What the future holds/Reality check

From: Randy Smith (randysmith101@hotmail.com)
Date: Tue Jan 25 2000 - 22:43:13 MST

Just got through watching the movie Trainspotting about 3 times. good stuff.
As a cryonicist I of course want to live "forever" in the distant future.
But I often wonder what it will *really* be like then...Maybe the year
1000000 will see us all as the equivalent of today's drug addict, just
living for whatever pleasure our minds can bring us. Hey, it might be

Concerning some of the other topics that come up on this forum with
regularity, I offer for your amusement and edification the following Usenet
post, posted by a Filpina (female of Philipine descent):

"For all you expatriates out there, and you guys who are trying to identify
yourselves with the Philippine experience, I thought you might like to hear
what it's really like to live in the Philippines, straight from the horse's
mouth. Well, it does smell like a horse's mouth where I am, so you're
getting this as candidly as you can ever hope to get.

So.... Where to start...?

What about four weeks ago, when I first flew into Manila after years in the

Flying in from SFO into Manila at 3 in the morning, my brother picked me up
in his car, and off we went. I was busy chattering with brother and
sis-in-law when we stopped at an intersection. I looked up to where the
traffic light was supposed to be, and *I* blinked twice.

"The traffic light is not working," I said, in semi-disbelief. I have to
say "semi-disbelief" because, probably by instinct, I knew that the way
things work (or don't work) in the Philippines would require you to suspend
all disbelief.

My brother, calm as he could be, just grinned at me. He was looking at the
lights in the cross-flow traffic, which still showed green. He said, very
matter-of-factly, that once THOSE lights turn red (or maybe I should say,
"cease to be green"), then that means his lane goes.

Hmm, I thought, mulling this over. What a clever idea! People here
actually save money by just having one set of traffic lights working!

We went through another intersection, when I almost jumped off my seat.
"That was a RED LIGHT!" I almost screamed. "What the hell are you doing
going through a red light??"

Once again, my ever-patient brother explained that, hey, it's 3 in the
morning, the traffic is slow, if there are no other cars in the
intersection, why should he wait? And would I please pipe down? I'm making
him nervous.

Then he looked at me and said, "Hey, look. You've only been here 10
minutes. It will only get worse."

My brother, the sage, the oracle, he with the tremendous insight. Or maybe
he has just lived in this city too long.

We passed intersections with partially working lights, some with no lights
working at all. At three in the morning, it's pretty much a free-for-all in
the city, I thought. Everyone's doing what my brother was: going through
red lights, making what I thought were illegal left- turns, heck, even
making a u-turn in the middle of the street when he decided to go the other
way after all. At three in the morning, I thought maybe that's acceptable.

What is not acceptable is the same thing happening in the middle of the day.
  And it DID get worse. Ask anyone here why the traffic lights are not
working, and they'll tell you that the police themselves damage those
lights. All the better to mulct you with, my dear. Of course, there's that
infamous episode with the president. You know, where the traffic aides
stopped his car, not knowing he's in it, and probably tried to intimidate
the driver. Well, they're suspended, all twelve of them. Suspended! For
accepting bribery! Or actually, the euphemism for suspended nowadays is
"gone for retraining." I say put 'em in front of the firing squad, those

Okay, calm down, calm down. On with the story....

In the middle of the day, you see cars literally inching their way across
traffic to be able to cross a busy intersection or make a left turn. That
means that, lane by lane, the cars stop to let these guys cross/turn.
Jeepneys stop in the middle of the road to load or unload passengers. Buses
do the same. Tricycle drivers pretty much stop anywhere they want. If
you're wondering where the traffic cops are, look under the nearest leafy
tree (our version of Dunkin' Donuts). There they are, cooling themselves;
maybe it's too hot to stand in the middle of the street in the middle of the
day to direct traffic. Heck, we're only paying them to work; noone's put a
knife to their necks yet.

The traffic would be okay (okay, I'm delirious), I guess, if it were not for
the pollution. Imagine Los Angeles in the 70's, and you get Manila on a
really good day. I have not seen a tricycle that doesn't emit those little
white clouds that stay close to the ground. Go to UP Village, at ten in the
evening, and you'll see this bluish-white haze that seems to cling to
everything. UP Diliman is not much better anymore, either. UP, that haven
of Sunday morning joggers, with the clean fresh air, dewy grass and majestic
trees; at 6 in the morning, you'll see that same bluish-white haze that
seems to shroud the entire place. "It's fog," you would say, almost
praying. Well, snap out of it. It's smog of the worst order. No one jogs
around Quezon Circle anymore; it's dirty, the grass is unkempt, and I
spotted squatters' shanties there.

Oh, for you smokers out there, you don't have to bring your cigars when you
come to visit Manila. All you have to do is breathe in the stale air that
envelops this city. You'll get lung cancer just the same. Saves you money,
too, I bet.

The jeepneys are even worse. Black smoke comes out of their
tailpipes. In California, try driving around with the smallest hint of
smog, and you're dead. So if you're Californian, psyche yourself, before
flying into Manila, and say that smog ain't too bad. Because you'll get it
from everywhere. I don't blame the folks out here for trying to get their
own cars. Air-conditioned cars are the way to go. You'll be stuck in
traffic anyway; at least you can try to filter out the bad air.

Oh, and in case you're wondering, I've had this nasty cough for four weeks
now. Bronchial diseases seem to be prevalent in this city. I haven't seen
politicians coughing on TV, though. I say, get them to give up those
air-conditioned cars, and get them to go around the city like the rest of
the common folks. Maybe they'll have more incentive to change things for
the better.

Sidewalks have all but disappeared in many parts of the city, taken over by
homeowners. You know how it goes: they build little rooms or stores on
their sidewalks. I know of whole streets that have
disappeared, squatters' shanties appearing in the middle of them. The city
streets, already pretty small, also have on-street parking. Sometimes on
both sides of the street! One Way Street signs are laughable; I think they
don't require new drivers to learn what those signs mean.

Pedestrians cross wherever they want; who's ever heard of zebra
crossings or pedestrian lanes anyway? And the streets don't have those
little yellow lines that say, "You on the right lane, stay on your lane and
don't cross this line." I remember going down Commonwealth Avenue, which is
an eight-lane road, with two lanes on each side going up a flyover. Well, I
almost fell off my seat when I saw the innermost lane filled with cars going
the direction opposite to where it should be leading. Hmm, I thought. How
enterprising; they couldn't make a left turn because there are islands, so
they just take over one of those lanes. Oh, and yes, there was a traffic
aide directing them towards a left turn.

If anything, Manila must have produced some of the best drivers (okay, maybe
worst, depends on the perspective) ever. With the traffic jams and the
gung-ho drivers, I still have to see a car wreck.

And the garbage....

Maybe it's because I lived in the Midwest for a while. Maybe because
Northern California is so heavenly. Maybe because Oregon is pristine. Maybe
because I thought Chicago was dirty....

This place is filthy. Chicago had cigarette butts on the streets, and I
thought that disgusting. Well, welcome to Manila. Garbage, garbage
everywhere. I think that people here have not heard of garbage cans. Or
maybe they don't know how to use them. I think that in the big streets of
Makati, this might still be okay; I did espy some garbage cans there, and
not much garbage. But let's talk about the rest of Manila.

Quezon City, where I unhappily live, is REALLY BAD. There are little piles
of garbage everywhere. Like I said, this place is filthy. Cockroaches are
ubiquitous. It makes you wonder what is the use of keeping your apartment
rid of cockroaches when the folks next door run a cockroach farm.

I did see some mice and rats, too. People don't think twice about throwing
their garbage on the street. Eat a candy, and just toss the wrapper over
your shoulder. Cigarette smokers, same thing. In some places the garbage
trucks come every week, others every two weeks. And as for others, well, I
don't think they know what a garbage truck looks like. As one potential
landlady said, you can just give your bag of garbage to one of those kids
running around the street, hand him five pesos, and he'll take care of it.
I asked where will he take it? She shrugged and said no one knows.

Two or three weeks ago, politicians were decrying on TV how there are too
few toilets in the Philippines. Toilets For the Poor is the slogan. Makes
you wonder just what kind of stuff are floating in the rivers right now.
Oh, by the way, if you want a sure way to kill yourself, jump into the Pasig
River. Even the fishes die there. And the politicians? Not a peep since
they got their free publicity. Which is pretty typical.

This is mad. Every year, the city is flooded when monsoon season sweeps
over us. Everyone cries out that it's because the sewers are filled with
garbage, that people should stop tossing garbage there, that someone has to
clean the esteros. The rains stop, the floods abate, and it's back to the
old habit of throwing garbage into the canals, and doing nothing much about
them. It's so mad it's obscene. It's a charade we play, year in and year
out. We don't move forward, we regress. We are too fond of using masking
tape to cover the holes; we never really fix the problem, we just patch it.
Garbage collection is a problem? Create more landfills. Heck, we're even
helping the poor because we're providing jobs for them. You know, the "go
up Smoky Mountain and find some treasures" kind of job. Traffic lights
aren't working? Field more cops! Who cares if they don't do as good a job?
The traffic lights will blink out again anyway, so what's the use of fixing

The bad news, Virginia, is that traffic and garbage is not the worst of our

Actually, I almost died laughing when I saw one of the headlines in the
papers the other day: Fault Spotted Near Subic Bay. I thought, "Estrada
must be out of town again."

You've heard his pronouncements lately?

- Why should I increase wages when oil price increases if I don't reduce
wages when oil price falls?

- Foreign airlines are more efficient and drive down prices, putting
Philippine Airlines in jeopardy, so we should do something about it, like
keeping those airlines from ferrying people to and from the Philippines and
thus save Philippine Airlines.

- By scrapping the amelioration pay, we save 10 billion pesos, which is good
because we have a budget deficit of 80 billion pesos. What? So what if I
have a personal pork barrel of 60 billion? That's for the good of country
because I'm pro-poor.

Okay, so I've taken liberties in transcribing them, but that's pretty much
what he means.

The point is where is the indignant outcry? Where are the people saying,
"Enough is enough"? Except for a small minority who reads and writes for
the newspapers, people hardly care.

This is Animal Farm. We're like those clueless animals who just take on
whatever the ruling pigs say. Blearily, we look at the barn wall, and we
read, "All animals are created equal, but some animals are more equal than
others." And we think, hmm, maybe that's the way it's always been, that's
the way it always will be, now and forever, Amen.

Maybe we're too nice. Maybe we smile too much. Maybe we're too myopic in
thinking that my brother's garbage isn't mine, so who cares? It's the
cultural attitude, I think, that is our biggest problem. We don't look
towards changing anything when we're on top, or when we're not directly
affected by what's going on. Who cares about the traffic if we're riding in
an air-conditioned car? Or as long as we get to work? And we pat the
resourceful jeepney driver on the back when he goes through some little
streets and gets us to our destination a full 10 minutes ahead. Who cares
if the traffic got just a little bit worse? Especially when the rest of the
jeepney drivers followed suit?

Who cares about traffic rules? If I can cross the intersection a full 10
seconds before I'm supposed to, then that's good. Who cares if the light
was still red? The cops aren't looking anyway. And if they were, what are
a few pesos changing hands illicitly?

Who cares if the canals are clogged? If I can keep my house rid of garbage,
does it matter if I throw the garbage into the estero just like everyone
else? THEN it would be the government's problem, or someone else's anyway,
not mine.

Who cares if the politicians are corrupt? They promised us another raise
next year. That will help feed the family. Why should I write letters to
my congressman and complain about the awful living
conditions here? Who cares if they have huge pork barrels when the rest of
the country is starving? A few pesos will come my way, so that's all right.

And I put up my hand in frustration, because I see the same attitude prevail
among friends and family. If they can get away with a little bit, they're
happy, they feel smart, they're smug. If someone else puts one over them,
they start cursing, and vowing they'll get even, and get more.

To characterize the Filipino mentality to my befuddled foreign friend, I
said, "You'll never meet a people who are so willing to help you, and so
ready to rob you when they get a chance."

And so we spiral down the drain. I am afraid for the next generations of
this country. We learn from our elders. What we do learn scares the hell
out of me. We learn to be street smart, to make sure no one puts one over
us, to take advantage of a situation when we can. My friend swerved into
traffic one time, and his three-year-old chided him. "Daddy, you can't do
that!" But do it often enough, and the child will believe it's okay.

And that's the end of the story. I've only been here four weeks after all.
The worst part, really, is that after a while, you stop even thinking about
what's wrong with this place. You stop minding the garbage and the
pollution. The traffic lights just become another impediment in your
journey towards wherever you're going. You start to see the shortcuts,
literally and figuratively. Government is there to assist you, legally or
otherwise. And you become inured to the whole experience, to the filth and
chaos of Manila. Someone complains about the traffic, and you look around
and say, "What traffic? It really isn't so bad...."

THAT, my friends, is why we have not risen above this morass of
incompetence and stupidity. That is why seeing those cops on the street
corners just makes my brother shrug and say, "They need some money for
snacks." That is why when our president makes those laughable
pronouncements, people just say, "Well, what can we do?" And that is why we
learn to live with cockroaches and rats, both the ones who go through our
garbage, and the ones who spew garbage on TV.

And THAT is Manila from a repatriate's point of view. If I had any more
balls (anatomically impossible, I know, being female... or so I claim), I
would write to the newspapers about this. But why tell them something they
already know?

So here I am, relating to you, my loud and vociferous fellow Filipinos and
Filipinos-in-law, mostly abroad and, if you're in the Philippines, probably
cooped in your ivory towers. I am telling you exactly what I think is wrong
with your beloved, benighted Fatherland. I dare you to come home and think
of something to change the country for the better. Believe me, this is a
country that needs all the help it can get. "

So, what is the difference between 1st and 3rd world?

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