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Keep Hope Alive in 2023

To those of us who have been socialized to believe not to give up no matter how difficult life is, we always look forward to the New Year with hope. It is hope that cements our belief that dreams can be achieved. It is hope that gives us the strength to overcome past failures. It is hope that inspires us to make things happen for the better.

As former US president Barack Obama used to say, “Keep hope alive. A better day will come.”

But at the back of feeling hopeful, hope can also set us up for disappointment.

So many things have already happened in the first month alone of the new year that do not bode well for many Filipinos.

Sen. Leila de Lima continues to languish in jail even if most of her accusers have already recanted. I shiver at the thought that any vindictive and powerful government official can do what was done to de Lima to anyone.

Inflation has reached a historic 8.1 percent point causing the prices of goods and commodities to skyrocket so that many consumers can hardly afford even the very basic items. And I don’t see the government doing anything to mitigate the situation.

The government appears to be heading in the wrong direction with a good number of government political appointees resigning. Even the military, that is supposed to be disciplined and whose primary task is to serve without courting any favors, appears to be in a state of chaos. Some senior defense officials have already resigned, and military officers are being asked to submit courtesy resignations. It does not speak well of the state of the military establishment.

Justice in the Philippines continues to remain elusive for many poor Filipinos but not for the rich. Juanito Remulla III, the son of the secretary of justice, was acquitted in a drug possession case in just three months. Unfortunately, this kind of swift justice is not accorded to hundreds, if not thousands, of accused who do not carry the Remulla name.

While President Bongbong Marcos Jr. reiterated the finality of the arbitral tribunal ruling in the South China Sea during the campaign, the Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative (AMTI), a regularly updated source for information, describes Marcos Jr.’s foreign policy as “nothing but a mild-mannered version of Duterte.”

In times like this, it is easy to feel hopeless about the future. When I look at the members of the House of Representatives and the Senate, and how they play games to survive politically, I don’t feel optimistic about the future at all. What I see are unprincipled politicians mired in corruption and who don’t really care for their constituents.

With lack of justice, inflation, corruption, and economic crisis, among other woes, being hopeful, therefore, has become more important than ever, if we want to survive as a nation.

Richard Tedeschi, Ph.D., professor emeritus of psychology at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, explained why we must be hopeful even when things are overwhelmingly bad. He explains, “Basically, so we don’t feel so miserable and afraid about the things that we face in life that are inevitably going to come around from time to time. If we can face them with a sense that there’s something we can do about them, life becomes easier to live.”

Indeed, Tedeschi looks at life in a positive way. It’s comforting to know that there are people like Tedeschi who believe that there’s something that we can do when things are overwhelmingly bad.

In the Philippine context, the “there’s something that we can do” mantra is practiced by the members of cause-oriented organizations who continue their struggle to achieve social and political change in society. Many of them have aged and died in the struggle. They are aware of the dangers of what they are advocating for, but they remain resilient – a disposition or personal trait or characteristic that, according to Tedeschi, is “something that we learn as we go through our experiences in childhood, and then later as we go through the inevitable challenges of life.”

Tedeschi would describe these people as naturally optimistic.

At the start of a new year, despite the appearances of things that are overwhelmingly bad, I want to imagine a better future for the Philippines. If I imagine a bleak future, there’s nothing for me to look forward to, and it may lead to my own paralysis in terms of being an advocate for social change.

So, what are my hopes for 2023: The release of Sen. Leila de Lima. Low inflation rates. A more professional military. Justice especially for those in jail or who have been victims of extra-judicial killings. A truly independent foreign policy. Incorruptible politicians with strong moral principles and decency.

Happy 2023!


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