What’s happening now is not normal
EYES WIDE OPEN - Iris Gonzales (The Philippine Star) - January 17, 2019 - 12:00am

It’s getting harder and harder to imagine how things used to be. They were far from perfect, but not as insane as they are now. 

 As it happens, we’re getting used to the madness, to the surreal and bizarre. It is both sad and appalling, this feeling of apathy and it must come to an end.

Sure, the economy seems to be gearing for a comeback this year, thanks to cooling inflation and hopefully lower oil prices.

And yes, we’re far better than many worst performing countries like Indonesia, Turkey, and South Africa in terms of credit problems, unemployment, and fiscal deficits.

But beyond the numbers, there’s a daily dose of madness we can never quantify. Yet, it’s so common we’re starting to think it’s normal. 

Isn’t it madness when taxpayers money end up in the pockets of lawmakers and government officials and their in-laws? 

Isn’t it madness when Filipinos are slapped with new taxes at the start of the year, while people in power are just stealing left and right?

Isn’t it madness when we can laugh about a proud man’s confession about fingering a maid during his teenage years? 

Isn’t it madness when we curse and shame everyone that gets in our way — every Tom, Dick, and Harry and members of the Catholic clergy?

Isn’t it madness when a businessman walks around in his very own territory and is shot at the back by an assassin not once, not twice, but several times?

Isn’t it madness when a local politician is gunned down on the day of his wedding anniversary and days before Christmas only because he was going to run for mayor this May?

Isn’t it madness when there is just too much nastiness going around — on our moving walls and our timelines from God’s army of trolls and paid hacks of all colors, the Yellows, the Greens and the Reds? 

Isn’t it madness when this country is now so deeply divided between the devil you know and the devil you don’t?

Is there method to this madness as there was with Hamlet? 

There’s none and we should remind ourselves over and over that what is happening around us today is not normal. This is not how our nation should be. 

It’s now a country where rules are bent and the laws are forgotten so men can stay in power. 

It’s now a country where opponents are sent to jail and loud critics are bombarded with libel cases left and right. 

It’s now a country where public school teachers are put under surveillance and considered enemies of the state. 

It’s now a country where journalists are discredited for telling the truth and lies are retold over and over in Russian-like troll farms until they sound like Gospel truth.

It’s now a country where life has become so cheap and guns for hire are having a heyday. 

It’s now a country where there are now at least 20,000 dead from the drug war. 

With all these deaths, one would think this is a country under enemy siege or under terrorists’ hands. But it’s not. This is not Syria or Iraq.

This is the Philippines in the year 2019, entering the end of another decade. Are we back to where we were before? Or in an even worse place?

On Monday in Tondo, Manila, journalist Lynzy Billing was on her way to a hospital to document a birth. But instead, what she encountered was a story of a stranger’s death. 

It was around 3 p.m. when she passed by Estero de Marala Bridge in Barangay 101.

It was then when she saw it — a lifeless body dumped in the water. 

“For a moment, he looked almost peaceful in the quiet waters, weighed down with shackles and legs bound together with rope and duct tape. His face is also completely taped up,” Billing wrote on her Instagram page (@lynzybilling).

It’s a disturbing photo and you will look at it not once, not twice, but many times over. You will look long and hard. 

The man’s shirtless body was floating in the murky dark blue waters. His face was submerged. Only his body was visible, but it was smudged with dirt and what seemed like blood. His legs and arms were tied up and tattered pieces of dirty white and blue cloth hang loosely around his body, forming a cross of sorts. It seemed like the Crucifix.

It’s not clear how many minutes or hours ago he was killed.

But at the stillest, stillest point in this chaotic country, the man’s body lay lifeless and bound, in broad daylight under the yellow afternoon sun.

This and so much more are grim reminders of what this country has become. There’s an alarming social hemorrhage happening around us. It’s so profuse and if we don’t do everything we can to stop it, this nation will soon rot to the core. 

Iris Gonzales’ email address is eyesgonzales@gmail.com. Follow her on Twitter @eyesgonzales.

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