Monday, November 10, 2008

The John the Baptist Dilemma

The more things change, the more they actually stay the same, or get worse. Even as Barack Obama wins the US presidency and generates a great deal of euphoria among his countrymen, from early indications of his cabinet appointments, it’s clear that more war is on the offing. The appointment of an Iraq War supporter with dual Israeli citizenship, Rahm Immanuel, as his chief of staff, augurs well only for warmongers and the US military-industrial corporatocracy. Meanwhile, his candidates for the finance portfolio include another former Goldman Sachs man and other Wall Street guys. Tie these in with Barack’s offensive statements against Iran and you will be puzzled as to why despite all these, the US population is still going gaga over Obama, their supposed anti-war candidate.

I would have reacted differently if Barack had started appointing from among his prominent and most active campaigners, the likes of Michael Moore, who have shown genuine anti-war, pro-people, and pro-poor convictions. Moore , for instance, has produced documentaries that exposed the anomalous Bush investigation of the 9/11 World Trade Center attacks, the Columbine student massacre, and the US profit-driven private health care system that has paled in comparison with the socially-oriented systems of Canada and Cuba . Yet, not a single visible sign of Obama’s appreciation for Moore ’s one million-strong e-mail campaign list was seen.

Timothy V. Gatto writes on Information Clearing House, “The Election: It Had to Be this Way,” and says, “Barack Obama will be the catalyst for a new movement, away from false hope and false promises, not because he will deliver to the people of this country anything worthwhile, but because he won’t. This will be the final nail in the coffin of our corporatist society.” He then reflects on the attitude of the more insightful but less patient US intellectuals, who are not impressed by the US liberal flank’s claims of Obama’s promise of change, but who are sure to be demonized, this time, by both the liberal and conservative media.

Ralph Nader, for one, has already been hit hard after an early run-in with Fox News when he expressed hope that Obama would be an “Uncle Sam” for the hapless majority of US peoples and not an “Uncle Tom” for the corporations. Nader was twisted and pilloried for that in the mainstream media, and now, on the Internet. Thus, the US liberal movement is turning out to be as intolerant of other more radical views that would criticize their current idol and icon.

While Obama is now working on a bailout of beleaguered US car manufacturing giants, which further popularizes him, he is actually not doing much to make the bailouts for the financial sector work for people who have lost their homes. So early yet so slick.

By the way, I am writing from Morong, Bataan , beside my favorite beach resort, owned by a colleague from the Philippine Refugee Processing Center (PRPC). The place, called Dorothy, is beside the Panibatuhan Beach , which I wouldn’t trade for the plastic, manicured spot across the hills that used to be the pristine Ilingin Beach , now converted by the Ayalas to another artificial place of relaxation. How anyone can rest in a place where he has to put up with the requirements of glamour boggles my mind. Moreover, it’s worse than that other place, Montemar. There’s still nothing like the original, the truly pristine, which only the cottage industry resorts can cater to simple folks like me -- with the hand pump to wash sand off our feet, their home-cooked meals from the corner tindahan, and a beach almost all to oneself.

Dropping in the morning was Jun Repedro (poor boy graduate from Ateneo on a scholarship) who headed our PRPC food services department (that fed up to 25,000 refugees daily). Jun recalled with amazement the discussions we had and the columns I’d written ten years ago on the impending financial collapse. “Ten years ago,” he said, “you already saw it coming.” But he lamented that our predictions were too early and sounded like hard-to-appreciate “doomsayers,” like John the Baptist. Actually, I said, there was one already in 2000, the (or dot.con) collapse, but the powers behind the system created the “War on Terror” with 9/11, to distract and delay the awakening of the masses.

True enough, Obama is the latest distraction, to shift our focus away from the evil of corporatist control of government. Although he seems to have an authentic populist ideological upbringing (once a practitioner of Saul Alinsky’s Rules for Radicals in organizing the poor, which I also studied during my activist days), by the kind of associations he has made today, he’s clearly been co-opted. But it’s going to be very hard to make people listen, as so many have worked and pinned their hopes on Obama, and they will never believe that they can go so wrong again after Bush so soon. But four years down the road, the US population will see that they’ve been fooled again. That’s when Timothy V. Gatto and Ralph Nader will be better appreciated.

Elections in 2010 are being set up for the Philippines , which will be a distraction again from the bitter lessons of the massive failures of the two Edsa’s. While people hope 2010 can bring about change to the country, with the obvious candidates of the administration and opposition -- Noli, Teodoro, Gordon, Bayani, Belmonte, Villar et al., no change can be forthcoming. In contrast, those who offer real change, like President Estrada, Gen. Danilo Lim and Sen. Trillanes, are deliberately being excluded, like in the SWS survey published the past few days that did not mention Estrada as an option, resulting in his No. 6 ranking. A later survey yet to be published, which explicitly names him as one of the options, will show a very different and surprising result.

Predicting unsavory consequences and deflating popularly-held illusions are hazardous but necessary. Hopefully, in time, only those with the track record of telling the truth can be heeded. That’s the John the Baptist dilemma.