Method to madness
You could have passed them in many a neighborhood computer shop, hunched in front of glaring computer monitors, typing on worn-out keyboards, and posing in front of grimy 2-megapixel webcams—women (in this case a lola and her teenage granddaughter) waving happily to whoever was at the other end of their interaction, in front of another computer screen.
At that moment, I would have dismissed the scenario as just another jovial family reunion, except that it wasn’t. According to what I gathered from their conversation, they were talking, not with some faraway relative, but a portly American “friend.” I overheard the girl telling her grandmother that she (the lola) was to type in that she had gotten sick and therefore needed cash to pay for her hospital bill, even advising her not to ask for less than $200. Pretend that it’s a big bill, ’La, the girl said.
This saddened me—not because of the obvious parasitism that the two were engaged in, but rather, because of the circumstances that forced them into it.
Just recently, major international economic agencies declared the Philippines a rising star, a waking dragon, a new economic tiger, waxing rhetoric on the alleged rise and stability of the country’s economic status. But then again, as what we’ve come to know, one must learn not to take everything at face value.
True, one can say that with the sudden rise in the number of construction activities in the metropolitan areas, as well as the ubiquitous increase in shoppers in upscale department stores and malls, one will be hard-pressed to exclaim, “And I thought there were many poor people in the Philippines!”
Media reports tell us that the country is at an unprecedented climb in its economic ratings, with major TV stations and newspapers announcing the possibility of a brighter, more hopeful future. Personally, I’ve dismissed those who made such announcements as looking through rose-colored glasses. Or would “blinders” be more appropriate?
But maybe I’m just being too harsh. Perhaps they arrived at such a conclusion because they haven’t taken a long, hard look at the streets of Malate, of Cubao, or of Angeles City, among others, which may seem developed but are actually places dependent on the purchasing power of the many foreigners who congregate there, and which, for all their glitz come nighttime, are actually monuments to the viciousness of US imperialism, testaments to how our country continues to be abused by the superpower under the beautiful guise of “economic development.”
Surely, the country may be facing development. But then again, one has to ask: Is this development progressive?
Genuine development does not stop with the mere completion of yet another high-rise condominium building in the city, or the influx of foreign investors. The way I see it, development is when a worker ceases to be a perpetual minimum-wage contractual employee. It’s when the prices of goods go down and the people’s salaries go up. It’s when students need no longer drop out of school because of tuition increases. It’s when a breadwinner goes to work not worrying if his day’s wages will be enough to feed his family. It’s when a farmer tills his own land and not some hacendero’s. It’s when children need no longer sell their bodies to foreigners just to quiet their grumbling stomachs. Genuine development is one that is for the masses and not for the oligarchs.
But maybe I am asking for too much. Maybe asking for change is too much.
Today, to declare that you are for change is akin to walking down the street with a “kick me” sign on your back and a tag on your forehead with any of the following words on it: “activist,” “communist,” “leftist,” “barbarian,” and for the uneducated, “terrorist.” And it is with this apparent fixation with conformity that society has become so messed up. What else will you call a society that, for all the madness it commits, dares to call itself “sane,” and those who question it, “crazy”?
It’s a messed-up world we live in. We are in a world where one’s entry into politics is determined by surname and familial wealth, where development is seen only in the malls and high-rises, never mind their impact on the environment, and where the submission of one country’s sovereignty to 111 years of US imperialism is deemed an economic boost. In this kind of society, it’s not too much of a stretch to claim that for all its worth, diplomacy has lost its charm and effectiveness, and that the future and hope for genuine change lie in being radical, in being part of the resistance.
To demand change in a stagnant society may be seen as madness, yes. But then again, it has always been known that there is and always will be a method to madness. And right now, I am sure of only one thing: that we, the mad ones that society oh so despises, will be the ones it will thank in the future.
Jan Michael Rebuyas, 21, is a communications graduate of the University of Perpetual Help System Laguna and a volunteer worker at the College Editors Guild of the Philippines.
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