Someone in the Blogcritics Politics section recently asked me in an incredulous tone why I, as an avowed liberal, would want to leave the "nanny state" of America to go to a third-world country like the Philippines.
Now Clavos knows whereof he speaks – he has a clue as to how bad third-world countries can be. Corrupt, dirty, unsanitary, often unsafe, strongly lacking in educational and social infrastructure, highly vulnerable to natural disasters...the laundry list goes on, and correlates in many ways with what I see in the Philippines. Let me enumerate some of these:
– When on the road in the city, it's normal for the road ahead in the distance to be somewhat obscured by a black cloud of exhaust...and later, when one cleans out one's nose, out comes black particles that came from the smog. This is the result of the government being unwilling and unable to pass—much less enforce—vehicle emissions standards. Even if the government could, the people largely could not afford the engine overhauls needed to meet even the lowest emissions standards in America.
– The main river in Manila—the Pasig—is nasty in every sense of the word. There's trash of every kind (and the occasional body, I'm told) lining the banks. When one goes to the otherwise-somewhat-romantic waterfront of Manila Bay, it's nice...except for the plastic bags and bottles and assorted flotsam and jetsam that would be pilloried as a national shame here in the States. Along most of the roads—more trash.
– When dealing with bureaucracy and particularly governmental bureaucracy, it's normal to need to grease the skids, so to speak, with money in order to make things happen. I remember my family paying off a local judge in order to keep my brother-in-law out of jail on drug charges. My sister-in-law has a document that allows her to break almost any traffic law without fear of arrest or prosecution by the police. When I sent my household goods there nearly 10 years ago, we were going to have to pay thousands in customs fees...until another brother-in-law paid a clerk several hundred dollars as an "unofficial processing fee." Whenever I pass through customs at the airport, I put a $20 bill in my passport, and my luggage is thus not searched.