Hope and desperation
By Virginai J. Pasalo
ACCORDING to my dear friend, Armi Bangsal-Lorica, being appointed in government is like playing the musical chair, where a number of individuals go around chairs with one chair pulled out each time so that one individual is taken out at every turn. In the process, you must use all your powers and senses to be able to sit in one of the chairs before others do so that your ass (do you have a better term?) is safe at each turn. In the struggle to sit, others push so hard, they hurt each other. Keeping the chair to oneself and being on the last chair is the name of the game. Armi was concerned with the energy being expended on this exercise which to her is much greater than what is expended for thought and creativity in one’s work.
Other friends think the destiny of an advocate for change getting into the government structure is like the punishment of Sisyphus, a figure in Greek mythology who was condemned to repeat forever the same task of pushing a rock up a mountain, only to see it roll down again. In development work, the task of creating cultural change can be disappointing knowing that culture can change only over a long period of time, and that when you think you are closest to the tipping point, it rolls down once again, a notch lower (or higher) than where you first began. Despite this, you begin again. What’s the difference? In the myth, Sisyphus will never be rolled over. In government, especially when you are an appointee serving at the pleasure of the President, getting rolled over is not only a possibility, but a reality one has to accept, requiring no rhyme or reason.
Government service can be absurd in an environment full of greed, corruption, pride, ill will, envy and fear. But government is a microcosm of the world outside. Others have given up trying and got swallowed in the bureaucratic culture. However, I have no doubt I will choose to be in government service once again, at an appropriate time, like Sisyphus, but armed with the insights of the experience, the unwavering belief that goodness is a reality and with a lot of faith in my heart. Some say it is better to dance around a musical chair, than just sitting on a chair, without the music. However, I know that we can create music where it is possible to dance to our own rhythms and still accord utmost respect for our dancing partners.
The struggle itself, with the little increments of change that were visible at some point had filled my heart, maybe not as full as what I imagined when I first tried, but enough to make me happy. Given the widespread pessimism and desperation around us, I learned that to be hopeful is the only way to proceed. Hope and desperation are two sides of our existence. They are inseparable. One cannot know the difference without the other. In this way, we can deal with our own desperation with a lot more clarity and optimism.
Too many times, I was told
either a glass is half-empty
They are wrong.
The glass is always full
the lower half is filled with water
the upper part is filled with air.
Emptiness is full of air
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