Like the word “happiness”, another word Filipinos — specially their politicians — like bandying around is “hope”. As long as there is hope, the saying goes, there is life. What the quality of that life will be, however, is an altogether different discussion.
The idea that Hope conquers all is as old as the mythology of Ancient Greece. In classical Greek mythology, Pandora was the first woman on Earth. Zeus ordered Hephaestus to create her. So he did, using water and earth. The gods endowed her with many gifts: Athena clothed her, Aphrodite gave her beauty, Apollo gave her musical ability, and Hermes gave her speech.
When Prometheus stole fire from heaven, Zeus took vengeance by presenting Pandora to Prometheus’s brother Epimetheus. Pandora was given a wedding gift of a beautiful jar, with instructions to not open it under any circumstance. Impelled by her curiosity (given to her by the gods), Pandora opened it and all evil contained therein escaped and spread over the earth. She hastened to close the container, but the whole contents had escaped, except for one thing that lay at the bottom – the Spirit of Hope, named Elpis.
It is fitting that the Greeks would go on to invent their civilisation’s most famous legacy, democracy. In a democracy, “hope” has taken its place as politicians’ euphemism of choice. Where there are no tangible solutions, no light at the end of the tunnel, no clear vision of how things will pan out, that’s ok. We simply keep “hoping”.
If we are to believe our politicians, Hope is the magical cure to intractable wretchedness. In a tweet she issued today, Philippine Senator Grace Poe quoted the words of her eminent father, the late entertainer Fernando Poe Jr that echoes this philosophy; “Huwag nating alisin ang pag-asa ng ating mga kababayan. Baka iyon na lang ang natitira sa kanila.”
Translated: “Let’s not take away our Filipino compatriots’ hope, because this may be the only thing they have left.”
Hakuna matata! Don’t worry, be happy!
This reminds me of that old commercial of Hope cigarettes aired on prime-time TV in the Philippines in the 1970s and 1980s. The ad featured a group of European-looking 20-something friends on vacation in the mountains. After a day of skiing, they’d gather in their comfy lodge in front of a fire and light up over drinks and great conversation.
There’s a light of hope when you light a Hope.
Suffice to say, these didn’t look like a bunch of people that needed to rely on the sort of “hope” Senator Poe was referring to.
Whenever Filipino politicians’ lips move we should remember that Hope cigarettes ad.
The right words are in their rhetoric, but the relevance is missing.
I recall as a kid changing the channels whenever that Hope ad came on while watching Logan’s Run. Who wouldn’t? It didn’t make any sense. There is no snow, no fireplaces, no thick plaid wool sweaters, and no ski slopes in the Philippines. Hope cigarettes, on the other hand, were everywhere — even kids my age at the time smoked them back in those days. There was, however, none of that “hope” that Madame Poe refers to in her tweet — except that this was the 1980s. We didn’t know it yet at the time, but the much-celebrated “hope” that was going to be sold to us by a bunch “heroes” when 1986 rolled in was all hot air. Easy to see that in hindsight, of course. But there it is. History is the best teacher.
Next time we hear a politician use the word “hope”, let’s respond intelligently with the right follow-through question:
Hope in what exactly?
Better yet, we should defer to the words of Cuba Gooding’s character Rod Tidwell in the excellent film Jerry Maguire…
Show me the money.
[NB: Parts of this article were lifted from the Wikipedia.org article “Pandora’s box” in a manner compliant to the terms stipulated in the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License that governs usage of content made available in this site.]
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