You snooze, you lose

Buencamino writes political commentary for Action for Economic Reforms.  This article was published in Business Mirror, April 19 , 2006 edition, p. A10.

A columnist asked the question that’s been bothering activists for sometime, “What will it take to move this suspended, ‘sick and tired,’ disturbed, desperate, unconvinced middle?”

Maybe the question shouldn’t even be asked.

Activists are the exceptions in the middle class. Most of the middle is only good at whining about the lack of an alternative and rationalizing inaction.

The middle values stability. Their biggest fear is slipping off the ladder and falling back into the masa’s arms. They will not take chances.

They will remain at their workstations composing angry “let’s move on” letters for as long as their boss remains uninvolved. They will wait for him to march. Then, and only then, will they fall all over themselves fighting to be the first to lockstep with him.

It’s useless to pin one’s hopes on the self-emasculated. Besides, there are only two classes—the rich with their money and the poor with their numbers—who can unmake GMA or any administration. The middle class cannot do it. They have nothing except their balls and their brains and, as we have seen, many of them prefer not to use
either.

The poor are a given. They are natural allies of reformers and revolutionaries. The rich, on the other hand, won’t be easy. Gloria Macapagal went to school with them, learned their manners and their language, and married one of them. She started out as a country bumpkin’s daughter but now she’s family. She’s Mrs. Arroyo now.

Remember last year’s full page manifestos from the women of civil society? Those were mothers talking about their errant adopted daughter. Their message was, “She may have done something horribly wrong but she deserves a chance to redeem herself.”

In the early 1980s, Hunter S. Thompson wrote an article on a Cinderella story that ended up as one of the most sensational divorce cases in the history of Palm Beach society. His insights into that scandal might help the common folk understand why GMA may elude the very same things Erap could not escape.

Thompson wrote, the rich “have a powerful sense of turf. God has given them the wisdom, they feel, to handle their problems in their own way. In Palm Beach there is nothing so warped and horrible that it can’t be fixed, or at least tolerated, just as long as it
stays in the family.”

He added, “The family lives on the island, but not everybody on the island is family. The difference is very important, a main fact of life for the people who live there, and few of them misunderstand it. At least not for long. The penalty for forgetting your place
can be swift and terrible.”

Our rich are betting the house on their adopted daughter not forgetting her place. But, what are the odds?

They assume that “he who has the gold makes the rules” but they ignore, at their own peril, that he who is empowered to make the rules can take away their gold.

Soon, their adopted daughter will be making all the rules. She will have a unicameral parliament and no checks and balances to stand in her way. The rich better pray she doesn’t forget her place.

And they better pray hard. There’s just too much dirty money being made. Sooner than later, someone will run out of dead relatives to use for fictitious bank accounts. And then, where will all that dirty money go?

Of course it can always be shipped abroad. But secret offshore accounts are only safety nets—in case one has to go into exile real quick and there’s no guarantee those accounts will remain secret and out of the reach of justice forever.

It’s always safer and wiser to wash and invest dirty money at home. Unfortunately, the rich, whose businesses will be the unwilling repository of laundered loot, will have problems. All it will take is for a Rasputin to whisper into someone’s ear, “You are a major investor in so many companies yet you do not control any of them and some of the companies where you don’t have any investments are competing against companies where you have investments.”   And the rich will see their cute adopted little pet monkey
turn into an angry and hungry 800-pound gorilla.

What will the rich do then? Hope their adopted one remembers her place and exercises self-restraint?

Time to wake up. The seeds of kleptocracy have been sown, and harvest time is just around the corner. You snooze, you lose.

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