Monday, February 28, 2011

A Helpless Alien-nation

Under imperialism’s circular migration narrative, overseas Filipino workers are perceived as united in a globe-spanning nation, connected to a virtual homeland with family faces, concerns and issues digitalized into a two-dimensional quasi-reality fabricated from sentimental bonds.

Events in North Africa, the Middle East and other parts of the globe have constantly underscored the peril of this view: that by falling in with globalization’s creation of an internationally homeless worker population, we are complicit in depriving migrants of the right to acquire a country, to belong actively to a nation and to be able to engage politically wherever they are, so that they may protect and enhance the life they have managed to establish.

Less than 2,000 of the 26,000 Filipinos in Libya have managed to make it out of the county. It will cost the Philippine government $2.3 million to evacuate them and acrimonious debate is on-going as to how to do this.

Curious, I checked the number of Filipinos working in flashpoint countries and here are some figures -- only estimates, since some OFWs are undocumented:
• 40,000 in Bahrain
• 1,000 in Yemen
• 4,000 in Egypt
• 29,000 in Lebanon
• 25,000 in Oman, which just joined the Arc of Tumult in North Africa/Middle East
• 89,000 in Qatar
• 1,000,000 in Saudi Arabia
• 100,000 in Kuwait
• 6,000 in Iraq
• 500 in Iran
• 30,000 in Israel
• 15,000 in Jordan
• 300,000 in the United Arab Emirates

But less than a dozen in the Vatican City, whose dicta on divorce, reproductive rights and health are negatively impacting the rights of women in the Philippines! We can’t even use remittances as an excuse for obeying the Vatican as there’s nothing coming from there.

I am now wondering whether, if overseas work contracts contained the right to settle and integrate in the receiving countries for overseas workers, OFWs would not be as hapless, would be engaged actually in the struggle to rid countries of despots, rather than remain on the sidelines, fearful of reprisals from both sides. - #

Wednesday, February 23, 2011


Despite a $77 billion GDP, 35% of the population of Libya lives below the poverty level. 

Poverty, as evinced in non-industrialized -- i.e., developing -- countries means having NO HOPE FOR A FUTURE.

Saudi Arabia oppositionists are calling for a Day of Rage with demands that include freedom for women.

Love it. 

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Le Deluge Reprised

Son of his father, Saif al-Islam Al-Gaddafi, who holds a Ph.D. from the London School of Economics, went public, saying that without his father, there would be civil war in Libya. 

As I said, it would sound so much better in French.   Or he could've tried it in British English.  Or paraphrased Duvalier's L'etat c'est moi

Ooops, I hope I remember that phrase correctly.

So chaos broke out -- precisely because his father refused to leave, creating the very nightmare his son says his father protects them from.

Suck on the teats of power and privilege too long and go mad -- ain't that a truth, in whatever institution, organization, agency one is?  -- ##

Thursday, February 03, 2011

Why They Remain in Power

The hated French king Louie XV said:  apres moi le deluge.  Hosni Mubarak says, "If I resign today, there will be chaos."

Ain't even original;  it was more elegant in French though equally untrue. 

Tiresome really, were it not for the memory of me flopping down on a Louie XV chair at Minnie Osmena's Park Avenue residence a long time ago.  Or was it Louie XIV? 

Hah!   --#


Tuesday, February 01, 2011

Dream Slayer in the City of Time

Hard to believe that Mubarak was already head of state when I reached Cairo more than a decade ago.

Hard to realize as well that despite all computer modeling programs, “scientific” methods of socio/political analysis, the wave of turmoil now arching through the Middle East, from Libya, Tunisia, Algeria, Jordan and Egypt was largely unanticipated. Hard to know how and where it will end but two things are palpable: overstaying in\at power destroys structures of governance and makes “orderly transitions” nearly impossible (Haiti is a prime example); and believing that only death can part one from power harms the very cause one espouses. Indeed, the Cause itself becomes subsumed to the issue of maintaining control and power.

I reached Cairo at the end of an inordinately long sojourn in the West. When I was awakened on my first day there by the 5 a.m. call to prayers blaring from loudspeakers in minarets all over the city, I realized how one dimensional my life had been. It was, I think, a factor in my return to Hatha/Ratha yoga practice.

It was here that a Palestinian publisher told me of how all these rich Arab women brought their children and nannies to a children's literature bookfair;  while the mothers sipped coffee, the nannies chose books for the children who spoke to them "in your language..."  All the nannies were Filipinas.  "Very soon," the publisher said, "Tagalog will be a power language."  I could only smile and say "it's a beautiful language," not adding fat chance of that happening, when we're experts at denigrating our own. 

Two persons I kind of knew were then under repressive attacks: the feminist Nawal El Saadawi, whom I was fortunate enough to have met at a European women’s conference, and the Nobel Literature laureate Naguib Mafouz, one of whose stories appeared in an anthology where one of mine (gasp!) was included. Nawal endured house arrests and death threats; Mafouz would be stabbed in the neck by fundamentalists in an assassination attempt.

Thus I was goggle-eyed in Cairo, trying to process as quickly as possible its many layers of history. Time was ascendant in the city – from the pyramids in the horizon to the Coptic cemetery of crumbing tombstones one stumbled upon to an 11th century breathtaking mosque where the attendant was kind enough to let loose with a chant to show off its acoustics. While buying souvenirs, I was asked where I was from and when I said Philippines, all the men (most shopkeepers were male) said, “yes, yes, we like Philippine women.” At which I asked what they thought of the city’s top imam saying that charity practiced and funded by the country’s top belly dancers was neither acceptable nor appropriate. Silence.

The Museum of Antiquity is impossible to describe; there was just so much wealth, not simply of gold and gems, but of art. I drooled over a pair of alabaster oil lamps, wanting to run my hand over them (not allowed) to see if a genie or two would appear. Through my half a day’s meanderings through the museum, the words from Bhagavad Gita looped through my mind: “I am Time, destroyer of worlds…” – a favorite quote since I was ten years old.

Hard to believe that in a city chockfull of relics of vanished powers, someone would believe that one could hold on forever to power.

The upshot is an accumulation of rage among people deprived of the right to their own vision. Because that is what dictators, power-hogs, self-centered cliques convinced that they alone know what’s good for a country, a nation, a people, do: they kill dreams.

And because dreams are based on hope, they kill hope as well.

It is the ultimate individualism. -- #