title. “When leaders collide” or somesuch. Habit 2 is great. Have a purpose, a goal. Like, “anybody but Binay” is a worthy campaign slogan for 2016. 🙂

      Habit 3. First priority is a stable, growing Philippines. Ripping government out by its innards does not promote that objective.

      See what you get when you mention cynical?

  2. andrew lim says:

    Chaos theory: When the present determines the future, but the approximate present does not approximately determine the future.

    Although systems are deterministic (future behavior is determined by initial conditions) you really cannot predict the future based on current conditions.

    Real world example: When the embattled Jinggoy brought out the incentive post Corona, he couldn’t have predicted it would produce a much larger distraction than he hoped for – the DAP.

    I’m trying to write a piece on UNA and other opportunistic forces and the strategies they may employ in the coming years

    (I have shelved my follow up to my last piece on corruption and religion and will wait for a more relevant time)

    • Joe America says:

      The pork bruhaha does bring into the light the powers of the presidency, and who we want to see leading the nation. Your writing is very appropriate and leads me to believe the 2016 elections will heat up starting about . . . well . . . now.

    • Killer says:

      Hello Andrew, Joe.

      It’s been about 2016 since May 11, 2010.

      As far as strategy for the opportunists goes, it will be exactly that: opportunism. I am aghast at how easy it is to sway public opinion these days–all they need to do is be on the pulpit when people’s ears at the most ripe for listening.

      A digression: everyone got their drawers in a collective bunch when allegations of incentives for a Corona conviction came out. We were mighty p*ssed when PNoy allegedly offered bribes to oust a corrupt man from an anyway questionable appointment. We were, however, more than willing to listen to a convicted plunderer because he was exposing all that was wrong with the system. The end, apparently, justifies the means, but this depends on your particular mood when some ends need seeing to.

      Or what Facebook tells you.

      • Joe America says:

        Yes, this tendency to believe the unreliable over the trustworthy is odd and a tad scary. And indeed, the shallow waves of opinion roll across the facebook seas as if they were deep. (Made that up myself. heh heh) But we shall keep flapping our own paddles in hope of stirring up something meaningful.

        • Killer says:

          Yessir, I do believe flapping our paddles is the point. 🙂

          • manuel buencamino says:

            “The end, apparently, justifies the means, but this depends on your particular mood when some ends need seeing to.”

            Of course the end justifies the means. Isn’t that the lesson of the Noah and the Great Flood, Sodom and Gomorha, the cruxificion, the Inquisition, the Crusades, white man’s burden, Hirsohima, etc. etc.? 🙂

          • Killer says:

            Hahaha 🙂

            Careful–you may have unwittingly provided the Honorable Jinggoy Estrada material for his next privilege speech.

            I hope all is well with you and yours, sir.

  3. Joseph-Ivo says:

    Some lazy unrelated thoughts:

    1. Chaos and information overload. Chaos because of the absence of a structuring principle. Chaos in the facts, chaos caused by my imperfect perception, chaos created in my confused brain. Wish I knew why things often look chaotic.

    2. On one side: preaching to convert … the believers, it is so much easier than to convert the non-believers. On the other side: reading what reaffirms my ideas is so much nicer than reading what contradicts my opinion.

    3. No more religion, but mass media is opium of the people. Money buys many journalists. The better journalists know how to make a story stick (specific, unexpected, emotional, contains a story…) and a juicy story always wins from a true story.

    4. The Medium is the Message. Timing is the other part of the message. Thousands of people knew some or all the details, journalists included. Why is it a story today and not yesterday and no more tomorrow?

    5. Where does one learn critical thinking? Parents and teachers asking critical questions? Science? Critical friends? Why is there so little critical thinking in the Philippines?

    • Joe America says:

      On point 2, indeed it is good to talk to people who think the same. But I think great intellectual growth comes by talking respectfully with people who think differently. I am absolutely convinced that we OUGHT to have the capacity to take any issue where there are disagreements, and break them down piece by piece to reach understanding and agreement. This comes from my business experience at structuring intricate legal agreements with parties having shared interests in doing a deal, but different reasons and expectations for how it will be done.

      The most intricate of matters can be resolved by a million monkeys if they are given eternity to do it. We people ought to be able to do it faster if we cut esteem issues out of the picture.

      Point 3. That’s a fascinating perspective. Social media as a form of religion. You ought to blog it. Maybe they’ll make you a priest. ahahahahaha

      Yes, point 4. Also fascinating. The time warp as a part of the chaos. You can do two blogs.

      5. Answer. It is not taught as a discipline. Teachers don’t know how to do it. Educators don’t know how to do it. If they did, it would be taught as a discipline. Maybe DepEd should hire a million monkeys to come up with the idea.

      • cha says:

        5. Actually it is (being taught as a discipline). There is a program called CoRT Thinking Lessons developed by Edward de Bono which is being used in schools in the US, Australia, UK etc.

        There is also already a School for Thinkers in Manila that uses the de Bono program to take young students through the CoRT program (as an add-on program to the children’s education). Not sure though if either the public or private school system there have adopted as part of their core curriculum.

        For more on the Philippine School for Thinkers:

        • Joe America says:

          Ah, that’s good to know. I hope it goes mainstream. It is about one of the most important things the Philippines can do, I reckon. That and plug kids into computers for their texts and lessons.

          • cebuana in oz says:

            Unfortunately, there are disadvantages into studying electronically. In Australia, they’ve implemented this in schools and now kids are lazier than they were without laptops and ipads. Both of my siblings in high school get too distracted and unfocussed in their learning because instead of doing their work, they do facebook, games, youtube, etc. And even my parents find it harder for them to monitor their work progress.

            It is also not effective if all kids are given each a laptop- and bringing them outside of school. There should just be some shared electronic board where it streams all the lessons and such. It wastes less on electricity consumption and it costs less to spend the equipment and such (especially within a fragile educational system such as that in the Philippines).

            I still agree, however, that we shouldn’t use text books in paper anymore because students would just either, never read them or throw/vanadalize them or worse, never bring them to class at all.

            And what is sorely needed is bright, competent teachers who are really creative and have the skills to approach the subject to the students. For what is all these learning tools if you don’t have very good teachers to guide them through with the lessons?

            And finally, reduce the number of students in the classroom. The minimum should be about 15. I remember struggling to keep up with what the teacher was saying because of all the mayhem caused by, say, 40+ others- and for a single teacher to deal with them individually is massively unwieldy.

            Anyway, I apologise for the off-topic comment, I hope that I haven’t ruined the flow of the discussion here.

            Thank you for this really insightful article.

          • Joe America says:

            @cebuana camping in Australia, no topic is off topic when it brings the insights you bring. The negatives of computers in kids hands are important to be aware of. I for sure had not thought that far ahead. I think the solution is found in your comment “what is sorely needed is bright, competent teachers”. I rather think that challenging lesson plans and inspiring teaching would keep most kids focused on the good applications for computers. If distractions are too distracting (facebook), then more drastic solutions would have to be found. In-class computers or blocking on-line activities.

            Thanks for the heads up on the negatives, and I’m glad you found the article worthwhile.

  4. bebot says:

    Go for a walk in the garden on a sunny day……a deep cleansing of your perspectives on what is real and important – what a wonderful insight to chew and swallow, but so alien for the Filipinos to do so. The culture of self interest is so embedded to the inner core of the totality of the Filipinos – me me, me, my family and relatives first before anything/ something/ somebody else which is so denigrating / dehumanizing to the country and the common tao. I’m pretty sure a Filipino working in government offices (in pinas) who decided to have a walk outside for a fresh air ( never a way of life for any Filipinos) is contemplating more on how to improve his tactics on how to line his pockets with more kickbacks, bribes or any ill gotten wealth. Being cynical, more probably yes.

    I wish I have a magical wand like Harry Potter to bestow a deep cleansing of the Filipinos perspectives that would enable them to think of serving the country first before serving themselves at all, at any cost. First and foremost, we the people should ” not ask what the country can do for you …. but ask what you can do for your country”, the very historic words of John F. Kennedy.

    • Joe America says:

      I really wasn’t aware that Filipinos are not inclined to walk in the garden to feel the love. Interesting. That explains a lot, even the reason for attending church. Functional utility. Or why plants in gardens are lined up all in neat rows rather than scattered like God has done. I’ve got to reflect on that more. Thanks for the eye-opening perspective.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.