Dare More. Be More...Because the Country Needs No Less

When Noynoy Aquino was proclaimed, there was general celebration in the air. Filipinos are hopeful as the nation welcomes a new era and the closing of one of the darkest time in post-Marcos Philippines.

We celebrated both the person and his family. When I saw the picture of the Aquino siblings on the front page of the dailies and with the Philippine Daily Inquirer headline 'The Son Rises' (or something like it), it made me wonder if I should already accept what other scholars have been telling about our country’s political system—that the Philippines is a Republic in paper, but a Monarchy in custom and practice. Especially when I see in Congress the faces from the same political families and those I see in showbiz news, the clash between what is written on the papers that we study in class and what I am staring at in real time, real space became too loud and annoying. 

Don't get me wrong. I am genuinely happy that the elections of 2010 relatively allowed a smooth transition, especially since it means the end of GMA. But that sight of the Batasan made me look far, sigh and breathe deep. There's much to be done in our country. It's the same players indeed and the new ones do not invite enthusiasm. Will they act differently? Can we find the grace to hope that they would?

This was my prayer when I went to church last Sunday—to have the grace to hope things that are almost the same will figure out differently. Some say that's the definition of stupidity. Oh well, we can't help being a fool in hoping for the better in what others call “the changeless land.” Let’s be fool to hope, but let’s not stop there.

I agree with a lot of people who have already pointed this out. The key of the past not repeating itself is us. We know this in our hearts and it is great that there are a lot of us who have taken the challenge of being the difference to make a difference. If we factor in ourselves and be one of the variables that will change the tide, then perhaps, change has a chance. In doing so, we need to dare ourselves to be more. This is the clear lesson from history. We need to do our part and yes, there are good signs that we will.

On the other hand, the President-elect will have to do his part too. He has inspired hope; now, he needs to inspire action. Telling the people that his first act is to list down the problems is hardly inspiring, to be honest about it. We will dare to be more. Noynoy should too.

As he said during Akbayan’s victory party, we have so many opportunities in the past to alleviate the poor but the leaders of this country wasted it. He knows the problems and what we have that we can take advantage of to make a difference. We don't need listings. We need a direction, a vision of the kind of society we can become given our strengths and weaknesses, our history, our passion, our limits and defeats, our victories and joys. He knows this. He should; because he must be more to make a difference.

We can always use GMA and the damage wrought by her administration as a perspective for not making much of a difference in this administration. We can use as a lens the inherent flaw of our system and political culture to explain why there are limits in what we can gain and achieve in six years. We can mobilize varied perspectives, lenses, justifications, excuses; but how much of it can we afford? How much of it can the people afford?

As we do so, we have brothers and sisters sleeping with no roof on cold, wet nights in many corners of our country from Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao. While we are 'putting things in proper perspective,' there are families in Mindanao who are never sure if they will receive donated rice the next day or if they will have to leave home once again due to a seemingly never-ending war in the South brought about by our failure to understand and realize our Moro brothers and sisters’ right to self-determination. While we list, study, beg for indulgence, for understanding given the constraints of us and our context, children die of malnourishment, women suffer for their lack of choice and control over their own reproduction, young kids (for sheer absence of anything to hold on to) engage in destructive behaviors that threaten themselves, their families and their communities. 

Yes, we can be patient. We can put things in proper perspective. We can be understanding and enjoy this short moment of something positive in our politics. But we cannot afford too much of it.

I am not advocating for a grim and determined Noynoy—far from it. Instead, I am calling for a circumspect and empowering political and civil society and a Noynoy who leads towards it. I appreciate Noynoy’s laid back, nonchalant, unassuming stance. I do understand that he needs to manage expectations, be prudent, take one step at a time. But it's one thing to find the grace to be happy and in control despite the odds, yet still deliver. It's another not to dare, not to dream, not to even try to be more, to demand more, to aim at excellence, to work hard, to discipline oneself, to sacrifice. It's another not to lead. I always believe in the heart that is fired up by a purpose, by a calling, by faith in something bigger than one’s self. I still believe there is that in our new president. But we cannot just believe in Noynoy and rely on him. Political and civil society need to support, create and be part of a context that will allow Noynoy, encourage him, pressure him even, to be more.

As we celebrate Noynoy as a person, I am reminded of the movie Batman: The Dark Knight. The people of Gotham City celebrated Batman, a hero with superpowers they believe can solve everything. But Batman, the beloved superhero, inspired a force of destruction (Joker) who wanted to prove that people's hopes were wrong. The celebration of a superhero wielded destruction. It gave birth to a force just as strong as the superhero’s powers. Much worse, it bred complacency and denied the people of proving their worth, stretching their strengths and building their character. 

In Physics, you have Newton’s Third Law of Motion—forces come in pairs where every action leads to a reaction with an equivalent amount of force. In Marxism, you have the thesis - anti-thesis dynamics. A superhero tends to negate collective strengths; it tends to create a menacing force just as powerful as the superhero. Noynoy can't be celebrated as a superhero; for superheroes have to be hunted. We have to be on guard with things we regard to have superpowers. As the movie concludes, Batman has to be a Dark Knight—hunted and considered as society’s menace—for it to wield good and strengthen the collective will.