This story attracts my interest because of a coincidence. I spotted the story on IHT only after having a discussion with someone in the Philippines about those girls in Philippines, young and full of girlie charm, who perform sex acts for money to pay for their exams. Yes, it is as bizzare as that: I learnt that students make themselves available because they have to pay an examination fee around this time, and they do not mind doing anything to get the money. The logic is simple: They don't care about sin etc, and consider this to be a question of their future and their survival.
The person who was narrating this story to me was talking with great sadness. She was telling me that she wants to make a documentary about these girls. And, also about those girls who will cling on to foreign visitors, however ugly and bald/potbellied the person may be, because they consider marrying them to be their option out of a desparate existence at home. We talked about individuals that we know who have been through similar experiences, and the popular perception that it has created about Philippines - as a place of easy girls and sex trade - which undermine the hardworking, professional Filipinos who excel at various trades, including nursing, hospitality, retail and teaching.
The IHT story brought me some universal perspective on what I was thinking. The Polish documentary states that the Catholic Church is failing to provide answers to the young, who are drawn into the spiral of consuming aspirations. The shopping mall is the new Church, one can say. Ironically, I write this sitting in Dubai airport, yet again, looking into the huge Duty Free in the airport. In Dubai, they have obviously built some of the world's largest, priciest malls, which has its own variety of mall girls. So has all malls all over the world - one can say that malls have replaced churches, community centres and brothels all together. From that angle, Dubai airport presents an interesting layout option for future supermalls to be built around the world. It combines a mall and prayer halls with a hotel in the second floor where rooms can be rented by the hour. How convenient!
I am aware that the comparison is flippant, but it is hard not to feel angry. Shopping Malls were to bring Freedom and Choice to poor, ruined-by-socialism countries of Asia, Eastern Europe and Africa. They did. CHOICE was the magic word in the Eighties: this was the word which won us the cold war. Capitalism offered choice. Brands. 20,000 different kinds of shoes. [In a bizzare display of choice, we knew that Northern Ireland's First Minister, Peter Robinson, a public servant, had 1000 different ties; and his disgraced wife, Iris, matched that with 1000 different bras] That extent of material choice will transform our society, we were told. I remember a particularly cynical discussion when the Indian communist party almost expelled one of its senior members for claiming that he bought the only available kind of shaving blades in Russia, and that did not work very well. So, when Soviet Russia imploded, we knew that people wanted choice and it was a triumph of Freedom of Choice over socialist barrenness.