When dreams are lost


[Photo source: blinkinblogs]

By Joe America

It is unusual to speak to both Filipinos and Americans and have the same message.

Are you feeling dismayed or angry much of the time? Do you think leaders are betraying your nation? Betraying what you know to be good, and right?

Does government seem better at generating division and anger than unity and harmony? Have you lost confidence in leaders?

Kindly let me offer a theory as to why this is happening, and what might be done about it.

First, I’d like to thank commenters here at the blog for the insights they have placed on the discussion table. Just like arriving at a table full of fiesta delights, I have picked and chosen a few dishes that look particularly good.

Both the US and Philippines are trekking down parallel paths, having elected autocratic leaders unskilled in the ways of political nicety. These presidents are doing their thing, and it has us off-balance. But both were elected through the democratic process, so we cannot really claim it was a mistake. We may harbor suspicions about the election process . . . like who was providing money and aid . . . Russians, Chinese, Marcos family, vested interests . . . but that is nothing new, it merely reflects our new world order where communication and influence are as easy as tapping in a few keystrokes. Democratic politics has never been clean. That’s why Aaron Burr (US Vice President) shot Alexander Hamilton (former Secretary of State) in a duel, and why several US presidents have been assassinated.

We should, first and foremost, rid ourselves of the misconception that Democracy is organized and orderly. It is not. It is a battle of influences and the methods and outcomes are frequently chaotic and not to our satisfaction.

The successful politician puts order to the chaos. The unsuccessful one adds to the chaos.

Second, we should understand what drives democracy. Dreams drive democracy. Aspirations, ambitions, the promise of prosperity. Democracy has a forward look to it that places us on a timeline for self-development and self-enrichment, either of wallet or knowledge or experiences or soul. We LOOK FORWARD to having more or being better or being proud of our achievements. Democracy inspires us to study and work and plan and invest our energies.

As each individual moves forward, the nation moves forward.

Autocratic forms of government are different. They see the energy for improvement coming from the top, and people are resources to help the leaders drive toward what THEY see as important, enriching themselves along the way. Convenient, that.

Both the Philippine and US presidents today see people as subjects, not drivers of progress. If people don’t cooperate, they are bad.

  • Democracy welcomes dispute because argument supplies the energy needed to keep the course firm, and to provide enough unity that the oarsmen are not beating themselves over the head with the paddles, but rowing in sync.
  • Autocrats hate dispute because it undermines their authority and power. And it is their authority and power that keeps the oarsmen in line, working hard lest they be tossed overboard or given 20 lashes of the cat-tail.

The Philippine leader wants the power to execute oarsmen and lash 9 year-old rowers. The US leader wants the press to shut up and stop snooping.

In the Philippines, the broad masses of people have never experienced the rewards of a democratic drive for prosperity. So they are perfectly happy electing another slave-driver under the basic premise that there may be some way they can sneak out a win, or at least gloat because other slave-drivers are getting beaten. Democracy in the Philippines lacks unifying and directional energy. It lacks hope, or promise, for most citizens. People try to get what they can get NOW and time is just in the way.

In the US, the broad masses generally comprehend and participate in the forward-looking track of self-development . . . they view time as something they must calculate and manage . . . but chaos has today overwhelmed their sense of purpose. Chaos for Americans takes the form of being targets for terrorists, or having a hard time getting a good job because technology has ripped labor from the employment base, or having that black/white ugliness popping up again. And seeing the way politicians have turned into bitter game-players who have lost the ability to want or create harmony for the nation.

The whole nation seems to be screaming at itself.

The autocrat Trump is supposed to bring order to this.

He hasn’t. He probably won’t. The chaos will intensify. So will the dismay, the anger. The unclear direction.

So both in the Philippines and US, people have lost touch with the promise of democracy. They have lost touch with their dreams. The chaos of the present is overwhelming, and a lot of that can be attributed to our smaller world and the different ways we interact and get information (social media, internet).

It is hard for a soldier in battle to focus on his dreams for the future. He’s trying to survive. And I think that is where most of us are today. The troubles being imposed on us are inordinately heavy and even our friends and family are thinking strangely. These are emotional burdens and we are incapable of getting past them because others are in control.

Filipinos and Americans are in similar boats. We are busy dealing with today’s emotions, not dreams. We have lost our dreams.

How do we get them back? How do we return to the positive energy of aspiring and growing and reaping rewards?

Democracy is a system of flows and counterflows, of ebbs and tides, of checks and balances. As long as the Constitution is in place, there is a way to get back.

For the Philippines, the challenge is greater because there are more self-serving slugs in government than champions of democracy. And most citizens have never attained the rewards of aspiration as a steady stream of small wins. The US has a lot of principled players in government, and Americans reap lots of rewards. So chances are, Americans will weather the chaos and learn from it.

Most Filipinos don’t even see the problem, much less a solution.

In the Philippines, I’d imagine progress would require a new political initiative that promises to build a modern, generous, richer Philippines. It would have to be dramatic vision, promised by a charismatic leader who knows that people must be given dreams, and who can propose a way to achieve them. It would not be through phony solutions (federalism), but real ones (better income distribution, tied to achievement).

Is there a Filipino Martin Luther King, pictured above? His ‘dream’ speech opened American eyes, hearts, and minds, and set a new direction for human rights around the world.

Time as a path to hope must be put into popular thinking. Time has to become a resource. Rewards must become real. Tangible. And there must be a whole lot of them. People must be taught that it pays to dream, and aspire.

They must be taught to know in their hearts that it is better up ahead.

All they have to do is work earnestly.


54 Responses to “When dreams are lost”
  1. karlgarcia says:

    “Time is something that cannot be bought, it cannot be wagered with God, and it is not in endless supply. Time is simply how you live your life.”

    You reacted to ths comment of mine from a quote from Craig Sager.

    Your closing remarks fits like a glove.

    “Time as a path to hope must be put into popular thinking. Time has to become a resource. Rewards must become real. Tangible. And there must be a whole lot of them. People must be taught that it pays to dream, and aspire.
    They must be taught to know in their hearts that it is better up ahead.
    All they have to do is work earnestly.”

    I have replied to Thea I think that we are on survival mode and Irineo called my attention as to being jaded.

    Thanks for your article of hope, it is really inspiring.
    We must continue to dream and aspire.

  2. josephivo says:

    It takes two to tango. Citizens and leaders. Both can behave as children or as adults. Children want guidance, are entitled to support. Adult can decide for themselves, adult are responsible for the own destiny. In a democracy citizens have to behave as adults, they select their own leaders that can best lead them to their destiny. An autocracy will thrive with citizens behaving like children, “you know what is good for us”, “you provide all I need.”

    In the US a lot in its current culture puts emphasis on “childish” behavior, ads everywhere appealing on impulse purchases, “teenage” competiveness in sports, “childish” spontaneity in music, direct gratification, focus on “the child” in education, not on the future adult, etc… The average Filipino never got out of the colonial “little Indian” attitude.

    Rereading what I wrote above, I realize that I’m growing old 😦

    Indeed, let’s start dreaming again.

  3. There was a bit of a dream among some during the previous Presidency – a progressive dream which many have turned into a zero-sum nightmare – KILL the poor they are in they way.

    In the USA the belief in abundance has also turned into “send the immigrants home”, “build walls”.

    Was global progress of the past three decades a Ponzi scheme that made many hope and disappointed all except a few who won really big-time? Trump and Duterte – could their crowds be the losers of that game in the USA, and those STILL winning in the Philippines? Just guessing…

  4. chemrock says:

    A good piece Joe. Despite the apparent attempt to nudge people to hope and find a path through the chaos, I sense the underlying despair. The chasm is getting wider, what with CBCP and Jesuits joining in the fray at last. The institutions are weak.

    • They are weak, as is the character of key people, like House and Senate leadership.

      • Cha Coronel Datu says:

        But these key people, the country’s leadership have been placed there by their constituents. So in more ways than one, they are a reflection of those that they represent.

        Democracy is so defined, a) government by the people; especially :  rule of the majority

        b) a government in which the supreme power is vested in the people and exercised by them directly or indirectly through a system of representation usually involving periodically held free elections

        The people got what they wanted.

        They have not been defrauded. At least, not to their own minds.

        When this fantastical daydream of a state of bliss, of peace and order attained through a most cruel war on the unwashed masquerading as a war on drugs, when the people wake from the stupor and finally realise that peace and order is attained and maintained through hard work on their and the government’s part, then and only then shall change come again. Hopefully for the better the second time around.

        Meanwhile I wait. And dream. (Hah!)

        • True. It does suggest that democracy is not well attuned to emotionalized people. I placed a new ‘Must Read’ item in the right column. It is a slog to read, but fascinating for explaining how we socialized animals are not programmed to think rationally at all.

          • Cha Coronel Datu says:

            Emotionalised, self-absorbed, lacking in maturity among other things…

            Also, thanks for the New Yorker piece. Right up my alley this one. I’d love to be the fly on the wall of any class in social psychology, sociology, and behavioural psychology in university today, especially in the US and the Philippines. There should be some very interesting discussions going on over there given the many strange ways people in those two countries have been behaving of late.

          • NHerrera says:

            I read the new must read item and found it enlightening because of the experiments conducted from which conclusions were made, which is essentially the title of the article — “Why Facts Don’t Change Our Minds.”

            These remarks attributed to the researchers Sloman and Fernbach is very helpful, to me at least:

            Sloman and Fernbach see in this result a little candle for a dark world. If we—or our friends or the pundits on CNN—spent less time pontificating and more trying to work through the implications of policy proposals, we’d realize how clueless we are and moderate our views. This, they write, “may be the only form of thinking that will shatter the illusion of explanatory depth and change people’s attitudes.”

            The key word in the cited paragraph is implications.

            If I may expand:

            implications = consequences = workings of

            • The article is like lighting a backfire to remove brush from in front of the main fire so that it dies out. We should join the backfire effort.

              • “If we—or our friends or the pundits on CNN—spent less time pontificating and more trying to work through the implications of policy proposals, we’d realize how clueless we are and moderate our views. “

                Funny, vis-a-vis my current conversation with Micha. I gotta read that article now. Thanks.

              • NHerrera says:

                Yes indeed; let’s do.

                The bad (very bad) main fire, extinguished because of the lighting of good controllable backfires around the main fire.

                (BTW we know why that scheme works from the physics of it. But let us not go into that because others in TSH, if not you, will say — oh no, spare us, not again. 🙂 )

            • karlgarcia says:

              Confirmation bias was again mentioned here, an example given was a mouse confirming that there are no cats around.
              My question is is CB same as believing on your gut, or is it overcomplacency?

              The usual pooh pooh by Panelo, Andanar of the AI report and DDS are the so called overwhelming majority somehow absolved Duterte?

              Is that confirmation bias or just plain bias?

              • NHerrera says:

                Panelo + Andanar: overwhelming majority somehow absolved Duterte

                – If the tandem is talking about the 16M votes, NO — 16 out of 54 is not overwhelming

                – If they are talking about approval rating: I believe the survey approved by some 75% of the “objectives” of the war on drugs; but disapproved by some 75% the EJKs.

                So, karl, it may be CB or plain bias. But to me it is simply poor arithmetic or reading comprehension.

              • karlgarcia says:


    • “We are called upon to discern and maintain a ‘determined despair’ – a realistic yet hopeful acknowledgment paired with a deep sense of action. The only difference between cowards and heroes is to keep courage one second longer” author Sylvia Mayuga, written today.

  5. I do feel dismayed everyday because of this administration and the naive citizenry that think they need a dictator to solve their problems. When I see the likes of Dick Gordon acting like an entitled, overfed landlord in the Senate, he is like a goad reminding people of the forgotten yet un-addressed inequalities of old in our society. Seeing Perfecto Yasay, Vitaliano Aguirre and Martin Andanar, clowns altogether mouthing lies, denials and contradictions. Then top it off with a Duterte that says one thing then retracts the next day. And OMG the P’s and I’s!!! Everyone can see this situation is untenable. They are altogether a burden instead of a help. Perhaps a clean slate is all we need, to create a National Assembly to address the ignorance, neglect, and contempt of the rights of man as the sole cause of public calamities and of the corruption of governments. Perhaps a Philippine (bloodless) brand of the French Revolution, wherein the people want a change of everything: government, social structure, economy and maybe even religion. Because we cannot afford to wait till the next election for the rule of law to work. That is why at the February 25 rally we need to find an inclusive and resounding message, or else it is just another “suntok sa buwan”. Vive le reforme!

    • The cast of characters are like cartoon figures, I agree, for their outsized egos and bad thinking (Gordon). I can’t touch the rebellion remark, as I am a foreigner. But I for sure hope for a more compassionate, less manipulative PH leadership.

  6. edgar lores says:

    1. Ah, from a Tale of Two Cities we march forward to a Tale of Two Nations.

    2. The way I see it any large human endeavor requires four types of roles. These are the:

    o Visionaries
    o Believers
    o Pragmatists
    o Practitioners

    2.1. The visionaries look at existing reality, compare it with their dreams and see… it is not good. They then speak of their dreams.

    2.2. The non-allied listen to the dreamsayers and become believers. They spread the gospel.

    2.3. Some of the non-allied are pragmatists and begin to fashion the dreams into reality.

    2.4. Finally, the pragmatists arrive at a solution and believers become practitioners of the dream.

    3. Let us not forget the role of the disruptors, the dream slayers. At every stage, they naysay the dream, the efforts, and the practice. They are useful in that they refine the dream and its implementation. Some are useless in that they destroy the dream.

    4. So we begin with existing reality and hopefully end up with a new reality.

    4.1. Thus we go from: Existing reality -> Dreams -> Hopes -> Problem Analysis -> Possibilities ->Solutions -> Implementation -> New Reality

    4.2. Each step must keep the dreams alive.

    5. The problem with the dream of Philippine democracy is that it has become a nightmare.

    5.1. Both leaders and led did (and do not) understand the democratic dream. They mistook it for play and business when it was work. Leaders past and present sought office largely for personal gain and not for national progress. To gain office, the leaders tempted the led with instant rewards, false hopes, and false solutions… and the led sold their birthright. There were not enough believers, pragmatists, and practitioners.

    5.2. Now, we have the nightmare of the leader killing the led!

    5.3. Now, it seems we hope the Church will lead the way to exorcise the nightmare.

    5.3.1. This is not proper. The Church represents, in many ways, a past tyranny from which we have not totally escaped.

  7. By Mila Aguilar, just today, somewhat related to this topic but also to the values of Filipinos: “historically, at our best, we have been able to use tricksterism for the good of our people.

    But today, we are prone to use this trickery on each other, on our peers, and for the most vile ends: to gain power and wealth. Our provincial warlords, emboldened by the Local Government Code which ceded more powers to them, have risen to claim their share of the national pie. And they have used trickery to get to that national pie, putting the most unlikely bedfellows in one basket, then fooling them into thinking that they will ALL get what they want, even if their goals and aims are entirely contradictory with each other and can NEVER be reconciled.”

  8. NHerrera says:


    THE DREAM — crafted together by the Leader and the Led and adjusted through time.

    THE PATHWAY* — the journey to the Dream as important if not more important than the dream itself.

    *Pathway: no single straight pre-determined path — it is the product of the Leader and the Led navigating the many shoals in the way, not often agreeing but guided by a common set of enduring values and importantly not punishing each other without a process mankind took this much time to conceive.

  9. “Both the Philippine and US presidents today see people as subjects, not drivers of progress. If people don’t cooperate, they are bad.

    -Democracy welcomes dispute because argument supplies the energy needed to keep the course firm, and to provide enough unity that the oarsmen are not beating themselves over the head with the paddles, but rowing in sync.

    -Autocrats hate dispute because it undermines their authority and power. And it is their authority and power that keeps the oarsmen in line, working hard lest they be tossed overboard or given 20 lashes of the cat-tail.”

    Very timely article, Joe, Trump visited the African-American Museum today, and had to finally address the growing anti-Semitic attacks in the Mid-West and South of late. But the main take-away today it seems is that his son-in-law and daughter are both Jewish (ergo ‘knock it off’ all you racists!)

    As for “disputes”, not sure if you saw NBA All-Stars , but Mark Cuban wearing no. 46 was trolling Trump via twitter this whole weekend , funny stuff…

  10. NHerrera says:

    To relate the following to the current blog, I title it as


    In a Senate caucus held to determine the sentiments of the Senators on the possible hearing of alleged DDS Leader and retired police officer Lascanas, here are the numbers.

    Voting in favor of the hearing were:

    01 Angara
    02 Aquino
    03 De Lima
    04 Drilon
    05 Escudero
    06 Hontiveros
    07 Pangilinan
    08 Recto
    09 Trillanes
    10 Villanueva

    Those not in favor were:

    01 Zubiri
    02 Gordon
    03 Villar
    04 Gatchalian
    05 Pacquio
    06 Pimentel
    07 Honasan

    Those who abstained were:

    01 Sotto
    02 Lacson
    03 Binay
    04 Ejercito
    05 Legarda

    Those who did not attend the caucus:

    01 Cayetano
    02 Poe

    Lacson, who chairs the Committee on Public Order and Dangerous Drugs, clarified that the Senate hearing would not be a reopening of the inquiry conducted by the committee on justice and human rights on extrajudicial killings. Lacson said it would be a new hearing based on the new revelations made by Lascañas in a press conference held at the Senate last Monday.


    • karlgarcia says:

      Let us watch who the ombudsman wil be.
      There are rumors that Calida who thinks of himself as the 16th Associate justice of the SC will be the next one.
      Aargh, noooooooo!

      • NHerrera says:

        Correct me if I am wrong. Ombudsman Morales appointment is good until 2018 isn’t it unless she retires sooner?

        • karlgarcia says:

          That is only over a year NH.
          It still bothers me that there is even a rumor that Calida will be next after the recent news and opinion about him

          • NHerrera says:

            Which means TIME is a big element in the scheme of things. Which brings me to what the contents of chempo’s next blog is — “Attack is the best form of Defense”? Sorry Joe for seeming to dim the current blog. I am just going with the flow that I hope is not out of place.

    • chemrock says:

      Those who abstain — Sotto, Binay, Erjecito and Binay I can understand. But Legarda is an absolutely worthless bum in Senate. She has never never taken any meaningful position on important matters of state nor shown some state leadership,

      • NHerrera says:


        In a rough way the Senate is some sort of political Weather Vane. The perceptible shift in the senate numbers on certain issues is perhaps a measure of how the respective not-too-diehard Pro-PRD Senators assess the durability of PRD considering what has already happened; they also have to consider their political life beyond Duterte.

        So too, I believe, is the Armed Forces Leadership as a Weather Vane — not the PNP. In its opinion piece in the Inquirer, our favorite Opinion Maker, MLQIII, has this to say about the Armed Forces and its supposed role in the war on illegal drugs now that PNP’s role in activity has been suspended:

        (There is) … the public reluctance of the Armed Forces to participate in the war on drugs unless it received explicit orders, and its decision to designate a battalion-strength unit to “support” PDEA in its antidrug operations.

        Written orders make the one giving the order (the commander in chief) liable while they act as “insurance”  against liability for the military (the soldiers have to comply); absent that, they will, as they always have, limit their exposure to the methods of the police by supporting operations, but ensuring they hand over any suspects alive. What happens afterwards is the police’s problem and accountability.

        Reading that, one can quickly associate the historical trial in Nuremberg. In that trial no one could produce a written order by Hitler for the “final solution” on the Jews.

        The Armed Forces, of course, is important. It is a truism — without its support an effective authoritarian role is not possible.

        (TSH is ahead here. Its earlier blog on “Pushback” already read the trend.)

        As a measure to reverse a trend, there is a Pro-Duterte Rally planned to have about 1M bodies in Luneta in March 25-26.

        • chemrock says:

          On the Mar 25-26 rally I hope they don’t hold placards that say “WE SUPPORT DU30” because that would be balls-bearers. I hope they take the advice of a FB contributor and hold placards that says what they stand for —
          “WE SUPPORT EJK”,

          If they do that, then I support them. It’s freedom of expression.
          By the way, how much intel funds will be used for this?

        • karlgarcia says:

          NH would that be different from their Feb 25 Luneta gathering?

          • NHerrera says:

            karl, you with the eagle eye, here is a correction:

            Feb 25-26 = Mar 25-26

            I got the Feb 25-26 Pro-Admin rally from the running headliner at the bottom of the screen on DZMM Teleradyo.

  11. bnimble07 says:

    Very well said. You truly capture the mood (somewhat bleak) in most parts of America today. David Brooks of New York Times wrote recently about the the U.S. that “this century is broken” . It’s sad, but it’s reality. There’s a festering psychological wound in the American psyche that will take some time to heal. But as MLK once said: “We shall overcome.”

    Stay strong. Stay positive.

    When one has dual citizenship 🇵🇭🇺🇸 these days…

  13. Vision…then faith, focus and fortitude.

  14. madlanglupa says:

    I’m trying my best to be positive, even after some weeks where I was in close proximity to a drive-by assassination in broad daylight. I can only read the news now more than trying to watch it. Facebook seems more of an autocrat’s platform for which to preach his own message. of making himself clear that he is the boss, the Napoleon of Animal Farm surrounded by attack dogs and Squealers.

    I’ll keep myself positive, even if the day comes I’ll have to head to the hills and prepare for the worst, liberate this country, earn my citizenship by saving it from madmen.

  15. karlgarcia says:

    If before there was the audacity of hope now absent hope it is just audacity.

  16. Zen says:

    America has a speech and the Filipinos has 2 novels, the Noli and the Fili. Come re read it! Father Florentino’s challenge to the youth:
    “Where are you young men and women, who are to embody in yourselves the life force that has been drained from our veins, the pure ideals that have grown stained in our minds, the fiery enthusiasm that has been quenched in our hearts? We await you, come for we await you’.

    • karlgarcia says:

      Before the May elections, I almost lst hope with the youth, until their protest to the Libingan ng mga bayani butrial of Marcos.
      We should thank people like Raissa Robles for continuing to reach out to the youth, not only through her blog, and her book, but also by her lectures around campuses.

      • Zen says:

        One finds oneself upon reading these novels into the characters of Rizal whether young, students or farmhands, rich, cosmopolitan or insular, educated, hopeful, hopeless, the quiet and the charlatans, choose who you are in these characters and if you are wanting the yearning, longing and love for this country, then switch characters and be the proactive nationalist, write, speak, work and endure until that dream which we all dream is attainable. Join rallies if you must but make sure, this is not out of trending emotions but the steadfast love for one’s country.

  17. Vicara says:

    People Power is not just a diorama frozen in a historical moment thirty years ago. It was not a power play by this person or that group, as averred by Marcos apologists. At that point in time, People Power sought to free the country from Martial Law, bring about the downfall of dictator Marcos, and restore democratic processes. But People Power is also the unceasing drive, flowing from generation to generation, to pursue a dream and live by our most fundamental values of freedom and nationhood.

    These are the same values that impelled Philippine independence movements from the beginning, and led Apolinario Mabini to write in the Decalogue: ”Strive that your country be constituted as a republic, and never as a monarchy: a monarchy empowers one or several families and lays the foundation for a dynasty; a republic ennobles and dignifies a country based on reason, it is great because of its freedom, and is made prosperous and brilliant by dint of work.”

    Even then, OUR founding fathers saw the danger of allowing the unchecked rule of a few over the many. Rizal saw it, Mabini saw it, and so did countless ordinary Filipinos who gave their lives for the idea of a free republic.

    The Philippine Revolution was the first of its kind in 19th-century colonial Asia. Other People Power movements in 20th-century Asia were inspired by our own dream of democracy: in Myanmar, Indonesia, South Korea, Taiwan and other places.

    Many at the time had said: Asia is no place for democracy. Asians don’t have it in them. We all have proven them wrong, and will continue to prove them wrong. We may at times fall into a deep sleep, losing the thread of the dream. But the dream will live on–if we wake ourselves up.

  18. karlgarcia says:

    With all the ugliness as expressed in the ugly files. We can only dream and wish to have a deep sleep and wake up only when this is all over. Or we could all go to Bert’s paradise.

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