Dreaming of Dictatorships

It must be my disposition, but I am vehemently against the notion of authoritarian rule. Which is (maybe) somewhat hypocritical of me, because I am now living, working in  and enjoying the comforts of a country with such a form of government (what can be more authoritarian than an absolute monarchy?).

democracy

Recently, my country has decided to elect as president a man who espouses his preference for a more “dictatorial” style of management. It has perplexed the “intellectual” segments of my country, we in our so-called ivory towers, who are removed from the daily toils and travails of the hoi polloi.

But hey, once upon a time (a little less than 6 months ago, in fact), I was part of the hoi polloi.  I was suffering the daily hell of MRT/LRT, the woes of Metro Manila traffic, the fragmented public health care system, the epal faces of politicians as pictured in those ubiquitous tarpaulins … Just six months ago, I was bemoaning all that was wrong with Pnoy’s government.

And then I left.

(And I found that I can’t vote in this country I have fled to because I was late for the registration — but that’s  another story.)

Deep in my guts, I knew it was only a matter of time that someone like Rodrigo Duterte would win as president of the Philippines. We are a country who elected Erap, after  all — and in a landslide win, at that.

We are a country who believes the social media machine of the Marcoses that is popularizing the revisionist idea that Martial Law was God’s gift to the Philippines. (ha ha, it was a gift that left me with a debt to be paid to foreign lending agencies until 2025!)

We are a country whose children do not know who Apolinario Mabini is, let alone that he was paralyzed.

We are a country whose people leave. That includes me, of course.

Once upon a time, in 1982 —   Marcos was still in power and Ninoy was still alive; when the peso was plummeting and the economy was in shambles; when thousands of would-be youth leaders have either been “salvaged”, tortured or disappeared,   a certain US Secretary of State was rumored to have said this: “The Philippines is a nation of 40 million cowards and one son-of-a-bitch.”

Well, George Schultz, it is now 2016, and the Philippines is a nation of 100 million people. I do not know if Mr. Duterte will prove to be a son-of-a-bitch (whatever that term may mean), but a lot of us are still cowards (or lazy … or deluded … or all of the above).

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The OFW Life

Dear Auntie J,

Yes now I understand.

Now I get it, the things you had to go through, which my mother (your sister) thought so little of:

Image from plantingrice.com

Image from plantingrice.com… the confusion, the feeling of being lost in a sea of strangers …

… the confusion, the feeling of being lost in a sea of strangers …

Image: screengrab from youtube.com

… the language barriers, a wall so vast and deep because it is not only about words but more about history, culture and  things left unsaid …

al hajar mountains

… adjusting to a different climate whether too hot or too cold, looking  for your Goldilocks-zone and never quite finding it …

Image from gmanetwork.com

Image from gmanetwork.com

… having plenty of material stuff but not having enough, because “enough” meant having someone you love share all that plenty-ness with; unfortunately the ones you love are oceans of miles away …

… worrying and wondering about a distant land you left behind and dealing with the constant question “Did I  do the right thing?”  Leaving was a matter of survival, but still you have your doubts …

…. the feeling that your life is on hold. Because you are neither here nor there. You are not a tourist, but you are not a “resident” either.

Image from pinoyrepublic.info

Image from pinoyrepublic.info

I get it now. I get the allure of wanting to acquire citizenship in a foreign country to get a sense of belonging. Because eventually you feel that your own will not welcome you with open arms. Or the open arms are a sham, was only extended to demand something from you.

I get it now. Why you felt I was wasting my life back home. You see: I still think of it as home. I wonder, after all these years, how you think of it.

Image from minibalita.com

Image from minibalita.com

I get it now. The balikbayan boxes, the infrequent calls,  the seemingly superficial mails (because it really is hard to put into words this feeling of displacement, of  having betrayed something or having been let down, of not knowing who to talk to or how to talk about the deepest fears of your heart, of crying and feeling stupid because, hey, you have all this money, so why the tears?)

I get it now. And I am wondering whether to feel happy for us. Or sorry.

It is masochism, I know … but loving something frequently is.

And I know I love the land of my birth. Leaving was a pain. The pain was (is) palpable, and mostly felt in the wee silences of the morning or before sleeping when the routines of work are over.

Image from thefilipino.com

Image from thefilipino.com

It effing hurts to have left.

But I know … it would have hurt so much more to have stayed.

Hate is a Precondition for Freedom (or Mothers & Daughters)

fear of fifty

Erica Jong is a 1970’s author who invented the term “zipless fuck” — a passe concept that is not so popular now among the Y-gens and the millenials. What’s the big deal about zipless fucks when we have “friends-with-benefits”, “twerking”, and “Christian Grey”, right?

Erica has a daughter named Molly, with whom she had a love-hate relationship with.

Daughters will always have a love-hate relationship with their mothers. Unless that mother is dead and there is no point in hating her. When your mother is dead, the only way you can release yourself from her ghost is to forgive her for bringing you out into this world.

I think my mother would also have liked Erica’s books. I wouldn’t know now.

So, to mommy: thank you … I imagine that you are saying these to me from your grave ….

 

[Daughter], I want to release you.

If you hate me or want to reject me, I understand.

If you curse me, then want to atone, I also understand.

I expect to be your home plate: kicked, scuffed, but always returned to.

I expect to be the earth from which you spring.

But if I release you too much, what will you have to fight against?

You need my acceptance, but you may need my resistance more.

I promise to stand firm while you come and go.

I promise unwavering love while you experiment with hate. Hate is energy too — sometimes brighter-burning energy than love. Hate is often the precondition for freedom.

No matter how I try to disappear, I fear I cast too big a shadow. I would erase that shadow if I could. but if I erased it, how would you know your own shadow? And with no shadow, how would you ever fly?

I want to release you from the fears that bound me, yet I know you can only release yourself. I stand here wearing my catcher’s padding. I pray you won’t need me to catch you if you fall. But I’m here waiting anyway.

Freedom is full of fear. But fear isn’t the worst thing we face. Paralysis is.

(from the book “Fear of Fifty” by Erica Jong)

Image from shopsaveenjoy.wordpress.com

Image from shopsaveenjoy.wordpress.com

 

Intergenerational Discord or Creative Destructions

 

It is a rite of passage to hate (at some point in one’s life) the people who brought oneself into this world:

Kids will hate their parents. 

And here are the examples:

….. Romeo and Juliet, the Montagues and Capulets being the “malaking hadlang” (great barrier) keeping them from enjoying their teenage romance,

…. Luke Skywalker (being a Jedi, he did try to manage to channel his hatred to more productive pursuits — like mastering his lightsaber),

…. Tony Stark, we all know Iron Man had a typical love/hate relationship with Howard, which proves that the law of physics saying that two similar electric charges will repel each other, is true

…. even Harry Potter, at some point in book 6, did not like his daddy, having found out that James used to be a toerag bully to Snape.

Knowing that our kids will hate us someday does not keep us off from procreating … and populating this already over-populated world with our minions, our genetic progenies, our shots at immortality.

This human propensity towards masochism (I mean how else can you describe a person who will willingly bring forth the seed of its own destruction?), a masochism that is tolerated because of vanity and narcissism (hello! parents, like god, want to create creatures in their own image!), does make the world more interesting.

As Joseph Schumpeter has so insightfully put it: capitalism is an exercise on creative destruction. Parenthood (I would imagine) is even more so.

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So, going back to my initial insight and the reason I wrote this post:  I have this  feeling that the American people will vote for Donald Trump; and the Filipino people will vote for Rodrigo Duterte for the same reason that a teenager keeps doing the things his/her parents advise him not to.

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Readings Lists:

http://www.vox.com/2015/12/1/9828086/donald-trump-

mediahttp://www.interaksyon.com/article/120949/editorial–tangina-this

http://archives.newsbreak-knowledge.ph/2005/12/05/guns-and-gold/

http://www.zoominfo.com/p/Joel-Brillantes/189440967

http://lumadsatagum.blogspot.com/2005/03/way-kurat-implicated-in-plot-to-kill.html

http://www.digitaljournal.com/article/300423

https://www.hrw.org/news/2009/04/06/philippines-dismantle-davao-death-squad

To My Future Self: Seeking Career Advice

(or if you are still clueless 10 years from now, can you just tell me if I made it past forty without dying?)

 

Image from connecticutcatholiccorner.blogspot.com

Image from connecticutcatholiccorner.blogspot.com

 

The past 4 years, I have been working in a public health institution in a Local Government Unit for the following reasons:

1. To augment income from private practice which, until now, is still going nowhere,

2. Sense of obligation to the country whose taxpayers subsidized my education (ha ha),

3.To honor the memory of my mother who gave birth to me in same city where I am currently working (classic example of crass sentimentality and hubris in action),

4. Steady source of income, albeit small (this is almost the same as reason number 1) and

5. I like the people I work with in the facility where I was assigned.

Now I am being offered a job in a foreign country where the salary is 5 times the one I am receiving now.
Should I or should I not go? That is the question.
I do not feel particularly loyal to the institution that currently employs me. There is a culture of mediocrity here that is, I am beginning to realize, the rule in most government facilities.  The problem is I am being sucked into that culture and, let’s face it, it is so much more easier to give in than to fight. My nightmare is that I will be waking up 10 years from now; less a professional and more a cog in the Philippine government bureaucracy — where a lot of things are more wrong than right; but we have to put up with it because it is better than nothing and we do not have the energy, the power or the right connections to make the changes that we want.
I am only Me. And I am lured by monetary compensation much like the next person. My private practice is floundering because I don’t have business sense and I am not motivated to do “customer service”. I know that. Why should I do more when I believe the rewards (the “real ones” anyway) are so much less than what I (or we: meaning, me and my clients) think I deserve?
And also, my present situation leaves me uninspired. Some notion comes into me to upgrade my skills, get another degree, add more words and letters to my resume; and I find myself asking: what for?
I see this offer to work in another country as an adventure,  a change of scenery, or even (with all the terrorist threats looming in that region) maybe a death wish?
Am I too old for all that? Should I settle down now and direct considerable energies, financial resources and emotion to having an offspring perhaps? (another death-wish in another form)
But … but … but …. Offsprings are so overrated! — the bitchy, scrooge-y part of me would say.
So, to my forty-ish-year-old-self-ten-years-from-now: what do you think?

Thirty-five

Germaine Greer, that controversial ’70’s feminist who wouldn’t give up, even now that she is in her 70’s, once said:

“The point of an organic family is to release the children from the disadvantages of being extensions of their parents so that they can belong primarily to themselves.”

Germaine Greer, The Female Eunuch, 1970

If I can find a copy of this is Booksale, it will go right to my TBR pile.

If I can find a copy of this is Booksale, it will go right to my TBR pile.

Miz Greer, much as I would like to agree, in principle, with your thesis, putting your point into practice would prick parents at their thorniest. Children, you see, are the emotional properties of their parents. And our parents have never; and will never (unless they are dead) let us forget that.

Mothers are the worst. Especially if you are a daughter. I cannot speak for the sons, but if they are there somewhere, I am sure they also have their gripes.

One’s mother almost died giving birth to you; so you owe her. For life.

Wait-just-a-fucking-minute!! I did not wish to be born … I was not exactly consulted if I wanted  to be brought into existence. So excuse me … if I resent your demands for my gratefulness. For this supposedly blessed gift called Life.

***

For a woman turning 35 (one score plus one-and-a-half decade) years old, a milestone has been reached. In medical parlance, she has arrived at a quandary called, “elderly primipara/primigravida”.

The term “elderly primipara/primigravida” was invented, once upon a time, when obstetrics was populated by white-men-in-white-uniform. I think that its insertion into the lexicon of obstetrics residents was partly a warning sign to girls — get a man and have a baby before 35 or you will die.

Samuel Clemens, also known as Mark Twain. A writer who died penniless. Just another chap who may just  be my role model.

Samuel Clemens, also known as Mark Twain. A writer who died penniless. Just another chap who may just be my role model.

In truth, and statistics will show (Mark Twain did say that there are lies, more lies, and statistics) that a lot of morbidities occur in women who gestate after 35. To wit: gestational diabetes, preeclampsia, gestational trophoblastic diseases, gestational hypertension, etc, etc.

I have come to believe that girls get knocked up in their teens because they were stupid; in their twenties because of peer pressure; and give in to maternal instincts in their 30’s because they fear death.

So Miz Greer …  a child is an extension of their parents. Your thesis is a fantasy. A wonderful fantasy, like The Lord of The Rings is wonderful, but a fantasy nonetheless.

But I love you, anyway 🙂

Genetic Progenies

The thing about living things is that reproduction for them is a biological imperative. Like take the virus, for example — its main reason for being is to produce another virus and then another and another; until it is just swimming in a sea, an ocean of its copies.

FYI, humans are not viruses. Although we are mammals (and the creationists would probably disagree), we have developed this thing called “culture” and we have (supposedly) this trait called “rational thought” ; so that our actions are governed by them and not by instincts alone. We act after an intelligent discernment of our condition and surroundings — ideally.

So genetic progenies are not necessarily bad, if they are already there. Like, kicking and screaming and demanding for milk or attention. If they are still zygotes … well their right to “live” is probably debatable. I think that the right of a living, breathing, thinking, woman should take precedence over a zygote’s … but that’s just me.

It is terribly insulting and very sexist to ask a woman why she doesn’t have a child; men are never asked that question (thank you Zooey Deschanel for that wonderful idea!).

There may be something racist and classist in perceiving minority women or poor women as irresponsible  sluts for having kids like rabbits. However … I have met some of these women … and they can sound very irresponsible. I lay the blame on their parents though, for not bringing them up well and not giving them a good education. Parents can so fuck up their children’s lives — especially when/if those children become parents themselves. Talk about a cycle of irresponsibility.

There is a whole world of reason why women (hey men are part of this too, or aren’t they?) have or do not have genetic progenies. Sometimes, there may not even be a reason. It (the pregnancy) just happened.

Like a thunderstorm or an earthquake.

I was interviewing a pregnant patient, and I was counseling her on family planning. She tells me that after this child, she does not want another. So I suggest, that she and her husband should decide on a family planning method. I drone on and on about the methods that are available. And this morning, the woman gave birth, and I offered her the family planning method that is currently available in the clinic which is IUD. The woman refused; said that she will just take the pill. I do not believe her. This is her fifth child by husband number 4 and I have this niggling feeling that she keeps having children to have a hold over the men she has relationships with.

I am saying this from the point of view of the child, who was not asked to be born: Hey parents, it is not your right to have kids. If you cannot bring us up in a manner that will not make us a nuisance to society, then do not have us at all. Underpopulation is currently not a world problem. And hey, it should be okay to have sex … I mean what hypocrisy is it that you tell a 15 year old child to preserve her virginity when sex is so much fun that you “accidentally” had me when you were young.

Fuck.

 

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Reading Lists:

http://mic.com/articles/112910/12-women-who-had-the-best-response-to-society-s-biggest-expectation

http://nymag.com/thecut/2014/08/25-famous-women-on-childlessness.html

http://theoatmeal.com/comics/kids

http://nymag.com/thecut/2015/03/when-men-want-kids-and-women-arent-so-sure.html

http://www.rappler.com/move-ph/issues/gender-issues/83453-early-pregnancy-philippines?utm_content=buffere26f1&utm_medium=social&utm_source=facebook.com&utm_campaign=buffer

http://www.lifehack.org/articles/money/10-differences-between-middle-class-and-rich-people.html