11/16/2020
Yet another essay about resilience

First off, I really have nothing more to add to this conversation. Everybody, it seems - or at least everybody on one side of this fight we insist on calling a conversation - has said their piece, even before we watched the car crash happen. They talked about how we should stop talking about resilience as if that is enough to get us going despite yet another typhoon. They talked about how we should stop glorifying it, edifying it - really, using it to cover up for our apathy and incompetence. This happens every few months or so, although in this case it happened just a week or so apart.

In fact, the "conversation" had moved on by the time I composed this essay in my head enough to be able to confidently commit it to paper, or, well, this blog. We thought we knew the extent of Ulysses' damage when it roared past us in the middle of the night. Turns out our blinkers were on again. The Cagayan valley was inundated with floor waters they weren't necessarily ready for, as the dams in the area had to open the flood gates to prevent them from spilling. The weekend was depressing if all you did was scroll through your social media feeds.

It was barely a good time to talk about resilience, more so now.

Again, not that I had anything to add to the "conversation". Resilience has turned to something that we should already have from the get-go, like empathy. Something bad comes your way? Don't worry. You're resilient. You'll manage. And if you don't, well, you're on your own. Nobody really says that last sentence out loud, though. You don't want to look insensitive and merciless.

All I'm saying is, resilience has become one of those mythical-sounding ideals that we're all supposed to have, or be, but have the faintest of idea how to get about it. I find that weird, because I've been writing about it a fair bit during these past few years, as part of the day job. I think I've written about it a lot in the past ten months, for the newspaper column I somehow find myself writing. It was mostly about the pandemic, but in the early parts of the year it was about the eruption of the Taal volcano, and how that initially disrupted a good chunk of our manufacturing and agricultural sectors, particularly those located in southern Luzon. There, I wrote about how companies should be revisiting their business continuity plans, if they have one - and if they don't, how they should be writing one as soon as possible. Or maybe I didn't write about it exactly in that manner. It's been a blurry year.

Ah, yes, I was thinking of something I wrote a year ago, when the Hong Kong protests were peaking. Resilience is being able to adapt to shocks both foreseen and unforeseen, and perhaps turn them into opportunities. (I know that can sound annoying, but I write a business column.) But that is not something that comes naturally. You build resilience. You promote resilience. From the perspective of the supply chain sector, that means improving your processes. That means investing in technologies. That means providing better support to everyone involved in your business - suppliers, partners, principals, and end customers, meaning you and me - to make sure they're not left behind, or bewildered by all the change. I now know that it also means being in tune with what your employees feel, to recognize their humanity. It also means working closely with everyone not just when there are problems to be solved, but as standard procedure, especially when you're working towards common goals.

Okay, all that can sound lofty. I admit that. I've written those things for years. But what holds true for the people I work with also holds true for everything else. Resilience does not come naturally. You build resilience. You promote resilience. That means building the structures, the systems, and the networks that ensure that whatever happens - whether we've seen it coming, like a typhoon, or otherwise, like an earthquake, or a pandemic - we're able to quickly adjust, recover and maybe change things for the better. You know, the "better normal" some have begun to talk about.

Now, I won't be going into specifics, for there is a lot of ground to cover, and it's not something you can make happen in just a few days, or weeks, or months, or even years. As we've seen during the pandemic, it's not just about having enough hospital beds, or good public transportation, or reliable Internet. There is no one solution because there is no one problem, and being resilient means being able to cover all bases. Come to think of it, we should really make being resilient, like, a collective goal for us as a society. Donation drives, as noble as they are, can only go so far. I've seen the "conversation" shift towards "donation fatigue", especially when you factor in how government officials are so bent on taking credit for something they didn't have a hand on. But I digress. Perhaps resilience should be our goal as a society. Perhaps we should focus our energies on building up the structures, the systems and the networks that guarantee everyone's backs are covered, regardless of class, status or location.

But then again, our leaders seem to almost take glee in ripping the systems that we do have just so, at the very least, they can say things are changing. Of course, our guts mostly say they're doing it to consolidate power, to profit off the situation. How come we're just supposed to adjust to whatever's going on, rather than actually have a say in what we think is the best way to do things? Ah, right, Filipino resilience.

And your responses...

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