Positivity in times of disaster is overrated

But of course it comes across as being “negative” when we talk about just how horrific a disaster Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) brought upon the Philippines. It is being “negative” when one points out how decades of neglect, corruption, and idiocy had laid layers and layers of the groundwork that turned much of the Philippine archipelago into a gigantic disaster waiting to happen. And, yes, it is being “negative” when we blame President BS Aquino for presiding over the colossal failure of the Philippine government to be there when it mattered.

There is nothing “positive” about this disaster. It is an event that resulted in negative results.

If only Manila had more fire hydrants...

If only Manila had more fire hydrants…

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I just gotta hand it to the morons who presume to tell me to lay off on all the “negativity” in the stuff I express in our chi chi dinners out and in the occasional updates I post on Facebook. At least I am consistent. I don’t pretend like nothing is wrong with the Philippines all year round then suddenly flick a switch and activate my “concerned citizen” mode whenever disaster porn takes over social media timelines.

I’ve just about had it with the blanket calls to “do your part”. Worst of the lot are questions like “What have you contributed to the relief effort?”. What I do and what I “contribute” is none of anyone’s business — specially of those people whose idea of “contributing” to society does not go beyond reacting to disaster. To begin with, that there are one million and one ways to donate to the Yolanda relief effort (and an equal number of promoters of those means) by and in itself indicates that there is something really wrong about the Philippines’ disaster response framework. It’s sort of like the pork barrel. Billions of pesos in “development funds” being managed by more than 300 self-important legislators translates to 300 kanya-kanya projects.

Same thing with the conduit of donated relief funds made up of kanya-kanya efforts. We have all this private-sector-driven tingi-tingi relief funding going on. Result: Lots of waste and very little scale. Why is this the case? Because during the 80 percent of the time the Philippines is not being ravaged by a super-typhoon, Filipinos pay no attention to developing a system (or making sure that their politicians do) to more efficiently fund relief at the scale demanded by the horrific situation the Yolanda disaster presents today. Instead, of spending that 80 percent implementing measures to anticipate disaster, we’d rather frantically squeeze reactive but inefficient relief effort into the 20 percent.

A disaster waiting to happen.

“Educated” Pinoys like bandying the above phrase around. But it seems they don’t really get what it means. The Philippines became that “disaster waiting to happen” because that is exactly what Filipinos spent that 80 percent of the time doing: waiting.

Next time someone tells me to lighten up whenever I complain (during normal times) about idiotic politicians, the idiotic ideas that are applied in their support, and the morons who spread those ideas, I’ll tell that person to make sure to unfriend me if the thought of telling me to “do my part” even crosses her mind when disaster strikes.

The problem with our society is that its portfolio of “heroes” are, for the most part, made up of people who fought the fires. But for me the real heroes are those who focused on preventing them. Who’s gonna sing praises for the people who were responsible for fires that did not happen? Nobody. Too boring. 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. The heroes in the movie Armageddon were the characters of Ben Affleck and Bruce Willis who rocketed to space to nuke the approaching asteroid. Not mentioned at all where the scientists over the decades who built the US’s awesome space program that made that tale within our civilization’s reach.

I find this kind of ironic when we consider that Jose Rizal is the Philippines’ “national hero”. Rizal wrote remarkably prescient stuff about the Philippines during his time. Ultimately, however, Rizal failed. His writing, though widely studied, did not sink in. And so much of what the Philippines had since become was a result of the deeper points of his ideas not being truly understood by his own people.

If Rizal were alive today, he’d be well within his right to tell us: Told ya so.

24 Replies to “Positivity in times of disaster is overrated”

  1. Filipinos’ idea of “doing something” is when a person is there physically, moving about, reacting to things, complete with photo ops. It does not cross their minds how effective that person is at a greater scale. Hence we end up with Mar Roxas directing traffic and call it working. We have a president giving away bottled water, instead of using his brain to plan for the next step for the country. We have factory managers who do menial tasks and laud them for that (not that it’s completely counterproductive). It seems we filipinos simply have a wrong notion when work is mentioned.

    1. Not to mention insisting to that foreign reporter that the dead body he saw was different from the other ones the other day. And he even claimed that he also personally remove those bodies himself like that is the biggest achievement he made in his history of being a DILG secretary. Haaay…

    1. He does have some valid point, but then comparing an island of 1000 people to a big city like Tacloban is just not right.

      I admire his faith towards Pnoy, but it can just be too much. If Pnoy hears things like this I would think it is counterproductive for him, and his comm group would just highlight this as a success story. But hey, can you blame me saying this, he has been that way since.

      And positive reinforcement just doesn’t cut it with the filipino idiot.

      1. @ Kemeo
        The govenor of Albay made some interesting points; particularly about having to bribe people with rice in order to get them into evacuation shelters. Waray-Warays are complacent and have a real “bahala na” attitude. They are used to typhoons because so many smaller storms regularly batter their coast. Most people are afraid to leave their home because thieves will steal what few meager possessions they have.

      1. Well, SuperKaloy parodies that ‘wrong question’ and he has a point?

        “E ano’ng gusto niyo, tulong na lang nangg tulong. Donate na lang nang donate. Tapos kurakot lang nang kurakot? Katangahan.”

  2. IF RIZAL were alive today he would puke!HOWEVER rizal is not the failure, Filipino’s and their idiot leaders are. He remains a GIANT!

    Another good writing and another point scored by Ms. Kate, way to go!

  3. Same frustrated Filipina here too. I don’t know if being allergic to preparedness and criticism is really ingrained to us waaaay before the Spaniards came. It’s as if the Filipinos are really that stubborn. Morons in this country are so mesmerized with action heroes (our Philippine 70s-80s cinema can prove it) that sidekicks and real thinking side casts aren’t given attention.

    Makes me wish that HAARP brain wave controller -sumthin is real and order all those Flips with rare brain activity to commit nationwide suicide.And let the thinking Filipinos take over this country and turn it right.

  4. Kate great article!

    I so often feel like there is a huge gigantic “Pink Elephant” slap dab in the middle of this countries living room and a huge percentage in this culture educated as well uneducated are walking around it, bumping into it, climbing over it and yet they just don’t see it or if they do they seem to be paralyzed to do anything about being aware of it and taking some kind of action to deal with it.

    As a foreigner in this country for almost three years now and in my communications with folks from various walks of life, whenever I point out those negative aspects of this culture that are so often pointed out here on this website and others, I invariably get the response with them shaking their heads:”I or we are ashamed that it takes a foreigner to come here to our country and point these things out to us, your right about those things!I’m thinking to myself at this point “great they see it too and we are on the same wave length”, but wait to my utter dismay that’s where the conversation sort of ends and perhaps that use to be cause I let it. Maybe I thought “OK”, “don’t be to negative, I’m from a different culture, life is sort of like night and day at times in my view and perhaps theirs, so don’t challenge anyone, just watch, listen, inform yourself, educate yourself, ask questions and try to understand what’s going on here in this culture and country!

    However, after way, way to many times of hearing this it has really gotten to be just like a huge lame excuse of which I can’t help but challenge with a response like: “What are you doing to change some of those things then? How are you informing, educating and taking your individual responsibility as citizens in this country to help yourself and perhaps others from being imprisoned in the same psyche and mind-set, the same conditioning, the same apathy, the same laziness, the same rut? What are doing to take your future in your on hands rather waiting to spoon fed or for someone else to something? Sadly they get this “deer in the headlights look” they seem to be paralyzed as to what to say, and perhaps man are as to what to do, which is sad! They often begin to tell me that “my culture is way different and things don’t work that way here” and bla, bla, bla, bla and what I indeed hear is excuse, after excuse, after excuse and I want to throw up! Honestly, inside I am feeling like I’m going crazy when I talk with some folks here, many folks actually, cause they don’t see what I think is really very, very obvious, perhaps I’m not the average bear and I am missing something here!

    Then I read these articles here on this website and others or have the privilege to meet another kindred soul and discover that I am not so crazy after all!

    So to all of you free thinkers,”voices in the wilderness”, for those who are attempting to step back and see the bigger picture of things and even read between the lines, to not just take all the B.S. that get fed as it does in all cultures and countries in this world and for whatever it is you are doing to impact and effect not only your own cultures but your fellow earthlings in this planet we call earth, I thank you!

    So hang in there, keep voicing your opinions and thoughts and don’t give in or up! Stay courageous,have faith, hope, continue to be real, and do whatever you can in your own individual and unique ways to help make the world a better place.

  5. First, “Armageddon” movie is a fiction. It will never happen in actual condition. You cannot land on an incoming Asteroid; and blow it up. You can push it away gently: out of trajectory. So that, it may be away to hit the Planet Earth.

    All of our leaders, are to blame for the Failure of Leadership on this calamity. Mr. Aquino happens to be the President. There was no working plans to handle the aftermath of typhoons, or other calamities. Our country is hit with an average of twenty six (26) Typhoons , every year. And what our leaders do is: fill their pockets with Pork Barrel funds. Mr. Aquino blames people that opposes him, for the Failure of Leadership. To deflect the blame on himself. He does not understand:”Command Responsibility”. Our country is located in the “Pacific Ring of Fire”. More calamities will come. If they cannot respond to the next disaster in the right way. They are just hopeless leaders. They cannot learn.

  6. I prefer to keep a positive mindset, if only for self-preservation. Too much negativity gives you ulcers and hardens your arteries hehehe.

    But Ms. Kate has a point. Shallow-minded folks, i.e. the extremely “bahala-na” population, would not label people simply doing their jobs as “heroes” as much, if they only appreciated the fact that all we really need to do is do our jobs right, and do them well to make life easier for everybody. Making life easier and less stressful for everybody — now there’s a notion that our leaders seem to clueless of day in, day out. What a bunch of greedy morons.

  7. All I can say is this — girl has a point, and if we (government, private sector, common tao, everybody) can pool our minds and resources and actually insist and invest on disaster prevention (and its requirements and effects — population control for the former; effective zoning and city planning for the latter) instead of flattering ourselves with dull platitudes about our ‘strength’ and ‘resilience’, maybe this country will be worth living in. Maybe come the next ‘natural’ disaster, you and I won’t become numbers on a tote board.

    (This I can afford to be positive about.)

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