THE year 2020 has set the stage for more traditional, corrupt, unscrupulous, and incompetent leaders to come to power in 2022. Sickening poverty. Politicians who have constantly employed money to get themselves seated will most likely get more than their stolen money’s worth in a sea of hungry mouths. If things take their natural course, money politics will reach its heyday next year due to the record-high rate of recession, unprecedented level of poverty and unemployment, and a devastated global and local economies continuously rammed by the pandemic. Those who treat political positions as business investments or livelihood opportunities will have a great time watching citizens squirm in hunger and beg for scraps come election time in exchange for their votes. Sad, condemnable truth. A cycle so vicious, it continuously blocks the flow of new and innovative ideas into our communities.
Many Filipinos have proudly acquiesced to the practice of vote-buying in past elections, especially at the local level, mainly because of poverty, but more accurately because of notions that the money they get from candidates who buy their votes are their own, that all officials are corrupt anyway (so why not accept the money), or that voting for another candidate makes accepting money from his opponent moral. These notions, no matter how twisted they may sound, have become acceptable especially for empty stomachs, and well, empty brains. Unfortunately, the number of empty stomachs has multiplied today and can only worsen poverty. So could have the number of empty brains giving the desperation and frustrations resulting from the pandemic.
If we talk of interventions to turn the economic direction, the information we get publicly is still mostly about traditional strategies. Ironically, even in the face of a disruptive pandemic. Most of the programs of the government at all levels are either dole-outs, stop-gap measures, or half-baked, hit-and-miss solutions. Most Filipinos are cheap and very literal in the programs they ask from government leaders. Roads, schools, hospitals, drainages – programs that even a college student can think of – given the right set of administrative teams. Filipinos seldom dare to demand solutions, ideas, plans that will move their cities and their lives from the status quo to a new and higher level.
Sadly, the cycle breeds not only corrupt but incompetent leaders. Honest leaders are eventually eaten by a system so well-entrenched unless their core values are as strong as steel, or they opt out before they reach a level where they can no longer recognize themselves in the mirror.
As I write this piece, I am taking inspiration from watching the inauguration of the United States President. Indeed, it is a new day for America. And hopefully, a new day for most countries around the world that draw inspiration from the 244 years of democracy. US Senator Amy Klobuchar in her opening statement challenged all Americans to carry the duty of ensuring that this democracy does not become a weapon of political arson but an instrument for good. The phrase – it is a new day – keeps on ringing in my head. I look forward to a new day for the Philippines. If we can break free from the chains of apathy, mediocrity, patronage politics, and misplaced patriotism.
Sadly, even innovators and dreamers run out of inspiration. One cannot continue to dream for a community with no dreams. One cannot hope to raise the bar for a community stuck inside their own standards instead of looking into a world of possibilities. Dreamers who are not afraid to work hard for their dreams need to be fully awake and channel their energies into more sublime matters than competing inside a pigsty.
Innovation, the idea of adopting to changes – this is a heavy and burdensome task that no aspiring leader can tackle on his or her own. It takes a whole city to build a city. It takes all of us to repair a community. Absent the right metrics in choosing who will lead among us – the task is improbable, close to impossible.
It will take a great amount of courage to move forward, but cowardice is a dangerous option. As Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. states “courage is an inner resolution to go forward despite obstacles. Cowardice is submissive surrender to circumstances. Courage breeds creativity. Cowardice represses fear and is mastered by it. Cowardice asks the question, is it safe? Expediency asks the question, is it politic? Vanity asks the question, is it popular? But conscience asks the question, is it right? And there comes a time when we must take a position that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular, but one must take it because it is right.”