What if this new year, instead of adopting the tired convention of making new year’s resolutions, we pledge ourselves—individually and collectively—to finding answers and solutions to the problems that bug us in our lives, our families, and our country?
What if instead of thinking only of the personal, we turn this annual exercise into a collective act of national soul-searching, since we are hounded by intractable problems that our leaders (PNoy especially) barely comprehend and cannot solve?
Drop the “re” in resolution
By the simple expedient of dropping the “re” in resolution, we will have the word “solution.” The change could do us wonders, and open the way for a change in attitudes across the length and breadth of the archipelago.
This, I thought, will be my constructive suggestion for 2015. Even our stubborn commander-in-chief cannot possibly object.
The idea did not arise from a fit of cogitation. I was fishing around for writing ideas, waiting for a fish to bite, when suddenly something clicked in my head.
If anyone or anything deserves credit for sending me in this odd direction it is a book by CBS humorist and commentator Andrew Rooney, entitled curiously enough, Sweet and Sour. He declared in one essay that he’s done with making New Year’s resolutions, since they don’t work. He’s switching instead to “revolutions.”
Elaborating, he wrote, “Resolve is a wishy-washy verb that doesn’t stand up to any kind of opposition. Resolve gives in every time.”
My wife agrees, and she quotes Nike as her authority: “just do it.”
I couldn’t follow Rooney’s revolutionary twist. But then it hit me, like a gift from heaven, “why not solutions, instead of resolutions” – since this whole business is about addressing and solving problems, be they personal, professional or national.
I got sold on the “solutions” approach when I realized that our New Year’s resolutions invariably focus on banalities like cutting down on cigarettes, fatty foods, booze, losing weight, saving money, and all that stuff.
So why not get ambitious and turn 2015 into a year of real answers and solutions to the problems that keep us backward and poor?
A year of real answers and solutions
Once I started on this line of thought, there was no end to the train of problems, ideas and solutions that jostled to be addressed and listed.
Here are a few of them:
Solution to the MRT and LRT mess – Instead of cruelly raising MRT and LRT fares, fix the rail transit system once and for all, fire all the executives who produced this mess. Overhaul the entire system. Throw out DOTC secretary Abaya.
Solution to the automated election system and Smartmatic’s grip on it. — Instead of giving Smartmatic another opportunity and billions more to screw up our election processes, send the company and the Venezuelans packing. Venezuela is now in deep recession because of the oil price collapse and they could use bright and unscrupulous guys like them.
Solution to the perpetually mismanaged books of the Conditional Cash Transfer Program – Instead of giving DSWD secretary Dinky Soliman more money to waste and spend, let us starve her of funds, so she can lose weight. A welfare program can work with the right management, and not under a system rigged for electioneering.
Solution to the pricing and billing abuses of utility operators – Instead of turning over the financing, building and operation of utilities to the private sector, and letting them fleece consumers dry, let government shoulder the total cost of building them, and let private contractors take part only in administering and managing them.
Solution to the Straight Path having turned crooked — Straighten out the policy and program once and for all. Define what it really means. Set clear goals and rules. Don’t rely only on the SALN, which is puny.
Solution to the selective administration of justice and selective prosecution of grafters – File graft charges against the erring allies of the President, regardless of incumbency or affiliation.
Solution to non-performing cabinet members and managers. – Fire them and replace them. A Cabinet revamp for the final year of the Aquino presidency will help define Aquino’s legacy.
Solution to a Senate that is unproductive and irresponsible. – Cut off the Senate pork barrel completely. Don’t fall for the senators’ ploy of realigning and passing it in disguise. The Senate sank to the depths when the republic’s senators got their own pork barrel.
Solution to a House of Representatives that has lost interest in its power of the purse and outsourced the power to President Aquino – Elect new officers for the final year of the 16th Congress. Allow a genuine opposition to emerge in the chamber. Revamp the committee system.
Solution to a sports system that cannot even beat tiny Singapore in the medal standings – Fire the entire Philippine Sports Commission. Sever the control of Peping Cojuangco over everything that happens in sports. Reject completely their scheme to bring the training of athletes and sports infrastructure to Clark and Hacienda Luisita.
Many of the problems and solutions require action by President Aquino. Let us see whether there is a bone in his body that really believes in reform.
A time for moral inventory
This sense of moral seriousness – of finding real answers and solutions to problems — is very much a part of the new year traditions of various churches.
In the Methodist church, for instance, they hold a Watchnight service on New Year’s Eve, that ends after midnight. This provides the opportunity for congregants to review the year that has passed and make confession, and then prepare for the year ahead by praying and making resolutions.
By publicly setting apart the last fleeting moments of the old year and the first of the new for penitence, and special prayer, and stirring appeal, and fresh resolve, Methodism set an example that other sects have been moved to follow.
In Judaism, the tradition is even more intense and compelling. On Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish new year, Jews assemble in their synagogues for the first of their high holydays. It is for them the most sacred time of the year, the time for taking moral inventory. It is the time for self-evaluation. It is the time for asking what have I made of the year that has come and gone, what will I make of the new year that I have just welcomed.
Jews repeat a prayer that reminds them in vivid imagery how brief life is: “We are like a fragile vessel, like the grass that withers, the flower that fades, the shadow that passes, the cloud that vanishes, the wind that blows, the dust that floats, the dream that flies away.”
One problem and solution at a time
I like the wording of an early 20th century New Year postcard, which could be a model for turning 2015 into a year for problem solving in this country.
It sets a goal for every morning of the new year:
“I will this day try to live a simple, sincere and serene life,
“Repelling promptly every thought of discontent, anxiety, impurity and self-seeking, cultivating cheerfulness, magnanimity, charity, and the habit of holy silence,
“Exercising economy in expenditure, carefulness in conversation,
“Diligence in appointed service, and
“Fidelity to every trust and a child-like trust in God.”
The homespun language affirms a timeless truth. The problems of life are best solved one at a time. There is no quick fix.