May 24, 2022

Social Self-Images As Self-Fulfilling: The Need to Develop a Strong Shared Vision

200-fdeleon2Keynote Speech of Chairperson Felipe M. de Leon Jr. of the National Commission for Culture and the Arts during the MISSION POSSIBLE Book Launch Program at the Sining Kamalig, Gateway, Araneta Center, Cubao , Quezon City, last November 25, 2011. (Sponsored by MISSION Manila and ANVIL Publishing, Inc.)

It is the image a people create of themselves that is the psycho-cultural basis of their strengths and weaknesses, triumphs and failures. For a nation’s self-image tends to be self-fulfilling. If in our minds we think we will be defeated, we have already lost. If we think we are an inferior people, we will tend to lower our standards and be satisfied with good enough. Negative self-images, whether individual or collective, can cause untold social and cultural damage. We have to begin celebrating our genius as a people and not continue to neurotically wallow in our defeats. According to Dr. F. Landa Jocano, why do we tend to celebrate our defeats—like the Fall of Bataan and the Death of Rizal—whereas other peoples celebrate only their triumphs(?) Abraham Lincoln was also assassinated but nowhere do we find his body being depicted as he was falling down. Instead, we find him at the Lincoln Memorial seated with dignity, majestically presiding over the destiny of his nation!

We have nothing to lose by creating and working for the most exalted and inspiring images of ourselves, because, as Dr. Perlas assures us, any social self-image is a self-fulfilling prophecy anyway. Some people may ask how one person can be a potent force for social transformation, but as the Indian Philosopher Gandhi and  great leader once remarked, if you like the world to change you can before by “being the change you want to see in the world.”

Today, seemingly immutable ideas about people and organizations are being directly challenged and transformed on an unprecedented scale. Indeed, as we move into a post-modern global society we are breaking out of our parochial perspectives and are recognizing that organizations in all societies exist in a wide array of types and species and function(s) within a dynamic spectrum of beliefs and lifestyles. A significant leading light towards this expansive direction is the illumination provided us by the profound insights of Dr. Nicanor Perlas.

His radical message is that organizations are products of human interaction and imagination rather than some blind expression of an underlying natural order.  This contemporary insight is still shattering many beliefs—one of which is the longstanding conviction that bureaucracy, oligarchy, and other forms of hierarchical domination are inevitable. Today we know that this simply is not true. There is little about collective action or organization development that is preprogrammed, unilaterally determined, or stimulus bound in any direct physical or material way.

In direct contradiction to materialist and behaviorist doctrine, where everything is supposed to be governed from below upward through micro determinist stimuli and physiochemical forces, the new ideational view upheld by Dr. Perlas gives subjective mental phenomena a causal role in brain processing and thereby a new legitimacy in science as an autonomous explanatory construct.

Future reality, in his view, is permeable, emergent, and open to the mind’s causal influence; that is, reality is conditioned, reconstructed, and often profoundly created through our anticipatory images, values, plans, intentions, beliefs, and the like.  To a far greater extent than is normally acknowledged, he asserts that we human beings create our own realities through symbolic and mental processes and that because of this, consciousness evolution of the future is a human option. And please take note, that the artful creation of positive imagery on a collective basis may well be the most prolific activity that individuals and organizations can engage in if their aim is to help bring to fruition a positive and humanity significant future.

It is the image of which in fact determines what might be called the current behavior of any organism or organization. The image acts as a field. The behavior consists in gravitating toward the most highly valued part of the field. By deliberately changing the internal image of reality, people can change the world. This is what led Einstein to admit that imagination is more important than knowledge.

We all hold self-images, images of our race, profession, nation, and cultural belief systems; the underlying images held by a civilization or culture ha(s) an enormous influence on its fate. And we have images of our own potential as well as the potential of others. According to mind-body studies, merely an anticipatory image, for example, of a hostile encounter can raise one’s blood pressure as much as the encounter itself. Similarly, numerous new studies now show that consciously constructed images can lead directly to such things as blood glucose increases, increased gastric acid secretion, blister formation, and changes in skin temperature and pupillary size.

The positive image of the future is the single most important dynamic and explanatory variable for understanding cultural evolution: “Any student of the rise and fall of cultures cannot fail to be impressed by the role played in this historical succession of the future. The rise and fall of images of the future precedes or accompanies the rise and fall of cultures. As long as a society’s image is positive and flourishing, the flower of culture is in full bloom. Once the image begins to decay and loses its vitality, however, the culture does not long survive.

The lesson we get from this, as fully articulated in Dr. Perlas book is that, if we Filipinos are to become one nation, we have to begin deconstructing the very negative self-images we have imbibed through centuries of colonial misrule and mis-education, especially among the elite who are the power wielders and thus have the greatest responsibility to serve and be one with the people. We can never erect a viable nation if we continue to denigrate ourselves, even in the presence of foreigners.