detail from Labels for Hair Ribbons by Manuel Ocampo a delectable selection of oriental appetizers
Thursday, May 10, 2001


: . Sorry, just trying to catch up with my reading.


: . A friend was nice enough to send me a cd of the soundtrack from Wong Kar-wai’s In the Mood for Love. After reading Wong Kar-wai’s Director’s Statement printed in the cd booklet, I now understand the strange affection I have for that film: ‘I came to Hong Kong when I was five, and the first things that impressed me were the sounds of the city, which were totally different from Shanghai. We had a lot of Western music in Shanghai at that time, and most musicians from Hong Kong were from the Philippines, so there was a lot of Latin music in Hong Kong.’


: . It’s bad enough to be poor in the Philippines. What adds insult to injury is being accused of lacking political sophistication by virtue (or vice) of that poverty. Edsa III has opened the floodgates of condescension from the Philippines’ enlightened middle classes. The middle classes after all are immune from political mind control, from the mesmerizing glitter of Personality, from human quirks that have thwarted every ‘class war.’ Sure they try to be even-handed, qualifying their statements the way one would shower peasants with cake crumbs. But such a largesse of consideration offers nothing but excuses for the poor’s alleged crudeness (as in the poor can’t help being that way because…) instead of more nuanced analyses of the poor’s diverse political responses. So I can’t help wincing each time I read statements like:

Vicente Romano III: I underestimated the demagoguery that Erap commands from his followers. True, there were hooligans and vandals in their ranks. But there were also some who stood their ground, and I suspect they were ready to die for him…The second made me think long and hard, and ask; Why? What has Erap done for them that make them rabid fanatics, in spite of his plundering ways? It’s hard to fathom. Because the answer is "nothing". But then again, so had the other presidents before him – they all did nothing for the poor. At least Erap dined with them with his bare hands. And to them, the illusion of being one with them is good enough. Walang iwanan makes sense now. I hope GMA recognizes this early enough and deliver meaningful change for them…Otherwise, the class schism will only be heightened and we may not survive their next crack at rebellion…I was right, though on two things. First, I was right when I said "The masa votes people into power; but it’s the middle class that removes them from office through people power, when necessary". It’s not just because of their clout in shaping the nation’s economy. It’s also because they often have justifiable cause – an important ingredient in attracting the police and military to side to their cause.

Lily Mendoza: I say let these so-called rallyists shout themselves hoarse and tire themselves out. There is a limit to the P500 bills that can be spread around. There is a limit to the organizing reach and power of corrupt leaders. Give the mob a few more days to pant and rave, and let's see how far the money well can sustain them. When it dries up, expect to see thousands of dispirited stragglers shuffling back to their homes, no less miserable, hopeless, and sad at having allowed themselves to be used and abused so callously by their rich champions in a grossly perverted exercise of democratic freedom…P500 every day plus free meals. Who can blame poor people for snapping up the offer? The ire of the citizenry, instead, should be directed at the likes of Binay, Santiago, Enrile, et al, whose shamelessness and rank mendacity are, at the very least, puke-inducing.

Angelita Gregorio-Medel: Erap does not challenge the poor. He does not ask them to make sacrifices or assume responsibility for their own progress. Instead, he patronizes them and delights in acting as their "lord" and "savior."…When the jueteng scandal forced the patron to disappear, the entire community shifted to a "waiting mode," as they waited for the return of the operations and their patron…As the risks of illegal gambling become more real, some residents and jueteng employees did express their wish to find more secure jobs and discuss the apparent dependence of many community members on the patron…No one, however, was willing to move on and explore other possibilities for jobs or pastime activities. Government and nongovernment sectors too were nowhere near to provide an alternative.


: . Let’s face it, as long as we refrain from having high expectations, Philippine political life isn’t all that bleak. Below, Patricio Abinales offers some small comforts:

In the Philippines, coalition politics has replaced political parties (both on the right and the left) as the means by which groups and individuals aspire to and wield power. The coalitions are notable in that they bring together groups that were and continue to be ideologically opposed. Either aware of their limited influence or pragmatic enough to realize the need for ‘tactical alliances’ with opponents, these forces have temporarily set aside their differences to work for a common goal—usually the election of a presidential candidate. A victorious candidate, in turn, brings this coalition into his or her administration. This means that while the apparatus of the state may be dominated by a patrimonial elite and weakened by various kinds of criminalities, the very softness of the state has also allowed its penetration by representatives of social and political forces that have different interests than the politicians and patrimonial networks. These forces range from reformist businesspeople seeking a more transparent market with less government interference, to antigraft, pro-efficiency, middle-class advocates and former communists now wanting to use the state to achieve social goals rather than ‘smash’ it…The Philippine case suggests that while weak states can be a bane to real political development, it is wrong to assume that they have no ability to govern even moderately…In an odd way, this is what democracy in the Philippines is all about. Its antinomies and contradictions are precisely what allow it to thrive even at the price of continued underdevelopment.


: . In anticipation of Pearl Harbor, The Movie and the jingoism it will surely inspire here’s Maureen Dowd on the Greatest Generation:

We encouraged our parents to stop being so modest and share their stories. Now they can't stop gushing and celebrating themselves…Boomers have done a bad, bad thing…We have made our self-effacing elders as self-regarding as we are. We plumbed our own yuppie depths and found them shallow. So we moved on to plumb our parents, and fill our shallows with their depths…Not satisfied with one Me Generation, we made two…We felt guilty about not being more like them, strong and silent. So we made them more like us, gabby and navel-gazing.


: . What else can one expect from NY Times columnist Thomas Friedman, the great apologist for globalization’s many sins. Too bad he’s forgotten that Africa is probably the first victim of globalization. Remember the slave trade? Ah, but that’s ancient history:

Jeff Sachs, the Harvard development economist…notes that one of the main reasons Africa has fallen so far behind East Asia, Mexico or Brazil is because it has been stuck just exporting raw materials, and has failed to create the legal and tax incentives to attract the global investment and factories that would create sustainable, diversified jobs. Africa's only hope is that through globalization its coastal cities might one day become the sort of export platforms, tourism and service centers that China's are today. "There is not a single example in modern history of a country successfully developing without trading and integrating with the global economy," says Mr. Sachs…The fact is, virtually all the leaders who met in Quebec to expand trade were democratically elected, while "the people" in the streets clamoring for "justice" were self-appointed or paid union activists. There is nothing romantic about them. By inhibiting global trade expansion they are choking the only route out of poverty for the world's poor. Which is why these "protesters" should be called by their real name: The Coalition to Keep Poor People Poor.

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