Ghost month
LOOKING ASKANCE - Joseph Gonzales (The Freeman) - August 23, 2020 - 12:00am

Superstitious folk bewail Au-ghost: It is not the time to sign contracts, buy homes, or make investments. The Chinese community, in particular, pay close attention to the do’s and dont’s during this critical period, postponing life choices until after the ghost month has come and gone.

More level-headed neighbors chuckle at this strange belief, while at the same time making the sign of the cross before every journey, or maybe even just entering a dim alley. If not that, then they utter well wishes with the words “God bless”, or veiled curses with the clever phrase “may the Lord take you in his arms early”. Faith in an invisible force that twists fate.

At this particular point in time, though, with COVID-19 raging and our economy in shambles, it’s hard to think how much more unlucky we can get. At least, until an earthquake hits (cue the Masbate quake). Or wildfire rips through the community (cue the lightning strike in California). Or a typhoon comes and inundates entire communities (still being whipped up in God’s lab, coming soon to finish off the year in style).

So, really, how much more worse can things get?

Don’t let me get started. With 45% unemployed, as cheerily conveyed by the Palace spokesman, one can probably expect social unrest to come quick on its heels. Our fellowmen, unable to apply themselves to their regular livelihood and earn food for their tables, might think of quicker, not necessarily legal, ways to make a buck. Between survival and respecting vague norms of private ownership, it would be quite easy to be elastic on the latter.

Theft might not even be the worst of it. We do remember how the New People’s Army started, right? Right?

Abusive landlords were the target of the NPA, seeing as how farmers were being either deprived of land or the profits from their labor. Will abusive employers or callous private property owners be the next logical target? (They’re called oligarchs nowadays) What will hungry citizens be capable of thinking? Or doing?

This is probably why our lawmakers rushed the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020 quickly through its chambers, even despite a pandemic raging unchecked by our inutile health authorities. Was Congress already ahead of the curve, eerily predicting how bad things were going to get, that legislators already bequeathed extraordinary powers to law enforcement agencies in the name of quelling terrorists? An ounce of prevention, and so forth, as they say.

The entrepreneurs have been quick to come out of the woodwork. Sales of sundry essentials like face shields and masks, bread and meat, and even air cleansers and water purifiers are clogging my social media feed. Out there on busy city streets, hawkers of oily cookies, household implements, and native delicacies have sprouted.

Those who have little entrepreneurial instincts, however, are doomed to resort to begging. And yup, they have already hit the road, dotting the avenues as they flash cardboard signs of pleas for help. The first couple or so can quickly melt one’s heart. And then after hordes of them descend on cars waiting at stoplights, it becomes easy to panic at the thought of being surrounded. (Product of watching too many movies, if you ask me.)

Meanwhile, creative ways of parting fools with their money are flooding phones and email accounts, with messages about returning phone loads or correcting unauthorized bank transactions requiring call backs or log-ins to strange sites. The sheer number of scams is a tell-tale sign of society going bonkers.

What’s the next logical step if these fail? Ladies and ladies, your worst fears might be realized. Prepare to be more vigilant.

Even if August is replaced with September, it is not necessarily a sign of better things to come. Just more days to be worried about.

COVID-19
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