| Photo from cse-society.org
Seven and a half months inside a pandemic and things are not much clearer than day one. Of course, we have much more information about Covid-19. Information technology allows us to witness what happens elsewhere in the world even more than we witness what is happening here in different areas around the Philippines. At the same time, however, information about a still elusive virus hardly translates to knowledge when we cannot go about our lives with a higher degree of certainty.
Then, again, life under a quarantine environment is not the same for everybody. One, it depends where you are. Safety in a pandemic depends on one’s taking the necessary precaution and others doing the same thing. In other words, one’s wisdom can be no match for another’s stupidity, and how others around you behave can be a matter of life or death for you.
Are you rich, poor, or somewhere in between? In the Philippines, with deep contrasts in the equality department, your economic status defines your location and your community lifestyle to a great extent. Being locked down in Payatas, Quezon City, is night and day compared to being locked down in Forbes Park, Makati. It is not only a matter of money; it is much more than that. Human population density is not really about convenience alone, it is also about a condition that can spread COVID-19 easily.
I saw the President in the news earlier in the week. He seemed visibly upset at one point when he talked about the SAP or government Ayuda. He was cursing the ineptness of some government units who were just going to plan the roll out of the government Ayuda when he said the people needed it immediately. To him, the assistance was urgent because it meant food. I assume that he is alarmed at the level of hunger that is affecting tens of millions. Good, because he should be. Bad, because others are not in the same page.
“Are you rich, poor, or somewhere in between? In the Philippines, with deep contrasts in the equality department, your economic status defines your location and your community lifestyle to a great extent. Being locked down in Payatas, Quezon City, is night and day compared to being locked down in Forbes Park, Makati. It is not only a matter of money; it is much more than that.”
The whole of society is concerned about the re-normalization of daily life. For the population at large, it means freedom of movement without undue fear of being infected by COVID-19. For business, it means going back to production and consumption that assures profit and sustainability. For workers, it means having regular employment or job opportunities enough to ensure steady income. For children, it means going to school, interacting with others, and building a base for a lifetime of knowledge.
Well and good. I often wish for the same; in fact, pray for it. There is something in all this that bothers me, that makes me quite uneasy. What we seem to be all wishing for reminds me exactly of how things used to be. In other words, we are wishing for an old normal to return.
Can it? Can what used to be in early March and before ever return? Frankly, I am not sure. Experts all over the world say that the old normal is gone forever. I tend to believe them because of my own observations. But then, like many, I find myself unconsciously wishing that things would normalize. There is a serious contradiction here between prognosis of an old normal gone forever and a wishing by everybody for a normalization that looks exactly like the old normal.
We are in a live pandemic that is decimating many countries around the world today. They, too, like us, were wishing for normalization. In fact, most of them were chasing it, re-opening businesses, and an active daily life. Now, they are paying a dear price for it. Were they less informed than us? I do not think so. Spain, France, and Germany were there before. They learned. But obviously not enough to fall into a deeper pit.
“Where are these visionaries now? We have commanders in the field fighting the fires, so to speak. But where are the visionaries? Where are their visions?
What about us, then? As we re-open the economy and allow more freedom of movement (except to seniors over 65 years old like me), do we expect to be spared what the more developed countries are suffering at this very moment? We pray for the best and prepare for the worst. Are we prepared? Even to feed the hungry, are we prepared?
At the same time, we cannot go on indefinitely being simply defensive. At the end of the tunnel must be light. Usually, in periods of collective darkness, visionaries come. They give hope from the deep convictions they carry about a tomorrow they see better than us. And they go beyond hope to let some light penetrate the tunnel we are in today.
Where are these visionaries now? We have commanders in the field fighting the fires, so to speak. But where are the visionaries? Where are their visions? What lies ahead of us that can spark not just hope but optimism, that can trigger action grounded on the power of their visions?
I am hungry to hear visionaries, to see visions of what life can be one, two, three years from now. We do have to be quite defensive against an unseen virus but life we must prepare to rebuild, to set the foundation of a new normal that visionaries can try to describe to us.
“… even our defensive actions today can be building blocks for tomorrow. Without visionaries to inspire us, without visions to guide us, we are just dribbling the ball to run away from COVID-19.”
We must have a pathway towards a future with its fundamental features clearer in our minds and embraced by our hearts. With that, even our defensive actions today can be building blocks for tomorrow. Without visionaries to inspire us, without visions to guide us, we are just dribbling the ball to run away from COVID-19.
While we wait, let us build our kindness and reach out to help the less fortunate. They are cold, hungry, and afraid. Even without visionaries and visions, our future will be a better one for sure when taking care of the sick, the weak, and the elderly are fundamental practices. A people united in adversity will reap prosperity. That’s what visionaries say, and I believe.