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Ordinary, or extra-ordinary?

Doreen G. Yu (The Philippine Star) - April 15, 2021 - 12:00am

Chat groups and social media were all a-buzz yesterday over a video of a patriarch tycoon and his wife sitting on monobloc chairs in the neighborhood basketball court, waiting for their turn to get COVID-19 vaccines. According to one social media post, they (both senior citizens) were reportedly “offered to go ahead but (he) refused to skip the line, saying, ‘No, we’re all Filipinos’.”

There were kudos and high praise all around, and deservedly so. But it makes me wonder why following the rules, waiting for one’s turn without making singit (cutting the line) or claiming some self-perceived privilege (with the famous line, “hindi mo ba ako kilala [don’t you know who I am]?) is such an unusual – shocking even – and thus post-worthy incident.

I guess it is because the all too common occurrence around here is that those who think very highly of themselves – and there are unfortunately quite a few of them – expect everyone else to share that assessment and act accordingly, giving them what they believe is their due. For example, government officials of diminishing importance believe their time is worth much more than everyone else’s so they must go ahead, especially in traffic – by wangwang-ing or counter flowing, even these days when traffic is light because of ECQ/MECQ/GCQ.

Following the rules is for the peasants and the toiling masses like you and me. Because of varying degrees of quarantine restrictions we have missed birthdays and baptisms and even wakes (a kuripot friend quipped that we’ve saved a lot on flowers); we stretch grocery shopping from once a week to once every two or three weeks and diligently bring the quarantine pass in case the guard at the supermarket checks; vacations and out-of-town gimmicks are put on hold and we content ourselves with virtual vacations on television or YouTube and looking at photos of trips previously taken.

On the flipside are the birthday mañanitas and shopping at members-only groceries even while waiting for the results of a swab test (indicating a suspicion of COVID), which turns out to be positive. There are also side trips to resorts, holding public gatherings of definitely more than 10 or even 30 people and, recently, jumping the vaccination queue by claiming it is just to demonstrate vaccine safety and counter vaccine hesitancy among the general populace – photos posted on social media for all to see.

And the supposed strict implementation and holding violators to account? As I said, that’s only for us peasants, like the guy arrested for going out of his house after curfew to buy water at a nearby store or the health worker detained for not wearing a face shield while biking (a face shield is not required for bikers).

The fortunate few – maybe not so few – get to have their transgressions absolved, forgotten or, if you’re really fortunate, rewarded with a promotion. They go strutting around, pontificating, issuing statements on working together to fight the pandemic, being patient and sacrificing for the common good… but hey, sacrificing is only for you and me – they’re exempted.

Perhaps we are simply too starry-eyed, too easily awed by position that we think “they” should indeed be accorded special advantages. So we are surprised when those we consider to be privileged – by position, wealth or celebrity – act like the rest of us, like the photo passed around chat groups some months ago of Bill Gates standing in line outside a coffeeshop or the son of the above-mentioned patriarch tycoon queueing, plate in hand, at a buffet (in a previous life when buffets were lunchtime staples). We cannot imagine government officials taking the train or the bus or – heaven forbid! – the jeepney, unless of course it is with a camera crew in tow.

It is perhaps the expectation of such perks and trappings that motivates people to seek public office, and those already in position to do anything and everything to stay in power. Being in office – whatever office – puts one a cut above the rest…or so they believe. We are all equal, but, to borrow from Orwell, I guess some people are more equal than others.

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