Don’t be afraid of the ghosts

The Week (US) - - News 15 - Michael Tan

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.

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