Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Zen and the Art of Disaster-Preparedness

When the sea, propelled by back-to-back typhoons, flowed into Manila, I confess I was less than enthusiastic in responding to alarums about the destruction. Islands and people lying in the path of 22 typhoons annually should know after a thousand years how to deal with such disasters. Unfortunately, uncountable has been the number of times overseas Filipinos, friends, allies and even total strangers have been asked to respond to disasters in the Philippines: earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, typhoons, earthquakes, typhoons and more typhoons… Each disaster is followed by a surge in sentimental patriotism, inspiring a near-orgasmic mobilization to “help our compatriots, we are one nation, one people, etc., etc…” --which of course leads to the inevitable after-glow of self-satisfaction that makes tolerable the sight of people gyrating once again in wa-wa-wee or whatever those abominable shows are called.

I had hoped sitting on my hands would convey the message that “you’re on your own, with the leaders you have chosen, on islands afloat the vast Pacific Ocean; you do have to grow up” and thereby inspire a quiet but firm determination among the typhoon-battered, who would thereby organize themselves into delegations and visit each government agency responsible for the mess and demand that whoever heads it commit seppuku. And if he/she does not, then a good medieval stoning would be most efficacious.

The ability to respond to disaster should be of Zen-alertness, 365 days a year – not a quick blowjob that temporarily takes away stress but resolves nothing. Focus, as the yogi would say; do not be distracted, said the Dalai Lama. Disaster-preparedness is Zen-like in its awareness of Time – of the past and the lessons thereof, of the present and what can be done today and of tomorrow and the probability waves that can come crashing down on one’s head.

Time, I must say, is one element we barely think about; our national ADD kicked in eventually, with the Pacquiao-Cotto fight as the lethean digestif – for which the Special Public Reconstruction Commission established by the Arroyo government should thank the heavens with great fervor as public attention was diverted from its apre-typhoon plans. The effing Commission would get down, it claimed, to removing water lilies from waterways, treating the leptospirosis victims and repairing school buildings. The Commission members do not appear to be struck by the absurdity of removing water lilies when the sea is surging in. Oi! I suppose that each removed water lily would cost $10000 in donated reconstruction and rehabilitation funds. I had just finished a short story about a retiring guerrilla, giving it the title of “In the Season of Water Lilies” and wondered briefly whether I should send it to the Commission. But then do the members thereof even bother to read? I say, a good medieval stoning. A really good medieval stoning, I say. -- #

5 comments:

Anonymous said...

i have a suggestion, which i'm sure sounds inhuman, but it is out of kindness that the idea occurred to me.

life in the philippines will never get better. (if you disagree with that statement, please explain your position. the proof of the truth of my statement is everywhere in the philippines.)

since life will never get better for filipinos, isn't it an act of kindness to help them die, in an assisted mass suicide? you will end their misery that way.

Ninotchka Rosca said...

That, my dear anonymous, would just be another quickie.

And pound for pound, Filipinos are still better as a people than certain segments of say, the white society.

We're here, we're weird; get used to it!

Sheridan said...

Life certainly isn't getting better in the US. Would anonymous recommend assisted mass suicide for its citizens -- as in gas ovens?

lt. cmd. ripley (formerly anonymous) said...

why should i recommend anything to us citizens? i'm not an american. they'd simply tell me worry about your own country's problems, which makes sense.

every administration in the philippines has an economic recovery program. this means two things : we are never recovering, only always trying to recover. which means life is not getting for anybody in the philippines.
(gloria macapal-arroyo found a way around this : she invented statistics to prove life is getting better for us.)

why don't we let people know it's never going to get better. life will always be difficult for the vast majority. if they can live with that, well and good. but give them the option not to live with that, to put an end to it all.

at the very least, can we tell our people that it is wrong to beget so many children when they have no permanent jobs and no permanent homes, as in squatters, and not even assured of daily meals? if we can't alleviate poverty, can we at least not spread it?

the thought of assisted mass suicide occurred to me after reading an article on euthanasia. some people call it assisted suicide, but those whose loved ones underwent it call it by a term to which i agree : death with dignity.

to anybody who disagrees with helping people die, you might want to get hold of toni morrison's novel 'beloved'. (or just buy the DVD.) if you could get hold of a thomas bullfinch or edith hamilton, read the part where medea killed her two sons in the adventures of jason. then see if you can condemn these women.

to ate nina,
yes i think we're fascinating. i'm trying to write a novel myself about us.
let me, as well, take this opportunity to say i love 'state of war' and 'twice blessed' is hilarious. i love 'state of war' so much i can recite some paragraphs from memory.

Ninotchka Rosca said...

it.cmd.ripley:

Thanks for the kind words.

What can I say about the future of the archipelago?

On the one hand, I am tempted to quote from Gabriel Garcia Marquez that there are no second chances for countries given a hundred years of solitude.

On the other, I am tempted to quote from Lord of the Rings: the shire may be saved but not for me.

It's just taken and is taking too long.

And it might just help the process go quicker if those of my generation realized the "Not For Me" and head off to the Forever Isles.