The recent success of the opening ceremonies of the 2019 Southeast Asian Games and, for that matter, the overall multi-million dollar investment in hosting the Games proves a point. Filipinos, and people in general — rich or poor — love to see and experience nice things. This is the reason the half-witted argument of choice of communists — Why not spend the money helping the poor instead? — always falls flat on its face.
The Philippines is in the midst of a winning run both economically and culturally. More importantly, it is winning politically too as evident in the unprecedented solidarity seen in the way a huge majority of Filipinos get behind a popular president. There is opportunity in all that to expand the social and cultural capital of a society long obsessed with finding their place on the world stage.
Communists argue in that easy populist space that makes a dishonest play at bald envy — that, say, investing lots of money to restore cultural relics like Manila’s Jones Bridge, the Metropolitan Theatre, and prestige endeavours like hosting this year’s Games — do not contribute to alleviating the misery of “the poor”. However, there is no pride in being poor, only shame. If poverty were truly a source of pride as these radicals make it out to be, then Filipinos do possess sound claim to pride in being Filipino. The unpopular truth, however, is that one can only be proud of real achievement. In the real world, achievement is measured with the amount of nice things one is able to exhibit. That’s just the way things are. It’s human nature and human beings are visual creatures.
Indeed, throwing money at the poor may alleviate their plight, but only over the short term and only within a narrow window within which opportunities to invest the bonus cash properly will have been available. Alas, the vast majority of recipients of dole-outs remain poor — a fact not highlighted by leftist “activists” in their template protest rallies. Success, as manifested in nice things, on the other hand, inspires a broader swathe of society over a longer timeframe. This is why persistent symbols of success and beauty are important components of a society’s capital base. This is also why it is important to exact severe penalties on those who seek to destroy these and replace them with ugly artefacts associated with poverty.
It is heartening to see many projects being undertaken nowadays to build and restore things of beauty that inspire Filipinos to be a better people. This is certainly a better alternative to the poverty porn that had long characterised an obsolete Cold War ideology as well as that of a political narrative that ruled the last 30 years and was used to keep an entire people beholden to patriarchs and matriarchs of a rich oligarchic clan.
It’s time Filipinos embrace success and achievement as means to define themselves and ditch their Victim Mentality forever.
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