Every crisis draws the collective spirit from a community – and demands leadership. Unfortunately, the last 3 years have also deepened our divisions as a society under a leader who has chosen to lead by fear.
In a polarized society governed by a polarizing leader – collective effort, single-mindedness, and the sense of community do not immediately surface.
This is the big lesson this crisis has to offer: A leader must embrace his role as a unifying force, because a wounded society is a weak society in the face of a pandemic.
We have the strongest president in this part of the world who, on his mere say so, had mobilized the law enforcers, the lawmakers, the judiciary, and the bureaucracy to follow his wishes. But what did we hear in his nationwide address last week? The President could barely articulate national policy, leaving the public more confused and anxious – and his own underlings issuing conflicting orders.
And that’s the crux of the matter: pandemic politics. Used to black-and-white and parochial orders, the Duterte administration is grappling with how to navigate the complex details and concerns that this crisis is surfacing. Between public interest and politics. Between business concerns and citizens' health. Between local autonomy and state power. Between draconian measures and sophisticated ones. Between unpopular decisions and posturing for 2022.
So what are we going to do about it?
We can curse our luck or we can start coming together and putting that mythical bayanihan spirit to work.
We can blame our leaders or put pressure on them to perform better. We can honk our symbolic online horns and stop giving this government a free pass.
We can flex our muscles as private entities to raise funds for much-needed hygiene kits and fast-track long-awaited test kits to be available like drive-through french fries.
We can stop hoarding and creating a false shortage and depriving our poorer kababayan of the same goods. We can heed common-sense and health advisories that say we should stay at home and practice social distancing.
By doing this, we spread hope. And hope is our most precious currency now.