Monthly Archives: April 2015
In a community, which is bereft of resources, people tend to outsmart or abuse one another. Resourcefulness under this situation is not the ability to formulate a plan or an act to develop something but some kind of a reflexive behavior aimed at exploiting those who happen to be around the person himself. Those who fall prey easily are educated on the way the person was duped and in return would display the same kind of cunning and the cycle goes round and round until it permeates into the system itself and eventually becomes a culture.
It is unfortunate that there are sectors that censure each other for this kind of reflexive behavior. Christians would blame the Muslims for being perfidious; Muslims on the other hand look at Christians as manipulative as if there is something in their respective religion that dictates their reactive conduct. The new jihadist ISIS hated the Christian to the point that they wanted to exterminate them. Christian soldiers and even those Muslim oriented in western culture wanted the extremists to be wiped away in the face of the earth. They would rather look at their belief system for guidance and response although in reality, it is the very social environment, which made them the way they were.
Every culture has its respective term for it. English has a lot of terms for it. There is the ability to outsmart, outwit, outpoint; to be shrewd, clever and cunning. In Israel, they have borrowed a Hebrew term “chutzpah” which means “the gall, brazen nerve, effrontery, incredible guts, presumptuous plus arrogance.” In Pilipino, the terms “walanghiya” “gulang,” “tuso”, “astig”, “angas” and “gaspang” come to mind. Surprisingly, there are a number of terms in the vernacular but it is aimed more towards abusing another than seeking relief for one self. It is the ability to put one over another short of victimizing or rendering some one nearby to misery. It is the aptitude, the capacity to defeat anyone even if it takes cheating , duplicity and dishonesty to win over another. It is also pulling the rug from under the feet in a leveled playing field to create discomfort and promote selfish end or advantage.
From a distance, it looked like a collective instinct to cope and win. The Israelites had chutzpah and with it, they pushed their race to the limits transforming Israel as a developed nation. Filipinos much as they have the same capacity would rather be shy when prodded to apply it as work ethic. They would apply it to one who trusted them more. It is more cultural than social, more personal than ideological.
People are amazed at how Chinese are good in math. There is an impression that it is more genetic than geographic. What escapes the observer is the fact that Chinese toddlers are taught to sing at an early age with simple melodies with lyrics composed of mathematical formula. While Filipino kids sing “I have two hands, the left and the right…” the Chinese children are humming the multiplication table!
The Germans are fixated on quality. The Germanic term “qualitat” almost sent humanity in shivers when their war machines appeared on land, air and sea posed to conquer the civilized world. This was followed by USA with their properly researched manufacturing industries. This of course is a far cry from the Filipino expression of completion “puede na yan.”
At a time, a cultural time, when Filipinos are learning the discipline of workmanship, of achieving political maturity, of properly directing its capacity to compete and skip the skewed manner of exploiting his neighbor, here comes other nations nearby trying grab islands and islets within the internationally defined Philippine jurisdiction. One of them is China and it is already flexing its muscles. And why not? Over the last 40 years, it’s economy has grown 1,500% faster than that of USA!
“Lamang na nga, gusto pang manlamang uli.”
Filipinos need not resign in exasperation. It can do something like using the islands as prison fortresses but it is reluctant for fear of agitating its neighbors.
There is no worry though. Filipinos can always sigh “Bahala na si Spiderman!”
When I was a kid, I imagined myself to be a prince. And who does not want to be spoiled in the first place. Every toddler had this illusion sometime somehow, some kind of a dream actually. And of course, everyone knows that a prince had everything he could wish for. He wanted to have a good aluminum light mountain bike, he gets it instantly. He wanted to have a good meal direct from where the famous Chinese dishes originate, he gets it in bubbling style. It’s like having a magic wand Harry Potter style.
Everything the mind can conceive, progeny can achieve, to put a spun on a commercial cliché. But when hunger stalks a family, it is the kid that gets the brunt and the realization that he was not a prince after all.
On a personal note however, we never suffered hunger, much more so experienced want. We were coasting along the middle range in an ordinary neighborhood. The most that I could expect was a decent education, which I got, and thereafter, a regular job to keep skin and bones together.
Despite entertaining princely thoughts, we have to strive hard, strive harder even to gain a foothold on anything dreamt. We learned competition right in our back yard. We learned our lessons the rigid way. Nothing was given by way of discount or concession. We must have to contest it.
And because of such exposure, we were eventually primed to achieve better results. We were in better company with the Billy Gates, the Steve Jobs, the Warren Buffet, the greats. We were in a generation that virtually made civilization and technology almost attuned to what perfection means.
If there were luck somewhere, there would be savings, which could be translated into assistance whenever my parents would express ordinary caprice, like a simmering bowl of noodles from a famous joint. I succeeded to deliver the goods and like my peers, we were gainfully employed and we have maintained a posture of courage in the face of any struggle.
We were strong for our elders and eventually, we founded a family which we could further dedicate our strength. It was a period of competition, not against anyone though, but on one self. One must push himself to the limits if only to produce more for the family.
For us in the baby boomer generation, our kids must never undergo the same predicament, the same hardship as we had. They must be provided up until they reach the age of majority. No, they will no longer be cajoled to squeeze their marrows for their elders. They would have a glorious period for their own career, to engage in more savings for themselves and live independent lives.
Meanwhile, we, the elders unlike our parents before, would just be contented with whatever we have accumulated, that which could last up until the last straw is picked up. We would rather accost the kids for an easy trip and tutor them on the tricks along the way to preserve their safety. The children would just be contented waiting for that day when they would be beneficiaries or inheritors of something.
That was however a miscalculation, a kind of mistake. On second thought, children should by all means be exposed to hardship. They ought to pass through some kind of a ringer, a maze filled with obstacles. They ought to understand failure and frustration first before any taste of winning. Michael Jordan when praised for his game winning clutch shot at a dying second during a close fight in the NBA Finals once said, “that shot I made is a result of thousands of practice shots.”
Discipline and persistence learned from hard work, it must be emphasized, are the basis of competence in facing and appreciating what fulfillment is all about. Without this exposure, a person becomes a marshmallow, too soft for comfort; his shell becomes too thin to defend his vulnerabilities and his strength reduced to a minimum.
Children, at most, should be trained to be independent. They should know when to be creative and resourceful. And this is developed not from the lap of the parents but on the struggle of the family, though the prodding of the elders.
As it were, kids nowadays feel that they are abandoned whenever their career-oriented parents would leave them behind. They would sense being forsaken and would demand so much. Parents on the other hand feeling guilty would shower their kids with lots of privileges to the point that the child would maintain a world view that they are there because humanity owes them a lot. A dangerous view.
When this become the parameter in understanding life, then the succeeding generation would slow down and would slide further towards a miserable end. When this happens, dreams are shattered and life starts anew as if it never begun.
I had a meeting in one agency when I suddenly felt something eerie while walking along a crowded mall towards my appointment. It was a 30 minute walk but I had this feeling of drowning already from the vast of impersonal beings surrounding me. I felt like choking. I could no longer determine which face connotes sincerity and seriousness from among the throng that moved and was rushing towards my direction. I was almost petrified. It seemed that everyone was a zombie, denizens who are undead and in perpetual motion. There seemed to be threats everywhere.
Those I would meet exhibited blank expressions, their eyes gazing in an unelaborated manner and their hands strongly hugging their respective bags or whatever contraption was attached on their bodies. There was no gender in the way they walk; there was only a field where rush is signified in every step. It was a sickening experience. It reminded me of a scene in literature where rats were en masses following the Pied Piper.
The crowd had nothing personal except to concentrate not their environment but on that which would benefit if not protect them. In an urban setting, everyone is prey to the predatory elements lurking everywhere. Danger is always spelled in capital letters and aberration its consequent company. For the individual, luck must always by his side, never mind prayers, never mind miracles, the success of the days comes at the end when nothing unfortunate would happen. Fate has nothing to do with hazards, it is the vulnerability of the person that invites a perilous situation.
Unlike before where strolling was a joyful preoccupation, nowadays it is almost a struggle to achieve sanity while on the road. There is always a downside in meandering. It is like immersing oneself in a criminal commune until one achieves a fatal end. It is almost suicidal but for the pedestrian, there is no other option left. One must face everything even the consequence of exposures to danger if only to reach his destination. And there are spikes along the way. And those who succeed in passing through can only boast that they have been victimized more often than not and lived for another day, wiser and craftier. Peace is always in silhouette form.
Oh well, I must be growing old because it is the sanctuary of a cave that seems very desirable already. I am no longer fidgeting to challenge the waves of threats in the sea of humanity. I am no longer a part of a generation that earns its spurs through luck.
Forgive me Father for I have sinned.
It has been six decades since I have graced the landscape of humanity and all that time, I have made mistakes, blunders even, a number of gaffes, some unintentional but others largely and admittedly intentional. Not that I wish to challenge fate for I felt blest every time in every way. I could have been felled and deformed for life, if not easily extinguished for doing the wrong things although committed at the right time, and perhaps, doing right at the wrong time. For every sin or excess that I have done, I deserved some kind of a penalty but it would never come my way. I felt the gods protected me. I even suspected that I was some kind of a demi god!
No, I never believed that I had the charm; it was just that I look unimpressive to merit a significant second look. Simplicity or ordinariness marks my projection. It kept me from harm’s way.
No one would even suspect that I am capable of mayhem although my profession as a prison officer demands cruelty to a certain extent. I must live and think in a criminal way to understand the psychology of an offender.
But never for once I have abused and corrupted people. I may have manipulated them, utilized their strength and exploited their time, but never had I stolen anything valuable from them. Suffice it to say that I merely exercised the power of mind in defeating people in the game of one-upmanship. This was because in my estimation, I was a warrior in the real sense of the word.
An effective warrior is always tested on the battleground and not necessarily in the brooding and safe compound of the training school. St. Paul, was Saul the butcher of men, before he was converted by Faith. Constantine was a pagan leader before he was conscripted to Christianity. St. Augustine was a bum before he was persuaded to be a monastic.
Well, unlike my icons, I never became worst in my milieu and never transformed into a saintly being later; but I was not the ordinary do-gooder either. I lust and was covetous, gravely jealous and grossly envious. I led a cavalier life while abandoning my loved ones in favor of adventure. Although I did not desert my kinfolk, I went around fulfilling my career as if I have no family at all.
I was a coward once but renewed myself and even went beyond. I was ignored and snubbed but I struggled to keep my patience. When I realized that subservience was more gruesome, I eventually would exude courage, which gave me a name similar to vengeance. From there on, I would tread life as if challenged and threatened. In all my travels, I would be accompanied by stealth and treachery, betrayal and deceit. They surrounded me constantly but kept me at bay not to be one with them. And I would defeat them individually, cheat them if I may, and win like a rogue. Fraud, even if it is a sin, had its usefulness too.
I never harbored any thought of having a piece of supernatural strength. I do not even believe I have a lucky wishbone unlike chickens. I could easily catch cold. And my threshold for pain is ridiculously very low. While I was nimble during my juvenile years, it never gave me the inspiration to be a sportsman. My build and stature were never athletic at all.
I struggled hard to be within your embrace, morally and spiritually. Not that I was weak and given towards abomination and irregularities, but you see, life was never founded on ideal. One must commit something outside of the norm if only to survive. One must even lie to get at the bottom of the truth. One must know how to kill if only to preserve life. Controversy was everywhere and there was no corner where one can find peace unless one must create it. In medicine, venom is the same element in a concoction used in treating one bitten by a snake. One must resort to violence to achieve peace.
I have lived in a state of sin for years on end and never bogged down in sorrow. I carried the full weight of all my indiscretions. I accepted the pain and misery as consequence and it was never a breeze. While it made my life a storied one, full of fledging moments and despicable instances, it never pulled me down. On the contrary, it sharpened my resolved further. It strengthened me more; it made me saintly on one hand, and evil incarnate on the other hand.
I have loved and made commitments around so many times. I never stayed the course of loving in a conservative way. I was a romantic in the ancient sense. For each heart that I would win, my heart rejoices to the fullest. And never had I lamented expressing my adoration. There was no lust, no yearning for each heart that I would capture. There was only respect and adulation. I have conquered hearts more than territories accumulated by Alexander the Great during his prime. And there was no remorse to it.
I tried hard to be your obedient son, docile and compliant to my parents, tractable to my sister, submissive to my neighbors and deferential to all my friends. However, there are times when I must be bad especially when my family is threatened. They may not be aware of it but I am never afraid to go to Hell if that is the only way I can exchange my fate for them to live in paradise.
I seldom prayed. As a matter of fact, I never prayed at all. I merely wished my loved ones the best of everything short of subscribing the worst for me if there is a requisite of a trade off somewhere.
But I must have a clean breast, which this confession seeks to conclude.
I have sinned and never regretted it. I have erred so many times and for that I am terribly repentant.
Whosoever wants to live a full and ripened age up to more than 100 better think twice. No, I am not advocating that one should just be contented to live while one looks good. Well, first because it is almost impossible to live long with all the chemicals, viruses, stress, climate changes, treacheries, crimes, violence challenging every fiber on one’s anatomy rendering the person more matured than what he should really be, it is practical to live on a daily basis instead.
There are ways to appreciate life from the standpoint of science, as there are ways also to facilitate it in the name of morals and technology. But what is clear is the fact that life belongs to the youth and living is a mere tussle for those who achieved a certain degree of maturity. Life is a gift for those born in the light of normalcy and almost a curse for those who live longer if only to suffer the limitations of their physical capabilities.
Alexander the Great died of malaria at the age of 26 after almost conquering the rest of the civilized world. Jesus of Nazareth died at the age of 33 after he was crucified for rebellion (although there were documentaries made on His life which revealed that He actually died at the full age of 89 in a remote area in France.) Philippine national hero, Jose Rizal died at the age of 33 after he was executed for subversion during the Spanish regime in his country. John Lennon died at the age of 40 when he was felled by an assassin’s bullet. So on and so forth. Their monuments would project a look attesting to their youthfulness because of their early deaths.
And there are those who departed at an advanced age. Philippine first President Emilio Aguinaldo could have been the National Hero but he lived long enough, he died at the age of 98, and in the course of his prolonged political exposure had committed a number of boo-boos. It reduced his stature and it further eroded his accomplishments. He passed away as if he never mattered at all on that generation he offered his youthful sacrifices on.
Whichever side a man is preordained, it is some kind of a manifest destiny. He may die shortly or live to a full age. He may have contributed much despite a shorter reign or may have bored everyone for a long time but that is how life is for everyone.
Sometime ago, scientists believed that ageing is a normal cycle. Latest discovery however revealed that ageing is a form of ailment. There is even a science that advances the idea that man will live forever.
This of course is predicated on the belief that science can overcome the numerous physical and viral challenges man faces in the course of his survival. Until such time that man can treat cancer and every untreatable disease, his stint on earth still hangs on the balance.
Ageing, while in itself is a fallacy of nature, still matters at all.