Abusing the people’s tragedy

For a while now, I’ve been at loss as to what to blog. Scenes of devastation and the actual loss of life and property to millions of Filipinos were overwhelming. It didn’t feel right blogging about anything else where almost everything else will pale in gravity. Guilt perhaps, the very fact that I am able to blog in convenience indicates that, unlike majority of Filipinos who are poor, I am “unaffected.” For a while, blogging in the time of crisis reeked of insensitivity. Some people say blogging and online social media networks played a crucial role in the relief and rescue operations. I agree. But then again, the people who need the relief aren’t online, and prolonged online “involvement” seemed to me like a convenient excuse not to immerse with the people and get dirty with the actual operations. Posting and re-posting relief and rescue operations has to translate into actual relief and rescue operations. Many times, especially during the immediate days after the typhoons, they do, as proven by the thousands who flocked to organized relief operations. With an inept and inutile government, private citizens and civilian organizations needed to fill the vacuum in social services. But for how long? Especially when all those volunteers go back to their schools and to their workplaces?

During and after our relief operations, we still have to expose the ineptitude of the government and its causes. We, after all, pay taxes by force of law and thus maintain the system with almost every consumption we make. If the cost doesn’t translate to social services, especially in times of calamity, and worse, makes life more miserable for the masses, why maintain it? I’m posing that as a serious question. Even worse, calamities are often abused by the government and policy-makers to intensify the prevailing order by implementing unpopular and anti-people policies. Naomi Klen calls it the “Shock Doctrine” where government use “the public’s disorientation following massive collective shocks ““ wars, terrorist attacks, or natural disasters – to achieve control by imposing economic shock therapy.”

A few days ago, I attended a Congress committee hearing on what we all thought to be was a junked proposal to tax SMS messages. Without as much attention as the previous hearings, and with the public focused largely on the relief operations, pro-tax congressmen actually revived the proposal, and even had the gall to use the calamity to justify the additional tax. Other congressmen who opposed the tax tried to junk it altogether to no avail. When more and more observers and media were coming in the meeting, the leadership suddenly decided to suspend the hearing and re-convene in executive session some other time, without all the observers and the media, and the other congressmen who weren’t members of the committee.

Another thing I’d like to point out is the excessive media exposure of American troops in their relief missions. This assistance, I’m telling you is far from selfless. It is a motivated and concerted action to ‘win hearts and minds’. I’m willing to bet that all these will be used to justify the continued implementation of the Visiting Forces Agreement. It’s all a big public-relations stunt. I’m not discounting the help they have probably extended. Yes, thank you, but it’s not worth our sovereignty. These are but a few government policies that are being rammed into implementation at the wake of the people’s tragedy. There will be more.

***
Tulong Kabataan is continuing its relief operations for the victims of tropical storms Ondoy and Pepeng. We’re going to have a Balik Eskwela drive where we would do campus clean-ups and other intensified youth volunteer work to mark resumption of classes in storm and flood hit areas. Click here for more details.

Leave a Reply