January 07, 2005

Incorrigible optimism

It's that time of year when one looks back with pride at one's accomplishments and looks forward with hope to what the new year has to offer.

It can also be the time of year when one reflects with regret and sorrow at what one did or failed to do, and cower in fear and anxiety about what the future holds.

What is one's measure? Is it material or financial success and professional advancement? Does one put a premium on personal fulfillment or on peer recognition and social affirmation?

Philosophically speaking, have we made this world a better place or have we given of ourselves to make others happy or, at least, less sad and miserable.

In more concrete terms, have we done our part to make this benighted country a little better instead of simply looking after our own parochial concerns or packing our bags for greener pastures abroad?

Have we actually recognized and acted on the potential for good in our perennially downtrodden people, rather than despairing and giving up all hope for meaningful change?

Social reformers, political activists and revolutionaries of all shapes and sizes are a special and curious breed. They are characteristically, sometimes incorrigibly, optimistic in the face of adversity and despair. This column is partial to that viewpoint.

For despite the natural and man-made problems that continue to afflict us as a people and bring crisis after crisis, 2004 was a year that brought some measure of respite from our travails as well as purpose in our struggle to survive and overcome the odds.

Of course, times are harder than they've ever been. Skyrocketing oil prices. Runaway prices of basic goods. Transport costs up. Soaring electricity bills. Water more scarce and expensive than ever. Tuition scandalously unaffordable. Health care only for the rich and insured. Layoffs.

Where is the ray of hope in an otherwise bleak economic horizon?

Our people are stirring.

Workers, including government employees, are asserting their rights and making their demands heard. Their collective cry: Give us jobs! P125 across-the-board increase in daily wage! P3,000 monthly salary adjustment for all government employees. Defend and assert the right to strike! Freeze oil price hikes! No to unwarranted power and water rate hikes! Junk oil deregulation! Nationalize the oil industry! Tigil pasada! (Transport strike!)

Landless peasants, dirt-poor farm workers and indigenous peoples in the countryside are shaking off decades of abuse and mind-numbing oppression. They are rising up to resist landlord domination, intense militarization and state terrorism. Revolutionary armed struggle rages amidst feudal exploitation, agricultural decay, rural degradation and wanton human right violations.

The middle classes are becoming more and more sympathetic to the cries for national and economic sovereignty and independence, self-reliance and social justice. The mesmerizing effect of the mantra of "free trade" globalization has vanished and no longer raises false hopes and expectations. They, too, are taking to the streets and joining the picket lines aside from speaking their minds out, filing their complaints and praying for better times ahead.

Why do we not despair that despite two "people power" uprisings, government is as inutile, corrupt and repressive as ever. Traditional politics (as we witnessed once more in this year's fraud-ridden national and local elections) remains elitist, rotten, and reactionary as it has always been. Our so-called democratic institutions such as Congress, the judiciary and the purported free press are monuments to greed, injustice and falsehood.

Our people are beginning to realize that their hopes -- for honest and effective governance, for economic development and prosperity and the freedom to chart our country's own destiny against neocolonial and other foreign impositions -- lie not with the discredited leadership of the traditional political elite with their big landlord and comprador big business character and composition.

There is a clamor for a more people-based political leadership -- one that is attuned to the aspirations of the masses for a better life, that is keenly aware of their hardships and daily struggle to survive and that can inspire, motivate and equip them to rise above their limitations and overcome obstacles to reach for their dreams.

That is what the 2004 elections, we believe, was all about. The people were in search for a national leadership that would be different and could once and for all institute basic reforms that would make a difference in their lives. FPJ, for the millions who voted for him, held out that hope.

Clearly, Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo (GMA) had not made that difference. She not only came from the same traditional politician or "trapo" mold, she embodied and displayed all that was detestable in that tradition. Arroyo's first term was marked by canine subservience to the US; the zealous protection and promotion of big business and landlord interest; a continuation of failed neoliberal economic policies; the resort to fascist measures and dependence on the unreformed military and police establishments to enforce anti-people measures and curtail democratic rights; and the monopoly of bureaucratic power and privilege to enrich her family, cronies and political favorites.

The people had had enough and thought they had voted Arroyo out of office last May. To their utter consternation and dismay, Arroyo proved that the immeasurable advantages of being an incumbent President -- including the freedom to use public funds for her presidential campaign in the guise of merely doing her job and the leeway to mount a massive cheating operation -- were unstoppable even by FPJ's overwhelming popularity.

Now GMA is back in MalacaƱang and the people are growing restive by the day. MalacaƱang is a picture of a government under siege. GMA's paranoia is matched only by the military's lousy intelligence work and the incompetence of the police.

Mrs. Arroyo must be contemplating 2004 with much regret and sorrow: What she did or failed to do so that now she must cower in fear and anxiety about what 2005 has in store for her and her government.

We, the people, on the other hand, must take stock of our own accomplishments and shortcomings, and look to 2005 with greater confidence and resolve to act and once again take our destiny into our own hands.

Jan. 7-8, 2005


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home