Why the misfortunes of the rich are more important than the tragedies of the poor

In case nobody’s gotten the hint yet, nobody really gives a relative rat’s about the plight of those boat people and the 72 factory workers killed in a slipper factory in Valenzuela. Scan the news and the feeds and you will find that the top stories are all about the rich. Binay’s and Pacquiao’s billions and Kris Aquino’s stressful issues in an airport in Bangkok.

Even overseas, the small handful of crimes affecting three- to five-odd people in wealthy white neighbourhoods attract a massive cult following in the news while the travails of thousands of poor black inner-city folks are literal page turners (readers see the headlines and turn the page). I myself sometimes scan the “Doom and Gloom” section of our train line paper and think, Oh, 4000 dead in the latest cyclone in Bangladesh. Sad. My subconscious mind (over which I have absolutely no control) then thinks after scanning the rest of the section, well, another fine day nonetheless.


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Think about it. There are entire celebrity and society magazines that are dedicated to routinely monitoring and tracking the little “tragedies” of the rich and beautiful. But these cash-cow publications have no counterparts at the other end of the market that document the plight of squatters, trailer trash, and “ethnics” in those other neighbourhoods. The only time these “unfortunates” matter to a TV audience is when Paris Hilton decides to live amongst them for a few days.

Let’s not beat ourselves up about this otherwise natural aspect of the human psyche. It’s the truth about the human condition. We are more fascinated by the rich and beautiful and grant surplus mental bandwidth for some brief token empathy for the poor when convenient. At best. It is on this basis that skin whitening products, luxury goods, and hedonistic rituals like “Laboracay” capture our best sensibilities. Evolution has programmed our brains to acquire resources, look good, and dominate others. In fact we are all products of ancestors who, themselves, obsessively aspired for the same. If they didn’t we’d all have loser genes coding our appearances and behaviours today.

In short, there is much to learn from the rich and beautiful and the problems and challenges that beset them than there is from the plight of the poor and downtrodden. People find glamour and mystery in how people acquire vast resources. But there is nothing mysterious about how others end up wretched and obscure.

Indeed, while big thick books with very small print form a rich and profound body of knowledge on the topic of “how to get rich” and on the lives of the tiny minority of human beings who have achieved just that, activists throughout history and at present are united in a very simple straightforward explanation about the poor. The poor are victims, see. That’s all there is to it.

The “boat people” are victims fleeing persecution perpetrated by oppressive regimes in their homeland. The 72 dead factory workers are victims of oppressive labour management practices implemented by evil capitalists. All tragic of course. But there’s not much else to those stories. In other news… wonder about how Kris Aquino came to be Queen of All Philippine Media or how Steve Jobs came to build the most valuable brand of all time and a thousand conversations and a thousand books will be launched.

Who will “take care” of the poor then?

It’s long been obvious that Big Media and Big Politics (left to their respective devices) will not. They will follow the money and the road to money does not lead to the Payatas, Valenzuela, or to Burma. It leads to Ayala-developed neighbourhoods, New York, and London.

But hang on a minute, the Philippines is a “democracy” last I heard. In a “democracy”, the majority rules, right? Considering that the majority in the Philippines is made up mainly of the poor, you’d think that the “rule” of this poor would result in a government — and a media community — responsive to their needs. But it isn’t. It’s not the system, it’s the human condition. Stupid.

8 Replies to “Why the misfortunes of the rich are more important than the tragedies of the poor”

  1. Those “Poor black folks in the inner city ” our their own worst enemy. Look at Oakland and their drug, gang, gun and prostitution problems. The Culture there repeats itself over and over through 3 generations plus…. I don’t see poor Indian people coming to America and ending up like that, neither do I see countless other Minorities ending up that way…. that was a bad example … nobody cares because we are sick and tired of the excuses and the “POOR ME” I am oppressed, my great grandmother was a slave” attitude, the “fuck the neighborhood, I’ll shoot whoever and where ever I want if someone diss’s my homey” attitude of Mexican gangs, the “I am entitled to free housing, food , drug alternatives” of countless homeless addicts…. You’ll get no sympathy from the majority of hard working , law abiding people…..

  2. and also, no educated person is enamored with celebrity gods spouting their personal gripes and whining like children…. and good for Manny! He deserves all he has worked for ! At least he is an honest and seemingly humble person…..

  3. the problem with those poor people who died in the fire is that nobody gave a rat’s ass what working conditions they toiled in , until they all burned like the garment workers in the 1910 Triangle Shirtwaist fire, and then there is all the knee jerk reactions from people blaming “Americans” for buying sweatshop flip flops…I call bullshit on that, most our from china, and those there were for local use I would bet. Then there is the local officials and politicians and there knee-jerk reactions and Monday morning quarterbacking …. possibly they should have been looking a little harder way back when …and them there are the ignorant welders who caused the fire to begin with ..sloppy safety procedures which ultimately killed 73 innocents and forever changed the lives of their family’s….. sad, sad,sad

  4. Please excuse the grammar and spelling errors…. was typing a little to fast ! The mind was a whirl and a little pissed off !

  5. With the number of the “really poor” Filipinos now “only three million” out of a hundred million, maybe people think that most Pinoys are living a comfortable life naman talaga. The rest of the problem, leave it to the intellectuals or the government, ng binoto nilang politician who knows more than they do. Na kahit nakawin ang tax contrib nila ‘di naman sila naghihikahos sa buhay. Or anong irereklamo nila, they eat 3 to 4x a day, they have jobs that provide for their family, they can send their kids to school, they can have vacation once in a while, mag-food trip, acquire modern appliances or expensive gadgets, watch concerts or popular movies, mag-shopping kapag may Sale, mag handa kapag may occasion, there are those who can even follow their wanderlust or have pricey collection and they aren’t even rich. They have close family and friend ties. They always have something to brag and talk big about in their social network. They think iyon naman talaga ang mahalaga sa buhay, to have their needs covered, to have a life. What’s that got to do with the issues they aren’t involved with? There are those whose job is to deal with it, isn’t it?

    Most Pinoys are detached to the whole system, to the whole process they are part of because they’re too busy being comfortable or too busy trying to make ends meet. Probably, the reason why our government sucks is there’s only around 3% of Filipinos who suffers and there’s around 70% who can’t ask for more. They can’t think any more important reason for their existence. Their needs are covered. They have a life. They don’t know anything better. Ignorance gives them the ultimate excuse.

  6. The poor are only convenient resources of votes of this Feudal Oligarchy nation. They count only in times of election.

    Rich people, who are wealthy and famous , are featured always in our media. It is because, we are fascinated by their wealths. They are Rich and Famous…that is what they are in our society.

  7. It is as if most Filipinos would die in a minute if they failed to be updated with the latest trends in showbiz, fashion, and other matters that are too far to even affect their lives.

    I can’t understand and seem hard to accept that to most of us, we still find time knowing gossips than thinking what will be our next move to improve livelihood. Funny because I read in one article that most Filipinos have the “me first” principle and yet they are more informed of celebrities than being occupied thinking how will they next feed their families.

    Tsk tsk tsk… tragedy.

  8. Every life deserves a certain amount of dignity, no matter how poor or damaged the shell that carries it.

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