Friday, July 08, 2005

Asuwang biotechnology (This saw print as a PJI editorial sometime February 2005)

DIRE necessity ought to be the mother of invention if not forcible incursion into technology.

With prices of crude oil products soaring between the rooftops and beyond the clouds, motorists and commuters are likely to set their sights even keep their fingers crossed on anything that promises relief for hemorrhaged budgets.

Even the next to impossible, the arcane lore or once-hidden know-how can invite exploration, maybe dead-earnest research and development.

Take the case of a horror movie staple—zombies. As early as the 1930s, certain witch-doctors cum labor dealers in Haiti and Martinique made piles of cash from tractable work gangs that they hired out to cane growers. Those workers slaved nearly ‘round the clock, in fair or foul weather, hardly slept or rested, and subsisted on food more fit for pigs.

It turned out that the workers were zombies. Yes, zombies!

They were drugged with a powerful anesthetic derived from certain species of toads and the deadly puffer fish. That drug—identified in the 1990s by medical researchers as tetrodotoxin – sent a worker’s consciousness at the edge of coma, yet allowed his body to go through the motions of work. Every centavo they earned went to line the labor dealer’s pockets.

Naturally, a semi-comatose labor force didn’t howl “Foul!” They didn’t go on bloody strikes so unlike that noisome Hacienda Luisita picket-rally.

Now, take an unblinking look at our own asuwang. For pity’s sake, take a look, and heed Marcel Proust this time—“discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes.”

Folklore, vague reports of sightings and unwelcome appearances in urban settlements, and probably gross ignorance or sheer fear of people with alternative lifestyles confined the asuwang into a midnight region of fright and terror.

So we’re told ages back that by some unknown means an asuwang grows wings, easily takes to the air, and does airborne surveillance and probably easy loop-the-loops, any such aerobatics. This malevolent creature can snatch full-grown men and children, so we were warned again and again.

These days, the more scientifically minded would muse over such feats that probably involves bionics (remember the 1980 TV series “Six Million Dollar Man” and “Bionic Woman”?) or biotechnology.

Truth is, there’s less traffic up there where prices of crude oil products have flown beyond the reach of motorists and commuters alike.

Can you read my mind, folks? Whatever secrets of arcane biology or biotechnology an asuwang keeps from us, it’s something that does more than compliance to the Clean Air Act.

It’s a technology that can free us from the clutches of greedy oil multinationals, greedier government men slapping additional excise taxes this year on oil products, and noisy transport groups perennially seeking to jack up fares.

Before we fly off the handle, will a genuine asuwang please stand up; share us your secrets… Please?

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