The Squeeze

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Friday, May 2, 2014

WHEN I was in my 20's, I was conscious that the name of the game was the hunt for love, fame, and fortune. I steered clear of people who pursued these things relentlessly, and instead I surrounded myself with the romantics, drunkards, and losers, who balked at a future with certainty.

There was something off-putting and a kind of self-importance to stake a claim for the future for oneself in the context of being a citizen of a suffering nation. Now many years later, I still pause to consider if they got it right and I got it wrong.

I have since learned after losing my parents at an early age that many of my kind, the barely middle class with only a good education to depend on, are pushed to constantly think of life in terms of preparing for that family emergency that inevitably come. The middle class in this country have to deal with the specter of a family crisis hanging over their heads forcing them to approach life in a constant state of emergency.


It is this squeeze for family survival that has forced many to consider working abroad, endure the graveyard shift in call centers, or work for government and private corporations to help maintain the backward political and economic system. This middle class consciousness is a product of an economic predisposition leaning toward conservatism, social apathy, and to the extreme, a brand of reactionary politics that is insular, myopic and self-serving.

Close to my 40's, I haven’t built my nest egg to be able to assure myself that everything will be ok and by now, I think it is somewhat too late. I survived the death of my parents with the regret that my good education did not make me rich enough soon enough to have been able to make them not worry for me after they are gone. But if there is one thing that I have to thank my parents for, is that they gave me the freedom to choose my own path.

But the choices we make in life always come with a price, I have come to learn. For me, it was a conscious decision not to pursue the expected direction and every challenge poised by this unconventional life has always been met with a grin-and-bear it attitude with occasional success.

That is the squeeze of being aspirationally middle class in this country, desperately trying to keep ourselves above the danger of falling into the abyss of impoverishment and want which is so obvious all around. Aspirational because, in real terms, our kind is not really earning well enough yet persist in dreaming of that golden parachute for the sunset of our lives or if not ,the Boracay vacation of the moment all paid for through credit.

That is why the future of this nation is not in the hands of the middle class despite the posturing of those well-meaning enough to think of the betterment of this nation in their occasional free time. Our kind is caught between a rock and a hard place – the rock of elite rule where our expertise are employed to create even greater profit for the few under a regime of repression and class war, and the hard place of poverty and landlessness where majority of our people remain mired in.

Unfortunately, our compulsion is toward protecting our salaried jobs, our debts of favor to relatives and bosses, the steady growth of our meager savings, and the tuition fees of our sons and daughters so that they can be one step removed from our sense of uncertainty. We have really not much to lose but our one foot inside the system of consumerist rewards offered by the present order created for us the illusion that we belong.

The real promise actually lies among those who have nothing to lose. Those who have long been exempted from the gains of the political, social, and economic life of the system. Their strength is in their numbers and the courage that will emanate from their collective unity.

The real hope is also with those who have left the life of silent desperation among the middle class eschewing the illusion that we have a stake in this unjust social order. They join those who have nothing to lose in their struggle for our shared redemption.

So who got it right? Who got it wrong? History will finally reveal the answer to this question eventually. But I am sure the verdict will be on the side of the just and the brave.

Published in the Sun.Star Cagayan de Oro newspaper on May 03, 2014.


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