From Coffee to Colonial Mentality

Loving the weather these past few days. Some refer to this cool, cloudless calm as “bed weather”, but I’d like to refer to this weather as more of “coffee weather”: afternoons which are never too hot for a warm brew, nor too cold for a cold one. Add pastries (preferably donuts) and a movie (or two, or three, or half a season of your favorite TV series), and you have the perfect excuse for spending the whole day sitting down.

Sad, though, to know that such a calm comes at such a hefty price. Typhoon Falcon has displaced 50,000 people from my last count, changing yet another bunch of Filipino lives forever. Just a few kilometers down from Antipolo, we get infamous disaster zones in the form of Pasig and Marikina, where the flooded horror stories rear their ugliest faces (one even had traces of attempted cannibalism in it, but I’ll leave it to your suspension of disbelief the way I did with mine).

It is these times, though, that remind me of my favorite writer (Gabriel Garcia Marquez)’s favorite speeches (Nobel lecture):

“In spite of this, to oppression, plundering and abandonment, we respond with life. Neither floods nor plagues, famines nor cataclysms, nor even the eternal wars of century upon century, have been able to subdue the persistent advantage of life over death. An advantage that grows and quickens: every year, there are seventy-four million more births than deaths, a sufficient number of new lives to multiply, each year, the population of New York sevenfold. Most of these births occur in the countries of least resources – including, of course, those of Latin America. Conversely, the most prosperous countries have succeeded in accumulating powers of destruction such as to annihilate, a hundred times over, not only all the human beings that have existed to this day, but also the totality of all living beings that have ever drawn breath on this planet of misfortune.” (Gabriel Garcia Marquez, December 8, 1982)

Funny that an ocean or two away, more than twenty years later, the same spirit is very present and very real in our society. That oh-so-irrational-yet-oh-so-essential optimistic impulse of people to, like street children, look at a flood as half full and see it as an opportunity for a swimming party, tetanus and leptospirosis be damned. The way I see it, though, is that people can only have so much tolerance and respect for nature’s fickleness, especially when we begin to see the human factor in disaster, the garbage-clogged sewer system that led to Ondoy being the least of it all.

And before we all start pointing fingers: it’s everyone’s fault. We make our own lives, we mess them up as well. Governments can only do so much, what with everybody looking out only for themselves (the real reason, I believe, behind the existence of corruption). And people can only do so much when they’re so high on messianic ideas and half expecting the President to one day reveal his nonexistent halo and nonexistent feathered wings. And we can only blame colonialism and colonial mentality so many times before we eventually collapse as a selfishly capitalist society and Marx rejoices in his grave: fine, the foreigners did a number on us. Now we have to do a number on ourselves.

It’s everyone’s fault, and only everyone can fix it. If it sounds cliche, remember that a cliche only becomes a cliche and pop music only becomes pop music when there is a reason for it to be so.

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