Africa and the stars

For most of us, the most enduring picture we have of Africa is that of a black child, skin-and-bone, starving, and awaiting for its death (a personal pronoun denoting the gender of the child here will not be appropriate because the child has just undergone what I call neuterification, a term I use to mean the loss of gender signals because the body of the child has gone through extreme wasting due to hunger, disease, and gradual demise making the process of sex identification impossible). The second most popular, and something that lends itself to the whim of popular culture and therefore the members of the younger generation are more familiar of, would be that of Madonna, Bono, or Angelina Jolie holding an African child identical to the wasted boy.

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I came across this Newsweek magazine interview with Dambisa Moyo, a Zambian economist, who had her education from both Harvard and Oxford for the launching of her book, Dead Aid.

Moyo said that foreign aid, amounting to trillion dollars over the past 60 years, is a waste. It is bad for Africa and for Africans, she said. This aid money that comes pouring from rich, Western countries is keeping the continent in a supplicant’s role when what these young governments actually need is to become self-sufficient.

Moyo believes this dependency relationship is perpetuated by Western governments and glorified by the celebrities who have made Africa their cause du jour.

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“Taking a picture with a starving African child–that doesn’t help raise an African child to believe she can be an engineer or a doctor.”

Moyo recommends shutting off all foreign aid to African within 10 years. Until just recently most social scientists and leading intellectuals in international relations have criticized this act of distributing aid because the money, more often than not, is used by African dictators to oppress, proliferate arms and weapons, and build para-military organizations to intimidate their political enemies like what is happening in the countries in Sub-Saharan Africa most notably in Somalia. This breeds more corruption and the people of Africa drowning further in the cesspool of poverty, wars, HIV/AIDS, famine, and human degradation.

For most part of the world, awareness of the plights of the continent is made more compelling with the selflessness ofe Hollywood celebrities who went out of their way and left the limelight for a while in the sunny California to serve mankind, only to create another stage with completely different set of extras primarily composed of semi-alive or half-dead (depending whether one is an optimist or a pessimist) African children; but of course our celebrities will have to retain their star status.

A smooth, white-skinned, rosy cheeked Angelina Jolie or a Louis Vuitton-clad Oprah Winfrey seated next to a dying African child is an image enough to attract help as it shows how dire the situation of Africa already is and how great the divide between the west and the continent has already become.

Moyo is right; to an African child, the image sends no other message but hopelessness, his inferiority, the impossibility of his situations, the impossibility of breaking the dichotomy of skin color, wealth, literacy, cultural superiority, and luck. His salvation lies on nothing but the benevolence and charity of the white man; his salvation will never lie on his hands.

Africa needs to recognize that only her people can save her from all the ills it confronts with as little intervention from the outside. Change will only be possible in Africa, just like anywhere, if this change emanates from within.

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The haunting

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We’ve stopped communicating for almost a year now. Honestly, I don’t want to hear anything that has to do with her anymore. I’ve already thought I’ve completely forgotten about her, that no thoughts of her could actually hurt me or expose vulnerabilities in me, or so I thought. What I feel this night is like watching a sad movie–not feeling anything during the entire two hours; after the movie comes to an end, crying inside the toilet cubicle and afterward denying the act of crying in a lame manner despite the redness of both eyes and the obvious croaked voice. Sad.

I should’ve told my friend who told me about the girl from my past not to remind me of her next time even if she has already left for the moon to be the first Filipino to set foot on its surface. I simply do not care. Not that I have not let go of her yet, it’s just that I am too conceited to admit the fact that she has been happier in my absence, that her life has never been so good, and that she has never been more in love. These, I believe, are what I am more concerned of. I am a pathetic, selfish, ego-maniacal man.

I may brush aside these thoughts by writing until early morning, by eating until I burst, by sleeping until noon tomorrow, by reading my novels written by Russian writers collecting dusts in the corner, but I can’t. I feel the complexities of this emotion, but I cannot write them down here. There is a limit to what I can share, to what I can post, to the part of me that I can lay exposed.

I sometimes question the wisdom of writing my thoughts here. The truths I’ve written here are only a percentage of what there really is. I may have written my thoughts but never completely the complexities and complications I am going through as a twenty-something during this time when the only thing that is certain is that tomorrow is definitely going to be uncertain. For what benefit will it give me after telling a story of a girl from the past who will surely just remain there? For what benefit will if give me after letting the world know the difficulties and pains this girl is causing me tonight? And that I am too affected to admit that I am indeed affected?

I guess we all have stories to tell, and no matter how the world sees it and makes judgment on these actions, these little stories of our struggles, heartaches, failures, small successes, and love are as legitimate as any grander stories ever written and will be written. So that is why I am writing these thoughts here and posting them consequently because I can’t afford to keep them inside me, I can’t afford to forget them, I can’t afford to look back one day without any recollection of this night when I was haunted by the memories of the girl from the past.

An afternoon FM radio program, the 90s, and the Filipino nation

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I’m currently listening to an afternoon radio program that plays songs popular during the 90s. It’s funny how these songs bring back memories of my elementary years when everything, without any exception, was good and nice. Listeners to this program can send their comments through texts that the 2 deejays read on air. Although it’s almost bordering to being corny and chummy, I can’t help myself from smiling because I am reminded by something I almost forgot: that I actually used to watch out for the showdown between the Universal Motion Dancers (UMD) and the Street Boys, and that there was this film I watched, which I secretly liked then, on the history of the dance group headed by the 90s most famous leading man Wowie De Guzman.

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Most young people of my age would writhe whenever they hear or are being reminded of what it had been in the 90s, although I know they feel nostalgic within wanting to bring back the good ol’ days when Siakol, Eraserheads, and Yano dominated the airwaves and Noli De Castro’s face occupied one-third of the television screen showing the primetime news program. I do not have a clear recollection of that decade myself since the life I lived was confined within the parochial concerns of my growing up years in the province. It must have been clearer and more affecting for somebody who spent his development years in a metropolis such as Manila.

My siblings were hooked to Saturday youth oriented programs such as Thank God It’s Sabado (T.G.I.S.) or Gimik unaware that these shows subliminally altered our perception of our small world. I remember emulating the speech, manner of dressing, and their conduct whenever they were with their friends of these 16-years-olds living in an exclusive subdivision in Manila in contrast to us who were then growing up in a closely-knit community and a pretty big household whose only source of entertainment was our black-and-white television which was, luckily, replaced by a colored model. Now, it is easier for somebody like me who grew up in the province to relate with the consciousness of somebody who grew up in Manila during the 90s.

Had there been no television, my idea of the previous decade would have been different and I might not have been able to comprehend what the deejays on this afternoon radio programs are saying. Television and the Media in general can actually create an imagined consciousness and pseudo-reality, but why has it been impossible for the media to act as a go-between for the shared understanding on the Filipinos identity as a nation? Why has it and still is limiting itself to some banal (that’s how I see it) functions but not with things of import and significance?

Probably it is not as easy as I see it, but what makes the experience of some of us who grew up in the 90s different from the grander experience of the nation, aside of course from sheer size and complexity? Well, the latter question might have already answered the points raised by the question preceding it.

The Philippine media is yet to realize its more sublime purpose in the lives of Filipinos. What I hope is a media that will not only inspire nostalgia in me of the decade that has been but also a shared experience of how it is to be a Filipino and to choose to remain as one despite and because of the challenges it has gone through as a nation.

How to use wireless broadband

Modern gadgets perform their best when they are not being used. The only time they become state-of-the-art is when they are in the state of rest. Other than the times they lie unused, re-charging, or hibernating they are expected to hang, suffer from a virus, overheat, or simply choose not to function because they’re like human after all – idiosyncratic, childish, picky, and fickle – a fatal result of human’s propensity to animate the inanimate.

And we humans are secretly programmed by these devices to be patient, tolerant or to simply accept our fate without question until it comes a point that we forget how it is to complain. The dependability of these gadgets is directly proportional to their price and complexity: the more pricey and complex a gizmo is, the higher is its probability to malfunction. Encounters with these sly and scheming modern gadgets make us docile creatures stripped with what used to be our unalienable right to complain. No one in his right mind, of course, could seriously air kvetch and displeasure when any of his gadgets decides not to do the work it is expected to perform for such is futile. No amount of wailing and sighing will bring these gadgets to sanity.

And to add, these bouts of malfunctioning occur when they are needed the most, say a final presentation in front of your boss where the projector chose to show nothing but blank, black space, a text message that could have saved your relationship but the mobile phone chose to freeze and hang just when your girlfriend asks you if there is still hope to mend things between the two of you, or your 300-page term paper that became invisible all of a sudden because your laptop allowed a virus to play with its mother board.

Such are the perils of modern technology and its connivance with its arrays of small gadgets; they market themselves as man’s salvation from slavery, from wasted time, from inconvenience, from discomfort, and from all ails of mankind imaginable, only to create new and more complicated problems.

For the past weeks, I’ve been using this small black device I bought for a price to give me broadband access, which according to its ad on TV will allow me to use the web any time I want, anywhere I am because the service provider has the largest network in the archipelago. I’ve been so used to slow internet access before that I’ve already lowered my expectations. It boasts 2mb/s, just right, I thought, because I do only minimal things in the web, send emails, download articles, upload my blog, and I do not even open porn sites because I am of the opinion that they are trite and cliché.

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Here are several tips on how to take full advantage of your Smart Bro wireless broadband provider:

1. Web connection is interrupted after every fifteen seconds which is a good way for anyone to practice typing. In a span of 2 weeks I can finish typing a 500-word article in 10 seconds. I am looking forward to a career as a typist thanks to my Smart Bro.

2. Smart Bro will make anyone who uses the service pious and moral because, as mentioned, porn sites are “banned” since they take almost forever to load, which, if I may emphasize, will be have to be interrupted after fifteen seconds disabling anyone to see the lurid acts between two, or more, naked human bodies.

3. If the user is enterprising enough, a distillation set-up can be attached on the small black thing since it gets insanely hot at an insane speed.

4. Its shiny black finish looks elegant and classy, using it as a pendant paired with a silver necklace will make you the envy of anyone you meet. They’ve also come up with tattoo designs for those who want to express their rebellion against the status quo.

5. Using the device will save electricity and lengthen the life of the laptop/desktop computer since after 30 minutes of use, which is charged 10 pesos, the user will get exasperated and irritated that he will give up using the computer and instead go out and pay for the cheaper and faster internet connection provided by internet cafes.

Technology forces us to think out of the box inasmuch as these gadgets were created because the developer thought out of the box. It’s an endless battle involving stealth, cunning and street-smartness. The winner is he who gets in control and can think of novel ideas to use technology beyond its intended functions.

On cusses and curses

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I was on my way to Espana Boulevard hurrying to catch an FX or jeepney going to Cubao when I inadvertently blocked the way of a red Toyota Innova. I passed the van without realizing that I almost caused an accident when I shortly heard a malicious horn from the car. The owner then opened the window of her car and shouted a crisp:

Gago ka! Putang ina mo!

(The first statement is untranslatable to English; the second one can be literally translated as “Your mother is a whore.”)

She was a middle-aged, middle-class, professional-looking woman. She looked like somebody I did not expect to say those words.(She was almost the age of my mother whom I cannot imagine to be capable of uttering such statements).

Money may allow some of us to have the opportunity to ride an expensive car, buy signature clothes, or live in an opulent house but unfortunately it will never buy proper breeding, taste, and manners.

It was the first time I heard these cuss statements meant for me said in a very dead-serious tone. It utterly disturbed me; not that I took her statements personally, but it was more of an unpleasant and disappointing amazement.

I did not know how to respond. I was about to give her a dirty finger or an expletive as malicious if not more than what she hurled at me as my reply; however, just in time I opted to remain civil and instead coyly gave her a smile. I knew that the encounter I had with her would ruin the rest of the day, and indeed my day was consumed with thoughts of the woman’s face, the intensity of her words, the flaky make-up she covered her face with.

Thoughts of her kept haunting me. Thoughts of her words caused me to cringe and squinch. I’ll never get used hearing curses and swears. Staying in a big, alienating, tough city like Manila will never, ever, be an excuse to be rude and to forget about proper demeanor.

My illogical side

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It is the least of my intention to be platitudinous, but let me write about love. It’s been a while since I thought about this human emotion that I have ignored for quite a long time, now I am indulging myself in this entirely masturbatory topic. Love. Dissenting opinions will not be tolerated, at least for this post alone. I simply cannot bring my self to sympathize with other people’s beliefs when it comes to matters involving love. My mind is closed; I rigidly adhere to what I believe, but the funny thing is that I do not quite know what I really believe in.

This post may imperil my blog’s integrity because of its unbridled self-centeredness although in the first place I do not really give a damn about what the world says about me, the way I write, and the subject of my writings.

It’s as if anything is possible, achievable, easy if we go with life without this pesky thing that boggles and leaves us flabbergasted every time we are hurt. I said good bye to it a long time ago, but before I can have my precious solitude, I’m feeling it sleeping beside me, kissing me, embracing me, caressing me.

Oh love, why can’t you just leave me alone?

I am writing in cryptic, ambiguous terms here because everything seems cloudy and shaky. I do not anymore know what to believe in, what to trust, how to act, what to think, how to be me. To date, this is one of the lowest points in my life; although a helluva of hurdles are on their way, I am wallowing in the raw intensity of this emotion, for what I’ll have in the future will never be like this one.

But I guess I have no choice but to let go of my precious solitude and allow this thing to kiss, embrace me, caress me, even just for tonight.

I should’ve have gone crazy if this post sees publication in this site.

A return to television viewing

Except for watching excerpts in Youtube.com, I had no access to any of the television programs in the Philippines while I was still in Vietnam. For the first time tonight I watched a TV magazine program Jessica hosted by GMA7 head of news Jessica Soho that featured how Filipinos deal with poverty. Nothing much has changed since the time I left, and I do not expect for changes to happen any time soon.

The narratives used were that of the tried and tested, trite order: the poor and how despite in the midst of poverty are still able to make their lives better, livable, almost fairy tale-like. The program is guilty of romanticizing poverty. Poverty is never romantic; it’s not beautiful; poverty’s face is ugly.

Production-wise, Philippine TV is definitely better than that of Vietnam or Malaysia. It is safe to say that Philippine TV is the best in Southeast Asia, if not in the entire of Asia only as far as the execution of the program concepts is concerned. However, in terms of content and whether these programs result to national development, most television programs in the Philippines are often found wanting.

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Take for instance the investigative program Imbestigador hosted by Mike Enriquez. It seems to me that the producer of the program has high propensity for showing entrapment of people or establishment that are involved in sex trade, as if the poor in this country are maniacal when it comes to their quest for carnal pleasures, a line of thought an ordinary viewer is led to take. No Saturday night is complete without a girly bar in Pasay or a gay bar in Quezon City being infiltrated by an undercover from the National Bureau of Investigation or a production assistant acting as a gay customer and being raided after necessary evidence are already at hand.

If there is an adjective that would appropriately describe Philippine investigative media, especially those airing in prime time it would be so-funny-because-they-assume-all-viewers-are-dumb-or-pathetic.

I’ve been keeping myself from watching Filipino shows since college except for news program, although I was a media student, because I got fed up with sensationalism, bad humor, gore, blood, and sex. But I guess this has to change. I’ll be writing more about the good and the bad faces of Philippine media more frequently from now on.