Aspirations on New Year’s Day, 2017
2017 promises to be a very different year than most. It started out differently for me on a personal basis. After three long years, I finally spent most of the holidays with my three sons in Ocala; the first time I’d been with all three in over nine years. I spent most of New Year’s Eve in the air, flying back to Colombia, grateful but a bit sad, for personal reasons but also, looking at the globe below me, because of where we seem to find ourselves.
On a collective level, 2017 may be a year when we shake things up, a process that started in many places during 2016. It was characterized not by the usual populist protests but by populist action making clear that popular dissatisfaction with the status quo might have unexpected electoral consequences, even beyond the now moribund Arab Spring. Perhaps this year populist energy can be guided in a positive direction after so many decades of false promises and moral devastation but that will take energy mixed with patience on our part, empathy mixed with steadfastness, and a belief that the springs of hope are not exhausted.
We are a bitterly divided People in a bitterly divided World. That divisiveness is not a natural phenomenon, at least as far as extent goes, but rather a carefully cultivated reality by the worst amongst us. Unfortunately, they are the ones who most strive to lead us politically, misinform us journalistically, and appropriate our wealth economically. We desperately need heroes but perhaps it’s time for us to step up and fill that role ourselves: it’s not only former presidents who ought to worry about legacies. We are the ones most directly responsible to our progeny and if we are to become the forbearers they deserve, we have a lot of introspection to do, and then work. Individually and collectively we need to look in our mirrors (metaphorically) and acknowledge who and what we have become: on all sides, close-minded and intolerant, and that has made us all too easy to manipulate. We are the canvas on which disaster has been smeared.
This year, despite the collective sins of our past, perhaps we can reboot our present into the productive future we require if we are to survive. A future where, realizing that we are not individually immortal, the common welfare really becomes our priority, but where we realize that an essential element of the common welfare is our individual liberty and potential for growth. A future where we do not permit fear to paralyze us and manipulate us. Where the costs imposed on others is not our primary tool but rather our own diligence and creativity. And where we all realize that we are siblings, all alike and that none of us ought to be an Island.
What a wonderful New Year’s resolution that would be.
And how wonderful if we could keep it.
© Guillermo Calvo Mahé; Manizales, 2017; all rights reserved