HUMMING IN MY UNIVERSE By Jim Paredes (The Philippine Star) | Updated June 9, 2013 – 12:00am
(To my Philippine Star readers, I sent the unedited version that appears on the newspaper today. This one below should have been the article you should be reading. Sorry for the mix up.)
Time was, not too long ago, when everyone knew their place in the world. A son became a lawyer because his father and grandfather were lawyers. A woman got married, had children and stayed at home. Children were seen and not heard. They went to school and stayed there till they finished their studies. Priests were seen to be all-holy, all-knowing and yes, celibate. Marriages were permanent. Men married women, and vice versa. All these seemed like the normal, natural flow of things.
Those who did not fit into this natural order were looked at somewhat strangely and considered outcasts. I remember how the few obvious gays in my school were mocked and teased. When I was young, I heard about one or the other priest leaving the order, but these were spoken of in hushed tones. And the women who were separated, especially those who left their husbands, were looked upon as having a somewhat dubious reputation. They were considered ‘bold’ and ‘wild’ to have done what they did.
The world was like a 50’s movie where stock characters were the ‘real’ characters. If you weren’t like them, you were a weirdo or an anti-establishment person. Everyone came from or strived to be of a certain acceptable template. That was just the way it was.
In the 60s, we began to see the cracks on the wall. Long-haired men, bra-less ‘liberated’ women, drug use, ‘tuning in, turning on and dropping out’ were becoming common. Musical tastes were changing quickly. Expressions of physical love were candidly expressed in songs and in public.
I remember my Mom pointing out a line from the song, ‘The First Time’ that went, ‘The first time ever I lay with you’, saying it was shocking and close to obscene. But not much later, the lyrics of ‘Father and Son’ which went, ‘..find a girl, settle down, if you want you can marry’, were playing everywhere with hardly an eyebrow raised. ‘Living in’ was already on the table of options for young couples, not just marriage. Things were transforming almost overnight. And it was just beginning.
Now, gay rights—including marriage, the legalization of marijuana, contraception, sexual content in media, new ways of raising children, women as primary breadwinners, and so many other controversial issues are gaining societal acceptance.
How did things become so different in just a few decades? I am not sure I know the answer. But more important for me is why things changed, and at the pace that it did.
If all of life and civilization are about the building of common physical, psychological and moral structures where people gather as societies and pledge a tacit allegiance to operate within them, are we moving backwards by giving up and turning our backs on what took us centuries to build? Are we being reckless? Are we simply destroying without building new structures in their place?
If we examine the underlying glue that held things together before what past generations held dear started to fall apart, the dominant world software operated on the following premises: Men were superior to women and were the breadwinners. Women followed men’s orders. Good men and women were religious. The Church was God’s institution and was always correct in all matters, especially regarding sexual behavior. God’s laws were written in black and white. Whatever the Bible said had to be followed. To have the ‘wrong’ sexual orientation was not only shameful but downright sinful. These are only some of the rules that defined the world and we simply followed accordingly.
The world—and life, as much as it could be controlled by society—seemed to unfold in linear fashion, not unlike the act of reading where the eyes go from left to right suggesting order, logic and rationality. The child was raised and entered adulthood with this set of beliefs ‘coming together’ in him.
Enter the digital world where the acquisition of knowledge and the way we perceive the world suddenly stopped being just linear and became intuitive. Where there used to be the numerical measure of IQ, there are now at least seven intelligences that are recognized. The modes of perception have changed.
The aggressive, exponential growth of knowledge, and the challenge that new data has had on fixed beliefs, especially on the static stance of religion and society’s myths have been unsettling. Science especially has trampled on the ways we have always looked at everything. The myths and beliefs could not withstand the onslaught of so much questioning. Sooner than later, what we have always held to be sacred and true began to slip away.
A study of animals tells us that every specie has fixed ways of doing things. One can tell the type of bird by the way it builds a nest. Bees will always form beehives. Among living beings, man is the only specie that is not as predictable. Human societies are hardly static. The strong ones can become weak, and the backward and weak can be dominant at another time. And the equilibrium changes when society’s underlying beliefs lose their relevance and reach their expiry dates.
More than ever, dogmas in every field are being challenged by science and yes, physical mobility. Ethnic purity is no more, diluted by travel and mass migration. The beliefs about sexual and racial superiority are fading fast. In a world that has lost most of its boundaries, new myths and values are fast emerging.
So what is now holding human societies together? What sets of values are replacing what we are quickly abandoning?
From the looks of it, here are some of society’s new ideals.
-People, regardless of race, sexual orientation, age, religion, economic status or any other category they may fall into, are inherently equal and must be accorded the same rights.
- We live in one world. If there is to be peace, it must be present everywhere. If we destroy the world, all of us will suffer. As a clear example, for the first time in mankind’s history, we are being called as one human race to address Climate Change, or suffer its consequences.
-The economic inequality in the world today is unconscionable and must be addressed so that more people share in the prosperity.
-Education is a human right.
-Religions must, at the very least, be tolerant of each other and work out and embrace their commonalities more than their differences.
-Science and Spirituality must come to an understanding of and respect for each others’ domain.
- Solutions to problems big and small can come from anywhere, or anyone in the world.
-Everything is way too interconnected now than at any given time in history. This fact alone opens us to greater cooperation, tolerance, maturity and understanding among all peoples.
-The sum total of all political and social movements is about ever greater involvement and freedom for everyone.
Life was not made to be static, forever playing out the game plan made by one’s ancestors. And the world is a dynamic place that is constantly being remade in the image and likeness of its current inhabitants.
Conservatism for its own sake is fear playing out, afraid of what the new may bring. Modernity can become dangerously like aimless rebellion, devoid of real creation, or a spiral step up the evolutionary ladder seeking only to destroy the old order.
The balance can be achieved by encouraging an ever increasing world consciousness. We need more world-centric people who think of themselves as human beings first, than those who still think in tribal terms.
If these talking points are truly as commonly shared as many of us would like to believe, I am optimistic of the future of humanity and the world. ###