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On the cusp of change |

Sunday Lifestyle

On the cusp of change

HUMMING IN MY UNIVERSE - Jim Paredes - The Philippine Star
On the cusp of change
Life always finds a way. I still believe this.

COVID-19 has been on our minds since January. It is now the eve of June and, more than ever, this deadly scourge continues to rule over all aspects of our lives.

The poor are helplessly trying to survive this pandemic. Many are falling into the cracks. The middle class is struggling. The rich and powerful are also not spared. Surely, they are also shaken in many ways, maybe even more than everyone.

In the future, the year 2020 will be remembered as the time when those who ruled the world economically, politically and even militarily found themselves humbled by this virus that has wreaked instability in everyone’s lives. They realized that they are not in control of everything. The year 2020 is the year of changing fortunes — mostly for the worst.

It’s unnerving for those in power to realize there is a limit to what they can do. What good is wealth when everyone else is sick? Travel is restricted almost everywhere. And even if you had your own plane, where in the world can you go where it is completely safe? With all your money in the world, you can’t even shop, eat out, or have a good time the ways you used to. For the moneyed class, the only great way to splurge these days is by giving to charity. Donating is one way to feel good while responding to a higher calling.

Nobody knows what the future may bring, but I do know it will not be the same future we imagined in 2019. A big lesson many are learning is that we can only plan so much. This pandemic is an extraordinarily shocking lesson for those who run the world. I am talking of presidents, CEOs, business, social, political and church leaders, scientists, men and women who wield power over the life and death of entire communities.

The pandemic has changed the world. There is no going back whether we like it or not. Many of the world’s old leaders, including those who created the virus, must step aside. They do not have the solutions to the problems. They are a big part of the problem. They must be stopped from shaping the future.

Barack Obama addressed a graduation class recently and told them that they may have to mature faster to be able to engage, survive and even thrive in this new reality. It is time to put an end to things that divide people. We must say no to racism, respect religious differences, accept ethnic diversity, solve the gap between the rich and poor, improve education and make economic opportunities more accessible to everyone, etc.

From all over the world, some of the most successful leaders who were able to contain the pandemic in their own countries have been women. They are Jacinda Ardern of New Zealand, Angela Merkel of Germany, Tsai Ing-wen of Taiwan, Sanna Marin of Finland. They are all exceptional leaders. I do not wish to draw a conclusion here about the sexes. But I do wish to say that we should not limit ourselves when choosing our leaders. Jacinda was also an actress and a disk jockey before becoming a politician. Merkel had a doctorate in quantum chemistry.

In many places in the world, societies are tentatively lifting quarantine restrictions hoping that the worst is over. But nobody really knows what the outcome will be at this point. I do understand the cautious advice of scientists who wish to proceed slowly and safely. I also get it that people need to go back to work, and that businesses have to run and services must get back to some level of normality. Whichever road we travel is fraught with what ifs and doubts.

I am still optimistic that we can restructure the world to something immensely more livable for everyone. COVID-19 has opened everyone’s eyes.

Life always finds a way. I still believe this. We are on the cusp of change.

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