So according the the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP), 2015 will be “The Year of the Poor”, a declaration which coincides with the arrival of Poper Francis earlier that year…
Why declare a “year of the poor”? Perhaps it is because at any other time, the Philippines is anything but a society that is of the poor despite it being saddled by an overwhelmingly impoverished majority. Indeed, being majority impoverished does not necessarily make a society empathic of poverty. Quite the opposite, as a matter of fact. Poverty is such an in-your-face condition in the Philippines that Filipinos have become desensitised to it. Morning and evening commuters slogging through Manila’s appallingly gridlocked traffic are familiar with — and obvlivious to — the sight of wretched children begging and selling cigarettes on the city’s steaming streets.
“We as the Church of the Poor are called to renew our commitment to Christ’s mission and to always take the side of the poor and the oppressed, especially when and where there is injustice and denial of basic human rights. The farmers that till the land to bring us food, the fisher folks who navigate the seas for us and the workers who run the industries are still materially poor after decades and generations of work for living. Their dignity as co-creator of the Lord should be reclaimed,” Fr. Enrico Martin F. Adoviso, chairman of the Archdiocese of Manila (RCAM)’s Commission on Social Services and Development (CSSD), said.
For that matter, the neglect of the devastated areas in and surrounding Leyte that Typhoon Haiyan left behind became more acute as the world’s cameras turned away to more newsworthy stories. Perhaps the arrival of Pope Francis promises the return of the spotlight to the conditions suffered by Haiyan’s victims. That remains to be seen. And so, we are led to believe, declaring 2015 “The Year of the Poor” might help. It will, as the thinking goes, create that much-needed awareness of poverty among Filipinos. Or so we think.
Who exactly is a “Year of the Poor” supposed to benefit? The poor don’t need to be reminded of poverty. They live it day in and day out, year after year, generation after generation. They have no need of such token gestures of “awareness” like declaring an entire year of awareness of their plight.
Rather, it seems, that the rich are really the ones who have a bigger problem with poverty than the poor. Indeed, pity the Philippines’ rich. They are forced to live in fortified residential enclaves, hire 24-hour armed security guards, and carry around guns to protect themselves from the poor swarming around them everyday. The poor cramp the style of the rich too. That’s clearly evident whenever there is an international conference coming to town and the screens and fences come up around sections of roads and bridges between the airport and hotels and convention centres where delegates congregate lest they see the squalor just a stone’s throw away from their airconditioned cars.
And lest we forget, the government Filipinos suffer today is a government created by the poor. Filipino voters are overwhelmingly poor and are thus susceptible to bribery, clever marketing and persuasion tricks, celebrity endorsement, and empty but seductive populist rhetoric. The poor amongst the country’s electorate is where all the wrong arguments, flawed thinking, and moronic ideas of ill-bred, ill-educated, and borderline-criminal politicians take root. The Philippines’ poor is where bad strategy, bad policy, and bad execution thrive. Because poor people lack sufficient critical thinking faculties, Philippine government will, for the foreseeable future, be a stark reflection of this profound intellectual bankruptcy of Philippine society.
So, really, there is no need for a “Year of the Poor” to be declared. The true rulers of the Philippines are the poor. Their vast colonies are nurtured and farmed for votes by Filipino politicians and their impoverished thinking is pandered to by sloganeers, public relations consultants, and copy writers every election campaign season. The Philippines, contrary to popular belief, is a tyranny of the masses. Every year in the Philippines is a Year of the Poor whether or not a bunch of men in robes declare any one of them as such.
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