Towards A Kinder, Fairer, Safer, Happier World in 2050

NPR Worldview Producer Steve Bynum (R) interviews GK Founder Tony Meloto Nov. 17 at the WBEZ Radio Station in Chicago. Bynum substituted for the regular host Jerome McDonnell. (PINOY Photo by Anong)


By Antonio Meloto
Gawad Kalinga Founder

2015 is a significant milestone for the world, my country, and for me.
We are in the last two minutes of a game called Life, with seemingly many insurmountable challenges. But I'm positive that the world will be better by 2050, when many from my generation will be gone.


Make the world better

This world-view is from the lens of a radical optimist from an emerging Asian country forecasted by HSBC to be the 16th biggest global economy by 2050. We have the choice to chart our growth along the path of unmitigated greed and cutthroat competition of some societies that have developed ahead of us and are reaping the bad fruits of what they planted, or design a more responsible and positive economy, where money, technology, industry serve our shared humanity and create lasting peace and prosperity for all.

My country, the Philippines, is the fastest rising economy in Southeast Asia today and also the most vulnerable to climate change. The growth in our economy is not trickling down fast enough to bridge the wide social gap and lessen the vulnerabilities of our poorest who suffer the most from our devastating calamities. Yet we have proven to ourselves after the massive devastation of super typhoon Haiyan - the strongest in the world in recent history - that when faced with extreme danger, we can get the rich and poor to work together for mutual protection to survive. Clearly we can, and must, keep a positive spirit and strive for more miracles of solidarity for a more enlightened economy to thrive, if we are to end poverty in our country and lessen our vulnerability to climate change.

Yes, we have a lot of problems, but we also have a choice, individually and collectively-- to simply curse the darkness, add to the gloom and doom, poison the air and die as cynics; or solve them together, at a great sacrifice of short-term gratification, by drawing from the infinite wisdom and greatness of the human spirit to build a robust inclusive economy, live a fulfilled life, and leave a legacy of hope.


Integrity Is Key

I'm positive about our economy because we have many concerned and enlightened young people today whose lives, careers and families will be on the line in the next three decades. And more will wake up from their lethargy, ignorance or apathy. They will use social media, technology, knowledge and their buying and voting power to demand greater transparency, authenticity and accountability from political and business leaders, to use money and authority wisely and justly, and to make the world better than what they will inherit from us today.

Definitely, the next generation will be more honest and authentic.
They will eat healthier foods that use more natural and organic ingredients. They will demand less harmful chemicals in what they ingest or put on their bodies, challenging the MNCs to detoxify and decontaminate their products and processes.

They will be more nurturing of nature and support businesses and lifestyles that do not harm the planet. More people will be riding vehicles that do not pollute, harness solar energy and other infinite sources, live a less wasteful life and even turn trash to cash. Brands like Rags2Riches found in the high-end stores in London and New York are actually quality bags and accessories made in the dump-sites in the Philippines by former scavengers who were trained by famous local designers.

Volunteers from Benedictine University (Lisle, IL) and other area schools pose after a hard day's work of building a home in a Gawad Kalinga village in the Haiyan affected town in the Philippines during their recent Christmas break.

Work of Gawad Kalinga

They will seek a spiritual path that builds heaven on earth, not just the promise of heaven in the afterlife.Pope Francis, more than any global leader today, captures the feel and faith of the young in his messages that transcend religious self-righteousness, biases and hypocrisies. The work of Gawad Kalinga is inspired by the social teachings of the Catholic Church, building intentional communities through miracles of solidarity with "believers of one heart and one mind," who "share their resources with one another" until they can build an inclusive economy where "no one is in need."

There will be less lavish luxury and vulgar vanity. More will prefer the simple and natural lifestyle. The exclusive finishing schools for the children of the most affluent will be finished as the mood of the times becomes more inclusive; less will be building big mansions that they cannot live in. The new elite will be those with the most, giving their best to the least; the truly beautiful people will be those who have smaller egos and bigger hearts.

There will be more social innovation and social enterprises that will influence global market trends. We are building the First Farm Village University in the world at the GK Enchanted Farm in the Philippines as the hub for global partnership in social business, social education and social tourism, where the genius of the West will collaborate with the genius of the East to unleash the genius of the poor.

There will be enhanced global harmony through partnerships amon social entrepreneurs who are kindred spirits in building markets that create optimum profit, where social impact is the higher measure in computing return on investment. This is about bringing together the best from different cultures, races, nationalities for the greater good of our shared humanity. The bottom-line of this enlightened partnership is peace.

There will be more patriotic behavior in the emerging markets of Asia, starting with the Philippines, creating more wealth that does not leave the country, turning consumers to producers, job-seekers abroad to job-givers at home. Products will be more artisanal, ingredients will be more indigenous, and thrust will be on more SMEs (small and medium enterprises). Human Nature is a natural cosmetics and personal care brand from the Philippines that is rapidly capturing a bigger market share organically, without advertising, by being pro-country, pro-poor and pro-environment.

There will be less despots, dictators and warlords who will dominate politics in many emerging countries that will cheat and kill to gain power and stay in power. Their heirs are being educated and transformed by the new values and aspirations of their peers who want a more peaceful and honest world. Technology allows for transparency, among other things, making it harder to cheat the old-fashioned way in traditional politics; recent elections in the Philippines have been quick, honest and peaceful because of automation.

Fortunately, we have at this auspicious time in our journey, an honest President who has audaciously fought and made the greatest impact in addressing institutional, historical and cultural corruption. Although his term of six years is ending in 2016, and many concerned citizens are anxious about the leadership vacuum when he leaves, the positive response from us is to fill in the vacuum as good citizens by being honest ourselves and gain better chances of raising descendants who will also be honest. President Benigno C. Aquino III is simply demonstrating that it can be done, that the Philippines can transform from being the land of the corrupt to becoming the land of the honest, by having integrity himself.


It can be done!

Yes, it can be done! It is my deep personal conviction that the world will be less corrupt if we start by not lying to our spouse. Then it is easier not to cheat in our taxes, in business or in government service. President Aquino has a clear advantage though - he has no wife to lie to.

Lack of integrity is the pitfall of many global political, financial and, even religious leaders. Not many will have the good fortune to reinvent themselves and gain global redemption like former President Bill Clinton, who received forgiveness by going from self-indulgence to self-giving.

In our country, many of the most corrupt and greediest political and business leaders, causing unimaginable and untold suffering to our people, are graduates of the most elite and influential universities in the world. Besides competencies and competitiveness, the best education must teach us about developing character and compassion.
Learning how to love the poor is the best preparation for a sound economy. This is at the heart of our concept of social business.


It is urgent!!

I am turning 65 years old this year, with only a decade left to fulfill the Gawad Kalinga dream of helping end poverty for 5 million families after nearly 20 years since my journey with the organization. Gawad Kalinga started by transforming squalid slums in the cities into beautiful and peaceful intentional communities and turning wastelands in the rural areas into productivity hubs for food sufficiency to mitigate urban migration and congestion. To this day, much has been accomplished with an army of ordinary everyday heroes, many of them former victims of calamity, conflict and poverty themselves: 2,500 communities built and over a million of the least fortunate housed and helped. While this is just a drop in the bucket of human misery, and there's still so much more to do, we carry on optimistically, because we've already shown to ourselves and to the youth that it can be done.

Yes, it can be done and we must keep on! The world the youth will inherit from our self-centered generation would be better than what it is now if we think less for self, more for others, so there will be enough for all.

(To Be Continued)

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