April 2004

What I’m about to say is an observation that is not pretty, so skip this entry and come back another time when I am more congenial, rare though that may be.

Here I am on a visit to the Philippines where the gap between the rich and poor is so wide, it’s just mind-boggling and depressing. What can I do about it? Who am I to do something about it? I’m just one puny earth-being who feels compassion for the man I see selling newspapers or peanuts on the street. He most probably has a family to support on his little earnings he makes in a day. Or the little girls selling sampaguita flowers, walking tiny steps among moving cars–they couldn’t be more than six or eight years old.

Where’s the justice in this world? I see these little girls, and my brother and I search our pockets and buy flowers from them. We are not rich, but to those people making a living on the street, we cannot be poor.

Little gestures matter a lot to people who live on a hand-to-mouth existence. Perhaps this is the way that puny beings can help. The rich and stingy here treat the poor like something under their shoe.

If you can think of a more pragmatic approach to helping those who are far worse off than you are, do let me know.

(And if you got this far and read this entry anyway, you might just have decided to want to skip this blog altogether. Reality is something most people don’t like to hear, read nor speak about. Tsk tsk… But, hey! I understand. No one is perfect you know).

Emotional Cost of Philippine Exodus

Filipino Nanny Leaves Family to Work in Hong Kong

anthrax1-tm.jpg People who do not know what it is and how it is, usually blame everything that goes wrong on the person in charge. They never think to correct things themselves.

Let’s take the ordinary man, for example. One of the many instinctive drives he’s born with is Survival. Most of Man’s actions and behaviour are related to this instinct for self-preservation (no, I’m not talking about Procreation, but that does have something to do with Survival).

Food is scarce–Man fights for the remaining morsels of natural resources on the planet. A grumbling stomach has to be satisfied at all cost.

You have rivals in the company–one or the other will do his best to make you look incompetent in the eyes of the people you’re working for. A jealous nature is usually strong in people who have no cerebral features going for them.

Aaah, Man… It does seem difficult to be honest and considerate of others when it is in our nature to lie and grab in order to survive. Who to blame?

Now, if I were God, I would have made food in abundance. I would have made everyone so filthy rich, they would not have to fight to survive. How difficult is that for One to do, He who is perfect, omniscient and infallible?

Peer into a microscope at a slide of bacterial froth. See all those big gooks eating up the small gooks, and becoming bigger gooks? You can almost see them laughing in your eye. Phht… ha ha ha… phht.. he he he… phht.

So whether you’re Man or plouk, you really only have yourself to blame.

sidgau-tm.jpg Sona lived alone in the Cool Forest and this thought occurred to him: “Of those followers of the Blessed One who are energetic, I am one. Yet, my mind has not found freedom.”

Now the Buddha, perceiving in his own mind Sona’s thoughts, appeared in the forest and said: “Sona, did not this thought arise in your mind?”

“Yes, Blessed One.”

“Tell me, Sona, in earlier days were you not skilled in playing string music on a lute? When the strings of your lute were too taut, was then your lute tuneful and easily playable?”

“Certainly not, O Blessed One.”

“And when the strings of your lute were too loose, was then your lute tuneful and easily playable?”

“Certainly not, O Blessed One.”

“And when the strings of your lute were neither too taut nor too loose, but adjusted to an even pitch, did your lute then have a wonderful sound and was it easily playable?”

“Certainly, Blessed One.”

“Similarly, if energy is applied too strongly, it will lead to restlessness, and if energy is too lax, it will lead to lassitude. Therefore, Sona, keep your energy in balance and in this way, focus your attention.”

(source: no. 5, pages 75-76)

My respect for the government of Japan wavers on the service offered by the Ministry of Justice that allows Japanese citizens to send them an email on “foreign neighbours that cause them anxiety.” The service is meant to identify illegal foreigners in Japan.

A foreigner that causes anxiety is not necessarily an illegal alien. How could an ignoramus who thought up this service be working at the venerable Ministry of Justice?

If a Japanese in a foreign country caused anxiety to his neighbour (let’s say, by singing karaoke off-key or by cleaning up after the dog…), and reports him to his Justice Ministry (“There’s a mad alien picking up dog poo in the street”)–who is crazy, dumb and stupid in this situation? If they want to identify illegally-staying aliens, another criteria is necessary; and I don’t think the neighbours should decide that.

Amnesty: Service to Rat Online on Illegal Aliens a Racist Ploy
Dead Man Returns 22 Years Later

Mindoro 006-thumb.jpg In 1957, the World Bank classified the Philippines the second largest economy in Asia. ASEAN countries were sending their economists to the country to learn what the Philippines were doing. Then Ferdinand Marcos came to power and remained there not only through election-rigging, but more importantly, with assistance from the CIA. After two decades of Martial Law, the Philippines is now one of the poorest countries in the region.

Marcos had looted the country and disrupted the economy so badly that the foreign debt he left behind ($27Billion) is still being paid by the government. It is presently 90% of gross domestic product, and 37% of the national budget pays the interest on this debt. Imelda Marcos disclosed that the Marcos fortune was larger than anyone could imagine–more than enough, she said, to pay for the country’s entire foreign debt. Marcos certainly did not earn that collecting metal scrap, which it was rumoured he was engaged in before he entered politics.

Corruption is one of the most disruptive forces in the country. This abuse of trust, this use of position for personal advantage is so commonplace, it is regarded as a banal circumstance from which a supplementary source of income is derived. If favours cannot be bought, the rule of the pro-American elite in the country is enforced by private armies of killers.

Religion is another disruptive force. The Philippines has one of the highest birth rates in the world. That translates to 1.7 million more mouths to feed per year. The growth rate remains unchecked because Catholicism ensures that the idle poor produce more of their kind, bringing down the economy with it.

The idle poor are an uneducated class and unfortunately, they are the electorate majority in the country. A high school drop-out by the name of Fernando Poe, Jr. is running for President. He is popular with this majority because, like Reagan and Estrada, he is a movie actor.

The Philippines has gone to the dogs, and there is absolutely nothing the more intelligent minority can do about it.

“Mog, do you remember the anti-Marcos demonstration that we helped organise back in our student days in Manila?”

“Oh, yes, Yaw. You were so meticulous. In those late night meetings, you made sure that everything was planned well so that the march would go smoothly. You were one great thinker and organiser. Forty thousand students came on that day.”

“But more importantly, Mog, we had the issues right. We knew what was wrong with the government, and we wanted to change things and make the country a better place to live. Corruption is such a part and parcel of Manila’s society.”

“Then something went terribly awry during the demonstration, Yaw, and you had no control over those events. Don’t blame yourself for these things that went wrong.”

“The M-26A-1 grenade bombing at Plaza Miranda was gruesome and horrendous, Mog. I can’t get the scene out of my mind. Students! We were only students, crying for change. Our only weapons were our ideals.”

“The grenades were American, weren’t they, Yaw?”

“Yes, they were, Mog… Marcos was protecting America’s commercial interests in the Philippines. The CIA presence in the country is strong.

“And there was something else that went wrong, Mog. There were other groups of students, not under our direction, who put up barricades on the streets. That did not accomplish anything, and had nothing to do with us. Their acts were useless to the cause.”

“Groups, that’s what it is, Yaw. They want to jump in the bandwagon and they create havoc, thinking they are helping the cause. They probably don’t even know what the issues are.”

“That’s what is happening in Iraq right now, Mog. That group that took the Japanese hostages will not further any cause by doing that. These young Japanese were there to help the Iraqis. They are friend not foe!”

“I don’t think they care who they are, Yaw. They were kidnapped for what they represent–Japan and its pro-American stance.”

“They could have captured some Japanese soldiers instead, Mog. Cowards, they are, for taking unarmed civilians.

“I sincerely hope that these young people will do their best to try to escape from their captors. I hope the Americans or the Japanese contingent can rescue them. And if the more intelligent Iraqi groups want to clear their image on this, they must rescue them and teach these other groups a thing or two. But all this is wishful thinking. I’m afraid they might be sacrificed and the wrath of the Japanese people will turn against Koizumi.”

“The train bombing in Spain and now the threat of burning these Japanese alive… my God. Please, we need no more examples of why the international community should not support the American hegemony.”

Japan Won’t Exit Iraq on Threats

Sunni Muslim Organisation Mediates Release of Japanese Hostages
Japanese Hostages Freed

sidgau-tm.jpg Ananda passed by a well near a village and seeing Pakati, a young outcast woman, asked her for water to drink.

“But, oh monk, I am too humbly born to give you water to drink,” she replied. “Do not ask any service of me lest your holiness be contaminated, for I am of low caste.”

“I ask not for caste but for water,” Ananda said, and Pakati’s heart leapt for joy and she gave him water to drink. Ananda thanked her and went away, but she followed him at a distance.

Having heard that Ananda was a disciple of the Buddha, Pakati went to see the Enlightened One and implored, “Let me live in the place where your disciple Ananda dwells, so that I may care for him, for I love Ananda.”

The Buddha understood the emotions of her heart. “Pakati,” he said, “you do not understand your own sentiments. It is not Ananda that you love, but his kindness. Accept the kindness you have seen him practice towards you, and practice it towards others.”

source: no. 5, p. 105-106