How bizarre. Its as if the last century was a dream, and here were are still giving birth to a nation. Stationed here in the land down under, "nationalism" is a bad thing. It manifests in flag-waving and a consolidation of identities - of who and what is Australian, of what belongs to Australia. It manifests in xenophobia and intolerance of difference. I suppose the same can be said for all societies who have fought and won their nationhood. Their 21st century is postmodern. It is concerned with multiplicities - of identities, sexualities and of religions. The postmodern preaches the relativity of truth.
And here we are, Filipinos, still fighting for an identity, of the place for religion, of one version of truth. Have we managed to prescribe the magic formula of what it means to be Filipino? Of what belongs to the Philippines? Where is the nation? Has it a locality? Has it borders? I have read somewhere that statehood is born out of ethnic cleansing internally and nationalist wars externally. More cruel than that is the extinguishing of difference within - the creation of one language to transmit one culture.
By all measures and standards of history, the Philippines is not a nation or a state. Our borders, identities and cultures are fluid. Thus our sense of belonging, of obeisance and of loyalties are just as fluid. Of the material, the way our political unit creates and disburses wealth is placeless in the context of the capitalist world system. The anchors of modern politics elsewhere, of national capital, national labour and national state, are absent. Our politics is disperse, scattered in the four winds, rootless.
This is why I empathise with my friend Luis, who went to the Makati rally last Friday and was reminded of why he is apolitical. I pondered on this matter, and saw that it was a completely rational reaction. In the middle of the action so to speak, it is difficult to glean what is substantive from the spectacle. Our modern revolution is postmodern in this sense. Our modern revolution is being waged in multiplicities - of actors and witnesses, of versions of truths. Our national consciousness in the last twenty years ebbs and wanes in mediated spaces, through texts, old and new media, the web.
So here we are waging a modern revolution framed through postmodern means. It is just as "tainted" with postmodern ethos. Why does it matter that we arrive at the truth when we know that there is none? To be apolitical is to surrender to the inevitable, to be steamrollered by events - by things that happen randomly. What we become are contented/discontented witnesses. There is no sense, no meaning, just time ticking until we belly-up and die. To be apolitical is to give up that our actions matter, because nothing matters. To be apolitical is to surrender to the tyranny of disbelief. Disbelief is totalitarian in that we cannot break of the conceptual cages we create. There is no alternative so why bother? Why expend our energies? Why indeed? We create rationalisations to buttress our version of truth that nothing changes. To be apolitical is to vacate the driver's seat and let the inertia of the moving vehicle take us where it may. It is nihilism at its best.
It is tempting, very tempting to take this stance. But from whence we float on the ocean of relativities and rootlessness, we are brought back to the solidity of the modern. Greed and power are modern. There is none of that here in Australia. It is present on the television screen, but it always takes place elsewhere - in East Timor, in the Gaza Strip, in Kenya. When we are saturated in the politicking of greed and power, it becomes normal, a way of life, part of culture. It solidifies our belief systems that there can be nothing else. From a self-confessed apolitical creature such as Luis, I do not expect much. But hearing the same rationalisations from a Filipina journalist I met here in my uni, I am convinced that the tyranny of disbelief is absolute.
So how do we convince ourselves that politics matters? Well, if politics is arriving at the decision of who gets what, when and how, then it becomes real. Man does not live by imaginary bread alone. We need material things, modern objects, to live. This becomes more urgent in a society that has not yet eliminated hunger. We need to eat, and for that we need to work. For many of us, we need to work hard, to expend our energies to put food on the table. All of this would be fine and dandy if we lived on that deserted island where there is none between us and the sky, lazing the day away catching fish, or toiling for a few minutes in our little patch of green behind our nipa hut. But this would mean finding that uncharted deserted island in the middle of Pacific. Or migrating to the moon.
Unless our country sinks to the bottom of the ocean, or all of us mass-migrate in a postmodern clime elsewhere - where we meet the cold harsh reality of racism and labour inequality and the modern meaning/discipline of passports and citizenships, or we just collectively blow ourselves up, there is no escaping politics. The sooner we realise this, the sooner we can get back on the driver's seat and steer this slow-moving bapor Tabo to a destination where we can afford to be postmodern and apolitical.