In its COVID-19 Recovery Index, Nikkei ranked the Philippines last in a list of 121 countries. Bloomberg’s list on the other hand named the Philippines as “the Worst place to be in COVID.” The only list we topped was the World Bank’s, which names us its “Top Borrower” with total loans now at $3.07 billion, or around P155 billion.
It’s clear who led the country down this deep hole. Getting out of it however, is a different matter. I’ve watched speakers channel Nostradamus on how long it will take for the country to recover. Some say 5 years, others say 10. The reality however is that no one knows because everything rests on May 2022.
2022 isn’t an ordinary election. If we get it right, then we have a chance for normalcy, like when Biden won over Trump. If we get it wrong, then we will have more of what we are suffering now. This might seem simple but, it’s not. The country is polarized. Not just by opposing camps but, by indifference. Consider the following phrases and reflect whether you’ve heard them before: “We aren’t political”; “We can’t afford to take sides”; “We have too much too lose.” If they seem familiar, then you have glimpsed what threatens our democracy and the nation’s recovery from the pandemic as much as the “DDS” or the “loyalists”.
The numbers leading up to the filing of COCs indicate that 2022 is anyone’s game. The leaders’ trajectories have started going down, while those at the bottom are gaining ground. And with the “base” of each candidate baked in, we are seeing a field as scattered as 1992. The campaign will be a battle for the middle. And guess who sits there?
“It’s not a problem, if it’s not a problem to me”. A lot of us live by this mantra. And as the Godfather would say, that’s “perfectly reasonable”. But are today’s problems still not at our doorsteps? The failed pandemic response has turned “safe havens” into gilded cages. There are no more privileged bubbles from which we can watch, let others do the work, and wait for the morning after. Trapped for two years, we watched anxiously as the virus penetrated our bubbles, taking down even more golf buddies, tennis partners and lunch mates.
A romanticist might frame 2022 as the risk of perpetuation of one dictator or the possible return of another. But 2022 can also be simple, it’s practically guttural. Your own family and their health are on the line. Can our kids go back to school safely? That’s what’s at stake. Just like your business. Will it still have workers, or customers who can buy its products? Or your mall outlets. When will they open again? And if they do, will they have people to sell to? That’s what 2022 is about.
Is there a moral argument to say “I’m not political?” If there is, Pope Francis didn’t make it.
Just last September his homily was, “A good Catholic meddles in politics, offering the best of himself, so that those who govern can govern.” There will always be Tonis or Leas who smile and sing for dictators regardless of what they’ve done, so long as they personally benefit. Those are lost causes as much as the politicians they enable. By remaining indifferent, we enable the situation as much as they do. We decry the hold of billionaires and oligarchs but, really what alternative do we give young leaders when we don’t invest in their visions?
The fallacy that paralyzes most of us is that taking a stand means taking risks. The fact is, refusing to be indifferent does not mean putting your livelihood or business at stake. Last week, a small restaurant decided to give a promotion to all those who wore a certain color at 11am. Previously, several businesses made a deliberate choice to donate to community pantries. Both worked. Taking a stand doesn’t require making a spectacle about it.
We can also take a page from the Germans or the Americans who sometimes express their politics through their purchasing power. When ECQs started, Ligo sardines went viral for an ad that described their easy open cans as “No special powers needed.” From that point on, our house bought Ligo almost all the time. If we can’t afford to be open about our choices, then we should reward those who are brave enough to do so. If we can’t help everyone, let’s at least prioritize the Ligos among us.
There’s another reality the “politically conservative” among us overlooks. Majority of the purchasing power has shifted into the hands of tech-savvy millennials and the generations that came after them. And these customers have marked a preference for brands that stand for something. Neutrality might have been refuge before but, in the age of Greta Thunberg and cancel culture, standing for nothing is one tweet away from becoming a liability. I’ve seen several instances where celebrities and brands were asked point-blank in Twitter or Instagram about certain topics of the day. Some of their responses have become viral. Leading into 2022, we can expect more of this kind of activity.
The good news is that there’s no better time to be principled and act on them than when our own families’ survival is at stake. Unlike any other presidential election we’ve encountered, 2022 is personal. And if we choose to outsource it to others, then we should be ready for the judgment they will make on our behalf. There are no sides to take here. There is only One side. Because when we reach that tipping point, everything’s going down – including that fence we are sitting on. – Rappler.com