A tertiary friend asked me a few days back what was bothering me. We were having tea and she stood up to get more sugar, when she came back to our table I was staring blankly at the swirl on my hot cup of tea. So she asked me what I was thinking about, and what was bothering me so much that I couldn’t hear her calling my name the first time.
“A lot of things,” I told her. Perhaps to sustain the conversation, she ventured to ask me what those things are.
I did appreciate her interest, and believing fully that she was truly interested to know, I told her the many things that bothered me.
I told her that I was and still am bothered seeing that brown man (must be a Bengal or a Pakistani) at the parking lot days back. He had a limp and he was picking up trash. He was wearing a street cleaner’s uniform so I knew that that’s what he was. He had a severe limp, one that, from my judgment, should require one to take a leave from work. He smiled at me when he saw me passed by. He seemed like a kind and gentle person who was just unlucky to be born in a country where education wasn’t given much importance, a life that led him to become a street cleaner in a country that exploits him and many others like him. One source told me they are only paid 800 dirhams a month, and what they do isn’t exactly an easy job. But they are only paid that much because whoever hires them, knows they need money, and therefore do anything to keep a job.
I am bothered by how deftly the Duterte administration dismantles Democracy in the Philippines.
First, make the citizens think the mainstream media are all biased and therefore, couldn’t be trusted. While it is true there are journalists who do not possess even a semblance of credibility, there are a number of others who were able to keep their integrity and credibility intact through years in the industry. Nevertheless, what the Duterte administration did was make the citizens think all media are against the president, and are out to take him down. Him, Duterte, who is the bearer of change.
Second, have trolls spread hoaxes and fake news on social media. They let them fight those who are against the president. They know that would wear them down, and then the president’s own minions in the government could do their respective jobs, too. So those who are against the president will have to combat those whose names and faces they know, and those who can only fight behind a troll account on social media. Division of labor. Some of which are paid, others, unpaid. Brilliant and economical, right?
Third, while the nation is already divided between those who support the president and whose loyalty is already devoid of reason and maybe even of morality and those who are against him and the injustice he so obstinately breeds, attack the chief magistrate of the land. Put her under threat of impeachment and bulldoze her way to being kicked out of her position. That will leave the nation vulnerable and it would only be a matter of time before the falls head first into the president’s obvious tyranny.
My friend could only smile as I told her all these. And realizing that there really is nothing significant that either of us could do, I took a deep breath and laughed as I exhaled. She laughed with me.
We all have our respective jobs and our respective lives to distract us from what’s happening around us. And many times we are forced to not think of these things precisely because there is nothing significant we can do about it. I succeed at being distracted and keeping thoughts of this sad reality at bay for a few hours every day. But at the end of the day, these things are really happening. And whether we realize it or not, the politics of our country and of the world, the things our governments do that we tolerate without careful analysis…. All those things will come to bite us in the end.
And I don’t know about you, but the thought of that bothers me all the time./WDJ