The coming of a new year always occasions hope and optimism. 2020 was certainly harrowing for Filipinos, collectively and individually. The COVID-19 pandemic, the loss of loved ones and friends, anxiety over our health, the toll on our healthcare system and frontliners, the economic recession and resulting loss of jobs and closure of businesses, the string of natural disasters and the uninspiring missteps that our leaders took when they could have done better—these all served to weigh us down. Indeed we could not wait to get 2020 over and done with.
Welcoming 2021 was a relief, because we wanted to leave behind a terrible year and start a new one. Things have to be better, we tell ourselves. Turning the page is almost a symbolic image. It allows us to imagine finally beating the virus and rebuilding our nation.
But let’s not place too much weight on symbols.
This year and the next ones will continue to bring us woes if we rely only on changes that come from outside. Doing things exactly the way we have been doing—and then simply hoping for change—is a formula for defeat and frustration.
This year, we have got to do better. For instance, we have to commit to exacting accountability from our officials. We cannot simply complain for a day or two on social media, and then lose track of the issues. We can be angered and exasperated by the things we read on the news, but let us use these feelings to remember who among our leaders are worthy and who are simply living off our taxes. We have to keep calm amid many temptations and provocations online, and engage only in insightful, issues-based discussions.
Finally, we must remove the blinders that we have from our biases and pre-conceptions. If there is somebody doing a good job, commend him or her, offer to help instead of denigrating her efforts or resenting that they might be perceived as doing better. If there is somebody incompetent or acting with downright impunity, punish them as fit regardless of their political loyalties.
Let’s not squander the hope that 2021 brings by relying on old patterns. We turn the page, yes, but we also need to write a better, newer story.