Angry Birds: Some Reflections

2011. It’s been a year raging with human anger globally and the terrifying ferocity of natural disasters locally.

According to the Global Language Monitor, the top English word ranked based on its worldwide usage is “Occupy,” and the top phrase is “Arab Spring.” “Occupy” as most of us are aware refers to the global movement of protests against inequality and corporate greed in public and private sectors. Inspired by the Democracy Village in Britain, with its slogan of “We are the 99%,” its main aim is to bring back participatory democracy into the hands of the majority and its main target is the 1% who controls resources and power at the expense of justice and equality.

The “Occupy Movement” and the “Arab Spring” are two faces of the same coin: they mutually fuel the flame of anger against the elite power hoarders, the “Occupy Movement” more civil in its outcry while the Arab Spring rages through bloody protests from Tunisia to Yemen, Libya to Egypt. The “Occupy Movement” on one hand has so far mobilized not only the poorest in industrialized countries like the United States and Germany but also its middle class, what the Oxford University Press has classified as the “squeezed middle” or “the section of society regarded as particularly affected by inflation, wage freezes, and cuts in public spending during a time of economic difficulty, consisting principally of those people on low or middle incomes.” The Arab Spring, metaphorical in its desert basis on the other has been revolutionary in its outcome by supplanting or even killing despotic leaders of Arab countries. While the Arab Spring has transformed the political landscape of the countries concerned by way of more democratic elections, it remains violent also in its rising number of civilian casualties. Perhaps, this itself bespeaks of the reality of desert life that any discovery of oasis courses through the violence of human thirst and exhaustion and the passionate, fiery desire to quench it. Desert freedom can be costly.

That this wave of global anger is also captured by popculture could not be farther from the truth. Consider this:

“In April 2011, Angry Birds won both the “Best Game App” and “App of the Year” at the UK Appy Awards. At the 15th edition of the Webby Awards, Angry Birds was awarded “Best Game for Handheld Devices”.

It’s Christmas time and so it means we are also at the height of consumerism with all sorts of novelties from China storming our malls. Anywhere I go, “Angry Birds” stare at me with those supercilious looks. I find amusing their spiked brows, their Donald-Duckish squeaky voices as they conquer the barracks of their nemesis the pigs and retrieve their stolen eggs. Not far from the outcry of the 99% to claim what has been stolen through a “credit card culture” and the false promise of capitalism. Those “Angry Birds” that even the innocent wear – they are the populist projection of the emerging angst over the deepening uncertainties within our economic loops. Those “Angry Birds” are effigies of the human discontent against inequality, against the lavishness of the lifestyles of the “rich and the powerful” because they are irreconcilable insults, salt, vinegar and chilli rubbed on the open wounds of poverty of the many. For those who cannot carry a placard of protest on Wall Street or who dare not join the chaos of the streets of Cairo, those “Angry Birds” are the subdued, subliminal caricatures of our silent anger against a pigs’ barracks called capitalism. I love those “Angry Birds”!

That those barracks is also found right in our yard is also worth holding an “Angry Bird” stone to slingshot at. Consider these words from a woman-lawyer who champions the cause of justice for the poor. Her name is Conchita Carpio-Morales:

“It has been observed that society itself is partly to blame for having created an artificial construct of a leader or even a professional, in general.

Totally erasing the constitutional directive to “live modest lives,” the situation now stands that it becomes socially acceptable or even perfectly normal for public servants to own 10 mansions and/or have 10 cars.

This insatiable desire to get rich quick in order to satisfy the social expectation attached to one’s status is what drives honest men and women in government service to leave behind their moral core and jump into the bandwagon towards the ravine. It is not so much the rising cost of living. It is not the escalating cost of tuition for the children’s education. It is not the superficial sense of security or safety. One root cause is this disturbing social expectation. The nation must get rid of this phenomenon. This social expectation is a realistic manifestation that the notion of public service as a public trust has gone to the realm of triteness, amounting to a condition of social numbness to a blatant disregard of legal imperatives and a flagrant display of moral insensitivities.”

This pressure of social expectation is what the Arroyo clan (and other oligarchic elite including the Aquinos except that PNoy is trying to simplify his lifestyle now) has exemplified throughout their years in power. This desire to hoard and to appear “acceptable” has cost our current mess and the lives of many, including the suicide of General Angelo Reyes. It is abysmally destructive! The rest of the world has just celebrated the 2011 Nobel Peace Prize win of 3 women from the sub-Saharan countries of Liberia and Yemen – Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Leymay Gbowee, and Tawakkul Karman – for championing the rights of the poor, especially women. Look where our second woman former president is – under a hospital arrest for her laundry list of crimes against the poor, of stealing from the poor. No wonder those “Angry Birds” are so ubiquitous in our households and visible nooks of the city. They “Occupy” a lot of our cityscape these days. I look forward to the “spring of justice” this 2012. Good luck to Chief Justice Renato Corona and the many tentacles of Mrs. Arroyo!

Lest I forget – simplicity begins with oneself.

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