Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Stubborn, stubborn, stubborn

I AM sure that someone out there may—and most likely will—offer a more politically correct and sociologically fascinating take on this phenomenon best described as our legendary stubbornness as a people. I also despise Pinoy-bashing; however, I must admit that there are days when I just feel like screaming at certain people for their obstinacy, especially during crisis or when in the face of clear and present danger.

Take the case of a number of local residents who adamantly refuse to leave the 7-km danger zone of the restive Mayon Volcano. They insist on staying put despite the fact that as of this writing, the alert level has been raised to level four, meaning an eruption is imminent; and despite the fact that the volcano is already spewing mushroom clouds and spewing lava 24/7.

I can empathize with those who say that they cannot leave their livelihood behind, although I still think they should pack up and get out of harm’s way just the same. One farmer bewailed that half of his crops have already been swallowed by lava, thus he can’t afford to leave behind the remaining half. This kind of reasoning tugs at my heart and yet at the same time I can’t help but feel this urge to knock him senseless in the head just the same. Does he intend to stop the lava flow with his bare hands?

And what do you say to people who claim to know better than the scientists? There was this guy who propounded what he said were better indicators of when the volcano would erupt. Truly, a man with an experience is never at the mercy of another man with an argument. He said it is not yet time and so he refuses to leave. I know this borders on callousness; but I am going to say it just the same. These will be the same people who will blame everyone else in the event something terrible happens (and I really hope nothing tragic will happen). Everyone else except himself or herself.

I have already ranted about this very recently in my blog, but I couldn’t help ranting about it some more after seeing that photo at the front page of this paper last Monday. The photo was that of three foreigners (the caption said they were South Africans) posing before a mound of piping hot lava, right within the 7-km danger zone. Posing for pictures in front of boiling lava coming out of a volcano that is bound to erupt any moment! If this is not sheer madness, I do not know what else is.

I have been told that the number of tourists who flock to Mount Mayon increases algebraically during an eminent eruption. What is it about human nature that seems to deliberately invite disaster to happen to them? Friends in Legazpi City tell me that local authorities are having a difficult time reining in tourists who want to trek to areas within the danger zone to be able to see, touch and smell boiling lava. And as usual, some enterprising Filipinos are more than happy to indulge them as tourist guides.

And so we see on television people of all ages who continue to flock to the area where lava is flowing to be able to watch up close what a horrible death trap and killing catastrophe look like. I even saw one show-off lighting a cigarette using glowing volcanic rock. In the meantime, the local authorities have been shown in various states of exasperation imploring residents to leave, and begging tourists to stop entering and frolicking in the danger zone.

In another part of the world, there is the case of the many Filipinos in Lebanon who refuse to go home. I know there are those who cannot wait to get on a bus or ship to come back to good old RP, but there are also many out there who insist on staying put, completely oblivious to the strife going on around them. At least 500 of them are already stranded in Beirut taking shelter at a Catholic Church there. When interviewed on television, many sounded unconcerned, giving out a litany of reasons for their obstinacy: they do not have enough savings yet, the war will soon be over, the dollars are in Lebanon and not in the Philippines, etc.

The nonchalance was grating, particularly in light of the controversy being generated in the Philippines over their evacuation. The politicians in Manila are scrambling all over themselves in a mad effort to win the most points in the impromptu contest called “who has the biggest bleeding heart for our OFW’s?” What, all this drama for nothing?

And by the way, there, ladies and gentlemen, is yet another perfect example of legendary obstinacy. Our beloved senators just could not restrain themselves. They could not be stopped. They just had to conduct another committee hearing right in the middle of the crisis. It is absurd. I agree that they should investigate where the allegedly missing Overseas Workers Welfare Administration funds have gone. But couldn’t they wait until the evacuation of our migrant workers is completed? It is like calling an investigation on where the money to buy the fire extinguisher went while the house is burning. It is crazy because everyone’s efforts should go to putting out the fire first, unless of course you want the whole house to burn anyway.

As it turns out, all that huffing and puffing and posturing have been for naught. It turns out the money is not missing after all. This could have been discovered the usual, normal way ordinary citizens are familiar with—by writing memoranda and making inquiries, even perhaps by holding a discreet meeting or two. How difficult is it to pick up the telephone and make an inquiry? Or to set a meeting to discuss the problem? But no, these ordinary ways of fact-finding or resolving problems just won’t do. We have to convene a whole committee, disrupt work and waste effort and precious airtime just to sate some senators’ bloated sense of self-importance.
Let’s not waste column space on the legendary obstinacy of certain representatives in the House, or those of certain civil society groups, or that of the President for that matter.

It is sad, but this is exactly the kind of behavior we have come to expect from our leaders. When people get elected into a position of power in this country, it seems they equate power with the right to pry into everything, the right to stall, the right to throw his or her weight around. Being in power means having the right to be obstinate. Being in power means acquiring a bloated sense of self-importance, having the right to act like spoiled brats and throw legendary tantrums to get their way.

And if our leaders are guilty of it, how can we blame ordinary citizens from being obstinate and stubborn?

(The author blogs at www.bongaustero.blogspot.com)

4 comments:

Ymir said...

i guess we cant really fully understand those people, not unless we are placed in their shoes.c

snglguy said...

Is it any wonder why the Tamaraw is our national animal? :-)

By the way, you think its possible to appease Mayon volcano by throwing those egotistical politicians onto the lava flow? Perhaps she just needs a sacrifice, or two.

vic said...

Solution to that is simple. The authority will declare a "state of emergency" and those who refused to evacuate should be forced, but of course they should be entitled to some kind of renumeration if they are not covered by Insurance.

BongA said...

ymir:

until then, we can just rant.

bong

Singleguy:

there's an idea. maybe a whole congress, actually.

bong


Vic:

I think they have, and they have posted guards as well. Problem is, the NPAs clashed with them.

Bong