Monday, February 05, 2007
THE LONG JOURNEY OF A TIRED PEOPLE
RENATO REDENTOR CONSTANTINO
Business Mirror, February 9-10, 2007
Malaysia Sun, February 9, 2007
ParasIndonesia, February 14, 2007
For Melai and Bobby T.
Perhaps it really is as helpful as the radio broadcaster Paul Harvey suggests, that in times like these we should just remember that there have always been times like these.
It's a comforting thought.
We find ways in times of crisis to reassure ourselves that things are not as bad as they appear to be, because it's good to feel unaffected. We can watch things unfold and we can thank the heavens that we have been spared from this or that tragedy.
To a people living in a state of perpetual calamity, such thoughts can be a salve. But it can also mean slavery.
We have become the cynical idealists that the historian Alessandro Morandotti once described -- we manufacture variations to the saying that tells us things can't get any lower when you're already on the floor. And it's probably true.
But what if there was a basement? And what if beneath that there was something else? Down below, desperate hope mingles with gin and despair, and it's not good.
It's hard not to notice the fear. It's hard to ignore the rot, and inside our indifference malignant worries grow.
We used to laugh at our country's recent stretch of good fortune: after the vile Marcos dictatorship, there was always something droll about the gradations of incompetence and mediocrity that followed. But today seems to be a different matter. There is something terribly disquieting about unadulterated bumbling, untethered avarice and murderousness. The jokes become less funny, come too close, and become too real.
Every year we are told that the country is on the verge of takeoff, and every year we wonder why we seem to have the longest runway in the world.
Here, bridges are built where there are no rivers. Here, funds for agriculture are channeled to cities of concrete and steel. Here, officials administer trade as a paranormal vocation: to export Filipino nurses to Japan, the government offers to import Japanese nuclear waste.
Here, political science does not apply because the government is an absurd animal. It is a preening, snorting bull that tramples and gores the weak, and a sheep in sheep's clothing that fondles the feet of the mighty. It is a bull-sheep government capable of astounding feats: it can swagger and slaughter unarmed dissenters and, for a piece of American generosity, it can spring from its own jail and escort to the US embassy an American soldier sentenced to spend 40 years behind bars for rape. This is a creature that lives for US charity: around two years ago the American government committed to send military aid to the Philippines in the form of five battle-ready, Vietnam-era helicopters, under one condition. Philippine taxpayers first had to pay over $7 million in refurbishing fees to a chosen US contractor. On August 2006, after payment from the Philippines, the US delivered its promise -- five flying things, not one of which could fly.
It is easy to blame the US for such transgressions. It is easy and lazy and misses the point. It exonerates alleged leaders who invite the contempt of bullies and it pardons our own failure to make those who profess to lead us accountable to their actions.
And the truth is, this tyranny of shamelessness - this rule of misrule that we find ourselves in today -- can only thrive in a climate of forgetting and spectatorship.
Once upon a time, not so long ago, hardy souls restored free speech in the country. Today, too many with something to say have learned to sleep again with one eye open.
Once upon a time, there was a country that could feed it's own people. Today, its farmers subsist on sorrow while the country relies on others for nourishment.
Once upon a time, there was a country that could benefit from the best that its people had to give. Today, its economic fundamentals are evident: children in schools pose as sardines in tiny tin cans, public health is on the auction block, and larceny is the only state-supported enterprise.
Today, we hurtle towards industrial oblivion because the government is a believer in the church of so-called free trade. Its scripture commands the creation on Earth of the holy trinity: pliant people, good governance and an open economy, so Glory to the Fodder, the Gun and the Low Tariff then pray hard the rest of the year.
Today, our dignity is for barter and we have put up for tender our very soil; our export of humans is flourishing and we have become a net producer of hunger.
Today, nine million Filipinos are toiling abroad because in their own country they cannot provide for their families or nurture their dreams.
Today, officials bray we are "on the way to winning the grand prize - First World status." Their wisdom warms the heart, like cinder lodged in an artery. #
1. Paul Harvey is a very popular American broadcaster who received the US presidential medal of freedom from George W. Bush in November 2005. Another favorite quote of mine from Harvey: "If 'pro' is the opposite of 'con', what is the opposite of progress?" Click here for more information about Harvey.
2. Paolo Romero, "GMA: the best is yet to come," Philippine Star, 27 December 2006.
3. "Detained ex-agri exec tagged in lady journalist's slay," AH/Sunnex, SunStar, 5 January 2007.
4. Aside from the toxic waste from Japanese hospitals and industries, radioactive waste is included in the items for export for to the Philippines listed in the annex of the scandal-infested Japan-Philippines Economic Partnership Agreement (JPEPA), signed by the Gloria Arroyo and Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi in Helsinki, Finland on October 2006.
5. A "sheep in sheep's clothing" is a hilarious quote and unfortunately I'm just rehashing the insult originally put together by the ugly lush one, Winston Churchill.
6. "UP Lawyer: Gov't execs insulted court in allowing Smith transfer," GMANews.tv, 2 January 2007.
7. From the Reporter's Notebook feature "Biyaya ni Uncle Sam," aired by GMA-7 on 9 January 2007. See also "Palace: war games' scrapping hurts modernization, alliance," GMANews.tv, 23 December 2006.
8. "Arroyo praises military despite report linking soldiers to killings," GMANews.tv, 31 January 2007.
9. For instance, in January, the Philippines purchased close to half a millions tons of rice from Vietnam and a few thousand tons more from Thailand and Pakistan. See: "RP buys 500,000 tons of rice, bulk from Vietnam," Reuters, 22 January 2007.
10. "Pimentel: Palace using Perez as sacrificial lamb," GMANews.tv, 10 January 2007.
11. For a robust discussion and critique of Philippine economic policy, see Fair Trade Alliance, Nationalist Development Agenda: A Road Map for Economic Revival, Growth and Sustainability (Fair Trade Alliance, Quezon City: 2006)
12. Liling Magtolis-Briones, "Business and elections," Business Mirror, 28 January 2007.
13. "11-month OFW remittances hit all-time high: $11.44B," Philippine Information Agency press release, 17 January 2007. See also "The economy: walking on a knife's edge," Maitet Diokno-Pascual and Clarence Pascual, iReport [online magazine of the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism], 21 December 2006.
14. The surreal words are from no other than the surreal Gloria Arroyo in the statement issued by the Office of the President to the 12th Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) meeting in Cebu city, Philippines on 19 January 2007. Click here for the full text.
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