Monday, August 30, 2004

What Damaged Culture?

Our culture is a damaged culture. I remember hearing this from my social science teacher back in high school. And since I was a kid and didn't know any better, of course I believed her. I'd since forgotten that day, that lecture and this term "damaged culture." But I'd retained the idea, most likely subconsicously. So all these years I was walking around with this mantra drumming in my head:"We are a damged culture...we are a damaged culture....we are a damaged culture...."

Then this term was resurrected in my universe of consciousness when I took Anthropology 225 under Professor Dacayanan. There are as many definitions of culture as there are writers she said. Among those she mentioned, this is what stuck to my head. "Culture is a tool for survival." Meaning, a culture of a particular grouping evolves to ensure its survival. To ensure that the grouping as an entity continues on (and does not
disintegrate i.e. Yugoslavia or disappear entirely, err...Atlantis?).

Recently I've encountered this term again in Julsito's and Doc Emer's blogs. It irks me so when I see fellow Filipinos describe our culture as such. Can we say ours is a "damaged" culture? I don't think so. Why? Because:

1. It presupposes we had an "intact" culture beforehand. And something or someone along the way went and broke it. Pray tell, who was this breaker of cultures? Spaniards? Americans? Japanese? Ourselves? And before these invaders came? Was there an intact "Filipino" culture? Were our ancestors calling themselves Filipinos? No, they were calling themselves Ibanags, Ifugaos, Tausugs, Hiligaynons, etc. etc.

2. It presupposes that other cultures are undamaged. What, pray tell, is an intact culture? The Americans'? What with thousands of immigrants coming in every day bringing along with them their own unique cultures? What about Greeks back in the classical era? No, wait, they were killing each other then too. And so we can't really say theirs was an intact culture. Not to mention the fact that the Greeks have inherited much from the Egyptian culture, who in turn were influenced by the Mesopotamian cultures.

Can we say the Western Europeans have an intact culture then? No. Because Western European history goes well beyond basing their civilizations on Greeks. As I said, Greeks trace their roots to the Middle East.

The point here is, cultures evolve and whether the evolution is judged "good" or "bad" is subjective. A culture is a way of life. And if our culture today means under-the-table deals, graft and corruption, crab mentality, then there was a reason for this. This culture didn't appear out of nowhere. And it is not a natural state of being.

Government is corrupt. It is self-serving. It is inept. We all know this. But then the culture of government in the Philippines has never been concieved of and practiced otherwise. Government is a pact between a people and a State. The People give up their rights to State for the latter to protect the former. Provision of public services, ensuring peace and order etc. etc.

But then Government in the Philippines for over 350 years was never meant to be a pact between people and State. There was no people. And there was no State. Government was simply an institution to assure the smooth running of a Colony, to extract economic resources as efficiently as possible without rebellions from the subjugated populations and such.

And Government was also seen as the quickest way to move up the social ladder. And so, civil "servants" joined Government to enrich themselves and not to become purveyors public service.For three and a half centuries this was the culture of government.

What about such self-hatred from Filipinos themselves? Filipinos who are so self-critical? Filipinos who denounce their citizenship abroad? Filipinons who would rather the Philippines become an American state?

Well, if you'd been told over and over in the past that you and your culture is no good, inferior, backwards, why should you think otherwise? Eventually, you believe the mantra. And if you yourself use foreign standards with which to measure your achievements or shortcomings, what other conclusions will you end up with?

We should have a new mantra drummed in our cerebrums. We need a change in culture.

"We need a cultural revolution...we need a cultural revolution...we need a cultural revolution..."

Saturday, August 28, 2004

Death Crisis Anyone?

I went to the press conference held by the economists who made the paper "The Deepening Crisis: the Real Score on the Public Debt" yesterday at the School of Economics in UP. There were a handful of print journalists, I saw channels 2 and 9, but the rest were probably groupies and students of the econ profs. There were seven of them, three of whom I recognized as Winnie Monsod, Benjamin Diokno and Felipe Medalla.

The numbers were indeed alarming. The ones that stood out were the "financial risk indicators" emphasized by Mr. Diokno. Replying to the query, "So how did we get here?" he showed us some figures from 1999 to 2003.

In 1999, 26% of our budget was set aside for debt interest repayment. In 2003, this rose to 46.2%.

Thats right folks, of every P100 of your taxes, half goes to debts neither you and I had incurred. We were never consulted about it, we had no hand in it, we had no choice about it. What a democracy huh?

Another risk indicator was the Debt to GDP ratio. In 1998, 56.1%. In 2003, it was a whopping 77%. The IMF's recommened reasonable level for developing countries is only 30%.

One lady economist (whom I didn't recognize), said capital inflows in the Philippines were considerable lower than our neighbors. Which basically meant investors are shying away from us. Maybe because theres too many transaction costs incurred due tape? Corruption? Under the table pangongotong?

On the IRA (Internal Revenue Allotment), the national government shells out P35 billion pesos annually to local government units. The IRA was instituted in the waning years of the Aquino adminstration and was finally approved in 1992. LGUs might be complaining about having their IRA slashed, or worse abolished in the name of "austerity," but Diokno pointed out there is an escape clause to the IRA, meaning the government has the prerogative not to release it.

On the Congress' pork barrel (sweetly couched as Countrywide Development Fund), Diokno said we should keep an eye on re-election senators because they will clutch their pork barrels to their chests like theres no tomorrow. They will need that extra fat for the 2007 elections.

Queried about the rumors about taxing text messaging, Ms. Monsod, decked out in a lovely orange suit, engagingly said their proposed measures had a sequence. It was careful to firstly, target the executives and the powers that be in the land and so on down the line.

The medium and long-term proposals in the paper are the following:

1. Downsize the bureaucracy. I think this has merit, seeing as there are so many redundant offices, not to mention "ghosts" bureaus which receive budgets even when its doing absolutely nada. (You notice that Visitor's Information building along University Avenue?)

2. Privatization. This proposes selling government owned and operated corporations, especially those where the government has no self-evident role to play. I have reservations about privatization, especially of public services, but the economists were careful to make the above qualification.

3. Rationalization and reduction of tax incentives. An estimated P175 billion is lost due to tax breaks on certain business sectors. Gawd, there is such a thing as "lobbying" (It should be called "lining the pockets" instead) and I'm sure these businesses have set aside cash to add to their powers of persuasion.

4. Politicization of prices and of the regulatory system. Mainly, government-owned operated services shouldn't give in to popular pressure against power rates, the metro train rates and toll fees (among others). Let the invisble hand of the market decide. Personally, I don't believe in this infamous hand.

5. Spending efficiency and the tax revolt. Government should be careful about what they ask of their citizens, especially if tax payers see their money squandered and misappropriated. On escorts like Keanna Reeves maybe? Or on gas-guzzling SUVs?

6. Rationalizing national-local government fiscal relations. Pertaining to the IRA I mentioned above. This basically means local government units should no longer wait for a dole out from national government. LGUs must then try to make money on their own, making mayorship, for example, a lot more...demanding and would require incredible managerial abilities. So people, should IRA be abolished, think twice before you vote for the likes of Jinggoy or Lito.

Angsty you say?

I believe this report is disquieting as it fully reflects our supposed sovereign nation's lack of self-determination. Here is the abstract notion of a "debt crisis" (which really means international creditors, and the World Bank-IMF) hanging over our heads, making us undertake "austerity" measures.

I have no beef against disciplining the bureaucracy and cutting off unnecessary expenses, but the point is, we're doing all of this so we can pay of our debts? Which have ballooned because government officials and their unaccountable technocrats
have continued irresponsibly borrowing througout the years? And because the peso has continued to devalue due to "vagaries" of that nebulous financial world market.

I was born into debt. You, your brothers, your sisters, your cousins, your parents, your children and grandchildren to be. We had no hand in incurring these debts. They just magically appeared in our midst. And we call this country a democracy?

Would that I could do a tax revolt, but sadly, my taxes are automatically taken out of my measly salary. Now you understand why I'm so angsty about the future. It seems the end is near. I'll go watch Marinara now. Or start playing Ragnarok.

Thursday, August 26, 2004

Great Toilet Book: About Men Part 2

On having a Penis

The difficult truce between sons and fathers proceeds from both recognizing the importance of what they have in common: a penis. This simple fact is what makes all men “like” each other and all men “different” from women. Based on this fact, men come to share a belief that women are not really human beings. This belief is so crucial and so deep that it remains psychologically “invisible” to both men and women. For a number of reasons, both men and women either deny having such a belief, minimize or confuse its importance, or claim to “prefer” its hidden advantages.

The consequences of this belief are enormous. By recognizing that all men possess penises and by declaring that this is the root-sign of both humanity and true divinity, men may wince at the pain or humiliation inflicted upon other men, but not at the pain or humiliation inflicted upon other women. This deification of penises allows men to not experience female suffering as representative of human -- and therefore male – suffering. Female suffering is thereby condoned as less pertinent, less significant, less threatening than the pain which befalls men.

For example, men are horrified at the forcible anal rape of another man. But they are much less horrified at the anal or vaginal rape of another woman, especially if she is not a female relative by blood or marriage. Also, most men experience any and all expressions of female emotion as overly intense and threatening, as a form of attack, as an attempt at female control. Women are often stunned by the rigid disapproval, the contempt, the sadism that men display of female tears, of verbal demands and complaints.

Most men are respectful of female suffering at childbirth -- but not identify with it. Or as physicians, they frequently treat it sadistically. By comparison, women are both respectful of male suffering in all male economic or military wars and also identify with it as a human hardship or tragedy.

It is because men believe that women, creatures-without-a-penis, are not human beings – that women are devils or angels, goddesses, or whores – that many men do have a genuine urge to “protect” women. They “protect” women into corners where the harm they may do men is at least limited.

It is because men believe that women are not human beings that so many men are genuinely perplexed by, removed from and cannot identify or empathize with female “complaints” of unhappiness, paralysis, disappointment or anxiety.

Women, of course, have an equally difficult time really understanding male needs and are often contemptuous of the male need to be “taken care of” and “constantly agreed with.” But women have been taught to value whatever men value and need – even though it hurts or confuses them as wives or as women.

Among men, the presence of a penis is still proof of a shared humanity, still the proof of truce between father and son, however uneasy a truce it is. It is still the trigger for mae-male empathic identification. Thus are adult men always comparing themselves to other men: on the basis of penis-size and physical strength. They always feel the need for male “truce,” no matter the price. It is a transaction they have made once before. With their fathers.

Sons originally experience their “smallness” in terms of how small they – and their penises – are in relation to their fathers. The male idea or fear of being sexually castrated must involve some early fear of fathers doing this – as much as it ma be “triggered” by contemplating the absence of a penis in the castrated mother, and in all women.

Remember: one interpretation of the Patriarch Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice his son Isaac and the consequent substitute ritual of circumcision is that male gods and fathers can kill or castrate their young and even beloved sons, but can also choose not to. Men talking about castration anxiety seem to experience it, or associate it, with prolonged or intense heterosexual intimacy. Too intense or too “merged” a contact with women reminds men of their parent-without-a-penis who couldn’t or wouldn’t protect them from the parent-with-a-penis.

Men, upon being questioned about “castration anxiety,” either report having none – or immediately start telling me about how they fear being “castrated” by mothers and wives. They rarely mention fathers or other men. The silence of male truce runs deep; the fear of fathers is displaced onto mothers and surfaces in anecdotes about “castrating” women.

Men, upon being asked about their penises (not castration anxiety), often respond at first with a bristling, overwhelming concern with “size,” with “quantities,” and with “visible proofs” of penile activity. A thirty-one year old man said: “I can still have five erections in one session – especially with a new woman.

Many men responded to this question by telling me that “penis size isn’t really important,” but tell me how “lucky” they are to have a “good-size” penis. When asked about having a penis, a fair number of men talked about “how many more orgasms women can have compared to a man.” At least ten men referred to the “female use of vibrators,” within five minutes of being asked about penises.

This particular pattern, of male focusing on female sexuality when asked about their own, this particularly aggressive insecurity, occurred repeatedly when I tried to talk to men about having a penis. It does seem related to male uterus-envy and, perhaps, to a newly awakened fear in men based on recent “discoveries” about female sexual capacities (multiple orgasms).

Absurd as it is, men tend to use male sexual behavior as the referent for human (sexual) behavior. Men assume that if women were as “free” as men given their supposed sexual insatiability, they’d behave sexually like men, i.e., fearfully, promiscuously. If men were not terrified of being found inadequate by the designated biological inferior; if men were not frightened and jealous of woman’s reproductive capacity; if men were not disgusted by female sexual needs or demands – then female sexuality would not be so cruelly exiled into colonies of (sexuality) undemanding girl-brides and girl-wives, or into colonies of (sexually) undemanding female prostitutes, concubine, or slaves.

When men posit sex, violence and death as elemental erotic truths, they mean this – that sex, or fucking, is the act which enables them to experience their own reality, or identity, or masculinity more concretely…and that death, or negation, or voidness, or contamination by the female is what they risk each time they penetrate into what they imagine to be the emptiness of the female hole…Each time he survives the peril of the female void, his masculinity is reified. He has proven that he is not her and that he is like other hims.

Since the penis is the proof of male existence, the proof of male power, it is too important and too vulnerable an organ to be exposed publicly – especially to women. While female nudity is everywhere exposed – in great art, in mass pornographic propaganda – male frontal nudity is relatively taboo. What if women began comparing the penises of aging husbands with those of younger, more beautifully shaped men? How could a man bear being compared, once again, by a woman, with another, “superior” man?

Tuesday, August 24, 2004


If television is the modern opium of the masses, then our people today must be drugged beyond the absurd. Have you seen prime time TV shows lately? 4 to 5 solid hours of brain-frying hallucinogenic experience. And since there are two major stations airing them, then that makes 8 to 10 hours total. Whew. Who needs X when you've got GMA-ABS-CBN?

At first there was the phenomenon of Mexican soap opera imports (Marimar, Maria del Sol etc.). What could be more surreal than blond hispanics mouthing Tagalog? But anyway, Filipinos took the bit because there are talking dogs, beautiful babes and the well-trodden story arc of the poor and oppressed young woman winning the battle against big, bad, rich usually older woman by marrying the young, dashing, rich young man.

Beautiful But Oppressed hails from the hinterlands or some other rural area toiling away at the fields. Meets Dashing Rich Debonair on vacation. The two fall in love and would live happily ever after if not for the Older Baddie. And so the requisite insult-hurling, cat fighting, and not to forget Big Time Oppressing (for no apparent reason but for the sheer evil of Big Baddie) must lengthily unfold before our eyes before Beautiful But Oppressed learns to fight the dirty fight and finally triumphs over Older Baddie. Its easy enough to see the box-office appeal of these agalog-speaking hispanics, their soaps could have been local if not for the "better" looking actors.

Local soaps usually make the same juxtaposition of the Poor and Oppressed in the rural areas being treated cruelly by both Destiny (as though it were a given that, well, they're just poor period), and the Rich from urban Manila. Its a cheap play on modernity vs. tradition, town mouse and country mouse but its a hit for the masses (and some from the non-masses) because it must strike on similar cultural sensibilities.

Isn't it a cultural given that everyone wants to be rich? Isn't this the ultimate goal of each and every Filipino? And musn't he or she do everything humanly or inhumanly possible to achieve this? If you happen to be a nubile young woman, well then, the way to do it is snag yourself a rich young man. Nevermind getting an education. Nevermind entrepreneurial ingenuity. Nevermind working your ass off at the work place. You just need to work your ass.

And then came the imported tsinovelas (Meteor Garden). The storylines don't deviate much from the lowest common denominator of young woman oppressed (either because she's poor or just because she's female) and in financial trouble. She may be maltreated once in a while by her significant other but that's OK, because this is the normal male-female dynamic. Young men must be brash, arrogant and showy while young women must be timid, giving and self-effacing.

The similar theme of the suffering female is the cornerstone of every single soap opera in this country (imported or not). Tears flowing from women's eyes must be more precious, more tragic. Be they humans, mermaids or mutant aviary escapees. Household pets no longer corner the talking-animal niche. Crustaceans and varying winged-creatures are now in on the market share. TV is indeed getting more absurd if prime time is a barometer. This is escapism beyond the escape. Its as if we tune in to the idiot-box to enter the universe of scripted lives because we know, that in the end, there is only happy ending.

Why would you want to live and see the real world when it has nothing good to offer?
Great Toilet Book : About Men Part 1

If you’re like me, you take your time in the bathroom doing your business because you read while relieving yourself. Aside from the paper, there are books that simply beg to be read while shitting. This one, written by a psychologist named Phyllis Chesler entitled About Men, I find altogether amusing but makes sense in a disturbing, sick way. It seems she overdosed on Freudian theorizing and peppers her writing with psychosexual gobbledygook (whatever that is). I bought this some months ago at a rummage sale in the UP Faculty Center for 10 pesos I think. Now don’t go asking me why I bought it, it’s none of your business. Anyway, while unearthing some papers buried in my own personal Smoky Mountain, I rediscovered the joys of this toilet-book yet again.

Fathers and Sons

What do sons feel and remember about their fathers? From the psychoanalytic point of view, a man’s first woman, his mother, is taken from him by his father; and his second woman, the mother of his first son, is taken away from him by his son. Not an uneasy rivalry to live with, and yet an uncanny silence surrounds this drama. Sometimes, the silence is broken by Oedipal claims of omnipotence and revenge—“I’ve really gotten even with my Father. He can’t control me at all.” Sometimes the silence is broken by emotionally wild expressions of anger and contempt for the mothers and wives involved. Much less often, if at all, do we hear sons pierce the silence with public, verbal accounts of their emotional relationships with their fathers.

It is women, in private settings, who most often share men’s memories of having been belittled, criticized, not taken seriously—patronized—by their fathers. Unless men have a reason to praise their fathers, they usually remain silent about them in (male) public.

Upon being questioned, men are mildly and surprisingly amnesiac about what occurred between themselves and their fathers. Men usually find it hard to tell me much about their fathers. They tell me what kind of work a father did. They tell me whether his life was “hard” or “easy.” They tell me what country he came from, and whether he’s still alive.

Upon being questioned about their fathers, many educated men immediately shift into “theoretical” discourse. “Marx believed,” “Freud said,” “Obviously Nixon thought,” “Research on apes has shown.” Anything, anything is safer, is preferable to talking about themselves in relation to their own fathers.

“Did your father ever beat you?” I’ll ask. And in response most men immediately discuss male violence in the abstract, male violence on some other continent, male violence as other men practice it on other men. Not as they practice it. Not as it was practiced on them.

Among men though, there are crucial and unique advantages to be gained in accepting or “resolving” the father-son relationship. If sons are adequately socialized into patriarchy, they can then “bond” with other men for economic gain. Also, they are prepared in rejecting identification with their mother, for a life of “male” work; they are also able to enslave women and other men with only moderate degrees of guilt. These advantages are not spiritual or emotional ones. Men are not taught how to be interpersonally sensitive to others—or to themselves. Despite male egotism and narcissism, most men tend to lack the emotionally introspective tools that would allow them to comfort others or comfort themselves.

There are “good” fathers and “good” mothers; but let us admit, even if the admission angers, frightens, or shames us, that while “good” people do exist, they are a rarity, a miracle, a blessed exception. Unfortunately, the Parents of the human race are not “good” people: not always, not all the time, and not often enough.

It was startling to hear men respond to a variety of questions about their fathers with “sexual” information about themselves. For example, at least two men responded to the question “Tell me about your relationship to your father,” by telling me, abruptly, aggressively, defensively—bizarrely—all about “sex.” They said: “I’m a highly sexual man,” or “I masturbate insatiably,” or “I’m pretty sadistic sexually to women—but it turns me on and they have no complaints,” or “I’m afraid I might be a homosexual,” or “I’m a happy homosexual, sexually speaking.” All this in response to a question about their fathers!

As if they wanted to warn me off this topic. As if the father-son relationship somehow demands a genitally sexual solution—a solution which civilization prohibits.

Afterwards the thought of this strange possibility made me wonder to what extent traditional male homosexuality is related to a desire to solve the psychopolitical war between father and sons. Or to a desire on the part of men, especially recently, to defuse the escalation of male-male rivalry by eliminating women as a basis for competition.

Patriarchal civilization is, from one point of view, a male homosexual civilization. Women are valued only for their reproductive capacities. In all other areas, men prefer to remain separate from women, and in close contact with other men. A culture that covets such separatist all-male control of religious, military, economic, and political institutions is, psychologically speaking, a homosexual culture.

More and more as I listened it seemed many men had the same father. All fathers began to merge into one man, one father-archetype: a shadow-stranger, part tyrant, part failed tyrant—pitied for the failure; an awkward man, uneasy or out of place at home; a tense man, not in control of his emotionsl; a man remembered for blinding suddenness of his violence, for the blinding sweetness of his unexpected tenderness; a man of childish pettiness and of extraordinary generosity.

Saturday, August 21, 2004

Caffeine and Nicotine Talking

Seated here in my corner in a posh coffee house, drinking my overpriced cafe latte and smoking my kreteks, I am reminded of this conversation I had with Luis, in another cafe of the humbler type. I suppose many people our age, suffering or about to suffer quarter life crisis, have had similar conversations. We were talking about, among other things both mundane and not, the insecurity of employment. He, an artist, and I an educator, were worried about the future. He said he was flirting with the idea of going back to school for further studies. And I, well, I was wondering whether I could independently live off of teaching younger people how to think.

What went unspoken, although we skimmed on this topic before under the rubric of "making a difference", was whether we could make something more of ourselves and make a "mark." Oh the unspoken arrogance of it. Is there a place for people like us? Maybe we made a mistake in pursuing our passions and walking on the path our talents have shown us. If money is the only concern, maybe getting an MBA would get us better financial rewards. I don't know. Perhaps, but for me it would mean selling my sould to the devil.

Strange thing is, in this society, people like him and I are not usually well-rewarded for the things we like doing. Those of you who know him (and even those who do not) would probably peg Luis as a person of considerable talents and capabilities. Should this equate to "success" then? And along with it the moolah? Who knows? What went unspoken was, "We should become successful in whatever it is we choose to do because we are 'more able' than most." Sadly, in this society, one cannot rely on the comforts of having more "capacities" than others. Would that our degrees could assure us of "making a difference."

So the future hangs over our heads, all us young people, a nebulous dream of greatness and prosperity of equal value as our "gifts." The fear of failure is very real. I asked him something like "Do you think you can make it?" and he said something like "With hard work, sure." Would that it be as simple as plucking a ripe fruit from a tree.

Friday, August 20, 2004

Male Show / Parade of Synapses

A concatenation of male voices,
Raised in high pitched shrieks,
Seep through the sealed consciousness
Of everyone within hearing distance.
Decibels vibrate in resonance
Echoing off the walls of privilege.
These male voices compete
Against each other in battle.
Which voice dominates whom,
Which shriek echoes loudest?
Male power in exhibition, in combat
Pornographic in proportion
Exhibitionist in show.


Parade of Synapses

The procession commences
In agonized precision
They walk in a long column
Of fragmented brotherhood
Seeking redemption somewhere
Down the road of greatness
The procession seethes
Pulsing with life it struggles
To reach that sacred plateau
In the faraway horizon
The procession marches
Precise destination unknown
Hands linked in fragmented solidarity
Playing music,
Fingers playing at keys of life
Unlocking heaven, earth
And that in between.

Tuesday, August 17, 2004

Travails of Pleasure

As I sit here in this cool cold den of fakery I am amazed and disgusted by such wastage. This youth, this energy, this idle time consumed by empty pursuits of fake smiles, pretend conversations and illusions of destination. Why must youth be devoted to the fulfillment of self-satisfaction as though one's life depended on it?

Why must we devote so much concentrated effort on entertaining ourselves? Show me the new book, the new movie, the new video game, the new CD and the new coffee house within which we may spend hours upon hours to discuss the minute and intricate details of each. And after which we may all go our separate ways smug in the knowledge of the empty. We lay on our beds and dream of yet more ways to satisfy our hunger for nothing. So much trouble, such hard work for pleasure.

Show me the cool way our generation speaks and I will master each linguistic turn and slight of tongue. Show me the new club pulsing with the unique generic music of fake artistry and I'll dance the same familiar grooves. I'll shake my bootie to disappear within and amongst the ambiguous swaying mass of other disembodied bodies. Show me the newest smokes, the latest clothes, the coolest fads and I'll suck 'em and wear 'em and ride 'em hard and strong for this is what my youth must rest on. Such arid emptiness in this cool cold desert of the young. Is there nothing else? Can no one show me the exit?

Monday, August 16, 2004

To Solitude

Like an old mistress from the past
You return.
Casting light in my shadows,
You come
To hold me companion.
Your ghostly hands,
White, pale in luminescence
Embrace me tight.
I shut my eyes
And bask in the radiance
Of your cold burning fingers.
They pierce me alive,
Urging me forth
To capture the self
I've abandoned.

Street Life

Little children play
At adulthood
Skipping mirth, shirking innocence,
They plead rescue.
Gnarled fingers, twisted eyes
Little demons chasing
Away evils of their own.
To the streets they come
And play little children
Hiding within bodies young
Gazing with old unwisened eyes.

Sunday, August 15, 2004

On Reason

It is said that consciousness distinguishes humanity from the rest of the world's inhabitants. It is because of reason that we are humans and are supposed masters of our destiny. If this is so, then it means we are wholly in control of our lives, and all human activity would amount to a state of being that is relatively pain-free.

In all of humanity’s 250,000 year-old history, our struggle for this pain-free state seems constant. And despite of supposed advances in technology, of our mastery over the forces of nature that once could obliterate us without malice or mercy, human suffering remains. Why?

If it is indeed true that it is our reason that causes us to question the world and how we fit in it, if it is true that all of human activity seeks explanation that such causes such, why have we not ended the causes of many human problems?

Because as we grow old, our views and beliefs cease to expand, grow, change. We, objects of history, resist change and become fixed. Fixed in our thoughts, secure in our knowledge of what the picture of the world is like. It is flat. It is the center of the universe. It is the masterpiece of God the Father. Saying otherwise, is deadly. Why is there such fear in the radical? In the potentially destabilizing? In questioning the status quo?

Is it due to pride in our self-congratulatory smugness that the way we conceive the world, others and ourselves holds true for all eternity? If so, then we cease to reason, and we cease to exist. We are but hollow shells of what we could potentially be. Is this the cause, therefore, of the human condition that remains, after many millennia, to be brutal?

Stating such pessimistic view as above does not preclude continuing the struggle for goodness, for reason. Must we not break free from the chains of our own making?

In a world where some have become richer than millions of others combined, is it true that only the poorest are oppressed? That only the poorest are deprived of reason? But constraints occur in all strata of society, a society that is now more than ever decidedly material. The poor are constrained from emancipation and reason by the very real threat of starvation. While the rich are constrained by the very materiality in which they swim and are abundant in.

If René Descartes is to be believed, that we think therefore we are, then he forgot to add: restlessly, critically and without complacency.

Saturday, August 14, 2004

On materiality

You are who your friends are. You are what you eat. If indeed you are a sum of the material world you exist in, then you live in a box with demarcated borders. If you stray beyond these markers, then you no longer are. Or, you're some sort of anomaly.

If you're a beluga, foie gras eating type, then it makes you a person with the means to afford them. If your friends are car-owning, party-everyday type, then it makes you a person with the means to be able to party your brains out each time you would want to do so with these friends.

Your world revolves around the material conditions in which you live. Your points of view are dictated by it. Your beliefs, the things you hold dear, your opinions, your ideas, your wants, your desires, your taste in music, clothing, entertainment. Even the way you choose the people around you, your friends, is dictated by it.

A thought would occur to you because the world in which you exist permits it to be so. Is there nothing more oppressive than this? Is there nothing more delimiting to allow your physical surroundings to dictate your life? But it is a struggle to venture beyond our boxes. No one would want to endure the discomfort of being in a place where one need not be.

Friday, August 13, 2004

You're only a few hundred kilometers from me, following your dream. You'll be back in a month, but I miss you so. This is our first weekend apart, and I don't know what to do with myself. I worked on my paper all day yesterday, and I felt good having all my time to myself again. But as the skies turned dark and I was ready to call it a day, I found myself wishing I could go home with you. Only you're in Cebu. 36 more days. Seems an eternity. Why is it I feel more alone now than I ever did before I met you?

Thursday, August 12, 2004

Avant, quand j’allais à l’église, en entrenant à travers les portes, il y’a des fois où je voulais me tourner, comme une force me repoussait. Manque de foi en Dieu, à l’Eglise comme institution. Manque de foi aux choses que je ne voyais pas, celles qui n’étaient pas évidentes à moi. Je n’ai pas cru aux choses que je n’ai jamais touché.

Je te remercie pour me donner ma confiance à l’inexplicable, à l’impossible. A l’aise dans ma peau, le monde est rendu plus vivant, plus touchable depuis que je t‘ai connu. Maintenant je crois. Tout le temps tu me dis, il n y’a que Foi.

Sunday, August 08, 2004

Is there really a rise in oil prices?

Oil price hikes every week or so are killing me. The direct results of the war in Iraq and the tensions it has released in the Middle East hit you and me right where it hurts. In our pockets. So what are the possible reasons for oil price hikes here and all over the world? Nicolas Sarkis, director of the Arab Petroleum Research Centre and editor of ’Le pétrole et le gaz arabes,’ explains in this article.

Its probably already a well-known fact Big Oil interests are very much in play on the Iraq war, among other things. At present it outrages us, the very audacity and greed of Big Men in Power. The long-term effects? We shouldn't kid ourselves. Its bad in the Philippines, and whats happening outside of its borders will only make things worse.

Here are some very curious things I learned.

"Which energy source will we use in future? Despite forecasts of a change to nuclear power, oil will continue to play a key role. According to the International Energy Agency demand will increase by 1.9% a year, from 80m barrels a day in 2003 to 120m in 2020. By then Arab countries will produce 41% of global supplies rather than the present 25%."

"We should not ignore another grim reality: by 2025 the steep increase in world demand and decline in reserves and output in industrialised countries will increase their dependence on imported oil. US imports will rise from 55.7% to 71%, western European imports from 50.1% to 68.6%, and Chinese from 31.5% to 73.2%. "

"This growing dependence, in a sector as vital as energy, explains the oil wars that the big powers and their companies are waging to gain control of reserves in the Middle East, Africa (3), Central Asia and Iraq (4). There has been serious reason to question the interpretation of the current rises - are they the first sign of a crisis caused by the imbalance between steadily rising demand and inadequate production capacity?"

"The expansion of production capacity over the next few years depends just as much on political stability, particularly in the Middle East, as on the volume of reserves available."

Saturday, August 07, 2004

Genius borders on insanity. This film could never be more clear than this. "Sylvia" is a writer's film. It is moody, slow, depressing, inspiring, stark but vivid. Beautiful. Its a love story between two poets in post-war Britain that ends in tragedy. Infidelity and obsessive love make for incredible poetry.

The Moon and the Yew Tree
Sylvia Plath

This is the light of the mind, cold and planetary
The trees of the mind are black. The light is blue.
The grasses unload their griefs on my feet as if I were God
Prickling my ankles and murmuring of their humility
Fumy, spiritous mists inhabit this place.
Separated from my house by a row of headstones.
I simply cannot see where there is to get to.

The moon is no door. It is a face in its own right,
White as a knuckle and terribly upset.
It drags the sea after it like a dark crime; it is quiet
With the O-gape of complete despair. I live here.
Twice on Sunday, the bells startle the sky --
Eight great tongues affirming the Resurrection
At the end, they soberly bong out their names.

The yew tree points up, it has a Gothic shape.
The eyes lift after it and find the moon.
The moon is my mother. She is not sweet like Mary.
Her blue garments unloose small bats and owls.
How I would like to believe in tenderness -
The face of the effigy, gentled by candles,
Bending, on me in particular, its mild eyes.

I have fallen a long way. Clouds are flowering
Blue and mystical over the face of the stars
Inside the church, the saints will all be blue,
Floating on their delicate feet over the cold pews,
Their hands and faces stiff with holiness.
The moon sees nothing of this. She is bald and wild.
And the message of the yew tree is blackness - blackness and silence.

Thursday, August 05, 2004