The University of the Philippines had a famous saying: “Kung hindi pa ikaw, sino pa? Kung hindi pa ngayon, kailan pa?” (If not you, then who? If not now, when?). Which basically means, “If you really want to change things for the better, don’t wait for somebody else to do it ‘cuz it may never happen.”
I know the quote originated from a rabbinic sage, Hillel the Elder, but his quote wasn’t conveying the same meaning that UP is. Which is the same thing Steve Jobs figured out when he was very young: that anyone CAN change the world. No matter if you’re just a lowly cog in the machinery of society.
Case in point: the pedestrian walkway toward Eastwood business center is past a Petron station with a Jollibee burger joint. For some reason, the Jollibee manager decided to put yellow barricade tape (similar to what the police use) thus blocking the pedestrian lane. The manager placed it there to stop people from parking in front of Jollibee. Forced by this obstruction to walk on the car-filled dangerous Eastwood main road, I went to Jollibee and asked the manager to please not obstruct the pedestrian walkway. The next few days, the barrier tape was still there. I asked a traffic cop in Eastwood about it, but he just gave a “what can I do?” shrug.
Well eventually I just snapped. The UP activist in me simply got triggered. Walking ahead of the other pedestrians who were ready to resign themselves to another day of quiet exasperation, I got out my handy-dandy Swiss Army knife, plucked out the scissors and cut the obstructing yellow barrier tape. I then walked on the pedestrian walkway safely away from passing cars. Wonder of wonders, the next day, the barrier tape was gone. No more obstruction on the pedestrian path. Just changed the world for the better.
When Steve Jobs got back to Apple, he came out with this ad to capture this philosophy. It went something like this: “Here’s to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers. The round pegs on the square holes. The ones who see things differently. They’re not fond of rules. And they have no respect for the status quo…you can’t ignore them, because they change things. They push the human race forward. And while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius. Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do.”
Well, you don’t have to be a genius to make a difference. You just need the guts to do it.
FROM APPLE TO ABS-CBN
Jobs, in an interview, recalled the time he was starting Apple and wanted an update on the company’s production costs from the company accountant. The accountant told him it couldn’t be done. Following industry practice, he had to wait at the end of a certain period for costs to be calculated.
But Jobs said he had learned at an early age that the rules of the world were not sacrosanct, that they were just made by people—people who probably weren’t as smart as he, so he didn’t necessarily feel the need to follow them unless they actually made sense. So brushing aside the accountant’s reply, Jobs changed the accounting system at Apple so that they could tell at any point in time what their costs were. He didn’t let the high-and-mighty-MBA touting accountant make him believe he was powerless to change things.
And so it is with all of us. We are not powerless.
Another case in point: ABS-CBN has the exclusive rights to broadcast the UAAP volleyball games. To make more money on the franchise, they stopped showing the games on YouTube and created their own app, iWant, where you could re-watch exclusively the games on the web. iWant earns from ads and paid subscriptions.
Well, when I was watching a game on my iPad with the headphones on, in the middle of it, even before a timeout, an ad burst out in at like 10 times the sound volume!
AAARRRGGH! It nearly shattered my eardrums. I actually threw the headphones away in pain. I emailed iWant support and told them to please decrease the volume to a safe level. Their response? Well, I’m supposed to just lower the volume whenever an ad appears, or, I could pay for an ad-free subscription. What thuh? Frustrated and resigned, I let it go. Then it happened again. I was running iWant on my big-screen TV when an ad went on. The sound was so loud, people outside my room were ticked off. “What the hell’s that?!” they asked in outrage.
This time, I didn’t contact iWant. I emailed DTI (Department of Trade and Industry), which I thought was in charge of corporate malfeasance such as this and told them of the ear-damaging practice, and their lack of concern for the consumer. I suggested maybe the UAAP franchise should be taken away and given to a more responsible corporate entity.
What do you know? DTI immediately emailed me and ABS-CBN. Within days, ABS-CBN apologized and said they would fix things. The next few times I used iWant, miraculously, there were no more ads. But ABS-CBN did promise the high-volume was inexcusable and would be fixed. Changed the world again.
There are so many other cases.
While paying real estate taxes at Quezon City Hall, I noticed only one woman was around to attend to hundreds of people so the line was endless. I went to another station and asked the person there why she wasn’t helping out. The manager told me they could “activate” her only with a written request. I spotted the nearest typewriter at the City Hall, got a piece of paper and typed, “This is a written request for the opening of another station to handle real estate tax payments as the line is too long.” I signed it and gave it to the guy. What do you know, he activated the station. He even had me the first in line for the new payment queue.
The Duterte Malacañang email hotline? It really works. I’ve had roads paved in weeks, just by emailing it. Long-time mayors doing nothing but corrupt practices. YOU were able to vote them out. The untouchable bully in school? YOU got them expelled. The jerk looking at their brightness-at-full cellphones during a pricey movie screening? YOU told them the light’s blinding you and they sheepishly turned the thing off.
So the next time something’s bothering you. Don’t just wish that somebody did something about it. Be that someone. You CAN change the world.