The promise of 2022 | Inquirer Opinion

In most cases, an ending year simply ushers in a new year in a chronological manner. Of course, the change in numbers from one year to another remains important because many things in life, especially history, are documented numerically. But some new years are beyond symbolic, beyond numeric. They really are new because they carry with them a new energy, a new spirit.

2022 is one such year. The pandemic is morphing into a new variant, Omicron, milder, it seems, but many times more infectious. There are lessons from Great Britain and other European countries now undergoing new surges despite their highly vaccinated populations. 2022 will not just be about more vaccinations but booster shots, and maybe fourth shots.

The new normal is not any clearer two years down the road with Covid-19. In fact, it is only Covid-19 that is sure about what its future is. At no time during its inception did Covid-19 waver from its nature, from its capacity to infect and to mutate. New normal can only come after eliminating Covid-19 or learning how to live with it in a humanly productive way.

For the Philippines, what is differently new? The pandemic may be changing form but that is not new. What may be uniquely challenging is adapting to active life outside the home despite high levels of Covid. It is not only the fact that there will be no hundreds of billions anymore of subsidies left but that the economy cannot survive more paralysis and bankruptcies. It may be that circumstances will force government to avoid lockdowns so businesses can stay open, and people allowed to work and earn.

The early highlight, though, of 2022 is the campaign and elections that have already captured so much attention among Filipinos. The changing of the guards, so to speak, causes unusual excitement and apprehension. Saying goodbye to a visibly tired and ailing Duterte gives hope to a healthier and younger replacement – and Filipinos deserve a fully active and creative president in one of our worst moments.

At the same time, old faces of power hardly ever want to willingly cede away power and the control of awesome resources. Now increasingly known among their detractors as the Gang of Four, in reference to the old Gang of Four of China after Mao’s death, the Marcos-Duterte-Estrada-Arroyo alliance pits powerful, traditional powers against democracy and transparency advocates. While each past president did say they were for democracy, they did try their creative ways to seek legal means to circumvent the one-term condition of the Constitution. Except Estrada for obvious reasons.

Change advocates will challenge established institutions that are known to controlling everybody else. It is not power that is challenged because power will always exist. Rather, it is power that is controlling in both intent and application. In other words, it is dictatorial power versus enabling power. Naturally, dictatorial power is established. It has long been the dominant force of Philippine society.

The new wave of consciousness, however, is characterized by its distaste of how traditional power had dominated society and seeks to find its own expression of independence. This young and fresh mindset does not often confront traditional power but refuses to blindly kowtow to it. Moreover, the spirit of innovation and radical expression finds ways to do its own thing in its own way.

In its desperate attempt to perpetuate power in its old form, traditional, controlling power, using the great wealth it amassed in the domineering exercise of power and authority, has a great edge over its opponents. But the current of life does not presently favor the deliberate extension of what is obsolete.

It is like cryptocurrency, one of the most creative rebellions against established dictatorial power in the financial world. Central banks all over the world have not managed to kill or abort it. Rather, it is cryptocurrency that has increased its variations and is forcing financial institutions to adapt. Slowly, maybe, but steadily.

In politics, the change will not come easily except possibly on the surface. Since there is no party system that works beyond the name and the primary personalities who control all of them, there is nothing that needs to be dismantled. But the value system driving politics in the Philippines will be confronted with a thirst for something else, something new, something young.

That is the promise of 2022. While it matters, the victory or defeat of old or new forces will not stop the unstoppable march of evolution. If Marcos wins, it will mean that the old way has found temporary players to represent itself. But Marcos will never sit comfortably as president unless he junks what evolution asks – which he will resist so he can try to alter the legacy his father left behind.

If Leni Robredo wins, however, change will have found a willing and committed partner. That does not spell success as dismantling something old and decrepit will not be smooth. How many children and grandchildren have tried to wrest power away from older generations yet encountered hell while trying. Her political will and moral code will be severely tested, even and especially if she will be in the right.

The 36-year period from 1986 to 2022 may seem like forever to many, but to life, it is but a wink. Change has not come as expected because the needed work by the citizens, and not just by the powers-that-be, has been minimal. Filipinos must awaken to the fact that they are their final saviors and not the politicians.

The needed leader of the Filipino people must then be a powerful inspiration, motivator, and determined enabler. That is the parent that the younger generations need to become the engine of growth and the future.

Covid-19. A weakened economy. A divided people. Poverty. Hunger. Drugs. Corruption. Against these is the promise of 2022, a promise of even more difficult times lies ahead. At the same, a silver lining is there, an opportunity will be placed in our hands in the new year.

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