March 26

Democracy during the Download

I had a remarkable conversation yesterday with a stranger named Nick at a call center in the Philippines. The young-sounding man was assigned to help me upgrade our accounting software to Quickbooks Pro 2015. There were a lot of parts to this upgrade and it took nearly two hours to get everything set up so it synched with our website, payroll service and shipping software. At one point while we were waiting for the file to load I ask Nick which country he was in. He told me he was in the Philippines. I told him I had been to the Philippines and had several connections to his country. He was stunned. I recounted as an East Asian Studies major doing an internship at Amnesty International in 1982 when I helped prepare testimony for AI staff to testify about human rights abuses under the Marcos regime. This testimony was one stick that eventually led to the US withdrawing support of Marcos, the overthrow of the Marcos family and the first democratic election of Corazon Aquino. I told him that I had visited the Philppines shortly after the Marcos ouster. I didn’t tell him that I supported an impoverished child for 5 years after that trip through the Christian Children’s Fund.

Nick was happy that someone in the US knew a bit about his country’s struggles. He told me that late dictator’s son is a candidates for the presidency and is spreading propaganda ahead of the 2016 election. Nick feared that voters would vote out of fear for Marcos leading the country back to a period of instability and martial law. He talked about corruption, the damage that Marcos did to his country and said that he missed Corazon Aquino, the hope she gave his country with her honesty, hard work and signature yellow suits and L-shaped hand symbol for “laban,” Tagalog for “fight.”

It was two informed citizens of different countries discussing the importance of freedom, democracy and good, honest leadership. I encouraged him to not give in to fear-mongering because the Philippines deserves better. He said it meant a lot to him to be able to discuss his concerns about the direction of his country. Eventually my file loaded successfully. I could hear fear and uncertainty in his voice. “I’m worried about my country,” he sighed. Then he thanked me for our chat and for upgrading my Quickbooks. I was glad for the reminder that while I don’t like the partisan shenanigans in the US that I doubt I will ever have to live under a dictator or martial law. Sometimes we all need the reminder that not everyone has the luxury of freedom.