In Filipino Voices – this collaborative I also write for – Jon asked if we should “Take any murder, take any crime, blame it all on GMA?” Apparently tired of hearing the “it’s because of poverty and it’s because of the government” rhetoric, Jon opined that the RCBC murders were fairly simple to explain using only basic facts without necessarily going “down to the level of politicians who just love pigging around in the mud,” i.e., without dragging politics into the whole sordid story.
I didn’t mean to bring politics into this thing. I’m just really tired of people making all the right noises that’ll make all the right news broadcasts when they know – they must know – that no amount of outward display of their steely determination will really make their promises come true. The display may be sincere, but at the root of it, I’d say cynicism rules the day.
Like I said, I’d rather they just bow their heads in shame.
But let me ruin this apology with an excuse.
I never said poverty had anything to do with this. So even if I were able to somehow lay the blame for RCBC on GMA’s twinkle-toes by tracing the roots of poverty back to her and her policies, I would still believe myself to be bullshitting you. And I bullshit you not.
The people who did this? They may not have been rich, but they definitely weren’t poor. At least not the kind of poor that drives you to crime. The kind of poverty that fuels crime is also the kind of poverty that makes you desperate. You end up on the streets, victimizing targets of opportunity; snatching stuff; mugging fat people who can’t up a good fight. Strictly small potatoes.
That kind of poverty is not conducive to the kind of premeditation necessary for a bank heist, much less a bank heist that involves managing to turn off security cameras. Nah. Those murderers weren’t the kind of poor that people typically blame GMA for. They were greedy.
So, if I were to blame GMA for this, it’d not be for causing poverty. Think clearly now. It’d be for creating the environment that allows people to believe they can do this sort of thing and get away with it.
If I were to argue that this is somehow GMA’s fault, I would say that corruption is propagated by example. The shennanigans of the biggest fish embolden every smaller fish in the ocean – right down to the teeny-tiny guppies.
More than that, corruption at the highest levels requires the complicity of the smaller fishes at lower levels. And these smaller fishes have their own little circles of corruption where they are the big fish. And these little circles of corruption require the complicity of the even smaller fishes, who in turn have their own little kingdoms. And so on and so forth in an unbroken lineage that connects the corruption of the biggest shark to the corruption of the littlest minnow.
“We can do this” one minnow said one day to another minnow, “because we’ve got the sea-bass bribed to the gills. He’ll make sure he never catches us! HAH!” The other minnow replied: “But won’t the tuna smack the sea-bass if he doesn’t do his job?” “THat’s the sea-bass’ problem!” the first minnow grunted.
“Don’t worry about it, tuna” the sea-bass said. “Just make sure you support the shark’s other – uhrm – activities, and he’ll leave you alone, just like I’m bribing you to leave me alone.”
“But what if those minnows do something really terrible?” the tuna asked.
“Who cares? Even I don’t know what they’re planning. All that matters is that they pay me, and now I’m paying you. DOn’t think, tuna. Just swim away.”
Days later, the shark goes: “Damn those minnows!!! Tuna! Make sure that they are caught, filleted, and laid out to dry!”
The tuna snaps to attention, barks at the sea-bass, who orders that all wrecks and reefs be scoured for those dastardly minnows. And somewhere in the dark heart of the ocean the minnows watch and laugh.
Fortunately, I didn’t even set out to try to make that point. I’m just showing you that the point can be made, even with a minimum of hysteria or demagoguery. OR, as you say, rhetoric.
My real point, dear Jon, is that the President’s instant and – let’s face it – canned response just rang too hollow. You’re right when you say that it is part of the President’s job to talk about justice and what-not. BUt it is also the President’s job to be sensitive to the needs of her grieving people.
While the President has to watch out for the entire country, when something as senseless as these RCBC murders takes place, she can afford to be more human, and less presidential; she can, and she ought to, spare a little effort focusing more sharply on the needs of the governed – not as a body politic but as individuals who are hurting so grievously. And as individuals, these people did not need hollow reassurances of justice, they did not need to have their tragedy co-opted into a sound bite, they did not need to be turned into the casus belli of anyone’s war.
Once, a long time ago, someone in government was killed. The President, at that time simply came to the wake, stayed for a minute – just barely long enough to hug the widow and whisper her condolences – and left. Just one bodyguard, no entourage, no media; and the story of her visit never made the papers. I daresay that low-key act of sympathy meant more to the widow than any thunder for public consumption.
I suppose, that’s what I was hoping for here.