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Positivity starts here

Inspiration is a funny thing. It literally comes in many forms. The inspiration for this piece came in the form of a yellow ribbon. And Facebook. Allow me to expound…

Our country is currently riding on what I would refer to as a “marketing blitz high”. Fresh from elections that ushered in to power a president with a ridiculously high trust rating, we’re all currently coasting along with good vibes. Save for that disastrous botched rescue operation a couple of weeks back, we’ve let every single opportunity to wallow in self-pity go by – which is uncharacteristic of us as a people. The change in perspective is refreshing, I must admit. But it’s also quite precarious.

What I’ve noticed so far is that the common man on the street has embraced the new administration with open arms and allowed the feel good vibe that it brings along with it to make him quite nonchalant. As if all the wrongdoing in the world were swept out of our collective consciousness along with the departure of our admittedly unpopular ex-president. In other words, the current administration did such a great job of selling itself during the campaign period that people tend to swallow the marketing jargon hook, line and sinker to this day – in turn placing the burden of absolute salvation on the shoulders of government alone.

Many of those who openly campaigned for candidates of the current administration have forgotten, however, that the entire campaign was hinged on the promise of positive change – the kind that starts from home, the kind that starts from the individual.

During the early days of his presidency, President Noynoy Aquino made it clear that he would lead by example – and thus show how positive change can start with the individual – in the most simple ways. He refused to avail of the full escort privilege accorded to every head of state and stopped at the traffic lights as any average Filipino would. His entire entourage followed traffic rules so that all might get the message loud and clear – we all ought to follow the rules that govern us. And we in the media had a field day discussing the implications of our new president’s actions. Unfortunately, we all may have talked ourselves silly but still failed to deliver the message.

On a particularly uneventful afternoon about a month back, for example, as I was navigating through the streets of Metro Manila, an AUV with the now ubiquitous yellow ribbon proudly displayed at the corner of its rear window almost sideswiped me as it cut through my lane in a bizarre maneuver. The driver was without police escorts, to be sure, but he drove like Sebastian Vettel on steroids. In Belgium. On raceday.

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I’d have let the incident slide as an isolated case but the moment I opened my Facebook account, I found a post from a friend who had complained about another vehicle with a yellow ribbon proudly displayed on its rear window swerving like there was no tomorrow. And then it struck me. The president may be showing restraint out on the streets, but quite a number of those who supported him don’t necessarily agree that they should start being agents of positive change themselves. It’s kind of like going to church on Sunday and pilfering the office coffers on Monday. Say one thing, do another.

This vulgar and shameful display of disrespect not just for rules and common decency, but also for the president and his efforts as well – is apparently not uncommon. Which is a shame, really. Because, as we had argued early on, positive change should start with every individual.

How hard is it, anyway? It’s not like you need a PhD to learn to drive more conscientiously. Keep to your lane. Don’t counterflow. Don’t swerve. Don’t go into one-way streets. Signal before you turn. Keep intersections open (yes, even if a green light stares you in the face but there really is nowhere to go). Give way. Yield. Allow pedestrians to cross when they’re on the pedestrian lane. Respect the speed limit. Wear your safety belt. Wear your helmet. Keep your headlamps on low beam if you are in a well-lit street. Use your hazard lamps only in the event of an actual emergency. Don’t text and drive. Don’t drink and drive. Be courteous. Don’t overshoot lane markings in an intersection. Don’t try to beat traffic lights. And if you miss out on any of these… accept your shortcoming and apologize – or face the consequences if you’re caught, screw kotong. Then be extra careful not to repeat your shortcomings.

It would be such a waste of positive energy if we took the easy path when we’ve been reminded to take the right path. You want to find fault? You want to point accusing fingers? Start with yourself. I’m not the biggest fan of our president (or politicians in general) but I would hate to see him fall flat on his face where setting a good example in the hopes of seeing his countrymen follow suit is concerned. As motorists, passengers and pedestrians, let’s do our part in being agents of positive change. And for the love of God and country, let’s start now.

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