OPINION: Regression amid progress

Tin Bartolome - Hopechest

Posted at Oct 27 2017 02:22 PM

Mobile phones on the dinner table can be disconcerting. I am annoyed by people on the streets or in malls focused more on their gadgets than on where they are going.

I worry about those bikers plying EDSA or some other busy street wearing earphones or earbuds—more so about the ones wearing in-ear headphones! I guess, sometimes, these gadgets hinder real communication more than they actually facilitate connections.

Perhaps it would be more accurate to say that if users of these gadgets allow them to replace real connections especially with those they love, then these cease to become what they were made for: “connecting people” as the ad says. Imagine how damaging this could be for families, communities, practically an entire nation?

Murray Bowen’s Family Systems Theory explains how natural emotional processes impact the way families and social groups function. The theory presents eight interlocking concepts in describing these natural emotional processes, one of which is the Societal Emotional Process.

Bowen observed parallels between familial and societal emotional functioning. The Bowen Institute, in explaining this eighth concept, says: “In a regression, people act to relieve the anxiety of the moment rather than act on principle and a long-term view… The ‘symptoms’ of societal regression include a growth of crime and violence, an increasing divorce rate, a more litigious attitude, a greater polarization between racial groups, less principled decision-making by leaders, the drug abuse epidemic, an increase in bankruptcy, ad a focus on rights over responsibilities.”

The word “racial” may very well be replaced by “ethnic” and we could all conclude that this description of regression actually refers to our society today. According to Bowen, there is “societal regression” when the society is no longer able to cope with change. Let’s go back to the signs mentioned in Resilience: reactivity, irrational arguments, herding, scapegoating, quick-fix mentality and the failure of nerve in leadership.

Reactivity takes over self-regulation: we obey simply as a reaction, rather than understanding why something is either ordered or prohibited.

Irrational arguments supported by emotional appeal: reasoning that does not make sense but nevertheless accepted for emotional reasons as in “Kung ikaw o mahal mo sa buhay ang mabibiktima ng mga addict, hindi mo ba ikatutuwa ang pagkamatay ng mga pusher at user na yan?—hindi tao mga yan!”

Herding or “kampi-kampi”, as in “Brod ko yan” kaya hindi sya magkakamali, kahit na maliwanag na tiwali sya (He is my [fraternity] brother, so I know he does not commit errors, even when he is obviously guilty of graft).

Scapegoating or refusing to accept responsibility as when similar situations existing in other places are cited.

Quick-fix mentality does away with processes and clarification best exemplified by summary executions. Why is there a need for spokespersons to explain public declarations that actually expressed the opposite? Is this what “failure of nerve” means?

According to the Resilience blog, “regression doesn’t mean going back scientifically or historically. It means ‘going down.’ There may still be ‘progress,’ i.e. impressive development, in a society, but to the extent that a society is in emotional regression, such development will be put in service to emotional immaturity.

In many ways technological and scientific developments have allowed people to be less mature emotionally.

To me, this means that all these gadgets do not actually allow us to be with each other, but becomes an excuse for allowing the gaps between us to remain.

Indeed, they are communication instruments, but they can become the emotional walls we build around us that hinder real connections from forming.

When this happens, these gadgets can hinder the formation of the kind of connections that help us survive the tragedies we face.

Disclaimer: The views in this blog are those of the blogger and do not necessarily reflect the views of ABS-CBN Corp.