A Question of Dignity

Chip Tsao’s article was insensitive, and not well-thought of.  It was a mistake, in his part.

Yet somehow, his words ring true…

Not a Friendly Satire

From an impartial point of view, Tsao’s article The War at Home does not have any defensible points.

Yes, it was satire. His style, the way he handles the “voice” in his article, and the use of over-the-top phrases (“Lenin and Stalin ideological mentors”), makes it clear that he was parodying something. However, the main thread of the article is his criticism of Chinese leaders’ apparent ineptness in imposing their sovereignty.

Consider, the logical sequence of the article (“I can understand with Russia… I can understand with Japan… but the Philippines?”). The target of his article is belittled (in this case, China), through its apparent exaggerated giving way to an acceptable target of small significance (the Philippines). The thought flows to a “You’re going too far”, directed at the Chinese government.

The rest of the article (involving the “nation of servants”) may very well be his satire of Chinese practices towards Filipina domestic helpers. This is not, however, to champion the Filipina’s cause, but more in the terms of “Come on, this is the Philippines we’re talking about here! You know, where the people we do all sorts of crazy crap to, come from-” and he begins to list them; the main target, remember is the Chinese government, and to “kowtow” to the “country of my maid” would be the ultimate insult.

Acceptable Targets

For all the politeness, and diplomatic considerations that the different countries, embassies and deputations offer, we cannot shun from the fact that, after all, the column really is the growing, prevailing sentiment towards this country. It was not that many years ago when the popular series Desperate Housewives referred to the assumed incompetence of any medical worker from the Philippines. The furor of that time began following allegations of cheating in the Nursing Board Examinations. A few more years back, a diplomatic protest was lodged against Britain for placing the definition of Filipina as “domestic helper”. They are at fault for seeing us in a derogatory right, but we ourselves are projecting an image of being acceptable targets.

Consider, that the bandit group Abu Sayyaff-and not even the main Muslim separatist body the MILF-have run circles round the Philippine military since the late 90s, continuing through Estrada and repressed only after the joint Philippine-American “exercise” in 2002, as part of the overall war on terror. Consider, that for the larger part of 2001-2009, we have been beset by military and political uprisings and allegations of rampant, vulgar corruption in the highest echelons of government. Consider, also, that we have been accused by the World Bank for alleged corruption of members of our government, and by the international community for the mass extra-judicial killings that swept most of the country until the same international pressure forced it down. Remember the way the world ridiculed us for backing out of Iraq because of one Filipino worker caught by al-Qaeda operatives during the worst of the war, and the subsequent Jay Leno quip in his show. (Though this time the world was wrong; lives did matter, even including political considerations)

All of these show a very bad image of us, as a people. And that is not even the entire picture.

Beyond the diplomatic protests lodged at the doorstep of other countries’ embassies, what have we done to fight back? If a show like Desperate Housewives can throw such a joke as a matter of course-implying that this has become a generally accepted thought-and we can continue to hear and suffer the ignominies imposed by foreign masters towards our nurses, health workers, blue-collared labor (in the Arab refineries)-why can we not do anything? Why have we not chosen to pull out of these countries?

The truth of the matter is, we are dependent upon their tender mercies. Wholesale numbers of our population evacuate the country to seek better lives and better hopes in another land. There is, ironically, a deficiency of medical workers locally when the recent Nursing graduates reach to thousands or tens of thousands. We export English teachers, nurses, domestic helpers-servants-to other countries, from Brunei to Canada, while at home we suffer lack of education, care and medicine. We rely upon other countries to host our workers and care for them, because we feel we cannot do it ourselves.

The Strong Republic trumpets a flourishing economy, and a strong one despite the growing financial crisis hitting banks in America, and Europe. Incidentally, this economy, in large part, is being kept afloat by remittances from our overseas workers.  So, logically, the government trumpets the same OFWs as Bagong Bayani, rather than crusade for providing better jobs here and bringing them back home.

Our answer to Tsao lies elsewhere

We are deemed acceptable targets by the world at large, because we project an image of being acceptable targets. What if this country stopped the export of English teachers, and distributed them to schools and universities, where, though they may not be earning dollars, the government or the country would provide the same level of living standards as abroad? What if, instead of exporting education and labor, we kept it for ourselves, and exported researchers, scientists, scholars and military engineers? Wouldn’t that be a better feat?

What if some of our countrymen stop adulating foreign (and especially American) products and thought the way a sunflowers lean towards the sun? We can always accept and absorb the virtues from other countries to our culture, but to take everything? Drugs, gangs, gang warfare-we’ve since stopped asking what products we’re being sold, or if these products will affect the moral and tangible in our personal lives; we just buy them.  So the whole world becomes our suki, and our payment is mostly in lives.

Isn’t it about time we focus on bringing these overseas workers home? Modernizing the military to the point when we no longer have to stand the petty, bullying tactics of homegrown bandit groups as Abu Sayyaff? Getting out of the school-mentality of economy, and start tangibly providing education and high-quality jobs here for our countrymen? Isn’t it about time we stopped thinking, “I paid my way to public office, I owe no one nothing” and go back to our roots? Back to traditional Filipino values? Throw away the individualist, consumerist mind-set, and go back to family-centered, integrity-first virtue;

Integrity will not feed the hungry, yes.  But integrity will keep us from being animals. Dogs will eat shit to survive; and we are not dogs.

Isn’t it about time we just stopped making this country our personal  “Hell-on-earth”, and make it something inspiring decency and principle?

So the answer to Chip Tsao, Teri Hatcher, Jay Leno and the world at large lies elsewhere: not in angry, bitter protest, but to show them that they are wrong. We do not serve them at their pleasure, we serve them at ours. We are not a backwater country, but a strong society with intact morals and principles. We will not join them in consumerist inadequacy, because we know contentment in a happy country.

We should reform, internally, and change our way of thinking; bring those workers home, give dignity to those who chose to stay, and for God’s sakes, give dignity to ourselves. Then we can face our accusers, look them straight in the eye and say “You’re wrong”.

Update: I found this link while searching through the blogspace for reactions to the HK Magazine article.   The blogger found the article inspiring, but also thinks that the overseas worker–and the Filipino, in general–deserves better.