Monday, January 03, 2011

Expectations and resolutions

This post is antedated. This was my column on the date indicated above.

The significance of a new year is unique to each individual although it is pretty much a given that everyone expects – or hopes – for better things ahead.

I validated this observation when I sat down for coffee with some friends a few hours after the changing of the year. Of the five of us who made it to the early morning get-together, one was greeting the New Year with relatively low expectations, looking at 2011 as a series of difficult hurdles that need to be overcome. Another one, he who lost someone he loved recently was, as can be expected, welcoming 2011 with a heavier heart but with profound appreciation for yet another opportunity to live and to savor the company of people closest to the heart. Two were brimming with hope but for different reasons – one was expecting a major career boost while the other one was expecting the arrival of the stork. I was the one with the more realistic expectations.

I don’t expect great things to happen in 2011 and I am not saying this with any tinge of pessimism. The problems of this country are systemic and any real effort to improve things would require programs that are more long-term and shouldn’t produce results immediately. In fact, we should be wary about “flash-in-the-pan programs” that produce immediate results.

Unfortunately, there is this great pressure for the government to begin showing results. People are showing signs of impatience.

I don’t necessarily think the impatience is a bad thing because real interest in the workings of government on the part of the citizenry is always a good thing; however, it cannot be denied that the pressure is resulting in efforts at justification which, as far as this administration is concerned, is equated with putting the blame somewhere else and so far, the convenient targets have been the previous administration and the Supreme Court. The sooner this administration gets this the better for everyone: Filipinos have relatively short memory when it comes to the misdeeds of previous leaders, there’s a limit to how long we can blame the past for our current problems.

Why are people impatient? Because this administration promised a lot - quite a lot! President Benigno Simeon Aquino packaged himself as some kind of a messiah during the campaign and offered himself as a beacon of hope. Second, because people are weary of the mishaps and blunders that this administration has made in the last six months and the impatience is really a demand for this administration to get its act together and shape up fast. And third, because – and let’s be honest about this – there really are very few results that the Aquino administration can crow about at this time.

The problem is not just the lack of results – it’s also because there has also been lack of activity perceived. The President was hardly seen shuttling from event to another in the last six months – in short, he was not perceived as being “busy.” In fact, if we are to be honest about it, most of the major stories about the President had to do with some human-interest angle such as where he was during the Quirino Grandstand standoff, his facial expression during this or that press conference, that hotdog lunch in New York, and, yes, about his lovelife.

The President and has handlers have been busy in the last few months begging the press to “lay off” his personal life. They are missing the point. The point is that media is doing cartwheels over the President’s lovelife because there is not much else to write or obsess about.

Ordinarily, the broadsheets should be agog with all kinds of reviews, forecasts, and projections for the coming year at this time. When people talk about accomplishments in 2010 that made one proud to be a Filipino, they invariably talk about Manny Pacquiao, the Azkals, Charice Pempengco. The major stories in the broadsheets as I write this piece were about Roland Singson and the casualties from firecrackers. There have been very little substantive news about the economy, the achievements of government, or even about where the country is going.

The sense many people have been getting is one of tentativeness – as if things are temporary and can change anytime soon. Perhaps the scuttlebutt is true – the people who are supposed to be in this administration are not yet on board, waiting for the ban on appointments to expire. We are told, however, that the one-year ban has been reckoned to start with the filing of candidacy rather than from the date of the elections. This should mean that Mar Roxas and company could already be appointed into the cabinet.

This poses yet another question: Are we seeing the proverbial calm before the storm? I dread the thought of a major battle for power the moment Roxas and company comes on board. As it is, the power struggle between the Balay and the Samar factions in the administration is already palpable.

But I do keep the belief that at some point, noble intentions will prevail. I still believe that PNoy and most of the people that surround him have the country’s best interest at heart even if they can’t seem to get their acts together. The learning curve has been steeper but I hope it’s a curve that is being scaled boldly.

***

The New Year is an opportune time to reflect and do some action plans; some people call the later resolutions. I hope that you include the following in yours:

1. Be more environment-friendly by doing simple things such as recycling, using less plastic, composting, etc. 2. Obey traffic laws and contribute to reducing the gridlock on our streets. This is a problem that is no longer concentrated in Metro Manila – traffic is bad even in cities like Cebu, Davao, Baguio, and Tacloban. 3. Support our athletes and artists – they are the two sectors that have been the source of continuing pride for our country. 4. Demand more from our media networks – let’s stop patronizing trash shows so that the networks stop churning them out. 5. Demand more accountability from our leaders by writing them and letting them know that you are watching them. 6. Plant more trees. 7. Send more kids to school by donating to various charitable institutions. 8. Help raise awareness about many critical issues – from diabetes to the negative effects of pollution.

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