Monday, January 11, 2010

Scratching our heads

The next Congress session (January 18) approaches. And, today, a TV news announced a survey result showing a 92% disapproval rating for the Reproductive Health Bill, a bill that contains Rep. Edcel Lagman’s hopes to decrease the Philippines annual population growth through a drastic sex education program, a birth control program, and so on.

     Ordinarily, as a left-leaning liberal I would 
throw in my support for this bill, popularly known as the RH Bill, and be saddened/angered by that news.
     In the bills defense, I couldfor instancetake off from Al Gore’s desire to force the Third World (and even the US and China) to discipline its procreative proclivity and thus stop its bent to “increase and multiply,” all for the sake of the planet. . . . And I should be in favor of the bill, especially as we Filipinos recurrently have the privilege of being firsthand witnesses to how urbanization and squatting and metropolitan garbage wreak havoc on the waterways of our metropolises and how overpopulation hampers all efforts to balance unemployment with investments. I could say, look, my 50-ish uncle gets an on-the-spot job offer to be a warehouse foreman at a Toronto sidewalk while merely out for a cigarette, but the unemployment rate in our country and cities are decidedly too unhappy, thanks to the population growth rate.” . . . The population growth rate in our parts has also sadly provided a ready rationale for the mass production of drinking water for the metropolises by way of those uncomfortable dams, uncomfortable firstly to the families of slain tribal protesters who were against the building of certain of the dams, but just as uncomfortable to those provincial towns that keep watch on the spilling level of their dams every time it rains. Damn those dams. . . . We’re daily uncomfortable about our electricity supply for the burgeoning demand, too, with all its dependence on foreign loans and acceptance of the necessity of environmental degradation. . . . That, along with the national capital region’s high-budget highway- and railway-maintenance spending in aid of the daily rituals of transporting citizens from points of departure to points of arrival and vice-versa (the questionable concept of commuting workers to the business districts established by the countrys top moguls), causing in turn air and space pollution, all of which transport-facilities spending cull their rationale from overpopulation’s never-ending need for “modern” solutions to mobilizing the workforce, never mind the fact that such mobilization could be diminished by the availability of the populaces required employment in every municipality. . . . Biodiversity zones are invaded by human presence; food production lands are threatened by industrialization and real estate zones; sanitation becomes a headache; and beggary becomes the bric-a-brac on our boulevards. . . . There you go.
     However, despite my sympathy for these situations that call for quick checking on the burgeoning number of people in our archipelago, I also know of other public management policies in conflict with the ideological point of view around that checking. Current economics governing global economies of scale, for instance, would have a different utopia that’s almost in communion with the Christian churches’ embrace of the mushrooming Earth population. These economic beliefs, which are a way away from economics of climate change mitigation, jump for joy at the sight of any new or booming market populace, clearly implying that the more market there is the merrier it is for industries and world trade. Religion’s own approval of population booms has a similar-sounding reason: the more faithful (and mobilized converts) there are, the bigger the collection for servicing God’s words. But such favor for a continuing population increase is not necessarily limited to market economics or religion; statesmanship, such as those in countries like New Zealand and Canada and Germany, lament their states’ declining or aging populations and explicitly invite not just a labor force from without but immigration as well, in order to add laborers to their industries, yes, but also new taxpayers to the states national welfare fund; this can definitely be deemed pro-“increasing and multiplying” by itself. New Zealand, interestingly, borrows workers from China for its tree farms every harvest year, but Filipinos trendy desire to move to another country has been welcomed there.

I do not cater to global economics favoring the treadmill of consumption and production as the measure of progress and development. Yet I, too, may temporarily side with the Church’s as well as global trade’s and sparse populations’ stand on the advantage of expanding followers/markets/laborers/taxpayers. But it won’t be for the same reasons.
     My stand would more be from the vantage point merely asking the following questions:
  1. Taking the persons-per-square-meter measurement, is there really overpopulation in such ill-spread large populations as that in the Philippines? High population growth rate, yes. But is that reality also being used as a self-comforting alibi for the past and present administrations’ failure to distribute wealth (entrepreneurial capital and knowledge) as well as farm lands and industrial investment?
  2. Conversely, would population control play such a big part in the solutions currently being designed for these populous countries’ problems, or would it as a singular solution just add itself later to the national roster of problems? For instance, would programs at decreasing the population, assuming it is to achieve drastic results, produce likewise a future German-like problem in our archipelago, wherein the decline of a lower class results in the decline of a local labor force as well as armed force? Would a, say, drastic decline in population enable us to collect bigger VATs and other lower-consumer taxes, or would it hamper our debt servicing reliant on taxation culled from middle-income consumers instead of big business? Would the decline of the lower class and the rise of the middle class, ratio-wise, produce healthy industries or merely cottage industries? Or would it be wanting of an instant-noodle consuming lower class (with low-standard education constantly fooled by cartels) to exploit, producing in turn a barter-like neighborhood economy circling the middle class subdivision, in short a slowed-down consumer society? Would we, then, need to import labor? Isn’t China’s rising superiority as a global manufacturing hub precisely due to the presence of such a substantial amount of cheap labor?
  3. Even from the point of view of environmentalism and the war against climate change, is overpopulation really the culprit qua people numbers or is it more the state managers’ corrupted inability to radically create policies that would dispense of our unhindered use of fossil fuel? Are the daily traffic jams, for instance, to blame or is our managers’ refusal to throw out the window the old habit of daily transporting millions of workers to business centers, among many other similar policies, manifesting a deeper root of the problem?
  4. I reserve this number for many more questions that my readers, I know, would have the intelligence to ask in regards to the overpopulation claim. For while a city zone might display a good example of this overpopulation, Metro Manila being currently the sixth in the list of urban areas by population after Tokyo-Yokohama/Jakarta (Jabodetabek)/Seoul-Inchon (Sudogwon)/Delhi/Shanghai, hectares of an idle land owned by a national billionaire in a province could still sport an Eden for yet-to-occur nature exploitation. National Geographic reports that although the world’s population will soon reach 7 billion, that number can actually be fitted into the L.A. cosmopolis if the elements are arranged elbow-to-elbow, concert-audience-fashion. We often refuse to acknowledge that ample land and wealth in our islands exist—land and wealth often wrested away by some lawyer-manufactured title as well as political savvy, creating sudden properties illustrating an equally burgeoning landscape of inequity and exploitation combined with goon politics and elitist legalese. A plane window view of our islands will amply illustrate my point.
     Certainly, the above questions will remain unanswered by the people who have handles on those problems. That is, problems other than those to do with the population; I mean, problems directly having to do with these handlers’ disregard for the general population-cum-nation. For it is because of this disregard that the ship we call the state continues to resemble the sinking ferry whose captain is blaming the passengers overloading the low-priced rear of the boat for the sinking (after these passengers’ insistence at the pier to have the right to board was welcomed by the ticket seller at the pier booth). And now the captain would want a cap on more ticket selling. This captain will ignore the fact that selfish profit was really the culprit that allowed such overloading of the low-priced stern per trip that could have been managed via a distributed right to board across the expensive ferry’s many expensive cabins. Rep. Edcel Lagman (Lakas Kampi CMD) could have authored a bill against such profiteering at the helm whereby inflation at the boat’s stern of exploited workers would be absent. And, in this instance, it is erect profit who could find good use for a condom, so as to lessen the presence of its kind.

True, there are poor parents who scratch their heads at the sight of new pregnancies, even as they celebrate Church teachings regarding the beauty of new life. And true, it may be doubtful that there are many such parents who follow Church teachings regarding new life. Most Catholics ignore Catholic teachings on virtue, understandably since these virtues are usually taught via brief litanies in the echoing cathedrals where priestly words scatter inside the architecture like unrecognizable bird chirps (I always say the Church’s main problem is less scriptural or doctrinal than architectural). Church followers mainly go to church for selfish materialist prayers, or for subliminal social objectives. Many who have memorized all the Catholic feasts are not necessarily familiar with the details and contexts of the teachings of Jesus of Nazareth; whenever they are, these teachings usually function in the faithful’s lives as no more than historical texts impossible to apply in the daily practice of clever free enterprise with an overpricing bent.
     And so, I admit, it’s not surprising to hear in this Catholic country of ours reports about rising abortion cases. Or even news about teens at Catholic high schools caught petting or—worse?—copulating inside a car in the school parking lot or the principal’s toilet room. If this is to be judged as a moral failure in society, whose first failure would that be, then, the parents’? Never the Church’s?
     So let me defend population control programs for a minute here. For perhaps population control programs are there merely to try to pick up from where this Church failure to check its flock left off. And though these programs would yet get the Church’s whipping in the media as the sinful programs of government, we should not forget that the teen fornications we were talking about above were occurring in a Catholic campus (or a religious Catholic town, for that matter) rather than a Commission on Population office. Sadly for the Church, while it recurrently and conveniently condemns any birth-control or sex education program of any government (keeping mum, though, on the advertising of sex in mass media), it also cannot control rampant sex among its followers and authorities, and thus, by this guilt perhaps, refuses to believe that high school freshmen already know more about sex—thanks to mass media, the Internet, and quasi-legal video piracy—than they’d care to learn in a scientific and social-scientific sex education class.
     But this Church failure is really understandable. For the Church itself—behind its media claims to filial virtue—is not really that serious about sins. When Catholic schools honor students whose generous parents receive special pointers for their kids’ exam reviews, are we not talking here about some kind of sin? When sex runs rampant in the sacristies, are we not talking about some kind of sin, too? When the Church picks on a political movie with breast exposures (Schindler’s List, etc.) while closing its eyes on porn tabloids and its ears on the sexist and racy jokes of bad comedy movies (without breast exposures, yeah, but starring “wholesome” stars from privileged families subliminally bragging about their exploits), are we not talking there about hypocritical selectivity or even perhaps bribed corruption? As the Church continues to campaign against the immorality of the RH Bill, some of its students and authorities somewhere shall continue to copulate, exploit, molest, or rape, and some of its orphanages even perhaps continue to reek of intermittent abuse. And though these illicit activities inside religious institutions may be exceptional cases, the fact remains that—despite its efforts—the Church has largely failed society as a whole and, evidence suggests, sporadically in its own backyard as well. And as for the claim that its Christian morality has always been frustrated by secular governments, history reminds us that the Church’s past (and somewhere present) role as both religion and government does not exactly give it a better record. We are not even saying anything yet about the Church’s own stand on secular governments corruption going on under its very supportive nose or, at the other end, on the mafiosi hands it daily embraces as its donors.
     In this sense of failure we could regard the Catholic Church and business corporate boardrooms and their jet-setting habits as both social liberal and right-wing institutionssocial liberal in their preaching, right-wing in their behavior. Both being knowledge institutions seeing nothing wrong with the virtue of the exploitable markets “increasing and multiplying,” they would cater to the seminary philosophy regarding the semen and the egg as apple fruits of that tree where no fruit should be allowed to be thrown away and where no apple should be allowed to remain uneaten. The semen must only be allowed to come out for procreation, thus banning even simple masturbation of the genitalia, and the woman’salongside a fruit treesmonthly production, and the woman’s disposal by menstruation of a reproductive egg in the womb, must both be considered as original sins of womanhood. This philosophy rumbles on with wrath, even as priests themselves may not just be scratching their penis heads in their bedrooms but be conspicuously masturbating their palates with excessive gustatory delights (the fruits of seminarian parents’ contributions to the seminary pantry) in the dining room, be feasting with their eyes on paintings and antiques and gold-plated altars and ivory statuettes of excess now in the seminary or cathedral storage room, be caressing their ears in the meditation room overly ridden with imported Italian music none of their parishioners could afford to either download or appreciate, not to mention be pumping their Sunday asses with cushion seats in their bishops air-conditioned four-wheel-drives on their way to vacation spots of note.

Still and all, however, after all this fact-baiting about the sins of the Church—and the business corporate boardroom—that we here set on the table, we can still say that it—the Churchis still right in admonishing us this: that it is not so much the fault of the teeming population that this population is unable to feed itself either equitably among themselves or amply. It is still right in saying that this is really someone else’s fault, with some Church authorities playing a merely supportive role as recipients of the blessings of corruption.
     For, often indeed, it is the fault of the overpopulated tribes’ chiefs, whose families and friends have for so long been allowed the better regions of the forest to hunt in, while the rest of the copulating tribe were only allowed nothing more than crumbs as prizes for their wage slavery and consequent obedience in the jungle. Such has been the case, in fact, nowadays in this age of unhindered corruption and graft (inclusive of continued fraudulent loan-getting for fraudulent projects), that the RH Bill should neither become the point of headline contention nor the hype-object of a headline solution. Not because no amount of family planning programming will change the Filipino belief in pag-aasawa and a necessary pag-aanak, but because—without meaning to agree with the Church’s argument—I in this serious light can only regard the RH Bill as stooge-like Edcel Lagman’s mere token for a singular solution, the head of the government he has supported having proved itself not really up to scratch with better and more effective answers for satiating the elites greed and capping the semen of poverty growth.
     Therefore, why give him another law from which he can demand another funding (not necessarily for), knowing the party he belongs to to be the family of the tribal chiefs we were talking about above? And this being an election year. [END]