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Give me liberty or give me bread — better both

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The other day, Secretary Eduardo Ano gave a glimpse of little hope that the current lockdown will be eased up somewhat.  The economy will suffer, he said, if the lockdown continues.    It was  the jargon of economists and businessmen, mostly tethered to the concept of the   gross domestic product (GDP) as the metric for our wellness.

A few days later, former Health Secretary Esperanza Cabral came up with a  more mature and science-sensible suggestion that people  should  already be tested for their antibodies against the corona virus.  Those who are already immuned, she said, should be released from lockdown and be allowed to resume  their  normal activities, like making a living.   She hinted at possible social unrest because of existential reason, and this  is not just about food.

On its heels came the protest of  poor people in Quezon City who decried government’s slow-footed, if not footdragging, delivery of relief goods to them.  P2.8 billion as promised by Malacanang sounds a lot but   it’s nowhere  in sight or smell.             

And it hit you like slap in the face when no less than the President encourages shooting of the unruly, instead of calmly  reassuring them that help is on the way.  Shooting  is a knee-jerk response of authoritarian regimes  like the one next to us or is already upon us.  Kill the chickens to scare the monkeys.

It’s also no surprise that Vico Sotto is being made to explain by the NBI about allegations of violations (translation: innovations, improvements) in regard to lockdown.  Automatons in disguise.

With the lockdown strategy already halfway, whether it’ s half-won or half lost depends on who sits on which side, the administration should revisit it and come up with not just one but a set of strategies  that is more wholistic in approach.   Man does live by bread but cannot live by it alone.  Our faith says so. Our individual or collective experiences affirm it.  There’s plenty of scientific evidence to prove it.   But largely, these are glossed over by the more draconian but simplistic rule that people can  be caged and fed with  crumbs  so they can live another day.

Our current scare is about health, but there are more whose training is on  managing  violence than on medicine and health care in the country’s strategic team.  And lockdown has its mental downside. At the end of this virtual house arrest, a lot of people may need  large-scale ofcounselling, if they survive both COVID 19 and loneliness.  We may eventually  go to the market for a national shrink.

In the novel “The Picture of Dorian Gray” by Oscar Wilde, Dorian was gifted a potrait of himself which showed what’s happening in his soul by the wrong things he did .  After a time, the  beautiful  picture became uglified by his misdeeds while he remained unscathed or unscarred.

If a picture of the nation’s soul could be so  painted and serve the same purpose, we will be shocked  to see by how much the people, especially the poor for  which the President professes his love for, are suffering at this point.    

An American jurist once warned against men of zeal, well-meaning but  who lack understanding.

There’s so many of them in our midst today, especially at checkpoints where men in uniform stand menacingly on guard while you can barely read their nameplates in their fatigue gears.  Is that intentional or accidental?

Man  cannot live by bread alone, and cannot live alone, that’s what  we learned from Scriptures. There were individuals first before there were families, and then societies.  Any new normal should hew closely to that incontrovertible truth.   Freedom is not a privilege but a God-given right and any government must lend its utmost respect to that right because it’s basically the essense of being a human person. That’s why it’s enshrined in the Consitution.  To deal with it willy nilly has its consequences.  For laws to be respected, they must be  respectable.

And tellingly, setting aside this inviolable and sacrosanct value,  has always been the first, not the last, option, of  tyrannical regimes because, in the first place, it’s not part of their trenchant  ideological tool  as if the Creator  were a mere human invention.

Let’s have more doctors, scientists, psychologists and priests and pastors on the strategic team  that is leading the nation’s fight against COVID 19.  Not mere politicians or politican protegees  but people who really know and  who can really help.   May be there’s a better word than “war”, because it presupposes an “enemy”. and oftentimes it’s people who get labeled as such.

There were stories going around that in some not so distant land, some COVID 19-sick people were just shot to death.  A policeman seated right beside me at a supermarket  retold   a certain news of 4 new cases  reported and then it was zero in a subsequent report after one hour in that land by the West Philippine sea.    Ill people offered as sacrifice on the altar of the holy grail called  curve.

We’re looking for hope, and that hope lies not only in  the answers from our elected or appointed leaders but in how they do the answering., That implies accountability which means there will be an ultimate reckoning.  Here or beyond.  One netizen remarked that this is the time when we can think seriously of  how valuable is our vote.

It’s either a wow or woe.

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