(Un)common Sense by James Veloso
(Un)Common Sense

Poverty porn

Sep 23, 2022, 3:36 AM
James Veloso

James Veloso

Writer/Columnist

I remember reading somewhere that, in the early days of Communist China, shortages of every basic commodity are part of the Chinese people's everyday lives.

After the disastrous “Great Leap Forward” in the 1950s that tried (and failed) to match the Western world’s rapid industrial successes, ration books and very long lines became routine, and almost everyone had patches on their clothes due to the scarcity of clothing material.

Realizing that many Chinese had only patched clothes that would only qualify as "basahan" (throw rugs) to wear, the government tried to bolster the people's morale by launching a campaign called "Campaign of the Glorious Patches," where each patch and wear on their clothes purportedly symbolizes their utter dedication to the Communist cause.

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I am reminded by this episode upon seeing a post shared by the Facebook page "Kaya Di Umuunlad Pilipinas," in which some die-hard (so die-hard they'll probably follow their idolized leaders to the pits of hell) supporters of the current administration have gone to extreme lengths to rationalize the current dire economic situation in our country.

The new line? Apparently, "mas masarap ang maging mahirap!" Not only that, some posts even said they wanted their children to remain poor! 

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I could never be sure whether these posts are real or not, but to me, they symbolize an apparent fetishization of poverty that has been rooted in Filipino culture.

Many Filipinos have adopted a “paawa mindset”, in order to take advantage of poverty – or the appearance of poverty – for financial gain.

I remember this story some OpinYon employees have told us of discovering the “secret life” inside what appeared to be a slum area in a city here in Laguna province when they went there as part of our company’s outreach efforts during the Covid-19 pandemic.

At first glance, the site looks nothing more than the usual “barong-barongs,” but what was inside the houses was a whole different story.

Apparently, some “barong-barongs” now have all the comforts of middle-class life such as flat-screen color televisions, karaoke sets, even air-conditioning units!

“Doon ko naisip, totoo bang mahirap ang mga nakatira dito? O baka ginagamit lang nila ang pagiging mahirap para makapanlamang ng ibang tao?” was how our employee put it.

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Poverty, yes, is never something we should be ashamed of.

But using poverty as a crutch not only to take advantage of others but also to prevent others from speaking up against the failures of the government to address the basic needs of its citizens is so reprehensible.

What are these kooks trying to say? That it’s all right for Filipinos to remain this way forever? That we should just stick to being a “banana republic” and that aspirations of being at par with Western countries (or even Singapore) is “elitist”?

No way!


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