Modern life phenomenon:  Minister for Loneliness

On Wednesday, the U.K. made political history by creating an entirely new, untried political role: the world’s first “minister for loneliness.” The post is designed to combat what Prime Minister Theresa May called “the sad reality of modern life” for many people.

Half a million British people over 60 only talk to another person once a week or less. People who self-report as lonely are more likely to experience dementia, heart disease, and depression. When it comes to life expectancy, the long-term health effects of loneliness are equivalent to smoking 15 cigarettes a day.

The World’s First Minister of Loneliness, Feargus O’Sullivan, Citylab

Maybe there’d be less songs for the lonely in the world, let’s see.


Martial law: whose perspective?

I’m not, never will be, for martial law or any restrictions to liberty and freedom. Even if it’s a benign form of martial law, the fact that civilians are searched or required to present evidence of who or what they are to armed personnel instill an environment of distrust that in turn gives birth to other negative feelings (fear, paranoia, anxiety, more distrust, and the like) and thoughts (am I going crazy? am I the only one distressed over restricted movement?). I can’t help feel angry that I’m searched or asked for identification. Do the checkers really give a hoot about who I am or what I do? No. They only need to see that I am not one of those wanted men and women. The wanted individuals that’s who or what they care about, bottomline, which is why it doesn’t really matter to them if good and law-abiding citizens are made to line up even in scorching high noon heat. Who are being persecuted? But this is my perspective.

I do try, for my own sanity, to understand martial law or forms of restrictions from the perspective of Mindanaoans. They welcome it. People here, Moro and migrants alike, tell me, “people in Manila who are protesting and complaining about martial law here do not know anything, if they want we’ll exchange places, they could come stay here and we’ll go there. See if they don’t embrace martial law.” I have no response to such, just a smile. But I understand now that I’ve been here some time and have gone around in conflict areas where you don’t know if you’re going to be sniped at driving through a village while Michael Learns to Rock is crooning 25 Minutes Too Late in the background, or becoming a secondary victim of a blast in a shop next to the one you’re in. Such does things to your psyche. What more for folks who have been subjected to such a volatile environment for the longest time? I understand, travelling on the Pan-Philippine/Maharlika Highway to and from conflict-ridden areas, why people from Visayas and Luzon would want to build their homes here and why some people here would want to defend it at all cost. This place, this region, is very beautiful. I’m caught by the beauty of it’s landscapes, it’s wilderness. It’s a much-contested space. But I also understand what somebody who’s working in peacebuilding in the region for more than a decade meant when he said “pagod na din ang mga tao dito. Mamamatay tayo na baka hindi pa naayos itong problema (people here are already tired. We’d probably die without the conflict getting resolved).” What a sad, sad thought. I wanted to weep.

Whose voice? Whose agenda? Whose perspective? Whose future? These should guide us as we make a decision or a judgment about what is best for a community.

Quirks, no longer

The sustained anti-corruption protests by South Koreans which led to the impeachment of their President and the arrest of her childhood friend and confidante Choi Soon-sil “the woman behind it all” and more recently of Choi’s daughter abroad in Denmark put Filipinos to shame.

In 2013, Filipinos listened in utter horror as media rolled out investigative reports on the PHP10B pork barrel scam by Janet Napoles “the woman behind it all” with members of Congress as accomplices. Filipinos knew about under-the-table dealings even before, but it was the first time that the depth and extent of corruption by public officials was reported to the nation. The people however only managed to rouse themselves to a one-day protest which looked more like a picnic at the Park.

One wonders if the Filipino people are not the zombies shipped on the “train to Busan”- how was it that we were not moved by such massive corruption of our money by persons whom we trusted and put into positions? by that woman who is not even a public official? by that daughter who published a photo of her smug self inside her PHP80M Ritz Carlton hotel apartment wallowing in a bathtub of money-slash-the-people’s-money? The burial of a former soldier-President in a soldier’s allotted grave is of no consequence compared to this infamy. Until now, there has been no systematic and sustained trial of those implicated in the corruption. Why?

Anyway. This post is actually about the capacity of leaders, taking on as example, because it is more recent and closer to home, the South Korean President.

There is no lack of research written about what qualities befit a good leader whether in the public or private realm. Forbes for instance argues for the Top 10 Qualities That Make A Great Leader. The Harvard Business Review explains: Why We Keep Hiring Narcissistic CEOs; Why People Are Drawn To Narcissists Like Donald Trump; Narcissistic Leaders: The Incredible Pros, The Inevitable Cons. And so forth. But, why, indeed, do we have leaders who disappoint?

The Park and Choi scandal, according to Park Yoon-bae in his article Let Checks and Balances Work for The Korea Times, is a classic example of corrupt political leadership that collects funds from conglomerates in return for business favors. Judging from what she has done so far to deal with the scandal, Park apparently lacks moral and political integrity that is required for the chief executive.

Let’s unpack “lacks moral and political integrity”. Over the years, S Korea media have noted Park’s queer behavior in times of national crises, viz: (1) Photos suggest Park had beauty surgery amid Sewol tragedy; (2) Park spent 90 minutes hair styling when 315 students were trapped in sinking ferry; (3) Suspicions re-emerge over ‘7 missing hours’. We are also provided glimpses of Park in her private persona: (1) ‘Toilet sensitive’ President Park; (2) President Park, a ‘Hikikomori’; (3) Soap opera: South Korean President Park Geun-hye ‘used TV character as pseudonym’ at detox clinic. Last but not least, on her tragic family history Park Geun-hye and the friendship behind S Korea’s presidential crisis.

Stepping outside the perspective of politics and into that of medical science, the above information would lead us to these theories: (1) still deeply traumatized by the assassination of her parents, first her mother, and after them her own experience of violence she has difficulty trusting or allowing anybody apart from her childhood friend into her private sphere; (2) her entry into politics afterward has her conflicted over how she is part of the system that had taken away both her parents. Religion or symbolism somehow alleviated that inner turmoil; (3) the shadow of her larger-than-life father, so-called Rasputin and the father of modern S Korea, still looms over her causing her to freeze in inaction or helplessness, like a child, deeply fearful to be seen or judged as less than perfect; (3) the oversight role her father had suddenly vacated is displaced onto her stronger-willed childhood friend who apparently took advantage of her friend’s emotional and mental state.

What I’m saying here is, Park’s capacity to lead ie. health in light of extraordinary personal circumstances had been perhaps initially perceived by the people as idiosyncracies. After all, she is her father’s daughter. Don’t we accord larger-than-life personalities a wider berth? Time, however, has revealed the quirks as “defects” for want of a better word, and the people after repeatedly experiencing the effects of such have been awakened and are now looking at events as they really are and not as what they wished them, or her, to be.

This is the twist in most every corruption drama and the question now is, who is more liable for what happened? Park? Choi? The system? The voters? A headache really. But, definitely Park’s history of leadership says that she was and is in no condition to take on her shoulders the burdens of State and a nation. She may be in need of care herself. I’m truly amazed that she has stayed this “strong” at least in the public eye although in cases like this something – the weakest link – will always give. And it did. But funnily enough it wasn’t her although she could now be quoting Montaigne (who quoted Aristotle):

‘O my friends, there is no friend.’

On journalists and their mental and pyschological health

In an earlier post, I mentioned about the responsibility of the press. In this post, who’s taking care of the press?

Everyday, journalists witness and encounter events that put them on the edge of logic and reason which in turn trigger among others deep questions and conflicts in themselves. Before they’re able to come to terms with these situations they’re on to another again. This goes on for 10, 20, 30 years. It could be that cynicism, unethical behavior, and inappropriate responses to events are symptomatic of long term stress and trauma.

It is essential that mental and psychological health care are made part of a journalist’ health plan. In this country, are they even covered by appropriate insurances?