Make no mistake. I like the Catholic Church. I think priests and nuns are among the best people on the planet. They work hard and heartfelt to ease the troubles of people with lots of them. I like the grand cathedrals and local churches, and the spiritual rites, which I can succumb to like a spiritual lamb being led to the altar. I like the people in the pews, friendly and honest of heart for this moment, at worship.
I like the Chinese, too, frankly. The relevance of the statement will become clear near the end of this article. Hang in there.
This is not a blog about atheism or religion. Or race. It is a blog about dots.
Poverty is a bastard, a bitch. It's hard. It's thankless. It takes away the dignity of man, the dignity that has us ever striving to improve our lot, to eat better, to dress cleaner, to find shelter against the typhoons. To be healthy. To be educated.
People can only take so much poverty. When they are pushed to desperation, they become more animal than man and take matters into their own hands. Ask the heirs of French aristocrats about that, if you can find any. They were cleaned out by the poor, erased, murdered.
Look at the Arab Spring. It was primarily about poverty, not religion.
Look at France where a socialist has been elected to the top job by a disgruntled electorate of unemployed and angry people. Or Greece where riots come a dime a dozen.
Look at the Philippines where the poorest of the poor live in hovels within distance of the classy glass high rise palaces. Have you been up by the docks, those stacks of buildings, three or four levels high, jammed with kids and trash and tattered laundry flapping in the breeze? It stinks there. It's dangerous there. Have you been to the countryside where houses are built of throw-away lumber and tin, the floor is dirt, and when it rains, the only place to go is 10 to a bed off the mud floor? Millions live that way. I won't mention garbage heaps and the kids sifting through them for food. It is too much for me.
I'm drawing a stark picture here. You can't run. You can't hide. The poor are there. And there. And there. Ignored by most people most days. That is unacceptable.
How much more of this can the Philippines take, really?
I get nervous when I see Filipinos are marching in the streets demanding higher minimum pay. They are intense.
Could YOU live on P150 a day?
No. No. It is not possible to construct a decent kind of life onP150 a day. A life of healthy food and clean clothes and safe shelter and good health care and fine education that expands the mind and enriches the soul. No. You can only afford subsistence. Survival. The bare minimum.
Too many Filipinos live at the bottom of life's desperation scale. 1.7 million new babies were born last year. Expect the same this year. And we are about to hit the wall. That place where "enough" is the rallying cry of the angry.
Why is it that the Catholic Church gets to sit there, big and bold an pious, and hold that it is in no way responsible for this?
Here are the dots:
- Catholic values
- Over birthing
- Gross Mismatch: Number of people and jobs
It is this notion of complete LACK OF RESPONSIBILITY that drives me nuts. The Church says It is the government that can't generate a good economy. That's why there is so much poverty.
Or it is the failure of man, the sins, the devil, that creates all the babies birthed when natural birth control is used. Catholic man and Catholic woman just can't seem to get that monthly cycle right. Or do without.
I mean, if priests and nuns can do without, why not men and women?
Tell you what. I'll let you deal with the devil and our manly and womanly drives. Don't forget to address the choirboy matter.
I'll take the economy.
A gentleman by the name of Jeffrey D. Sachs, director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University in the U.S., visited the Asian Development Bank's powwow in Manila last week. He has counseled popes and presidents. BusinessWorld published Director Sachs' views of the Philippines. He said:
- “The Philippines of course is a very complicated country, very diverse; it’s an archipelago. It’s very crowded. The population has increased more than four times since 1950. The fertility rates remain quite high in this country, I think too high, actually, because most places that have really made the breakthrough -- sustained economic growth, more social inclusion -- had their fertility rates coming down voluntarily to the replacement level, two children per household."
Notice a few key phrases:
- "sustained economic growth"
- "more social inclusion"
- "replacement level"
Kids at two per family are an investment in the future of the Philippines. Kids at three per family, like the Philippines, produce up to 50% more mouths than the Philippines can feed. The extra kids are a DRAIN on resources. The opposite of investment. They suck the productive life from the economy. Not for six years or 12 or 18. But for a lifetime. People get only P150 a day, more or less, because that way you spread the little wealth that is available across the broad poverty stricken masses. You try to pay millions of people P200 a day and you'd have to balance accounts by taking jobs away from millions of other people. They'd make zero pesos a day and riot in the streets. Businesses don't have enough money to bail the nation out poverty. They pay what they can afford to pay.
Long term effort bails a nation out poverty.
Director Sachs went on to explain that "voluntarily" population slow-down means through education, family planning and delayed marriages for girls, as an example. Then he talked about his specialty, the Earth's finite resources:
- We’re a very crowded planet. Rapid population growth in this era of environmental troubles creates big problems -- lots of poverty, lots of marginalization, lots of environmental stress,. . .Resiliency [is] going to become more and more central because the climate is becoming more dangerous and more unsustainable. So, climate change from the point of view of the Philippines is not a small matter, it’s a very large matter.”
How resilient is the Philippines? Struggling to build enough schools. Struggling to grow enough rice. Struggling to get gasoline and electricity in at a reasonable cost. A hiccup of rice shortage leads to near panic, and massive hoarding for profits.
The Philippines has ZERO resilience. Zero margin for error. Huge calamities are waiting right around the corner. One storm. One earthquake. One uprising of people fed up with this.
Ahhh, but Director Sachs tells us there is reason to think our future has to be so wretched.
- “On the positive side, it’s good to be in the dynamic part of the world. The North Atlantic right now is in crisis. It grows slowly, unemployment is high; whereas in the Philippines, the Asian developing countries are the fastest-growing region in the world ... [A]ll the benefits of rapid technological improvement and lots of market opportunities, a lot of dynamism and shifts of production, [are] within this region. So, a country that really makes a determined effort to be competitive in Asia can have very big results.”
Well, damn, then. Lets harness that dynamism HERE in the Philippines. Let's "make a determined effort to be competitive in Asia" Let's stop being the needy orphan, the laggard of Asia that people love to sneer out. Let's take charge.
First of all, here is what you do. You be blunt. You take the hammer to the glass wall that suppresses condemnation of the Church. You don't pussy foot around, delay, debate, hide, and hope. You act.
You put the Catholic values toward women side by side with China's territorial irrationalism as the two most significant man-made threats to Philippine security.
It is dangerous when the Church takes political action to stop government from providing health education and family planning services to women. It is dangerous when birthing is out of control and resolutions can only come with desperate people taking desperate, destructive acts.
- Keep China off Philippine islands. The Chinese are a great people, but they need visas to stay here.
- Get Catholic values out of politics. Poverty is a health and security threat government needs to address.
The birthing load is too heavy for the nation and, unchecked, will eventually break its back.
I'll ding President Aquino real hard on this if he continues to lollygag about the RH Bill and refuses to consider that efforts to reduce poverty MUST include a voluntary slowing of birth rate. I trust he knows what "make a determined effort means". I trust he understands that, in consciously failing to do determined acts, he fails in his responsibility to the nation.