Best columns: International
Don’t be afraid of the ghosts
Philippine Daily Inquirer
It’s the seventh month of the Chinese year, and that means Filipinos are freaking out about ghosts, said Michael Tan. “Ghost month phobia” has migrated here from China, even among those who aren’t ethnic Chinese. Superstition says that hungry, cranky ghosts from the underworld “are let loose to roam the earth” this lunar month. While the phantoms can be soothed to some extent with offerings of liquor, food, and cigarettes, they will still cause havoc. That means Filipinos won’t plan anything important for this month, be it longdistance travel, a business launch, a wedding, or even a surgical procedure if it can possibly be postponed. This year, people are being ridiculously literal in their fear, blaming several recent gruesome murders of teenagers on the ghosts. In fact, the myth probably came to us through Buddhism and is meant as a parable about karma. Those who live lives of greed “turn into ghosts with insatiable hunger.” We’re supposed to take “a moral lesson” from the ghost month, not get hysterical from “an irrational fear of the dead.” Here’s an idea: We should use this time to consider how to rein in “the insatiable greed of the living ghosts, the corrupt and the power hungry” who encourage vigilante killings. That might actually make us safer.
Promising all gain, no pain
Mexico’s perennial populist is promising to turn the country “into the Garden of Eden,” said Leo Zuckermann. Andrés Manuel López Obrador, known as AMLO, has been running for president for more than 10 years, and he is heavily favored to unseat President Enrique Peña Nieto in next year’s election. And why shouldn’t he be popular? He’s running on his most inspirational, if implausible, campaign theme yet: Free stuff for everyone. Mexico’s problem, AMLO tells us, is corruption. And that’s not a sin among the people, “who are inherently good,” but at the “top spheres of economicpolitical power,” from whence it cascades down to local levels. His solution is simple. “If the president is honest, the governors will be honest, and so on down to the last governmental link.” And all that honesty will supposedly save untold sums of money, as the “waste and luxuries of government agencies” are abolished. With this miracle wealth, AMLO will fund “projects, projects, and more projects.” Everyone will have access to the internet, and to high-speed trains. The poor will get housing and paved roads. Wages will rise, and taxes will fall. College will be free. Just vote AMLO, and an “earthly paradise will be built in six years—without any effort or sacrifice.” Will Mexicans be duped? ■