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Saturday, 7 May 2011

'Why we are poor', and other books for the bush

Why we are poor is a collection of essays by F. Sionil Jose on the economic plight of the great majority of Filipinos.

But first the rest:

I may be going bush again. Books for going bush.
FICTION.
Books going bush.
Kazuo Ishiguro. Never let me go
A blogger reviewer liked the book so much she said she can now finally watch the movie. I’ll have to go and borrow it again so I can finally read it.
The Narrows by Michael Connelly, again features "Harry" Bosch who joins forces with agent Walling (first name’s not Stone, she’s a female).

Wildfire is Nelson DeMille's fourth novel about former detective John Corey, now working as a contractor for a fictional FBI Task Force. The book follows Corey and his wife (an FBI agent) as they attempt to stop a group of madmen from nuking American cities.

Cormac McCarthy Blood Meridian
About a runaway teenager "the kid", and his experiences with a group of scalp hunters who massacred Indians and others in the Mexico borderlands. The book is highly acclaimed and is widely recognized as McCarthy's best. It doesn’t lack in violence – a seeming necessary ingredient in McCarthy’s books, for which he has been widely criticised.

No Country for Old Men also by Cormac McCarthy.
This follows the events from where an ordinary man who goes out hunting instead chances on a fortune at the desert scene of a drug deal gone wrong, and the ensuing drama and violence (of course). With books that were made into films, I usually favour the book version. I must say I enjoyed the film adaptation better of No Country for Old Men.

Mortal Causes is a 1994 novel by Ian Rankin.
It is the sixth of the Inspector Rebus novels. The plot links Scottish nationalist groups and paramilitaries.

Dead Souls also by Ian Rankin is the tenth of the Inspector Rebus novels. Rankin incorporated his novella Death is not the End in this novel.




NON-FICTION

Siddhartha Mukherjee. The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer.
Winner of this year’s Pulitzer prize in the general non-fiction category.

Shing-Tung Yau. The shape of inner space. The various reviews are mostly positive:

explores many beautiful areas of modern geometry and physics; the book is very down to earth and has a style which not only explains how different ideas have unfolded in the past couple of decades, but how beautifully natural they all fit with one another; gives the layman a remarkable glimpse into the mysterious inner world of one of the most beautiful and important parts of mathematics; The collaboration between a mathematician and a science writer has worked wonders in this book; The book is an entertaining read; A very well-written book, and one that scientifically minded laymen will find easy to follow.

FILIPINIANA
Why We Are Poor (Termites In The Sala, Heroes In The Attic)
by F. Sionil José

This book was first published in 2005, but I only first laid my hands on it last month.
Jose’s essays tackle matters of Filipino national development, the Filipino character and other issues. He readily admits that "most of the essays can really be divided into those that are critical of Filipinos, and quite a few that are commendatory. It is for this reason that I have used a title about termites and heroes to define that differentiation."

I like his analogy. I think it’s right on. He savages the termite who
hoists the mediocre and the inane on pedestals. In this, media are largely to blame, especially the talk show hosts on television and some editors of the entertainment and features sections. They pander to the crassest tastes.
Jose's other pet termites are
...the non-entities, the phoney nationalists, the crass poseurs who preen on our TV screens, and who are anoninted with honors, we show them off like the heirlooms that adorn our living rooms, not realizing they are actually the termites that will eventually bring our house down.
On heroes, Jose bemoans
 Indeed, we have willfully relegated our sterling heroes in the attic where they are conveniently forgotten--the role models that could easily redeem us.
Jose suggests some of the reasons of 'why we are poor': education, modernization, ravaging of our non-renewable natural resources, overpopulation not helped by the Catholic Church’s conformity with doctrinal purity, the vestiges or moral malaise of colonialism, indolence (echo of Rizal more than 100yrs ago), materialism, 'Yabang' – inward looking nationalism, agrarian reform, faulty moral compass or loss of ethical moorings.

Many reactions to Jose’s essays do not take kindly to the reasons he mentioned as to why we are poor. Some take it personally and are quite scathing in their responses. Jose merely pointed out that the emperor had no clothes.
Who would deny that they are lazy or corrupt, if not the lazy or corrupt?

To quote Jose Rizal "We should not be content to simply deny it. We must “examine the question calmly with all the impartiality of which a man is capable who is convinced that there is no redemption unless based solidly on virtue."

The solutions to our socio-economic plight in the Philippines have been debated ad nauseam. There's no need to stoke the fire. Some suggestions have been canvassed by Kishore Mahbubani in The New Asian Hemisphere.

Back to F Sionil Jose
Look at our history. We are the first in Asia to rise against Western colonialism, the first to establish a republic...
If there’s one thing I am not enamored with in the book, it is this dwelling on past glories. To use a sporting analogy: you’re only as good as your last game.

Martin Polichay
Filipino to a fault.