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By Arnold Alamon

Wrapped in Grey

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

HISTORY is replete with occasions when the greatest forms of human suffering are followed by the worse kinds of opportunism masquerading as balm.

Naomi Klein has a word for this, “Shock Doctrine” and she cites the pronouncements of neoliberal American economist Milton Friedman on Chile as an example. The guru of free market economics, adviser to notorious Chilean dictator Pinochet, was said to have favorably commented on the economic crisis of Chile in the mid-70s noting that the “speed, suddenness and scope” of the economic turmoil would result to a favorable psychological reaction that would “facilitate adjustment.”

This led Latin American writer Eduardo Galeano to quip, “How can this inequality be maintained if not through jolts of electric shock?” It was a sharp observation regarding how economic crisis is often twinned by fascism. When the shock fails to stop the movements for liberation, the ruling order’s recourse is to quell dissent through the torture and arrest of dissidents.

This “shock treatment” comes to mind in a number of fronts in our own contemporary experience. It seems to be the method of choice for a political standing that has been placed in dire straits by one crisis and scandal after another. The pork barrel scandal has sure eroded the veneer of legitimacy enjoyed by this administration led by the scion of the landlord class. The unfathomable failure of the national government to respond to the immediate needs of the affected populations in the aftermath of Yolanda is the proverbial nail in the coffin.

What has been the response of government so far? The appointment of a known fascist to handle the task of rehabilitating the destroyed environs of Eastern Visayas. His first major pronouncement is the partnership with two major business groups in the task of rebuilding.

Smelling the opportunity for big profits, the local landlord who happens to be the mayor, in a move that exposes his family’s common economic interest with the ruling order despite coming from opposing political camps, have set up fences around their prime property even as his constituents still sleep on tents beside their dead loved ones buried in the rubble yet to be cleared.

With big business waiting at the wings, and the local landlords speculating on the real estate they own, what is being staged before us is a form of disaster capitalism at its worst.

The opportunism regarding the appropriation of government funds and resources and the general incompetence of this administration operating under the banner of neoliberal economic ideology have also emboldened many local landlords and big businesses to adopt the same strategies of shock to further their own economic interests.

The shock doctrine was practiced in our own doorsteps when the local government of the municipality of Lugait through the court sheriff presided over a Yolanda-like destruction on the national highway. Months before the howling winds and storm surges ravaged Tacloban to a flattened City of debris and despair, a similar scene was already evident by the roadside of Barangay Calangahan on May 2013.

What used to be a productive community of farmers and fisherfolk was similarly flattened, not by nature’s wrath but by the malicious hands of the local police and hired demolition teams. Their crops and their homes, painstakingly built by their effort and brawn for decades, destroyed in a single day.

For months they endured the elements making do with their temporary shacks on the roadside without water and electricity. When they were finally able to collect their courage from the initial shock of the demolition, the fascist police were sent to drive them away anew just a few weeks ago. One dead and many children injured and traumatized by the bullets and teargas that were used against them. All these so that the land which remains in legal dispute can be made profitable by private industry.

Proving that this practice of shock is a national policy is the paving by bulldozer of the crops of farmer-claimaints in the president’s own hacienda in Tarlac, just a few weeks shy of harvest and Christmas. On the news today is also the laying-off of 10,000 DepEd workers sacrificed in the altar of Friedman-style cost-cutting.

And what do we say about the impending hike in power rates all over the country? It is a move that has been made acceptable by the socially-conditioned hassle of rotating brown outs. Waiting for the opportune time are diesel-operated and coal power plants run by big business which are guaranteed super profits by the EPIRA law.

The vultures are at it again feeding on the sorry carcass of our tired and desperate people. What they don’t know is that once the initial shock will wear off, just like the struggling people of Calangahan, the people will rise and wage their own brand of fiery shock doctrine against this vile form of fascistic opportunism.

Published in the Sun.Star Cagayan de Oro newspaper on December 17, 2013.


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