Friday, October 17, 2008

Why worry?

At a small gathering of friends recently, talk centered around two issues. Well three actually, the other being the C-5 at Taga documentaries involving Manny Villar. But I’ve discussed that in the last two articles. The first issue of interest was the Obama-McCain fight for the title “emperor of the world”. The other was how the world’s most powerful nation is getting sleepless over their financial meltdown.

Most everybody had an “underdog” sympathy for Barack Obama. He’s actually anywhere from 11 to 14 points ahead of John McCain, as far as the poll surveys go. But he is considered by Filipinos and the rest of the world as the underdog because of the color of his skin. Obama is in the process of making history. In fact, his candidacy and his high popularity among voters of America has already made history. But nothing can be sweeter, nothing can be more dramatic or historic, than an actual victory in November 4.

I actually felt a tinge of pity for warrior John McCain when I watched the last debate broadcast live here Thursday morning (Wednesday evening in New York). He was baiting Obama to lose his unflappable demeanor, but failed miserably. And in the process, McCain only demeaned himself before television viewers who saw him as some kind of raspy, sneering loser. Why, even his campaign manager interviewed by CNN after the debate, could only mumble McCain’s fierce declaration that he was not George W. Bush and that Obama should have run four years earlier. Brave words that mean little in the face of Democratic rhetoric about the meltdown that no matter how you slice it, still points to the profligacy and financial irresponsibility of the Bush administration over the last eight years.

So will it be Obama or McCain? That should be a no-brainer, except that it’s still 18 days to E-Day, and anything can yet happen. An egregious error on the part of Obama, or heaven forbid, some crazy from Appaloosa doing the winner in with a bullet. But it doesn’t look like McCain will score an upset because he will yet say the right words or come up with any magic formula to cure the recession, before the curtains come down on him and his moose-hunter from Alaska.

Still and all, some friends kept asking, what’s in it for the Philippines, under an Obama administration. I find questions of this kind as betraying colonial mentality. The fact is, it does not really matter. We Filipinos keep thinking official America or Americans care for us. They don’t, and it’s best that we stop caring for them either. Sure it’s a global community we are part of, but the sooner we look at all the countries of the globe, including the “istans” of Central Asia and our own little corner called ASEAN, instead of defining global in terms of what the “emperor” of the world thinks or does not think (which is the case of George W. Bush), the better it shall be for us Filipinos.

A country must always look at the world in the prism of it own well-defined self-interest. When its interest is congruent to some other nation’s, big or small, rich or poor, fine. When it is not, then a self-respecting nation must stand his ground and seek allies within the global community, instead of kowtowing to whatever the rich and the mighty want.

In any case, America will be so engrossed in the next few years with its own domestic problems that a tiny sprinkling of islands somewhere in the Pacific will matter less and less. Whether it’s Obama at the helm, or a McCain, or God forbid, a Sarah Palin at the bat.

* * *

Worries were likewise expressed about the doom and gloom pervading the world’s financial markets. To which I said that of course it’s going to affect us, but then again, when did we ever really feel better that sad developments triggered elsewhere affect us so?

When the Asian recession hit us in 1997, we were left wondering why we did not see any suicides unlike those that we read about in Bangkok and Singapore. Not that we cared enough if a billionaire or two of the buccaneering type jumped off a forty-storey building, but it never happened here. First because we were decoupled from the rest of the region simply because we were never a big player, or second, because those who ought to have jumped were smarter than all of us. They knew how to recover their losses by simply being powerful, and using that power to pay off their indebtedness. Ask Manny Villar, that’s his expertise.

So now that Wall Street is melting down, and London Bridge is falling apart, why worry?

Worried though and biting their nails are the filthy rich who thought such sterling-quality names as Lehmann and Morgan Stanley and Hypovereins and Coutts and Barclays and the Royal Bank of Scotland were safe havens for ill-gotten and laundered filth, and now see their lucre go dross by the day.

“Karma”, a lady senator lately declared of these corrupt and corruptible. But then again, that’s our money they purloined that’s now going down to the dregs.

As always, it’s Juan de la Cruz collectively holding the empty bag.

* * *

Meanwhile, the lady who gave this nation the kind of slow misery that her “better” idol in DC gave the Americans in one fell blow, still looks for succour from the gnomes of M Street.

“The World Bank”, she claimed to her mental inferiors who saw her only in the hope that she would loosen up the purse strings of the nation for their small mercies, “has ten billion dollars” as stand-by assistance for poor little us.

The following day, the World Bank said, “Ano ka, hilo?”

And her loyal courtiers “clarified”--- IMF ‘yun, hindi WB. He, he, he.

Truth is, we just have to prepare for the hard times. Hongkong and Singapore will lay off many of their domestics and the “amahs” of their children. Those who used to form a beeline for work abroad will be turned down in increasing numbers. Electronics exports will be slashed by the First World whose consumers will worry more about keeping up with their mortgage payments. The few garments we still produce will find no markets in the West, while the rest of the East produce the same much cheaper.

So it will be by the bootstraps for the benighted land. But who is to pull those bootstraps? Still the little Dona whose mandate to rule even heaven frowns upon, whose tiny fingers have turned to giant claws snatching everything, and whose appendages have grown their own appetites as much, Frankensteins yet to be sated?

God, why do you punish your people so?