Mong Palatino

blogging about the philippine left and southeast asian politics since 2004

About

@mongster is a manila-based activist, former philippine legislator, and blogger/analyst of asia-pacific affairs.

1. One of our fighting tasks today is to resist and defeat US imperialism. Philosopher Alain Badiou reminds us that the “basic freedom of states and individuals consists in doing everything and thinking everything in order to escape from the commandments, interventions and interference of that imperial power.” This oppressive power, of course, is not invincible and sometimes it is on a self-destruct mode especially if the reigning emperor is someone like George Bush the lesser. In 2003, novelist Arundhati Roy wrote how the US-led invasion of Iraq exposed the evilness of the empire under the leadership of the Dubya: “He has exposed the ducts. He has placed on full public view the working parts, the nuts and bolts of the apocalyptic apparatus of the American empire.” The Dubya was eventually replaced by a charming guy named Obama but the violent imperialist machinery is still operational.

2. In the 1990s, writer Jessica Zafra introduced her theory of world domination which recognized the role of Overseas Filipino Workers, particularly our domestic helpers, in ‘subverting’ the global system. Zafra imagined our Pinoy nannies as ‘secret agents’ around the world indoctrinating the next generation of state leaders and big business moguls. Recently, she updated her theory by assigning a greater role to nannies working for celebrities and finance executives. The world will be our hostage once we order our supermaids to stage a household strike. What will happen if our world-class yayas stop working for a day? Scholar Neferti Tadiar (The Noranian Imaginary) described the scene in a local plush village when maids suddenly abandoned their duties to watch the film shooting of superstar Nora Aunor: “Chaos and crisis suddenly erupt in the peaceful homes of the rich – children are crying, housewives are helplessly stranded, pots are boiling over.” Can the world’s richest and most powerful families survive without their Filipino maids?

3. Zafra’s theory is useful to ‘expose’ imperialism. Our maids can be our whistleblowers against war criminals, gangsters, banksters, fraudsters, and cheating prime ministers. The Filipino nation can blackmail the political and financial gatekeepers of the world order. But we can slightly improve Zafra’s theory by deploying more agents to spy on the activities of the royal families and privileged institutions of the global superpowers. Who will compose this new army? My proposal is to designate our call center agents as our new secret weapon to dominate the world.

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The Philippines has recently dislodged India as the Business Process Outsourcing powerhouse in the world. The country’s advantage, compared to our neighbors in the region, is the large supply of skilled and English-speaking workers. Foreign companies also like the cheap labor cost in the country and the obsession of many Filipinos to mimic American culture (which partly explains why the US is still the local BPO’s biggest market).

More than 600,000 young Filipinos are employed in this sector and most of them are college educated. However, they are unaware of their collective strength since they have no unions or associations. And like many young workers in other industries, they have no job security which makes them the country’s glamorized endos and flashy temp workers.

But they are actually our sophisticated and key link inside the imperialist behemoth. They have convenient access to the best-kept secrets of the developed world. They are guardians and collectors of sensitive bits and bytes of information which the most enterprising journalists and even Wikileaks cannot easily discover.

Our BPO voice agents, whose daily (oops, nightly) duty includes the accepting of calls from clueless and arrogant American consumers, can testify to the disturbing idiotization of American society. (Hey Joe, can’t you read that damn manual?)

And if talking to incredibly racist callers is not torturous enough, our agents also have the thankless job of collecting overdue payments from credit cardholders; and they have to market and sell superfluous products and services to naïve consumers.

BPO work, in many instances, saps the creative, physical, and mental energies of our talented young generation. It threatens to redirect the inherent passion and idealism of the youth in the service of Capital. It isolates the graveyard shift workers from society; it prevents them from developing meaningful ties with public and social institutions. It can reinforce a false and dangerous attitude among the youth that what really matters in the world is their purchasing power, and not their power to change the world.

But what is most infuriating is that after drawing superprofits from the labor of our young workers, BPO companies can always decide to transfer their operations to other places. Like speculative capital investments, BPO firms can instantly abandon the Philippines in search of higher profit returns. If that happens, what will we offer to our ‘nightwalker’ workers, the ‘walking wounded’ of service sector capitalism?

We should prepare for a preemptive strike.

Our agents possess the trade secrets of consumer companies and they have the blueprint of operations of big multinational corporations. Can’t we use them to demand some political and financial gain? Concretely, can’t we ask for better wage and non-wage benefits for our workers?

Our medical transcriptionists can reveal the real state of health of the Western world. They can identify the leaders who are suffering from terminal illnesses. The questionable financial transactions of greedy banks and companies can be divulged to the media. The legal services can threaten to publish some damning documents about their clients. Our animators can embed Filipino symbolisms in their work.

Back-up the servers. Store the data in a safe place. Reset the codes and passwords. We are more powerful than the banks in Cayman Islands and Switzerland. If access to information is the key to rule the world in a Knowledge Economy, then technically speaking the Western world is under our remote control. If our agents refuse to work for one day or if they collectively decide to give wrong tips to consumers, the world as we know it will ground to a halt.

Learn how China, the world’s manufacturing giant, is churning out Chinese versions of Western consumer products. Can’t we build local versions of business products, processes, and services based on the information that our BPO firms currently possess?

Today, privacy trumps innovation in the BPO sector. Our call center agents are bombarded with daily scriptures about efficiency and confidentiality. How about making them conscious agents of innovation, always seeking for opportunities and valuable information which the Philippine nation can use for its leapfrogging development plan?

The Philippines is not a global superpower. We don’t have nuclear arms, Wall Street, Hollywood, and a billion population. But we have our nannies. And we also have our call center workers. Behind every lord of the throne is a loyal servant attending to the needs of the master. Long live the slave workers of the world!

Related articles:

Nannies in HK
Hello Philippines

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