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The emerging cesspool

12:30 AM July 01, 2022

It is a global cesspool, on the surface began by the Covid-19 pandemic and now made more turbulent by the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Domestic dynamics from country to country only serve to aggravate or, if governed well, mitigate the impact of the global environment.

Cesspool is defined as a filthy, disgusting, or morally corrupt place. There are several synonyms of cesspool but the first definition suffices as the others may sound worse. That is because the first meanings are all physical, and you can imagine different words and imagery for filth. But in our context, there is less of the physical and more of the moral, or political.

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The moral and political filth are concentrated on two areas of daily life – corruption and orchestrated disinformation. Corruption pollutes the societal soul in a particularly dangerous and destructive manner. Selling one’s principles for personal gain does not sound so evil, especially since the consequence is on one’s own conscience. If one believes in an afterlife, divine justice or karma will extend the painful consequences – but one has to believe first.

The filth of corruption is particularly odious and disastrous on the common good. On one side is personal gain and, on the other side, is collective loss. In other words, corruption rewards the thief who stole from the many, or the few who divided what belonged to everybody else. In short, someone plants but another harvests.

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The only reason why corruption endures is because the thieves do not steal everything, only part of it. The victims tolerate the loss rather than go through a laborious and ineffective legal system to punish the thieves. Or, those who steal are rich and powerful, too intimidating for ordinary citizens who are robbed of their rightful share of public resources.

The new criminal on the global block is manipulated disinformation. Communications technology is defined by speed and volume, and more of these with each technology upgrade. On the other hand, human intelligence as a whole does not grow as fast as technology. Experts create the technology but the intelligence of the mass users usually lags behind.

Between the gap of expertise and ignorance is a critical space for exploiters or the dark middlemen editing the truth to sell their contrived lies. For a fee, of course, or for more personal gain.

Technology has no moral obligation to the truth. It is the leaders of society who wield power and influence who channel technology towards the beneficial and deter its ill effects. But if the leaders themselves are corrupt, the public are helpless until their own last straw of tolerance is breached.

People make decisions based on their level of information and trust. Not just information, not just trust, but a combination of both. Based on this, it is easy to imagine how wrong the decisions will be when information is wrong, or deliberately manipulated. All the more, when trust is exploited and abused, decisions will be just as wrong.

Wrong decisions, however, profit some while they harm many others. Otherwise, without profit or gain to the manipulators, the only other reason they can have for manipulating information and betraying trust is some version of sadism – deriving pleasure from inflicting pain, suffering, or humiliation on others. Generally, people are fooled or exploited so they will part with their money or political capacity.

It only varies in degrees, but the cesspool is visibly universal at this point. Greed and lust for power have never had it as good as today. Inversely, decency, integrity, and loyalty have never had it so bad. The fundamental reality is that weakness reigns from day one when a child is born, totally helpless to any machination from the environment. It is the maturing process, the growing up with love and guidance, that facilitates the transformation of weakness to strength, of ignorance to intelligence.

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There may have been eras when parental responsibility was more totally applied, when cultural values affirmed the collective application of right over wrong, and elevated the common good over personal interests. It is just so much more difficult nowadays. The attraction and power of money over virtues can be overwhelming. What more the basic need to survive at the expense of truth and integrity?

We have just entered into difficult times. Violent conflicts among nations with power and the greed that consumes them as well have placed the fate of billions of more ordinary people at a precipice. If not for the fact that thieves and oppressors need those they can steal from or abuse, ordinary human beings would have little place in a cesspool of a world.

We had gone through surges, not of Covid-19 alone, but of hunger for a third of our people in 2020 and fear of impending hunger for another third. The shortage of fuel and food will be like a pandemic for Filipinos who do not belong to the upper 80% of the economic strata. Shortage equals high and unaffordable prices of basic commodities beyond rice and transportation. We feel it now and it will get worse day by day.

This is a moment when the Filipino’s capacity to produce becomes most important, and the two-year lockdown had already tried to teach us that from the beginning. Few learned, and our production of what we need remains low. Now, we are expected to learn and apply in haste – which will not happen, of course.

We only have the compassion and generosity of people who care for those in dire need, as much of that sense of goodness is also in the hearts of those with more than others. After a divisive and shameful electoral process, however, the environment for giving has been painfully discouraged by a reality that favored the opposite.

Nobility must rise above a deep disappointment, must let its light break through the cesspool. It must choose lighting a candle over cursing the darkness. Can it?

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