The young ones, the young once
“Those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary; they will walk and not be faint” (Is 40:31)
“Perfection is not attainable, but if we chase perfection, we can catch excellence”—Vince Lombardi
October 14, 2019 will be remembered in the Philippines years from now especially for two sharp contrasts. One, the resignation of the PNP Chief, innocent according to the law until proven guilty, but with his name tarnished and that of the police organization he represents dishonored by his alleged links to “ninja cops” (police officers who recycle captured illegal drugs for big money). Two, then, out of the blue, a young Filipino named Carlos Edriel Yulo, virtually unknown among most of his compatriots, saves the day by becoming the “first Filipino ever” to win the gold in the 2019 World Artistic Gymnastics Championships. A retiring senior Filipino exits, his head down in dejection; a nineteen-year-old Filipino enters the national consciousness, lifting up ours in jubilation. It is hard to miss the contrast. The young once were not necessarily all represented by the police chief, nor the young ones by Carlos Edriel. But sometimes the Almighty springs surprises on us in ways that speak volumes we cannot afford to turn a deaf ear on.
First, from the admission of a high government official who is often seen resting his head on the chest of his master—figuratively I mean—it is now clear that the police chief was pressured from above to relinquish his post. The ruling class obviously no longer wants to look worse than it already is, what with the international opprobrium the country has been receiving for the thousands of mostly poor murdered victims of a misguided drug war; reported human rights issues largely unresolved; the increasing anxiety on the country’s being slowly deluded into giving up its territorial rights on the West Philippine Sea; the unabated horrendous traffic woes in Metro Manila and other major cities; the worsening of the economic situation due to the US-China trade war and the specter of losing global competitiveness; a virtual invasion by Chinese nationals who provide some workforce for the government’s “build, build, build” program or run offshore gaming operations their own country considers illegal or run afoul of Philippine laws through prostitution, murder, human trafficking and kidnapping; lackluster and often criminal performance of government officials in the Bureau of Corrections and the police organization tasked with the greater bulk of winning the drug war. These, among others, constitute some of the most depressing realities of the Philippines today, and I do not even consider myself to be a fan of the opposition. Consider all these and the serendipitous rise of Carlos Edriel Yulo to the highest peak of the 2019 World Artistic Gymnastics Championships, raising the country’s flag and sagging spirits with him. To repeat a trite expression, his feat not only affirms the youth to be the hope of the land—which rather sounds futuristic—but are also its present cause of joy where adults fail to deliver.
If only for the attention our young are right now getting because of the Church’s celebration of the Year of the Youth, we must acknowledge Holy Mother Church’s wisdom. Just speak to them of how the God of the living truly considers them his BELOVED, of how his love, far from being abstract, is concretely shown in how GIFTED they are not simply with talents but more so with the dignity of children, and EMPOWERED to be his emissaries by the Spirit that “blows where it wills” and “renews the face of the earth”. All over the world, it is young people who storm the streets and hi-ways of their homelands to demand real answers and actions from their elders—adults like us—for the horrors of climate change that, in the words of sixteen-year-old Greta Thunberg, has already head-started “the beginning of mass extinction” for mankind. I see Extinction Rebellion activists as really no more than normal young human beings scared for their own survival in a future that may not come at all, if the present ecological train headed towards destruction is not effectively countered by actions to slow it down, or have it completely checked.
Adults with power and influence in the Philippines need to put their hands and feet where their mouths are. Filipinos are known even among themselves to be loving to their families, which often means their children. But what kind of Philippines are these adults leaving their young to inherit? The present Philippines, with its natural beauty and charms despite its stark vulnerability also to huge natural disasters, climate change being now its prime dark perpetrator, offers them precious little to feed their hopes on. Very often those who govern are busy trying to deny the evil realities people are going through every day just to avoid looking bad even to themselves. Governing has become in today’s world a matter of running a perpetual PR campaign. This to me is the common denominator between those who govern and those in the cosmetic industry—they try very hard so we and they do not look bad, mostly at the expense of the truth. They young often see through this duplicity and, with reason, rebel against it with the idealism and energy their elders are found wanting in.
But all is not lost. There is still hope and where there is none, hope must be sought. Those with power and influence must let go of self-oriented grandstanding and accolade-soliciting promises to the young. They must begin by seeing the mistakes rooted in the past that have brought so much suffering to the present. They must trace the mistakes to their root-causes. They must plan, organize, sustain common visions and commitments to tested and best-recommended solutions that can undo the wrongs, so the right shape of the future can be forged or restored and enhanced. The young should be their foremost inspiration in making the right decisions that assure not only their future survival but also with It a truly human life where the spirit is acknowledged and nourished together with the body and mind, where the earth is not only called our “common home” but also saved from the catastrophic fire of global warming.
To the young ones and the young once who feel the weight of the land’s burdens and help carry forth the struggle for justice, peace, preferential love of the poor and the true well-being of all Paul the Apostle has this to say: “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at a proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up” (Gal 4:9).