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This will be long.

I could – if I wanted to, so I will – write a stretched and overwrought “semiotic analysis” of the McDonald’s “pa-cheeseburger ka naman” meme.  In “The McDonaldization of Society,” the sociologist George Ritzer outlines four elements in the McDonald’s model that permeate modern capitalist society:

  • Efficiency: the optimal method of finishing a task, translated to the fastest possible route to accomplishing it.
  • Calculability: or simply put, “quantity above quality.”  Think of “Go Bigtime” meals that aren’t really big, but are “big” nonetheless.
  • Predictability: it can also be put as “standardization.”  To use a cliché, the more things change, the more they stay the same.
  • Control: everything becomes automatic, dehumanizing, and standardized.  If you work in outsourcing, you know this all too well.

On the one hand, you can stretch the semiotic to its extreme by saying that cheeseburgers placate Filipino society: no omnivorous Filipino will ever say no to a free cheeseburger.  “Cheeseburger” is the social version of Noni Juice (I don’t know where that thing went, either).  I don’t care if you’re on a diet, or if you’re for worker’s rights at McDo, you won’t pass up a chance at a free cheeseburger.  The process of making, eating, distributing, and meme-ficating a McDonald’s cheeseburger is efficient, calculable, predictable, and controlled.

Do I hate being asked for a cheeseburger for some absurd reason?  Yes.  Do I hate the cheeseburger itself?  No.  As a matter of fact, the lowly cheeseburger is one of my favorite food-like objects at McDo.  The real ingredients of the patty, much less the cheese, are best left to theory and speculation.  The consequence is much more strange, profound, and even irritating.  Upset stomachs, anyone?

Like I wrote earlier, cheeseburgers – metaphorical or real – placate Filipino society.  There are many examples of “cheeseburgers” in Filipino society.  Take the MRT: never mind treating your fellow person with respect by not invading his or her personal space by forming a queue, you would just cram yourself in with the same efficient, calculable, predictable, and controlled pace of cramming yourself into the train.  Or there’s my favorite “cheeseburger” of them all: not caring at all.

*     *     *

The SONA has come and gone, and there have been a lot of ranting all over the World Wide Internet on the matter of this strange, profound, irritating… efficient… calculable… predictable… controlled… line:

Before you start complaining and criticizing the government, you should first criticize yourself.  You always jump to conclusions.  Why not support the President?  You do nothing but criticize and criticize but you do nothing for this country.

That’s a précis, a paraphrase, and a summary of a lot of comments I’ve been reading for the past 30 minutes.

I admit that yes, there’s a lot of inconvenience in people like myself who challenged a (for all intents and purposes) McDonaldized society and Government.  To be honest, I don’t have to write about politics and what I think is wrong with This Government.  I don’t have to do anything, either.  All I’m doing, much less forcing myself to do (which is a tragedy in itself), is when I live up to the basic demands of being a citizen:

  • The moment I buy something, I automatically am a taxpayer.
  • The moment I first raised my hand to recite Panatang Makabayan, I automatically pledged my allegiance to this country “sa isip, sa salita, at sa gawa.”
  • The moment I write “Filipino” on any – and I mean any – given form that requires me to write down my citizenship, I automatically affirm my being a Filipino.

If there’s any self-criticism to be done, it is by those who don’t act and do their share as citizens with rights guaranteed by the Constitution.  I bet a cheeseburger you can’t even criticize yourself since you’re so apathetic, so I guess I’ll do it for you.

There’s a little about “self-criticism” that I learned back in the day, and that’s you criticize yourself because you acknowledge that you, an individual, are part of a whole.  You criticize yourself because you’re part of something bigger than yourself.  There are a lot of things that happen to be your business as a taxpayer, as a citizen with guaranteed rights, as a Filipino, and not the least of which is the faults of The Government you put into power anyway.  Sure, the day-to-day affairs of The Government are “none of my business,” but the day-to-day things that bring about things like Garci tapes and NBN-ZTE happen to affect me, my taxes, and my flag.  So yes, they happen to be my business, your business, and certainly everybody’s business.

I’m not going to apologize for what follows next.

When you try to step on a cockroach, it will retaliate.  A protist, when disturbed from its peaceful state, will deliberately destroy its host.  A virus, when programmed with enough bullshit, will infect a living cell and wreak havoc.  It is only an apathetic, uncaring human being with absolutely no sense of civic duty that will do nothing.

It’s a tragedy when things like “citizenship” and “civic duty” become so alien and strange to us, but we do understand a cheeseburger meme.  If there’s anything worth giving cheeseburgers for nowadays, it’s not for the hatak crowd in whatever rally there is; it’s for people who actually do something, like stand up for their rights when they’re stepped on, and demand a bit of accountability and transparency from The Government.  Yes, you – Apathetic Filipino-By-Technicality – are lower in the evolutionary scale than a common roach and a flagellated protist, and viruses are better than you.

Kaya… pa-burger ka naman!

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