McHeroes: Filipinos need to cure their addiction to disaster heroism

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As what usually happens following another disaster, another tragedy, another “accident”, or another crisis, “heroism” is, yet again, the word of the month. Heroes are currently at work delivering relief, comforting the victims, counseling the hapless, and inspiring the desperate. We are told these “heroes” are also facing the “great battles ahead”. Presumably those “battles” are to involve building upon all that temporary relief, comfort, conseling, and inspiration that are evidently in abundant supply and prominent exhibition today.

yolanda_heroesI’m not really sure though if one can realistically use “heroism” and “ahead” in the same sentence. Stories of “heroism” after all are really just backward-engineered tales. As my colleague Kate Natividad pointed out in her article Positivity in times of disaster is overrated, “There are lots of blockbuster movies about dashing firemen but very few about people who invented fire hydrants, enforced the use of firewalls, and installed sprinkler systems.” So it follows:

The “battles ahead” will not be fought by “heroes”. They will be fought by people who take time out to think.

In a way, “heroes” are kind of like parasites. They rise to prominence on the back of war, tragedy, and extreme need — swooping in to save the day for the hapless lot.

Heroes thrive in soceties that are victims of failure in thinking. This is pretty much what the Philippines is — a result of failure of thinking on a national scale — the outcome of decades of squandered opportunity and a case study of a vast failure to return on massive amounts of domestic and foreign money and resources thrown at its problems.

Perhaps because Filipinos have proven time and again that carefully-crafted long-haul investments thrown their way routinely end up in a big black pit, never to be seen or heard of again, the default comfort zone are “heroes” — those dashing folk who suddenly emerge out of the woodwork and step into the limelight “contributing” a perpetual effort to sew patches on a moldy blanket being relentlessly eaten away by the larval spawn of their society’s politics of greed. The sort of national sentiment that propagates this easy reliance on “heroes” and downplay of long-term thinking is best encapsulated in this sort of wistful take on today’s situation.

While the world witnessed a great tragedy, I see this experience as proof that we love and care for one another. We have shown God the right response to this devastation. God has seen that we are still one and He has shown his presence once more.

Indeed, in the context of appalling tragedy, it is easy to “prove” that this “love” and “care for one another” exists. The actions of “heroes” and the “presence” of God lend an imagined credibility to such claims of the existence of those things.

The challenge, however, is to demonstrate the same “love” and “care” under more normal circumstances. In societies where things consistently work, that “love” and “care” Filipinos see only in times of disaster can be easily seen, felt, and tasted everyday. It can be seen in the properly-paved and thoughtfully laid out roads, the immaculate cleanliness of lavatories and public spaces, the clockwork-like running of transportation and logistics systems, the authoritative presence of competent police officers, the awe-inspiring might of military resources, and the common courtesies ordinary citizens pay to one another as a matter of routine.

To celebrate a small handful of heroes that lived and died over the course of, say, a 400-year history is peachy enough. But to celebrate “heroes” year in, and year out within a mere ten-year blink of an eye has become worse than boring. It has become an embarrassment.

Perhaps it’s time we let disaster relief work be just what it is — relief work. There should be no McHeroes in a modern 21st Century society — only people who do their respective jobs properly.

Otherwise, could I please have a medium fries and a large coke with my McHero sandwich plez?

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24 Comments on “McHeroes: Filipinos need to cure their addiction to disaster heroism”

    1. TROLL. 😀

      And it’s the same crap all over again, then what’s next? Playing the victim card?

      Quit yer trollin’.

      1. It really depends on how effective is your so called “action”.

        If your action is someone carrying buckets of water endlessly to the village from a distant water source as opposed to someone who is planning and then installing a water pump and pipe it to the village then it is obvious who is more effective.

  1. true true. the real heroism would be for public servants to do their job right the first try, and for the electorate to be wiser in choosing leaders.

  2. The Marvel/DC comics-turned-movie may have made such an impact to Filipinos in general that we yearn for real life “heroes” to save us from danger lol. I jest, thanks for sharing another great article btw keep ’em coming!

  3. Nicely put, Benign0.

    To share also, in my first few years of work after college, I was assigned by my boss to be, as what he called “bumbero”, to fix problems on the production floor as they arise. This has been the reason I rose through the ranks because everybody saw me there physically when problems arose. Those were glory days.

    Now that I am in the Planning department in another company, making sure to achieve goals in time and at the right cost, with minimal hassles, there are no more glory days for me even though this is more important than the “bumbero” job.

    People just have a wrong notion of “work”, especially in the Philippines.

    1. Yeah. It’s an unfortunate reality of the dynamics of society and the very kernel of most things political. It’s more often about perception and less often about real results..

  4. A consultant surgeon from the UK signifies the many heroes giving up time and well paid jobs to help others in times of need. An extract from his diary.

    By RICHARD VILLAR
    Thursday 21 November 2013
    “So here I am in darkest Tacloban, having taken a slow drive and a walk through its streets. The damage is truly astonishing. Quite how any population can
    recover from something so big, so devastating, I have no idea.
    There are Marine Police boats lifted into the centre of
    main highway, ships tilted dangerously on the shore.
    There are bodies still rotting at various points and dogs
    crazy with hunger, scavenging for anything they can find. There are young boys, old men, and women too, begging for a gift from this passing stranger. Tacloban
    is not a place you would wish your worst enemy to be.
    Yet while I am surrounded by evidence of nature’s cruelty to mankind, I am also surrounded by a most impressive attempt at reconstruction. Streets that were
    blocked only three days ago have now been cleared.
    Operating theatres in one of the city’s main hospitals are scheduled to start work again within the next few days. The theatre staff have been sweeping, mopping and cleaning within an inch of their lives. The Philippines the world once knew and loved are already beginning to reappear.
    One significant issue is affecting our theatre activity at the moment. There is a significant lack of disposable items. We have undertaken so much surgery that there is almost nothing left. We are improvising as best we
    can – we have recycled the paper wrappers for gloves
    and have turned those into drapes, as drapes are
    lacking. We no longer scrub our hands as far back as the elbows as there are no towels available to dry our hands and arms. Consequently we wash our hands
    thoroughly, finish off by washing them in spirit and then wave our hands about in the air for two to three minutes until they are dry.
    There was, however, an especially challenging case today. Our Theatre Sister, Geraldine, an Irish girl of some repute, had stubbed her toe on a rock that was securing her tent from the high winds and rain. The thing had bled and the toenail had started to lift. It was not going to re-attach, that much was clear, so the
    nail had to come off. I could see Geraldine hesitating as to what she should do but in the end she plucked up courage. A surgeon was selected, the patient was
    anaesthetised – local anaesthetic of course – and the entire theatre team stood round with cameras.
    Poor girl, that must have been the most photographed toe in history, but the nail came off with ease.
    Geraldine, being the tough individual she is, kept away
    from work for precisely one hour. After that she was back at the operating table as if nothing at all had happened, a motivated aid worker if ever there was
    one.”

    1. Lieutenant Colonel Pacquiao busy promoting China’s gambling mecca Macau for the communist.

      More Fun In Macau

      Considering he is a Lieutenant Colonel in the army and the Chinese are stealing Philippines territory you would think he rather vocal and against helping the enemy.

  5. hmmm…

    What if some of these “heroes” had a hand in the undoings of our society, so they can act like heroes for us, come in our time of need?

    1. That only goes to show that “heroes” are sometimes staged. It’s all one big fake. What classic storyline has the villain pretending to be the hero… I recall only Transformers when the Decepticons fooled human governments that they were the heroes and tried to send the Autobots to the sun. Well, there have been more. And the Bible has this quote wherein “the devil disguises himself as an angel of light.”

  6. People seem to expect some “father figure” to swoop down and fix this dysfunctional govt. in six short years. Perhaps we have been listening to politicians like Manny Villar who claimed he could “eliminate poverty.” It is obvious that people expected too much from the president. He is after all, just another rich kid (Cojuanco.) Instead, we have to do the hard work ourselves. It needs to be a grass roots effort. Volunteer in your community. Pick up trash. Stop polluting. Adopt orphans instead of having our own children. Stop having huge families that we cannot afford to feed. Volunteer in your local school or as a part time tanod. Get involved.

    1. The yellow idiot promised the moon and the stars and everybody fell for it, including the non class D and E.

      Get involved? Give us some tax cuts first, lol.

  7. To me, it is us who are heroes. Look into yourself. You overcame difficulties and hardship in life. You made yourself, what you are now. You helped others (if you had done, so).

    You don’t have to put people on pedestal, and worship them as heroes. You don’t know the inner life of that
    person. You, yourself know yourself. Your ups and down. Our leaders may had failed in their leadership. But, there are good Filipinos, who went beyond their capabilities, to help their suffering countrymen. Congrats to these true heroes. The people who blog to inform other Filipinos. These are also heroes. The Filipinos who go to foreign countries; to earn money for their families; and to make their nation stay economically afloat. These are heroes. The politician who refuses to dip his hands into the public fund; in order to steal. These are heroes. Bravo!!!May these people be our inspirations.

  8. Yeah. Its always preferable to spout BS in the interwebs rather than doing something concrete and productive. What else can you do when that’s the only skill you know?

    1. You mean it’s BS, that when you saw Mar Roxas directing traffic after Haiyan, you idiots were impressed, without even distilling the fact that what he is doing is an insult to the filipino intelligence?

      What is concrete and productive? You mean me, paying my taxes honestly for decades now (if I summed it up, could have bought few houses and lots), trying my very best to follow every law of the land?

      What is my skill… besides criticizing the the government? I have been working my trade here and aborad, being one of the people keeping the Philippines afloat ans so that you BS Aquino can give some CCT to those poor old lazy SOBs (not that all of them are lazy SOBs,…. where applicable ok).

      Concrete and productive…..sheesh! What a load of crap… as far as every filipino taxpayer is concerned, they are doing something concrete and productive, and as a bonus, we are also trying to keep the idiots in the government on their toes, which I believe you do not want us to do.

      Sheesh, what an idiot.

      1. oh and add to the my contribution of something concrete….aside from keeping my family comfy…also help in lining the pockets of the idiots in government.

        BTW, what sis you think was concrete and productive?

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