HENDERSON, Nevada (MindaNews / 4 March) – President’s day in America is a holiday. And just like most (or all) holidays here, stores have the SALE sign on. Your mailbox is stuffed with more than the usual weekly coupon books, and emails on the same clutter up about 80 per cent of your inbox. The fact that it comes on the Monday after Valentines Day, and makes it a four-day weekend, is kind of precious, really. Like we are expected to rush over to the stores as soon as we finish the slow build-up to a romantic interlude, and buy the dream “thing” we’ve always wanted at last. Because that’s what it really is, a thing. Things that occupy precious space that could be better used for what it is – space.
And, as surely as the ides of our sometimes mindless capitalist mindsets dictate, we sometimes do find ourselves tempted to get this or that, and feel that it must be the opportunity we were waiting for. Except, you quickly find that the SALE situation is like a wheel that grinds on a course that can be predictable. That a sale is always on somewhere for whatever reason they can find. That, a lot of the time, we actually believe we buy only sale items. And so we think we are getting bargains.
Maybe, that’s what it’s all about. To make us think we are getting bargains, when in fact, it is all a well planned scheme for adding to the bottom line. It is a capitalist nation after all, with a capitalist heart.
Don’t get this wrong. America is a strong example of how a nation can be built upon the principles of capitalism. That it is on top of the heap, in terms of global influence, is a testament to a success no other nation can equal. The communist bullies, with their arsenal of propaganda and hidden agendas, notwithstanding, have only made it clearer that capitalism does have more good running for it than they do. People are still looking to America to “have a better life”, than wherever they come from.
Having said this, I’d like to think that success is also the result of a balance between profit and social responsibility. It is heartening to see, for example, how the upper one per cent, as they are sometimes referred to here, have pledged the very wealth they acquired from profiting in the various businesses they enriched themselves in, to social programs that they believe must be addressed. Not waiting for the government to take care of things, but taking it upon themselves to move a problem on.
There is no black or white here. Especially in our country. There are more than fifty shades of grey even. This is something our own “upper one per cent” can do too. Especially those who have billionaire bank accounts from being in government for so long. The idea of service has been eroded to a stubby end that no one can even remember that being elected or even appointed, for that matter, to a position in the government is a privilege. A service to the people who put them there.
How has being a government official been the goal of so many who wish to become “successful”? It is a sad situation where, in our desperation and mistaken notion of a hopeful change in circumstance, we accept the pithy hand outs election season seems to magnanimously be charitable with all of a sudden. Where, after the kilo of rice and can of sardines and instant noodles are consumed, is, again, left on the side like an invisible, and largely ignored problematic old sore.
Election season is upon us. Here in America, as in the Philippines, more money is spent on advertisements than even a marketing firm has a budget for a new product launch. Courting supporters in order to have the deepest pocket to last the season has become, here in America, a daily dose of a loud candidate taking on even the Pope. His personality and pocket thicker than the rest because his wealth somehow absolves him from bestowing some iota of basic human respect for people other than himself.
Makes one think of all the hoopla as one big show. Entertainment. Election entertainment. The biggest competition that puts to shame all the most popular ones put together. The sad prize is a country waiting for some change. Some small incremental change at least, for a better, more hopeful future, even for just the children. So they do not have to leave, and live as domestic slaves or work under the table, casting their lot on crumbs thrown their way by foreigners whose ignorance sometimes decry the very “greatness” they think they have.
Our hearts, hopefully are not purely capitalist hearts. That, with the capital we do invest, an equal proportion of concern for the greater good of the country is also in the mix. That candidates (and their families) whose narcissist ambitions, well hidden under the guise of righteous rhetoric, fall way down the deep well of their own dark aspirations. So that, maybe, sometime in the future, the hope may come to some kind of fruition. That the bottom line is not just about the money after all.
Let me add here, as an addendum to my dour thoughts, though, that, the years since PNoy has been in office, has given the country a good reputation from out here. He has made a difference in the way people perceive the Filipino. That we are looked upon as a promising economy, for example, has bolstered even the self-esteem of us who live out here.
Let’s pray he passes the torch to one who lives to serve the people more than himself, even for just the six years he’ll be in office.
(Mindanawon Abroad is MindaNews’ effort to link up with Mindanawons overseas who would like to share their experiences in their adopted countries. Margot Marfori is an author and visual artist from Davao City. She is currently based in Henderson, Nevada.)