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EL ESPECTADOR

Let's Make 2021 The Year Of Social Justice

This new year may be one of greater justice and better social conditions, but only if people fight for them.

Colombian police and military guard in Bogota, Colombia
Colombian police and military guard in Bogota, Colombia
Reinaldo Spitaletta

-OpEd-

BOGOTÁ — We are more time than dreams, and we tie ourselves to physical spaces, even shamefully small and inadequate ones. Besides opening a new calendar, what really changes when the last day of one year becomes the first of another, the so-called new year? Perhaps nothing of significance. Does a new year mean a change of systemic structures just because the date has changed? Some may want changes more ardently or, posing as psychics, discern in some random bird's flapping the augury of another year of stultifying conformity.

Of course everyone wants to leave the bad and the even worse behind, to start afresh. We'd like to see the end of the constant misfortunes dogging a country like Colombia. No more massacres or community leaders murdered, no more degrading social inequities or the sight of assassins and crooks parading as caring politicians, with their meek gaze and vicious intentions. But for such profound changes to happen, you need more than a new page on a calendar. As the 1970s song No basta rezar went, "It's not enough to pray, you need so much to achieve peace."

What could be better than a "new world order" without outrageous profits for a minority, and despotism and inequalities for the rest? If only we were living in a land of plenty, with beautiful nymphs luring us to happiness and games, and Epicurean gardens to shelter us from all that is hurtful. But we aren't. Dreaming is fine, but we need to do it with our feet firmly on the ground, as anyone on a tightrope would affirm.

Perhaps what the withered last page of the calendar suggests, more than a conspiracy of desires, of painless wants (an impossible one, because love hurts) is what Faust announces to us, yes, that of Goethe: "Tonight too, Earth, you remained firm. / And now you are reborn again around me. / And you encourage again in me / the aspiration to fight without rest / for a very high existence". Let us agree that this change of time needs us for the infinite walking on the edge of the abyss, for the continuous challenge to fight for justice and against oppression.

"Dreaming is fine, but we need to do it with our feet firmly on the ground" — Photo: Daniel Garzon Herazo/ZUMA Wire

If only the close of one pestilent year was enough to usher in a world where the earth is not battered at every turn, nor nations reduced to begging as they are robbed of the riches they possess. Perhaps, when the curtain falls on a dramatic year, dreams will be revived, utopias will be strengthened, and a new resolve to change the environment and power will be awakened. We should harbor such wishes.

Changing the world to favor those who are exploited by the predatory economy, discarded and pummelled into the ground will require a fight. There is nothing wrong with wanting social relations rid of exploitation, but this won't happen just because it is 2021. There is nothing preventing this from being an even worse year.

There is nothing preventing this from being an even worse year.

We are time. I cannot remember which poet said "the only truth is time." It might be a hyperbole but there is truth in it. There is continuity in our concocted notions of time, relativity, the finite and infinite, time of clocks, atomic time, history's "timeline" or time in our dreams. Tremendous changes can happen in a day, or there may be no changes for a long time — allowing power to pursue its tyranny naturally and with impunity.

Let us hope and strive so 2021 will be a year of social struggles, more civil resistance and interrogation of the bosses of this world and our little corner of it.

In this changeover, people have shared some beautiful poems, like Fernando Pessoa's "New Year," which says in one verse that "nothing begins: everything continues," as if it were an eternal flow. Ah, and in a more intimate way, perhaps we still need "old wood to burn," as the old English philosopher Francis Bacon wrote: "Old wood to burn, old wine to drink, old friends to trust and old authors to read."

Happy new year, in spite of everything.

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