Benumbed and bedumbed

By: Ma. Ceres P. Doyo - @inquirerdotnet - Columnist/Philippine Daily Inquirer | November 19,2020 - 08:00 AM

The admonition/advice/plea is out. The words “resilient” and “resilience,” used to refer to the Filipinos’ indomitable spirit in the face of tragedies and calamities are, if possible, to be avoided. It is nobody’s decree, but may it be—for now, at least. I agree, because long before the R word became anathema to many, I was already becoming discomfited whenever I heard it.Resilience is a quality to be admired but using it so often during catastrophic events, especially if made worse by uncaring humans, seems to suggest that it is okay to be the victim because you will rise above it eventually, blah blah blah and so on and so forth. It is like saying “Kaya mo yan” (You can take it) while someone is in the pits. Or that God will not give you the tragedy if you cannot take it.

Say that to a mother whose baby slipped from her arms during evacuation and was swept away by flood waters. Not everybody is made of the same stern stuff, that is why some who suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder lose their sanity or opt to end it all.University of the Philippines professor and veteran journalist Luis Teodoro, chair of AlterMidya Network, was quoted in a meme which says: “Resilience is just another name for excusing the incompetence of the elected. Everyone with any brains, especially the media, must stop celebrating it.”

A colleague posted a direct warning on Facebook: “Say that word again and Batman will come to slap you!”

A priest said something similar and more. In his homily last Nov. 13, Jesuit Fr. Ro Atilano quoted Jelou Galang of ScoutMag in so many words as saying that “it is time for us to stop romanticizing our Filipino resilience because it normalizes suffering, diminishes the hardships of others, and leaves no responsibility to the officials to do better.

“If I may add, that it validates human suffering as part of God’s plan. ‘Pagsubok lang ito na pinadala sa atin ng Diyos, kaya natin, ito.’

“While it may be consoling to hear such personal faith affirmation, it is also an opportunity for us to learn the right Christian theology on human suffering.”

True resilience, Atilano said, “is when we learn to take care of each other so when disasters happen again there will be less or zero casualty. True resilience is learning from experience and science and becoming stronger, wiser, and more responsible after each calamity. Incidentally, this is also what Jesus in the Gospel today reminds us by recalling the great flood in the days of Noah. As a people and nation, we have to be like Noah and his family—stronger, wiser, and more responsible.”

Ironically, there is a government agency named Project Noah (Nationwide Operational Assessment of Hazards) which is the Philippines’ primary disaster reduction and management program.

I don’t know why the immortal piece “Jewels of the Pauper” on the Filipino’s unperishable spirit, written by the great Jesuit Fr. Horacio de la Costa, comes to mind right now. What would he have written in this present situation?

We are a people made numb and dumb by our leaders and those in power especially during and in the aftermath of catastrophes. We are a people benumbed and bedumbed. So like being put under an anesthetic. The prefix be- suggests being made so, as in belittled, besieged, benighted, etc. The words “resilient” and “resilience” add to the numbing and the dumbing. Even the Pinoy’s incomparable sense of humor and grit in the midst of disaster can only do so much. (Behold someone in a mermaid costume splashing in the flood, a game of pool in waist-deep water.)

Talked down to, even served up sexist jokes during a most tragic situation, many are often left to themselves until the next catastrophe while government officials play the blame game or even diminish the work of their truly concerned equals. But thank heavens for the private creative initiatives of those behind feeding programs such as ARMK, individuals and groups that hit the ground running to provide hot meals when disaster strikes.

We are a people benumbed and bedumbed, but we should refuse to be made so.

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