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.
benign0 is the Webmaster of GetRealPhilippines.com.