Thursday, June 12, 2008

The death of outrage

I look at what's happening in South Korea today and I can only feel both amazement and envy.

The citizens of that country recently staged the largest anti-government demonstration in two decades, the most impressive yet in a series of rallies that has nearly brought the newly-elected South Korean government to its knees. The prime minister and the cabinet have submitted their resignations to the president, who assumed office only last December 2007. The president has pledged "a new beginning" in an effort to contain the popular outrage.

The 100,000 people who choked up the streets of Seoul on Tuesday night were protesting against... American beef imports. They're worried that the imports would bring with them the dreaded mad-cow disease, and they charge that the government's new agreement with the US, which lifts the import ban that has been in place since 2003, makes a mockery of their fears and sense of well-being.

Beef imports--and a government is about to fall. I'm not saying that the South Koreans' grievance is trivial. Far from it. Food is always a matter of life and death, and, irrespective of whether American beef is really unsafe, it's well within the rights of South Koreans to take their government to task if they feel it's taking their collective health and security for granted.

It's been five years since South Korea halted such imports--after a case of mad-cow disease occurred in the US in 2003--but its citizens remain fired-up and fully engaged about the issue. They are willing to march on the streets for it, do battle with police (some rallies have turned violent) and rap the government hard to force their political leaders to listen to their anxieties.

The issue isn't even about corruption, bribery, plunder or other high crimes in high places. It's about an everyday supermarket item that likely ends up as a well-done steak or a steaming stew in many a South Korean household. Yet that is enough to bring thousands of people out to the streets in a massive show of popular indignation.

I look at the pictures and I can't help but be envious of the South Koreans. Their sense of outrage is alive, ever ready to force reckoning and accountability from those who entertain the illusion that they can dare flout it. They are exacting and prickly about holding their government to its sworn duties, no matter how seemingly arcane or mundane the task is--like, for instance, negotiating a trade deal on cattle meat that puts a premium on public safety over improved ties with a valuable trading partner.

Meanwhile, barely three hours away from South Korea, here we are, in the pits, shambling numbly to an imagined deliverance by 2010 when a new set of so-called leaders will shove, shoot, buy, sing or advertise their way to the top of the country's food chain. Before that happens, we wait, holding our noses primly while otherwise shrugging off the stench that blasts from the dank palace by the river.

What's a couple more years, we console ourselves. After two failed upheavals, we've used up our street-movement cred. We're exhausted these days, and can't be bothered with small issues like stolen elections, blatant thievery or vulgar populist pandering.

The sight of other countries with bold and brazen citizenries like South Korea makes me wonder: If the people of that country could be roused to history-making fury over a slab of meat, why couldn't we over the infinitely longer and more destructive list of transgressions our government and our political elders have inflicted on us? What would it take to shock us back from our defeated, immobilized state? Clearly, neither high crimes (robbing the vote) nor low (abducting witnesses) would do. We let both pass without so much as a shudder.

The outrage is that we are not outraged. What has friggin' happened to us?


palma tayona said...

Hi Gibbs,

This is kind of a long-shot, like throwing a single grape 20 feet up in the air and hoping it lands right smack into an open mouth. But here goes...

I am sending this note to all possible avenues I can think of to answer a particular problem I am currently facing.

Do you, or does anyone out there have a good, crisp picture of the UP OBLATION in close-up - (high-resolution jpeg or tiff format - ideally 1.2 mb up) that can be used for a printed book cover? (Yung tipo ng kuha na "halos nakatutok na ang lente ng camera sa ilong ni Oble".)

As part of the UP Centennial celebrations, I am designing the cover of the 100-YEAR HISTORY OF U.P. MANILA. I am doing this as A PRO BONO PROJECT for the university and as such, there is also no remuneration for the picture to be used EXCEPT to properly credit the photographer on the acknowledgement and cover flap. The use of the photograph selected will also be extended on the advertisement and promotional materials of the book (kung may budget pa ang UP for promotion)

Here's the hitch... I have to come up with the cover design by JUNE 14th, so the deadline would be on the same day. Hehehe, kung larong patintero ito, matatawag nating "kulto finish". It's crazy no?

You, your friend or relative (or even pet) can have the image sent to this addie - - with his or her complete name for proper crediting.

Again, this is a pro bono or volunteer project for UP - walang datung na kalakip. (pero kung lolo o lola ka na, pwede mong sabihin sa apo mo, "uy, ako kumuha niyan". okay, this o.a. na)

Thank you, thank you so much...
Palma Tayona

Sexy Mom said...

SAD Gibbs, why Filipinos now do not care anymore.

i even wrote in one of my posts:

Oh well, we may be alarmed now, but same as in the past, when prices keep going up, when crises come one after another, when there is shortage of water, rice, food, electricity, when calamities strike, the Filipino, in general, was able to adjust with the situation. HE woud provide anyway. The Filipino is resilient, sometimes the Filipino just doesn’t even care anymore. Life goes on and on and on, and the Filipinos still smile and are happy each passing day.

That is the profile of a Filipino, but WHY? and UP TO WHEN?

Fritz said...

That first comment right there is your GREAT and ACADEMIC example of how most people would commonly look past more pressing issues by tastelessly stealing the dim limelight for their mundanely trivial personal affairs. This reaction is my way of expressing my outrage for the lack of outrage. Moreso for showing blatant disrespect. UP AKO PERO IKINAHIHIYA KITA.

stevie said...

@sexy mom: Just because we do not express outrage, just because we do not rally in the street, just because we go about our daily activities, it doesn't mean we do not care.

The Zen Bitch said...

The outrage is that we are not outraged. What has friggin' happened to us?

I completely agree. Ano na nga ba ang nangyari sa atin?

Anonymous said...

i don't agree that the country is in a rut. our companies are posting record profits. the housing market is booming, major infrastructure projects have been completed and more in the pipeline. when GMA pushed for VAT, naysayers said that this was the end of her admin. that people would die of hunger; that there would be a revolution. well, as usual, MALI.

stop believing the propaganda of anti-GMA factions. you're all beginning to sound just like them. it's the filipino crab mentality thats the problem here. not claiming GMA admin. is perfect, but hey, NOTHING IS. i would rahter have her and her achievments than all these do-nothing politicians against her.


gibbs cadiz said...

PALMA, no problem, i hope me mag-respond nga. :)

thanks, DINE, for the comment. :)

FRITZ! a, ermm... okay. careful with the stress, though. :)

ZEN, thanks. and you know what, we haven't scraped bottom, i think. :(

MIKEL, thanks for the comment. however, i have to disagree with you. very strenuously. :)

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...

Search this blog or the Web