Modern Atlas: The Filipino Middle Class

Having a job made me realize four things: (1) You can write a whole chapter of a novel while stuck in a traffic in Manila at rush hour, (2) Having to eat in a fast-food everyday isn’t really that great as you think (3) Working 8 hours straight drains some of your closely-guarded and tightly-kept idealism and (4)Why in the name of unholy hell is that the tax on this country is so damn high?!

You won’t realize it at first when the HR/boss tells you the amount of deduction, but those 10% (or 20%) are so cunningly evil, they laugh at you in the face when you received your first payslip. The worst thing is, you can’t escape from it. Even if you’re at the bottom or at the top of the corporate hierarchy, your dues will only get bigger and bigger. Added to that is the suspicious simultaneous  rising of basic utilities and food. Plus you are expected to pay for the rent of the house or the mortgage. Since you are the first to graduate from college, your dreams take the backseat and you are expected to help with your siblings’ schooling. You wake up early each day and battle with fellow commuters you uncannily grew to hate just because they took the last seat for the shuttle service that’s about to leave before you do. You leave the office in the same routine and you do it over and over again.

I am not ranting ( oh shoot, maybe I am).Believe me, I am getting used to the work. I am just amazed (and yes, bewildered) at how the actual world can be so different from the days of old, when all you have to do is attend classes, hang out with your friends and be angry at the government. Life is so much simpler. And although I am aware of the hardships the middle class are facing day by day as evident from my parents’ constant squabbling over money, this is the first time I really really begin to think: “Being poor is not the crappiest role in this country. Being the middle class is”

Back in college, where you are drowning with so much idealism and drive to change the world, the fight for the rights of the poor, of the masses, of those in Class E, of those at the bottom of the pyramid, becomes your life’s purpose. Everyday, as we go through the gates of the university, we passed by the slums and shanties left abandoned by the railway and thought too ourselves how unfair the world is to the poor. How oppressive the elite and the government is. How anti-poor they are. Our view may have been narrowed and myopic. We only saw the oppressors on top and those people at the bottom whose rights we must upheld. We were unable to see, or refused to see, the condition of the one in between, the class which most of us ironically came from.

I remembered one class in college when my professor is illustrating the iconic ‘pyramid’ shaped social hierarchy of the Philippines. We get the fact that there is an unequal number between the poor and the rich. The gap between them is widening. The ones at the bottom have no access to basic rights of food, shelter and education while the rich has it all. Down between them, the one usually ignored, is the middle class. Back then, I’ve always thought the middle class, both upper and lower, are just indifferent to the suffering of the poor. I didn’t realize they are just too busy working hard and clinging to this rung of the ladder before they can slide down to the bottom once again to even care for the poor’s suffering and of their own.

My prof drew another illustration, this time, a diamond-shaped one. This one, he said, is the social hierarchy of developed countries like Japan and Canada. The rich and poor are not not too large, they are more or less equal. It’s the number of middle class that makes up the large bulk of social hierarchy and eventually, the economy.

Earlier back then, we knew. I knew, that the ones who are truly oppressed, the ones who are unable to fight back and complain, the ones that must be taken care of but are drastically neglected, are the middle class. At least the poor folks get to be favored by the government until election period ends because of their overwhelming votes, but every day, it’s the middle class who gets the short end of the stick; Those OFWs being milked out of remittances, those professionals working from day in to day out no matter how crappy their job is, those call center agents, those floundering small-time entrepreneurs and businessmen, those factory workers who struggle to pay the rent, those self-employed individuals who file taxes in this hellhole of a country which they can toss out anytime for other countries offering a more relaxed financial burden.

These people are modern Atlases. Like the Greek god who was condemned to carry the world in his shoulder for all eternity, the middle class has the burden of the tax in their shoulders while both the ones who cannot compensate and the ones who refused to compensate ( tax evaders) are the ones lounging on top. It’s not the poor’s fault it came to this, the government simply uses their helplessness and ignorance for their political gains. If there’s one thing worse than having a government that is anti-poor, it is is having a government that is anti-middle class, or is negligent to the needs of the middle class.

The middle class has so much power to turn things around. It has been the same way in developed countries for many years. There are barely even any poor people around in these countries because most attained the level of the middle class and remained in this sphere, financially stable except when recession struck or some unforeseeable circumstances hit them. You can tell how good a country’s governance is if it takes care of the middle class and encourages and empowers the poor to ascend to that class, not tolerating their ignorance and demands just for the sake of a political influence.

It is so easy for the middle class to be critical and angry on the poor. After all, they are the ones who compensate for what the poor ought to give. But instead of blaming each other for the other’s misfortune, why not turn our eyes to the ones in power? For as long as the government is too busy playing their own version of Game of Thrones in politics,  hatred and strife among classes will just spread. Indifference will propagate. Each class will stick on its own. Philippines, as divided and fragmented as it already is, will further be separated into blocs of which social status is based.

It’s amazing that after all these years, we still retain the same social structure from the time of datus and slaves!

I therefore now challenge President Noynoy for the next three years of his term: Heed the needs and the voice of the middle class. Empower the poor, not tolerate them. Give them what they need, not what they want. Pass urgent bills and strongly enforce the existing laws that are pro-middle class. Amend the constitution if necessary. Turn the republic form into federalism if necessary. Just do it out of conscience and not for greed, not for inserting glory on your term but something that will last for many administrations to come. Just for sincere public stewardship and the vision to, as borrowed from your parents’ late archenemy, make this nation great again.

With the rise of social media, more and more members of the middle class are being awakened from all the injustice around them and find consolation to one another. As Karl Marx says,  a revolution need not be violent. Just as world history tells us, a revolution sparked by the intellectual and educated middle class, slow and internal as it may be, is one that will put the government into its knees and change the face of a country forever.

You think this is bloody? You ain’t seen nothing yet.

About sentimentalfreak

Consistently inconsistent. Forever searching and wandering. 'Tis only writing that calms down her restless little soul.

Posted on July 10, 2013, in Filipino, It's More Fun in the Philippines, My country, rant, reflections and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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