The Soul of a Beggar?

This is opinion. If you like the Philippines the way it is, simply click over to some other internet site and don’t trouble yourself with one guy’s musings on the condition of the state of affairs in the Philippines. Or just take Mr. Aquino’s word for it. He’ll be upbeat, I guarantee it.
JoeAm says the Philippines is not competitive with first-rung economies because of three infrastructure flaws, none of which seem evident to the leadership, because they aren’t doing much about them:
  • It’s public education system is an overloaded crush of mediocrity and obedience to authority. Therefore the output consists of subservient, intellectually lazy graduates not pointed clearly toward productive ways of living. There are certainly exceptions. They are the exceptions.
  • It’s courts are awash with politic, inefficiency  and corrupt actions and thinking. Favors provide the fundamental basis for many rulings, not law. So the relentless damages being done, one Filipino to another, do not get corrected. There is no disciplined enforcement of law. So few pay much attention to it. The accumulation of damages makes it a damaged nation. There are exceptions, etc.
  • The social rules promote a lazy, laid back, happy-go-lucky, self-involved lifestyle. Parents don’t teach discipline or confidence or the importance of reading to kids, or even personal  values like “be kind to others”.  They give orders and a lot of neglect and truck off to church to get a righteous blessing of their ways. Face it, if you are the 6th of 10 kids, how much quality time you gonna get from mama or fathah?
So, about 4:30 this morning, I’m thinking, “you know, this nation has the soul of a beggar.” And I’m shocked with myself for having such a sharp, negative thought. I’ve been working on a positive angle lately.
Well, it was just a thought, and maybe fiction. So no damage done. I did not pass a universal declaration certified by Human Rights Watch or the United Nations or Pulse Asia or the Philippine legislature or even my neighbor, the good Capitan of our lovely hillside Barangay.
I just had a thought.
I was thinking about the moral heavyweight in the Philippines, the Catholic Church. It is the foundation of salvation for so many of the poor people. If you have no money, at least you can find a seat in the pew on Sunday and learn that you will be okay, because God forgives your lazy, sin-filled, adulterous, tuba-drinking soul.
You see, the Church does not exactly promote responsibility, as a behavior. It promotes the emotional release to be found in confession and forgiveness. The Church reinforces that we are flawed, sinful people, and our travails are simply burdens to bear in the name of our Lord. It feels good to give our sins to God and then go get drunk.
The Church itself is a master of accepting no responsibility for anything at all. It is a master of laying the blame off on Satan or the government. Not even it’s own priests are held to account. The grossly sinful  are simply forgiven and blessed and shuttled off to a new parish where they can start anew. And certainly the Church has no qualms about filling our islands up with babies.
Well, let us assume I don’t even live in the Philippines. Let us assume I live near Fourth and Main in Los Angeles, California, USA. My home is a cardboard box in a wide patch of sidewalk a few paces from a toy warehouse, for this is the part of Los Angeles where all the cheap Chinese goods land for further dispersal to retail stores. It is skid row.
I stink, fundamentally, because I have not showered for over a week and inadvertently pissed in my pants a couple of nights ago. That lapse was caused by a bad dream which I blame on the rat that was gnawing on the cardboard wall of my tiny two by four foot room, a cast-off I hauled from the dumpster of one of the toy stores. I can’t read the Chinese characters on the box. Or maybe it is Korean. The characters all look alike to me.
Here’s a quiz, an interview, a little personal introspection, that I might go through, checking on the condition of my state of affairs:
  • Do you blame yourself for being in a box rather than in a comfy bed in a nice ranch-style home with a pool up on Molholland Drive?
  • No, of course not. There are lots of people to shove the responsibility off to. My last boss who had to cut staff because of George Bush’s stupid economic collapse, for instance. The bank that foreclosed on my home because I couldn’t make the mortgage payments after that slut, my ex-wife, skipped out and moved in with my former best friend. Why, I can go all the way back to my drunken excuse of a father who was quick with a whip and slow with love, and a mother lost in her gossipy friends and TV soap operas. They didn’t point me to college, or even a book. They pointed me to the door to get a job.
  • How do you subsist?
  • Well, basically, I whine and connive and cheat. My best begging spot is where the Harbor Freeway through downtown dumps southbound traffic off onto Wilshire. It’s one way and the cars have to stop at the light before turning left. That’s where I work, offering up my best smile and some chatty words, or sometimes looking whiney and pitiful. Chatty generally works better, though. Even if you are down, you can pretend to be happy.  I hold a very large cup so they have no problem tossing a coin in as they cruise through the light when it is green. I have my drive-time regulars there, and the soft-hearts who sometimes give paper money.
  • Why don’t you get a job?
  • Umm, I’m sort of stuck. I was never taught to excel at anything, just to go with the flow. Besides, I need a good suit to get a good job and I don’t have a good suit. Or at least a clean shirt. I don’t have one of those, either. So I can only look for crummy work, like hauling boxes or bags, and, frankly, I’d rather have people give me the money. It’s easier.
  • Don’t you get down on yourself?
  • Oh, sure, sometimes. But I can always visit one of those mission places they have for us bums, that look to save souls. The preachers there are very good at lifting me up to the Lord for forgiveness and a fresh start. Or I can get drunk and forget about it. That’s easier so I do it more often. I get together with a few buddies and we have a good time with some cheap wine. Don’t even need no stinkin’ TV for a good time down here.
  • Aren’t you breaking the law by living on the public sidewalk?
  • Laws are for the people who have money, not for those of us just trying to get by. The police, they don’t care. They got their hands full with drug pushers and murderers. Besides, I don’t mind sleeping in jail. Nice mattresses there, and real food. Freedom is nothing left to lose, you know.
  • What about a family?
  • Oh, I got three kids, with their mama. That’s fine. They got their lives and they leave me to mine. And I have my girlfriends here, believe it or not. Sex is easy, you know, because everybody likes it. Now they ain’t gonna be on no glamour magazine, y’know? But they got all the required equipment. What’s love got to do with it?
  • Are you patriotic?
  • Huh? What do I care? I was born in the USA, that’s all. Some newspaperman asks, and I’ll fill him up with puff. It don’ t matter none to me about them wars they like to do.
  • If you had, say, $100,000, what would you do with it?
  • Wow. I’d get a shower and some new jeans and clean shirts and go down the Pantry for the biggest ass breakfast they have on the menu. By the way, whatever happened to Mayor Reardon? Did he die? He owned the Pantry, I know. My kinda guy. He’d ride his bike to work. Then I’d get a car and a fishing pole and head to the mountains and go camping in a tent. I’m used to small spaces.
  • Would you give any money to your soul brothers here on the street?
  • Nah. They have to take care of themselves, you know what I mean? Like me.
So do you see my point, or do I have to be more explicit?
Comments
11 Responses to “The Soul of a Beggar?”
  1. Depends on when your imaginary interview happened. Now if it happened during Reagan's presidency then your subject is probably one of those thousands of patients from mental hospitals that were closed down as a result of cutbacks on social services. That's when street people became very visible in major American cities like DC, NYC, etc. Many of them looked like vets too, suffering from shell shock or PTSD as euphemists like to call that combat caused condition these days. Now people like that cannot be held responsible because they are incapable of taking care of themselves, that's why they were in an institution in the first place. There are a lot of people in the street. Those who can't lie down and die, those who can hustle. They deal, pimp, mug etc. Now hustling is wrong but in the context of your essay, hustlers are self-reliant thus they are better humans than the example you gave? Many if not most at the top of the american economic and social ladder won't be where they are if there was a true level playing field in that country. Same holds true for this country. America put capitalism on auto-pilot and that led to the plutocracy that it is now. Street people on sidewalks fronting $50M condos in NYC are the most visible examples of the huge wealth gap that exists over there. Something needs fixing whenever money starts defying gravity and moves up instead of trickling down On paper America has the best political system in the world, that's why the Philippines copied it, but there is a need for constant vigilance, that we don't lose track of first principles and start blaming victims.

  2. Yes, I suppose the answers would be relevant to time and circumstance. I think the US is not, today, a model to follow either in government or in private trends toward extreme and angry views. I fully expect the Philippines to pass the US on quality and productivity of government on the way up. The US, of course, is trending downward on civility.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Joe,Looks like the SONA will take those souls out of the beggars. I mean not right now, but one day soon.He speaks of a lot of good things you/we/us talk about. Education, Mining, jobs, tourism, China, energy, agriculture, economy, and most especially the 7k+ kilometers of National road he wants to finished in 2016. Wow! that's awesome…I think the SONA will inspire the country. It happens.That makes me extremely happy.Its Jack

  4. I agree. President Aquino is riding high. Capable, confident, and proud of his staff's achievements. I'm glad to see that Tourism Secretary Jimenez was honored. It was an inspirational speech.

  5. Anonymous says:

    Joe,You sold your soul on this one. Its Jack

  6. The price was right . . . like 41.68 pesos . . .

  7. Anonymous says:

    Those protesting students who cause injury and damage to property hurling rocks and smashing police cars have the mentality and disposition of thugs. The adults from Bayan and those other militant groups who organize these rallies and Incite such wanton acts of violence have no souls. They have agendas. Even the lowly beggar can stand tall beside these common criminals.Cha

  8. Anonymous says:

    Darn Joe, they shortchanged you. Its 42.07 ;)).Its Jack

  9. Yes, they define themselves well. Like NPA idealists who are extortionist gangsters, and Muslim rebels who are extortionist gangsters, and idealogues with a rock who are extortionist gangsters, using violence to try to extract subservience to their extremism. Bums, beggars and hobos are definitely on a higher plane.

  10. Anonymous says:

    From: Island Jim-e 1. Two thumbs up! The article reminded me of a wonderfulstory/play/movie titled: The Mouse That Roard–please google it! Maybe if our PREZ and congress could get more"hand-outs" (in order to get a hand-up for our islands)we could put the PH islanders conditioned habit of sittingunder a tree waiting for the fruits to fall to assist inour need for economic prosperity!2. The SOUL OF A BEGGAR (see music-title-Soul Of Spain)and mesh the bull fight music to the great "con" (big andlittle "cons" prevelant on the street scene that datesback to the invention of the "city". A good street pan-handler in the USA can make upwards of tripple digets just from being in the right place at the right time-with the "right-con" (to include most non-profit organ-izations)! LOL! See the several movies based on the"hustlers"/pick-pockets/small con-big con!3. Now that the SONA has come and gone and the annual"fashion show" has left the center stage and red carpet we can only hope that our PREZ will do a good"DUTCH BOY-and dike" job! I hope he has or can growten-thumbs before he leaves office: a court systemre-model, flood and storm damage prevention infastructureproject, HR and RR laws in place and enforced, addressproverty and other social issues, continue his anti-corruption campaign, environmental and educationalimprovement and a better military and police force!Question: can you compare/contrast the plutocacy of theworld, america to that of the PH-factor? note: methinksthat folks do not really appreciate the "two-faced"activities/positions/situations of all rich and super rich1Certainly I am most disappointed about how USA has slippedin the ranking of the best countries, but with a littlespit and polish (jobs and educational betterment most ofall) I still have some hope for a better day (just as Ihave some hope left for my adopted islands).!Looking for "somewhere over the rainbow" or "my homebeyond the sun"….chirp!

  11. My role model for the bum is a guy I'd pass at Wilshire off the Harbor Freeway, turning left. He looked a lot like Glark Gable, handseome and a dimple. He'd whip out a smile on people and they'd fill his extra large slurpee cup every morning. I think he made more than some of the investment bankers down on Figueroa.I'll take under advisement the comparison of pluto and Ph, and the role of the two-face in modern society.

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