[Viewpoint] Resolving to build a better world

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[Viewpoint] Resolving to build a better world

At the end of each year we experience countdowns of all sorts. The media reviews various tragedies and triumphs. Corporations work overtime on their annual reports and inventories, among other tasks. Then, finally, the whole world watches as the clock ticks down to a new year that all hope will bring a better life.

The Philippines had its share of ups and downs in 2009. With strong typhoons came devastating floods, and landslides left many families homeless. The economic crisis resulted in unemployment, forcing many Filipinos to become migrant workers.

The outbreak of influenza A (H1N1) was a wake-up call for communities to become more health-conscious. The death of the beloved former President Corazon Aquino was a great loss to the country. The massacre in Ampatuan, Maguindanao has sent a strong message about the kind of violence that elections bring to the country.

But triumphs overshadowed these tragedies as the Philippines came onto the international scene with the victories of boxing champion Manny Pacquiao and 2009 CNN Hero of the Year Efren Penaflorida.

Other countries all over the globe have their top stories of the year to share.

This paper has enumerated its top 10 stories of the year as well. From natural to political disasters, from sporting teams going for the gold to pro athletes’ moral issues, the controversies and successes that came our way during the past year may one day be forgotten.

But many still hope that the triumphs and tragedies will become inspirations to face the challenges of the coming year.

There are many ways to express these hopes and dreams during the new year.

In my country, the Philippines, people believe that luck will come their way if they make noise on New Year’s Eve, as if driving the evil spirits away with fireworks, the ringing of bells, the striking of pots and pans and the blowing of horns.

Families partake of food served during the “media noche” or midnight dinner, with the table decorated with 13 round fruits as centerpieces. There are still people who believe in wearing clothes with circles or round designs, like coins.

These all convey the prosperity everyone is looking forward to receiving in the coming new year.

Of course, as part of the Catholic tradition, families go to church before midnight or on New Year’s Day as a gesture of thanksgiving for the past year and the graces to come.

But the highlight in every individual’s life is still the new year’s resolution.

I remember during my elementary and secondary school years our first day in class after the Christmas vacation was spent reflecting on our resolutions. The teacher would ask us orally or in writing: “What is your new year’s resolution?” Like an exam, we seriously thought about it and tried our best to keep our promises.

As little children, at the top of the list was to be obedient, especially to our parents. To study harder was next.

As we reached high school some made oaths to be more studious by not spending so much time with friends after school.

As we went on to college our consciousness was diverted to our physical needs. There was the promise to eat less and work out more.

As we entered adulthood, one of the top three on our lists was to lessen spending and save more. Our role in having our own families later diverted our resolutions to wise use of our time, especially to spend more time with the family.

Now in our golden years we may think of looking at how we would be able to prolong our lives, and thus our resolutions to keep a healthy lifestyle.

Resolutions are not the only New Year’s tradition to change along with the stages of life. I now come to realize that greetings also have changed.

When I was younger it was just, “Happy New Year to you.” Now, we witness an evolution: “A prosperous New Year”; Love, peace, joy”; “For your health” and recently “A safe New Year.” These all reflect what each era or decade hopes for. Socio-political events must have influenced these trends.

But there is one thing that ties all our resolutions together: change.

We seek better lives, to prolong our lives, to make ourselves comfortable in mother nature’s bed. The media, retailers and manufacturers take advantage of the occasion to sell us goods and services available to help realize our resolutions.

There is a proliferation of health products with attractive ad slogans like “low-fat,” “age-defying” and “weight-reduction,” among others. There are financial packages that cover everything from housing to tourism, insurance and loans.

The political world has its influence, too - the key word this new year is “Copenhagen.”

The United Nations designates a specific theme for each “international year.”

In 2009 it was the International Year of Reconciliation and the International Year of Natural Fibers (part of the organization’s Millennium Development Goals).

But this year, “The United Nations declared 2010 to be the International Year of Biodiversity. It is a celebration of life on earth and of the value of biodiversity for our lives” (http://www.cbd.int/2010/welcome/).

The UN adds, “In an effort to harness the energy, imagination and initiative of the world’s youth in overcoming the challenges facing humankind, from enhancing peace to boosting economic development, the United Nations today proclaimed an International Year of Youth starting on 12 August 2010 … advancing the full and effective participation of youth in all aspects of society … to better understand their needs and concerns and to recognize the contributions that they can make to society … to encourage dialogue and understanding across generations and promote the ideals of peace, respect for human rights and freedoms, and solidarity.”

Events to mark this year include the Fifth World Youth Congress in Istanbul from July 31 to Aug. 13, Mexico City’s World Conference for Youth from Aug. 24 to 27 and the first ever Youth Olympic Games in Singapore from Aug. 14 to 26.

These activities “will seek to inspire youth around the world to embrace, embody and express the Olympic values of excellence, friendship and respect.”

This year is also the International Year of the Nurse, recognizing the 100th anniversary of the death of Florence Nightingale (1820-1910), called “the founder of modern nursing,” and calling people to join this vital profession where demand always far outstrips supply.

The UN calls the year for nurses “a sustained public awareness initiative to actively involve the world’s nurses - estimated to be more than 15 million - in a celebration of commitment to bring health to their communities, locally and worldwide” and “a collaborative, grassroots, global initiative honoring nurses’ voices, values and wisdom - to act as catalysts for achieving a healthy world.”

The United Nations’ declarations are global initiatives and act as support and encouragement to our own resolutions.

But change takes on a personal level, based on our own decision-making processes.

Will our resolutions be good only for the new year, or should we challenge ourselves further to take appropriate action on issues and problems as soon as they arise?

I will leave you to ponder these questions.

In the meantime, good health, prosperity, love, peace and joy to all. Have a happy and safe new year.

*The writer is a visiting professor at Woosong University and a member of the PhilRPG.

by Gilda L. Uy
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