Monday, February 19, 2007

I'm locked in tight, I'm out of range...

A foreword addressed to my Personal Shrink: sorry if I beat you to this topic. :)

Last Friday night I met up with Maddy, Shirley and Kat, and over dinner, Mads brought up the subject of the new columbarium along Araneta Avenue, which she passes daily on her way home from work. She described it as a brightly lit, imposing structure, all sparkling clean and grand, and right beside it is a cluster of small, rundown shanties inhabited by squatters. Trying to make a point about the social injustice of how the dead have far more comfortable accommodations than the living, Maddy turned to me and asked indignantly, "Tell me, what's wrong with that picture?"

Blinking, I replied, "Uh, the squatters shouldn't be there?"

As soon as the words left my mouth, I realized: shit, it's finally happened. I've turned into a cold-hearted, cruel capitalist.

In hindsight, and in an attempt to justify my answer, I could insist that it's true-- squatters by definition are trespassers on other people's property. Property that cost hard-earned money (never mind if it could be ill-gotten). Property that isn't meant to house a bunch of free-loading bums (never mind if they've got nowhere else to go). A bunch of bums who would go berserk if the property's owners even attempt to send them packing. A bunch of bums who would probably receive a tidy sum in exchange for peaceful evacuation of the premises. Premises that aren't even theirs to begin with. Premises they are not entitled to.

Or are they?

I've always been a very pragmatic, logical individual. I attribute it not only to the way my entrepreneur parents raised me, but also to the tough-as-nails personality I inherited from my mom. In many ways, I could easily become the ideal businessperson: sensible, practical, and hard. Yet I've also prided myself on having a strong sense of right and wrong, on being just and ethical in my dealings with people from all walks of life. I credit THAT to my 4 years in a Jesuit school and the countless books I've read in 24 years (my mom claims both have put foolish ideas in my head and done irreparable damage to it :p). And that, I suppose, helped me become a good teacher: sensitive, compassionate, and fair.

So when Maddy turned to me with her question, Atenean fervor flaring in her eyes, why did I respond the way I did? Where was the idealistic woman-for-others who got an A in Dr. Astorga's Liberation Theology class? Where was the passionate ICA teacher who exhorted her students not to be indifferent to the plight of the less fortunate and to show concern for social issues? Part of me could see things from Maddy's point of view, recognized her sympathy and her moral outrage. But another part of me saw things through the eyes of the owner of the piece of land beside the columbarium. From my family's past experiences, I know what a headache it is to evict squatters. I know the helpless feeling of seeing someone take advantage of what's rightfully yours, something you worked hard for, only to have others benefit from it and claim it as their own. Even if they are destitute and downtrodden. Even if "they're human beings too" and deserve to have a roof over their heads, with every right to shelter as the tycoon sitting on his fat ass inside a posh mansion in Forbes.

I don't think my conscience has eroded to the point where I have become a callous elitist with no scruples. But maybe my change in career has led to a change in how I view the world. Perhaps my values have shifted, and I have turned from being a champion of morality and social equality to being a spokesperson for the greedy and materialistic. Maybe I've learned to desensitize myself to the human element and give weightier consideration to financial gain. Maybe I am now too caught up in matters of consquence to give a damn about any roses.

Or maybe it's just as simple as Dylan sings: "I used to care, but things have changed."


At Monday, February 19, 2007, Anonymous kassiewassie said...

i feel the same way.. and i don't feel guilty about it. it's their own fault for being lazy and having more children than they can afford. elitista sounding ba? sorry. can't help it. i hate outreach programs.. except environmental ones. we had this project before sa org, wherein we taught this poor community to make dishwashing liquid and soap. dinaya kame sa food stubs, and they even tried to steal the mic we brought! jeeez! tinutulungan na nga, sila pa yung nag-aabuso.. and the tambays kept making bastos and flirtatious hirits whenever any girl passed by. ewww. laging ganon, even in our community service thing (NSTP), but that was worse. we were supposed to teach little kids (ugh) in an outdoor classroom.. and habang nagtuturo kame there was this group of guys who kept taking our picture! no, hindi kame na-flatter. creepy grabe! we couldn't tell them off naman kasi we didn't want to offend the community. hayyy.

At Tuesday, February 20, 2007, Blogger Ailee Through the Looking Glass said...

I know how you feel. It's very frustrating when you set out with good intentions and make the effort to help, but all you get in return is abuse. I try bearing in mind that these people did not receive the same kind of upbringing and education, but it's still off-putting when you're getting wolf whistles and lewd leers. :(

The thing with the camera IS creepy. And if they can afford a CAMERA, right? Tsk.

At Friday, August 17, 2007, Blogger sugeina said...

th151, social sin... deja vu.

i'm now in love with your thoughts and writing.

At Friday, August 17, 2007, Blogger Ailee Through the Looking Glass said...

Why thank you. I hope I manage to sustain the interest of my newest reader, especially since you're a fellow Atenean. :)


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