Sunday, August 31, 2014

Grace and geeks

This is my column today, August 31, 2014.


I am not a fan of Senator Grace Poe, but I must grant that what she did last Friday gave the concept of “senate investigation” more gravitas.
As acting chairperson of the Senate sub-committee on public services which is due to start its investigation on the state of public transportation in Metro Manila, Poe took an MRT train to work Friday. 
Transportation Secretary Joseph Emilio Abaya did the same a few days ago, but he took the easy way out.  Abaya rode the MRT train at about 1:00 pm, which is not rush hour.  He also had aides who made sure the secretary was not unduly inconvenienced (someone reported that ordinary commuters were even asked to wait until Abaya was inside a train). 
Unlike Abaya, the senator took the MRT during rush hour.  She lined up for forty minutes at the busiest station, the North Station, bought tickets herself, and boarded the train without the usual “assistance” extended to public officials.  MRT officials tried to intervene when they got wind of the Senator’s presence and tried to limit the number of passengers trying to enter the coach where the senator was, but the senator asked the officials not to give her special treatment.  It took her two hours to get to the Taft Station because of technical glitches.
We don’t have to ride the MRT trains to know that the system stinks.  We’ve seen pictures, heard the stories, and know a lot of people with a gripe to share.  But the problems will not be addressed until and unless our leaders really experience the difficulties up close.  The investigations that the Senate conducts inside air-conditioned rooms can be wrapped up quickly if our senators do what Poe just did, which is to see the problem up close.
=000=
As I write, my cardiologist cousin and her surgeon husband are having the time of their lives at the Dragon Con, the annual gathering of fans of science fiction, fantasy, comic books, and other elements of pop culture.  A picture they posted in Facebook shows them proudly wearing Star Trek costumes; something which, surprisingly, elicited quite a number of likes and comments.  They looked like young kids on their first trip to Disneyland.  And they were not alone.  From what I gathered, this year’s Dragon Con is being attended by close to 60,000 people.  That’s a lot of geeks in one location!
Apparently, being a geek is not only acceptable now; it has also become a source of pride.
I am a geek.  I guess I have always been one.  Attending the Dragon Con and any of the Comic Cons that are held regularly in the United States and other key cities in the world is on my bucket list.  The guys on Big Bang Theory are my kind of people - people who think imagination is just as powerful as real life experience.  A friend who shares the same interests as mine couldn’t help himself; he sent me this message in Facebook:  “We were born at the wrong time.”
I am happy for the nerds and geeks of this generation then.  They are no longer the outcasts.  As the boy who grew up wearing thick glasses and who preferred reading books to physical activities – probably the only one who knew the story of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table by heart– I knew what it felt like growing up as a geek.  I was teased a lot and although my parents made sure they didn’t show any sign of disapproval or disappointment, I could feel that they also wished they went up the stage to pin scouting or athletic medals in addition to the academic medals.
Growing up a geek had its disadvantages.  While many automatically equated being a geek with superior intelligence, most dismissed geeks as weird people.  At parties, I would get asked many times what I preferred to eat and people seemed surprised that I would eat whatever normal kids ate.  The advantage was that I wasn’t expected to do physical labor; I was never assigned part of the team that cleaned the classroom or pulled the grass in the yard although there were times when I wished I was allowed to get dirty too.
But I did spend a lot of time daydreaming.  I devoured comic books and imagined being a super hero.  Many think geeks cannot distinguish fantasy (or science fiction) from real life, but this is an unfair assumption.  We know.  But that doesn’t stop us from still pursuing the many possibilities in our minds.  For us, “what if” is a valid argument.
We are where we are today because there of people who never stopped dreaming, imagining, fantasizing, and conjuring possibilities in their minds. Hurray to geeks, then.

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