rants, raves and randomness
I was trying to introduce my husband to some of the animation I used to watch as a kid. I played some videos on Youtube of Nelo and the Dog of Flanders , and I was trying to tell him the part where Nelo and his grandpa were evicted from their home because they were unable to rent. Aren’t they, I said to my husband, kawawa?
To which my husband replied, Kawawa? No. If they can’t pay the rent, then they are the bad ones.
But, I insisted, they didn’t have money…
Well, my husband, that’s hardly the landlord’s fault, is it?
To be honest, I couldn’t remember the circumstances of Nello’s eviction- whether, indeed, it was justified or not- but I do remember feeling really bad about Nello and I wanted my husband to feel the same way. For him to sympathize and empathize. However, my husband’s comment threw me off-guard. This isn’t just his words, of course. This is a reflection of the type of culture he was raised in, it’s practically common sense. Now, some years later, I have a property myself – earned and worked for, mind you, not inherited or (s)mooched off my parents – and I have more in common with the evil and vile character of my favorite animation, the landlord, than the hero.
From A Dog of Flanders (1999 film) Wikipedia :
Let’s get real. If a starving artist fails to pay me rent, I will evict him too. And I don’t need to justify myself to anyone – I earned this property. It’s a business, not charity.
But in the Philippines, I will be considered evil and vile. Because pity is always on the side of the poor, the starving, the dukha, the homeless. People’s sense of right and wrong depends on many factors. It’s never just a simple ‘right’ or ‘wrong’, nothing straight forward. It’s complicated. What does the person look like? Is he young, is he old? Is his family dying? What pushed him to do what he did? Sometimes, it’s good to look at all these factors. But most of the time, it’s bad. Our society encourages us to think with our hearts, to have mercy on others instead of using our heads.
Back in my college days, there was at least one serious incident per year, an incident that involved a UP student and at least one ‘outsider’. By outsider, I don’t really mean outsiders. I mean non-UP students who were loitering within the campus, or worse, living within the campus. I remember a batch mate being stabbed at the Palma Hall Parking lot and dying in the arms of his girlfriend. Another boyfriend of an acquaintance died after being mugged. And yet a third acquaintance was beaten and raped. The stories were not urban legend : some of the victims were personal acquaintances; some talked about it themselves. The female victims talked about their encounter (the rapes and attempted rapes) during the ACLE (alternative class learning experience) as a part of their ‘therapy’ session. Regretfully, I had to stop my afternoon run around the acad oval in fear of being the next victim. It seemed that evil doers roamed the campus even during the day. One female jogger was attacked at 7 am in the morning! Finally, the incidents were becoming more frequent, and there were calls to evict illegal settlers in the campus. It only seemed right and fitting, wasn’t it ? After all, our second home, our school, was becoming more and more dangerous.
But some of my schoolmates replied with a big resounding NO.
Their answer : Kawawa naman sila! Saan sila titira? [Where would they live?]
Fine. They are kawawa. But what about us, students? Aren’t we more kawawa? Just because they are kawawa doesn’t make it right. It’s a university, for crying out loud. When I was a student in Japan, I shared the problems of my university to my class. My professor was dumbfounded : Excuse me, are you saying there are illegal settlers inside the campus? Arienai! [That will never happen here!]
It’s a simple matter of right and wrong, legal and illegal. But Filipinos have distorted everything by injecting pity and mercy to people who don’t necessarily deserve them.
Back home, I was channel surfing when I chanced upon the documentary on EDSA. Among causes of congestion in certain parts of EDSA was, unsurprisingly, the street vendors obstructing the road.
It ‘s s just a matter of common sense. EDSA is a road made for cars and pedestrians. It wasn’t built to be a tiangge or a market, not a place to eke out a living. If this happened in Japan, the government would raze these stalls to the ground and arrest the vendors, who are – and let’s not mince words here – breaking the law. But then, Japan is a country with a clear(er) sense of right and wrong, where car dealers are prohibited by law from selling cars to people who don’t have proof of registered/ paid parking lots. And the Philippines is the land of the kawawa – and will stay that way unless we get our heads out of our assses.
For once, I have to say Kudos to Erap. He’s finally doing something right.
Unfortunately, not everyone agrees. Look at the way Rappler positioned its article, using the same techniques the pro-illegal-settlers in UP employed to appeal to the students : by interviewing one person at a time and getting up close and personal. The kawawa factor.
I don’ really get how something lawful can be ‘anti-poor’. Before you adopt the skewed thinking of the kawawa sympathizers, try to step back and analyze the situation. I mean, don’t poor people use the roads too? When you clear the roads, you do more good to more people by making their travel more convenient and less of a hassle and their commute shorter. But when you allow the tinderos and the tinderas enroach the streets, you favor the minority. By letting a select minority monopolize public space, you fail to make most of what the road was made for, and whom it was made for : you become anti-poor.
This is what I don’t understand : why do Pinoy drug mules get so much sympathy from the people? Why are they considered kawawa? It’s just wrong in so many ways. First, doesn’t it send the wrong message, not only to our fellows, but to the world? When we send a delegate, a government official, to beg in behalf of the suspects, it seems to say, Yes, we tolerate these scums. We tolerate wrong doing. We tolerate drug trafficking. Second, it discourages accountability. When we say, ‘eh kasi, mahirap lang siya, kaya nya nagawa yun‘, we are making excuses for people to do wrong, as though they were mere victims. Poverty doesn’t justify drug trafficking, or any crime for that matter. They were drug mules. Call a spade a spade. They were breaking the law and they knew it. By absolving them of their crimes, by attributing it to ‘circumstances’, we are taking away their freewill, their ability to decide for themselves, we are affirming that they were indeed powerless to decide otherwise. The next person who’s thinking of committing a crime, might think to himself, bakit, ako din ay victim of circumstance. Ako din, kawawa! Third, it promotes the wrong values. It encourages people to do wrong, because the Philippine government will be by your side anyway and the citizens will be offering you prayers. Aside from that, your family could also get compensation / assistance from the government. Fourth, China shouldn’t be persecuted for upholding their own laws. We don’t have laws? That’s our fault. But they have laws and they want to send a clear message to everyone. Fifth, before the drug mules were executed, some people were clamoring to execute the Chinese drug lords in the Philippines, as if they were bargaining chips. As if to show China we can be heavy handed if we wanted to. It almost sounded like blackmail. But I think we’d be doing ourselves – and China – a big favor if we executed all the drug lords and drug mules, regardless of the color of their passports. Drug mules aren’t kawawa at all. A drug mule is a drug mule is a drug mule. I’m sure China would go, “kill ’em all!” Do we actually believe a country with a billion people will shed tears for a drug lord?
Note : Of course, being falsely charged of being a drug mule is another story.
I was talking to coworker about our schedules one day, and he mentioned he doesn’t work on weekends. To which I replied enviously,’Wow, lucky !’ And he said, ‘It’s not luck, I chose this schedule.’ I have to agree: it takes more than luck not to work on weekends; in our industry, it has to be a choice. Our schedule is how we chose it. Our lives are how we shape it. We have more power than we think. I work weekends -I am not kawawa. I chose this. And I must suffer the consequences. Or reap the rewards.
I can continue and state more examples to make my point, but alas, I have to earn my living. The point is, this kawawa thing is often misdirected. Sure, there are kawawa folks everywhere – specifically those who died unjustly. But most of the time, it is used generously to people who don’t deserve them, people who could have done otherwise. In that case, it is disempowering. When a father of seven cries injustice in the face of hardships he is facing, let’s not completely disregard his own freewill involved in producing all these kids. They didn’t end up on his doorstep one day. Nor did we point a gun to his head and force him to reproduce. If he is man enough to father all these kids, then be man enough to support them. Now that he is living in the shack by roadside with his starving kids (Eraserheads, anyone), hating his life, he mustn’t blame others for the life he is living. I am [still] childless by choice. Why should I feel awa for those who didn’t have the sense to hold off (or forego)kids ?
Kawawa invalidates free will and the power to change the course of our lives. It’s why we can’t think straight, why we can’t get things done. Roads are for driving, universities are for learning. It’s why we can’t tackle issues head-on, and come up realistic solutions to our problems. It’s why there is almost no accountability, no respect for laws, and explains why we’re willing to let people off the hook easily. Matanda na kasi, kawawa naman. Mahirap lang kasi kawawa naman. Bata pa kasi, kawawa naman.
I remember what Neil Dellacroce said to John Gotti in the movie, Gotti :
There are rules! You break the rules, and this whole goddamn thing of ours cracks and crumbles! You never break the rules. Capiche?
Now this thing of ours is cracking and crumbling because we break all too many rules, in favor of the kawawa. And kawawa we shall remain.