World of Hurt

Destroyed in seconds: An Alabama neighborhood lies in ruins after being poked by the Finger of God.

By any measure, 2011 has been a superlatively rough year for Mankind. In just four months, Australia has suffered major flooding; New Zealand’s second-largest city was virtually flattened by an earthquake; Japan suffered the triple-header of the biggest earthquake in that country’s known history, a tsunami, and a serious nuclear emergency; and just this week, the southern US experienced the biggest tornado outbreak in at least 37 years – and possibly ever – resulting in a loss of life second only to the fabled Tri-State Tornado of 1925 that killed about 700 people. Devastating is the sort of word that usually turns into hyperbole if overused, but when a major catastrophe occurs somewhere in the world on a monthly basis, the word actually starts to sound a little bland.

And the disasters are not just video footage for the casual consumption of the local news viewer, but have real impacts that ripple around the world. Japan’s catastrophe, for example, has affected production in a few manufacturing firms here in the Philippines, and has even forced the Philippine government to significantly change its short-term financial planning. The flooding in Australia at the beginning of the year has interfered with that country’s ability to export coal for steel industries in China, India, and elsewhere, driving up commodity prices. Ironically, coal prices that were skyrocketing in the wakes of the floods dropped quickly as a result of Japan’s disaster temporarily wiping out demand from that country in March, but have resumed a fast climb in the past month. The tornadoes in the US, while spectacular, drew attention away from what has been a much more widespread and potentially bigger related disaster: massive flooding in the Mississippi and Ohio River valleys, where millions of acres of the world’s biggest food producer’s farmlands are now underwater.

That this seismically-active and typhoon-prone nation would rather focus on pleasant irrelevancies and the presumed sins of the past administration rather than the real risks it faces is as disappointing as it is unsurprising. Even without the famous Pinoy bahala na attitude, incomprehensible disasters make most people at least a little fatalistic. Of course there is nothing anyone can do to prevent an earthquake, or a typhoon, or a buhawi, nor can anyone do anything other than react to the global ripples these kinds of disasters can cause from somewhere over a distant horizon. That is the challenge of life on this planet under the best of circumstances. And the circumstances are most certainly not their best when we continually fill the spaces between the inevitable big calamities with lots of little ones we can hardly blame on Mother Nature – a rash of squatter-area fires, yet another landslide in a deforested wildcat mining area, polluted and silt-choked waterways, runaway population growth.

“But,” you may protest, “I didn’t cause any of those problems.” Didn’t you? How many sachets have you bought in the past month? Do you separate your recyclables and biodegradable waste from your other trash? Do you walk a few blocks, or do you take a tricycle? Did you plan all your children, or are one or more of them “happy accidents?”

And even if your answers are “none,” “yes,” “walk,” and “I’m such a good customer, Durex gave me a free calendar,” then do you know what you will do when the inevitable happens? Where will you go? How will you get there? Do you have a simple package with your important documents, a little money, and a few emergency supplies close at hand to take with you? Do you have a friend or relative outside the area who you and your family can contact for help, or to let everyone else know you’re safe?

If the first thought that occurs to you when thinking about those questions is, “the government will help us,” then consider this: in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, the city hardest hit by the tornadoes of a few days ago, the city government lost its emergency management center, several police and fire stations, all its emergency response vehicles, and its main communications tower. Governments, being human inventions, are as vulnerable to the forces of nature as any other human thing. Hoping for the best is not a plan. Let the events of the past few months be an example of how bad things can be, and let those of us who have just had the random luck so far to not be on the wrong end of nature’s wrath find ways to reduce our risks and give ourselves the best chance of recovering.

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About BenK

I write a column for The Manila Times on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays. Most of the energy sector and the heads of several government agencies probably wish I didn't.

36 Comments on “World of Hurt”

  1. The phenomena of the Universe is interconnected…this is the Truth.
    If we don’t take care of our Planet Earth, our home. The Planet Earth will not take care of us…as in the third law of Physics: “if there is an action; there is and equal or opposite reaction.” We will survive as human species…it is in tribulations, that we learn and grow…it is a growth and knowing process for all of us…

  2. Did you happen to see that so-called prophet, interviewed by TVPATROL, who said Philippines WILL BE SPARED FROM CALAMITIES?

    Anyway, it seems PRAYER is flipland’s disaster gameplan.

    1. Boy is that guy going to look stupid when something happens.

      Raising your wails of grief heavenward is not a plan, either. Some of my colleagues are deeply spiritual or religious people. But they would be the first to tell you that God isn’t going to so much as give you the time of day if you don’t do what you can to look after yourself.

  3. “That this seismically-active and typhoon-prone nation would rather focus on pleasant irrelevancies and the presumed sins of the past administration rather than the real risks it faces is as disappointing as it is unsurprising.”

    So you are basically saying that the Aquino Administration should not multitask, should not pursue major, multimillion dollar corruption cases, and should not fulfill campaign promises to the people.

    What kind of values are you representing in this kind of statement?

    Now the point that the Philippines is not doing enough to prepare for natural disasters is a good one. When no building permits are required for small structures, and small structures are built on the river banks or ocean coastline, then government is negligent. When rice fields are inundated with seawater and no alternative other than “import more rice” is promoted, then government is negligent. When no long-term plans are set forth to protect against rising seas, then government is negligent. When anti-trash thinking is not ingrained as a way of life, then government is negligent.

    But I don’t agree with values that say government should narrow its aspirations, prior corruption should be allowed to stand, and it is okay if elected officials make promises to get elected and then ignore them once they are in office.

    To me, you are engaging in the same old Anti-Pinoy rant that muddies an important message with the same old AP agenda: undermine the President of the Philippines at any cost because “we’ve argued so hard against the guy to this point, we have to justify ourselves and keep trying to paint him incompetent or we risk looking like buffoons when he does good things.”

    Incompetence is culturally well-established in the Philippines (self-advantage takes precedence over consideration and the rule of law) and one man – even Jesus himself – cannot turn the country around. If you adopt squirrely values yourself to save face, you are behaving the same unproductive way.

    President Aquino is good for the country. Embrace him. You’ll feel refreshed. Support him. You will help the country unify. And – yes -guide him. You’ll help the country build.

    I think it is of no help to whack at him with sticks from last year’s stick pile for the sake of justifying your own prior arguments.

    1. I don’t know how you went from BenK’s highlighting of Noynoy’s misplaced priorities to concluding that he was for putting a stop to the President’s “multitasking”.

      I believe the issue here being noted is a lack of priority put on preparedness which, in turn, highlights the relative importance of the actual initiatives being prioritised by Malacanang (and the Media). Compare those with the tasks as hand as far as preparing for calamities and the overall direction we are headed when we consider the unabated environmental mess we are creating. The implications of Malacanang’s misguided priorities now on the lives of the average Filipino pale in comparison with the implications of those that they fail to (but, as BenK points out, should) prioritise.

    2. We can try hard to avoid mentioning Aquino but it is a fact that he iconifies the typical dysfunctional Pinoy. His face pretty much serves as a succinct summary of the “damaged culture” that James Fallows wrote about. From what he says or does (or what he doesn’t/wouldn’t/couldn’t do) to the “reasons” people gave as to why they elected him, he has earned his place along with Juan Tamad, Willie Revillame (minus the brain and business savvy of course) and Juan Tanga as a symbol of the mediocrity and stupidity that plagues our people.

      Mentioning him is just like what the Muslims do on a Hajj pilgrimage wherein they do as “Stoning of Satan” http://www.theindiadaily.com/hajj-pilgrims-perform-devil-stoning-ritual/ to remind themselves that the fight against evil has to be forceful and stern. Whenever writers “stone” Noynoy Aquino, it is to attack a symbol of what is wrong with society and it is a reminder that the culture should be treated with contempt and struggled against until it is defeated.

      1. President Aquino is a product of his culture, indeed, of favoritism and self-advancement over the good of others. But now he is the president, with a job that none of us could do to perfection. How do we avoid succombing to the same tendencies of other Filipinos, to deride and tear down others in favor of building our own reputation? How do we achieve a modicum of sacrifice of self in order to build a harmonious, productive state?

      2. We have to be aware of those tendencies Joe and curb them. We at AP do not aim to tear down others but to tear down the behaviors of others. It is also our aim to build a harmonious and productive state and we sacrifice our on-line and off-line time in efforts to help our people. Information is power and we are willing to share our time, effort and emotions to share what we know.

    3. Joe, I gotta tell you, you are WAY TOO SENSITIVE about what you perceive to be attacks on the Aquino Administration or his presidency, and lately it is giving me the impression that you are losing your objectivity. Don’t mean to be harsh, pal, but in this case I in no way took a shot at the President — or the government in general, for that matter — but rather a lazy and inattentive public.

      1. Then I guess I misread that sentence.

        So what is the solution to the lazy and inattentive public? Lecturing them as if those of us who grew up steeped in US righteousness have the only perspective that counts, and our perspective is one of condemnation?

        Ever democratic government is full of blunders in the eyes of the opposing party or ideology. I see AP as “just another” ideology that mirrors the dysfunction of the Philippine way. Defensive and closed minded and blind to the notion of sacrifice of self.

        Figure out a way to build instead of condemn and I would happily change my overly-sensitive viewpoint.

      2. I think I made some rather productive suggestions in the second-to-last paragraph. Everyone’s personal situation is a bit different, so the answers to those questions are naturally going to vary quite a bit; but anyone can ask themselves those questions.

        Just like I commented in a FB thread about this article, the equalizing factor in any emergency is that from the instant it occurs there is some period of time in which you will be entirely on your own. It may not be a very long period of time, and if that’s the case good for you. But don’t count on it.

      3. I might agree with Joe there. He does make a point. I mean we do spend most time blaming the government than actually help them solving it, debating instead of thinking of a way to work with each other. Yes, we have intellectuals and things like those but what matters is how those intellectuals use their gifts for the benefit of our people like uniting them instead of fighting against them, learning how to communicate their way of speaking instead of calling them names.

        I mean seriously, I’m tired of looking at flaws and how our people are more shitheads than other countries. What’s the point of calling them anyway? It’s a waste of time. Call them what you like and they’ll still do the same thing over and over again.

      4. Ron, I think the attitude you carry in your post is one of lost hope, but I know what you’re getting at. We at GRP do want a solution aside from calling people to their mistakes. We are offering solutions, but they often get glossed over. Changing the government system is one, and it’s to be done at many levels. Obviously, to get people weaned off mass media is another solution, yet that is challenging to do. All solutions are challenging to do, and the greatest temptation is to do nothing.

        Of course, solutions have to start with calling out the flaws and mistakes. You can’t start a solution without identifying the problem first.

      5. @ChinoF

        Yeah but the thing is, when they point out flaws. It’s actually more of an insult. They blame things that actually are only minor factors in a disaster.

      6. “Yeah but the thing is, when they point out flaws. It’s actually more of an insult. They blame things that actually are only minor factors in a disaster.”

        And there is the reason why we’re going nowhere. Breaking down this wrong mentality that “pointing out flaws is an insult” is part of the solution.

      7. I would like to ask you this: If all we’re doing is complaining, and all you’re doing is complaining about our complaining, then what’s that make you in terms of finding a path to progress?

      8. Ok I can’t believe I’m saying this, for example, the drug mules on China. When executed, the people here blamed the government for not having a strict checking of baggage. The thing is, though the government did have problems but the bigger issue there was unemployment, drugs was only the minor issue. These people would have not taken the route of being a drug mule if the unemployment was low. Syndicates and drug lords only prey to people who are expendable or unemployed for that matter so if they do lose a drug mule, they won’t care because what they hired was a nobody.

        The smoke belching program, people here again blame the government for having a dirty air despite the program but the bigger issue here was not the government, it was the corrupt practices of the minor people below them. They actually rigged the smoke belching machine to make it look like the one they caught failed the test and will ask for a bribe. I know because I experienced it.

        Another is education, again the people blame the government for not having enough teachers but the bigger issue here was population. It’s growing and only a handful of students can be accepted on a certain school. At Rizal High School at Pasig, they have at least sixty students per classroom. I know because one student told me when I ask him about it couple of years back. The result was decrease quality of education and not enough books.

        The RH Bill of course. The priests are deviating the people’s attention that corruption was the prime cause of the problem not population. In my opinion, if something fails it is not because of only one cause, it’s several causes. It’s both population and corruption plus many other things.

        Another which was told to me by a friend of mine in the army. The terrorists. Why can’t the army beat them despite ten times its size? The real issue here was money, not because our government do not have enough funds, it’s because there generals are greedy. The generals are selling high caliber rifles to the terrorists giving them the advantage over our soldiers. In short, our soldiers are being killed by our own guns being donated by other countries.

        The point is, I agree with you in pointing flaws, but if we point at the wrong ones then it’s not really worth looking at. I mean some people are good at deviating people’s attention and tricking their minds so they won’t know the true source of the problem which is why observing is not enough, experience is still better by practical means.

      9. I think what he’s saying is there’s a fine line between fantasy and reality. There are people her that are good at giving false “flaws” that are really not flaws blocking the “real” flaws. The point is for criminals to keep doing what they’re doing and politicians to keep stealing money. So long as they keep hiding the real problem.

      10. @Edward

        Close but its black and grey propaganda hiding the white propaganda. For example, today NATO killed Gaddafi’s son but the US military apologizes for its “mistake” but it’s pretty obvious they want to kill Gaddafi and it’s not an accident that they bombed his house. The truth is being hid by a small lie or an innocent lie to make it look like an accident.

        It’s psychops method used by the CIA for a very long time.

      11. I see what you mean about Black Propaganda. But the main party perpetrating it is not the CIA in this country. It’s mass media.

      12. Members of the United Islands of the Philippines, hear these words!

        These anti-bloggers devalue the power of consequence, in which the intellectual bloggers observe and emphasize with critical analyses and responses that people, particularly Filipinos, must pay attention to the results or possible results of their actions, by demanding Filipinos not pay attention to Philippine history and future. These anti-bloggers do not care about the drug mules, the government flaws, the prostitutes, the environment, the cultural and traditional contradictions, the weaknesses and strengths, and the Filipinos. What these anti-bloggers want equate what Filipino politicians or the careless Filipinos want. They want more careless Filipinos in the Philippines! They want to destroy our nation!!

        They forget the very foundation of a powerful nation which comprises both intellectual writers and intellectual doers. When anti-bloggers demand intellectual bloggers to physically work at the suspected problems instead of observing, analyzing, and inducing ideas from the consequences of the problems, they ignore the fact that other intellectuals occupy those problematic positions, hence, these anti-bloggers pursue to destroy our dream to be prosperous nation by destroying the intellectual bloggers that which a wealthy country stands, like those terrorists who wish for chaos by killing intellectuals!

        These anti-bloggers also ignore the fact that the number of intellectual writers among the intellectuals of Philippines counts as very few, which means intellectual bloggers are not the issues here, but the anti-bloggers who influence the careless majority to not listen to the intellectual bloggers of the Philippines so there will be less intellectual writers, and eventually exterminate intellectual writers and destroy our dream to be a prosperous nation.

        People of the Philippines, it is time to stand against these anti-prosperous-Philippines wanderers. Get on the internet, analyze the responses of the observed consequences, learn from the intellectuals, and future Philippine paradise will be ours!!!!

      13. Ben,

        Yes, you provide lots of good, constructive advice.

        Ron,

        Thanks for grasping my point, and supporting it. Your case studies are superb. I think a relentless undermining of the government is not helpful, but a sharp focus on errors and inconsistencies of policies is very helpful. When undermining is done for the sake of building up oneself, it is simply being too commonly Filipino. It would be good to strive to be the uncommon Filipino, I think, and work to solve problems.

        Joe

  4. Hmmm… speaking of disasters, my friend who passed by North Avenue mentioned to me that Veteran’s hospital was recently marked as an evacuation site for disasters. That struck him as weird. Veteran’s was never named before as an evacuation site. It’s as if the government knows that something is going to happen. Well, that friend of mine really believes that a big disaster is coming for Manila, something worse than Ondoy or the 1990 earthquake. Hope it doesn’t happen.

  5. Times like these I feel like going Ra’s al-Ghul. We could save them, but I choose not to. The 1991 earthquake and Pinatubo really only affected Luzon. Something nationwide would be needed to really change things.

  6. Oh great, this is a even bigger disaster. Osama Bin Laden is dead. Al-Qaeda will be more furious, more terrorist will target the US and it’s pretty obvious there will be more killing.

    Fight fire with fire will only cause more fire.

    1. Yeah heard it dude. All I can say is holy shit!

      Osama is dead but “Terrorism” is not. They even got it worse by killing him, that means they’ve just infuriated an entire nation breeding more terrorist to join their cause.

      One strategy in warfare is to use the enemy’s weapon against them, and by weapon I mean “Black Propaganda” mixed with “Grey Propaganda.” The Al-Qaeda will use this news to spread it across their country that will inspire a lot of people to hate the US and maybe even their allies prompting them to use vengeance as a weapon.

      Its simple tactic really, first is corrupt the mind then you corrupt the body. If a human being has a cause to fight, they will fight harder. Generals from World War II used this tactic many times over killing millions of soldiers on the battlefield.

      I sure hope Philippines is the least priority target considering our defense here is so weak.

      1. @Joe

        Yeah I know, sorry about that, but you know what I mean. I was only wishing to get him alive like what they did to Saddam. Killing him is only going to get more people to kill.

        I was also thinking this: What am I going to say to the future families that these guys are going to kill in the future?

        But sorry anyway. It’s just that I’ve read a lot of history and the results are the same over and over. You kill one crimelord or a mastermind, another one emerges that’s even far worse than the other.

      1. Ron, Edward,

        And exactly what would you say to the families of those thousands who died on 9/11? That you are too afraid of the Muslim fanatics to do what is right?

      2. Cowards are the main sources of poverty and stupidity in the Philippines and destruction of the nation itself, and they compose most of the population including intellectuals. These weak people just let the criminals do their bribes, threats, and murders, and they do not retaliate for the sake of correct universal moral and ethical principles and natural rights, especially freedom and self defense, that which heroes and most of prosperous nations glorify. Here’s how these human-like sheep think: if they go against criminals, such as those corrupt politicians, street mafias, and terrorists who pleasure invoking fear by threatening to kill or killing family members of those who oppose them, these low class humans instinctively imagine their valued relationships being crushed, and therefore they must do anything, even if by means of slaving themselves to criminals by giving in to their demands, to “rescue” or “save” their valued friends or families. These bastards evidently let themselves become preys and worse than humans because they fear fighting back. What, then, ends up happening gets is these criminals become abusive in their fear mongering and they eventually use their scare tactics to rule the Philippines in however they desire, noticeably monetary. They keep taking money and keep threatening and executing witnesses until the victim themselves become part of the syndicate which then leads to the do-nothing bugs being sucked dry until they become financially unsustainable along with their country. Finally, when the citizens become rabbits, who hide and hope the vegetables do not empty, their home becomes poor, retarded, and unlivable, just like the inhabitants of the Philippines and their current and eventual end of environments.

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