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Public Enemy # 1

12:30 AM October 09, 2020

I feel like a policeman in hot pursuit of a band of killers. I am not trying to be a hero. I’m  just driven by a need to level the playing field. I even know that I may get only a killer or two but many others will escape to continue their nefarious acts on the innocent time and again. So why do it in the first place if it seems bound to fail?

It is simply the right thing to do. That makes a good reason to start something, or anything. It is a war that destroys so many and so much, and surrender is not an option. To surrender is to die as well. Or to surrender is to get away with it only by watching others die, and maybe even be complicit to it.

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Hunger is a cruel enemy. It is merciless, it is relentless. In small numbers, it may seem tolerable. But tolerating it precisely grows its numbers. It is best nipped in the bud. Some countries have done that quite well, and others have been abject failures. The Philippines has been a consistently bad performer, a perennial loser to hunger. It has had small victories, but the defeats are monumental.

Our war against hunger has found a powerful ally – Covid-19. Together, they are beating us black and blue. While hunger was able to effectively damage the poor, its combination with Covid-19 has given it far greater reach. Covid-19 exempts no one. Admittedly, though, the poor have less defenses against it. The hungry poor get infected more, spread the infection more, and are put in a corner, forced to choose a more ignoble death – from hunger or from Covid-19?

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So the question can still be asked – why be a policeman against a band of killers who have allied themselves with even more powerful criminals?

Because it is right. And because the war can be won. Not by me but by us. It is not about being the hero, it is about heroism. To win the war is to help others realize that they each can be a hero, that heroism is part of our nature, literally at our fingertips. We have to make that decision to choose it, though, and to take it, hold it, use it, and win the war with it.

We began 2020 with hunger on the run. Years of the government fighting hunger and some brave citizens joining the battle began to weaken the tentacles of hunger. Then, Covid-19 struck. From 10%, the hunger jumped to 20%, and then one more leap to 30%, all of these in 7 months, March to September. A winning war has, instead, become a debacle, a near-victory moving quickly to be a horrible defeat for us.

Government is not enough anymore. Some may debate that allocating resources is the government’s job while creating those resources are ours. With the enemy inside our gates, there is no time for debate or finger-pointing. There is only time to fight back, push the enemy out of our home territory, and save many of our people from great distress.

This is now our war. It is the war of Filipinos who are not hungry to help Filipinos who are hungry against one enemy allied with another enemy. Those who are not hungry and those who are not infected are more than those who are…more than double in numbers. We not only should win the war; we can win the war. But we must fight, each of us all. We must use our numerical superiority and the nobility of our race, in combination, to fight enemies we can and cannot see in their own evil combination. This is important to remember: the combination of our powers and our nobility, because one without the other can have grave consequences.

Do we tolerate Covid-19? Do we allow the virus to roam freely inside our homes, in the streets outside, in our community? No. Yet, we have tolerated hunger. We have not regarded it as a threat to us, only to the hungry. And because hunger in our history has not translated to starvation in any meaningful numbers, we have simply allowed hunger to roam freely.

One, we badly failed to realize that tolerating hunger reflected badly on our value system, on our cultural heritage, and sets up a future doomed to falter more than prosper. The future of our nation, I mean, if nation and its future are still of great value to us as a people. Hunger is an indictment of our morality and proves the shallowness or outright hypocrisy of our religious beliefs and practices.

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Two, we also fail to realize that hunger disables our collective immune system and invites all kinds of social and physical maladies to attack us. It is not only a matter of stunted growth and sustained malnutrition of the afflicted among our people, it translates to a crippled productivity and a weakened economy. Worse, hunger is the perfect fertile ground for discontent and social unrest. I do not have to explain this – history is full of glaring examples.

Three, and most important, is that hunger is one enemy that we all must fight together, that defeating hunger is the obligation of every citizen as much as it is the government’s. We are still way ahead in the game, the number of citizens who are not hungry far outnumber those who are, and one who is not hungry can help another who is. Hunger is easy to defeat, even in a Covid-19 pandemic. What is more difficult is to consider it enemy # 1.

Life is like that. We call it evolution, or karma, or simply growing up to be better human beings. When we need to learn something important, and we need to learn it fast because we’ve neglected doing so for too long, life steps in and radically rearranges our environment. Today, it gives us Covid-19 and hunger. We should not wait for more.

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