Tag Archives: capitalism

Cut the Bullshit: The Sanctity of Toil

It’s always been one of my greatest fears that by some twist of fate (not really that strange and even much closer to reality when I think about it) that I’ll end up a beggar on one of the many footbridges of Manila.

That even with all the education and the job experience I have, I’ll end up being one of those subhuman creatures barely distinguishable from the dirty concrete on which they crouch and lay festering with all the grime and soot of the city.

Then one day, my educated and well-off friends from the university will pass by my footbridge and happen to identify my face among the faceless. And they’ll be shocked to their wits’ end. They’ll cry. And they’ll be afraid to talk to me for fear of what I have to madly rave about the world, about life, maybe even about them.

It’s not an exaggeration to say that that fear is one of the many reasons why I strive daily to make something for myself. I want to be able to tell people I’m ok–in fact, that I’m doing great and I have a future. Like many of us who have actually finished our studies, I’ve always wanted to send a crystal-clear message that, so far, my life was worth it.

But what if I fail?

What if the devil whips its cruel tail and this nightmare of nightmares by some not-so-strange twist of fate comes true and I become, by tomorrow, a hapless beggar on a bridge muttering insane?

Would I not be worth considering a worthy friend and schoolmate?
Would I not be worth considering a productive and honorable citizen of this nation?
Would I not be worth considering a good son to my family?
In other words, would my life not be “worth it?”

Let’s cut the bullshit. You and I both know the answer and we don’t have to sugarcoat it just to defend our conscience currently being questioned. When I say “burger,” you instantly think of the object “burger.” And so therefore, just to be honest right here, right now, don’t stop that burger from appearing in your mind. The easy, simultaneous and honest answer, stranger, is that “Yes, your life would not have been worth it. Your life would’ve been a waste.”

It would’ve been an utter waste because I failed to make something for myself. All that learning and toil for nothing. Networks of useful people down the drain. Hopes extinguished by a terrible, inescapable destiny when an unspeakably shameful, shabby and fearsome monster came out from the skin of a former, now forgettable, human being.

What this means to me is that my life’s worth is in my toil–in my hollowed place in the market, in economics.

Stripped bare naked without my education, without my networks of friends, without my career, without my money, I am not worth it. To cut the huge pile of bullshit again, I don’t deserve to live.

No, it’s not that harsh of an idea and this is definitely not just the ramblings of another depressed soul who’s overflowing with sappy melodrama. Make no mistake about it. This is a rational proposition you should think about.

The squalid people in the streets, they don’t deserve to live.
Our pathetic, uncivilized, dirty neighbors, they don’t deserve to live.
Our farmers who barely earn anything, they don’t deserve to live.
The 925 million people who are suffering from hunger in the world don’t deserve to live.

For if these people deserve to live, how come they’re dying? And how come it is within our conscience to let them die?

I tell you the day I join these people is the day I lose my right to live. That is the day everyone who is in their right mind would leave me to rot and be another heap of meat for the city’s voracious host of parasites, the worms, the flies.

If someone has the right to live, we do everything to allow them to live. Or to be more precise, if someone has the right to live, then he has the MEANS to live. What is right but freedom and what is freedom but the means to achieve an end? For instance, if someone says he has a right to education, that could only mean that he he has the power to access education. Otherwise, that right is nothing but an empty word spoken by a lunatic to a brick wall.

To have the right to live is to deserve to live. And to deserve to live is to have the means to live. No more, no less.

And here we arrive at a question of conscience: since it is within our conscience to let other people die of extreme poverty while some of us live in obscene luxury, do we then concede that it is within our conscience to say the majority of the people in the world just don’t deserve to live?

Do we then concede we our complicit to this setup that agrees some people should just die?

Why? Because these people haven’t found their hollowed ground in toil, in the market, in economics. Therefore, they deserve their lives extinguished.

For if these people deserve to live, then obviously, we should have already acted in a decisive way ages ago to save their lives and keep them from dying a slow, terrible death brought about by hunger and sickness. If your mother got sick, wouldn’t you spend every bit of your savings to send her to a hospital and provide her with all the medicines she needs to get better? Heck, if your puppy suffers a stomachache you would surely send it (Him? Her?) to a vet if the fee is within your resources. Your mother, your puppy, and other beloved human beings and creatures in your life–they clearly deserve to live because we have the means to make them live.

But those others I mentioned earlier, they clearly deserve to die.

Oh, don’t feel so guilty. We’re all in this together. We are stopped by the same obstacle and arrested by the same fears. We’re not so bad.

Aren’t we?

This is not a new proposition at all. On the contrary, this is something deeply ingrained in our consciousness, manifesting in our most automatic judgments and decisions. We affirm it everytime we say and we agree that “The poor are poor because they don’t work hard enough. They deserve what’s happening to them.”  We proclaim it every time we cheer the MMDA who clear away shanties, leaving the poor howling and thrashing on the ground in front of their “illegal” dwelling places. They don’t deserve such places. Some people who have already bought those spaces deserve them. They alone have the right to build dwellings and buildings or maybe even leave those spaces growing nothing but tall grasses for years. Curiously, this is the economic equivalent of that karmic belief in Buddhism and Hinduism that underprivileged people deserve whatever they have in life because they have been unworthy in their past lives. They haven’t reached Enlightenment. And in our case, this means our poor haven’t reached economic Success with a capital S. In that country we so find it righteous to follow in institutions, culture, and in many other aspects of life, that karmic enlightenment, that Success is known by another term–the American Dream.

Without toil, we are nothing. We aren’t human beings. Let me correct that.

Without toil that makes us a significant amount of capital, we are nothing. We aren’t human beings. After all, the beggar on the footbridge still captures capital in a cup. It’s just nowhere near “significant.”

And so I go from day to day, struggling to keep all my armors and weapons of life in tact–my education, my networks of people, my career. These are my chain mail, my iron shield and my great sword forged in the fires of bourgeois upbringing. I wear them always and polish and sharpen them everyday lest they crack in the midst of the often merciless battle of the global market. I wouldn’t want to be stripped of them and die suddenly, do I?

I’m sure you’ve heard of that term, the “inviolability of life,” the “sanctity of life.”

Well, it is clear to me these beautiful phrases mean nothing but the “sacredness of toil,” the “the holiness of the market.”


From my former professor, Gerry Lanuza:

“If all the food produced worldwide were distributed equally, every person would be able to consume 2,760 calories a day (hunger is defined as consuming fewer than 1,960 calories a day). Food entitlement differs from food availability in that it indicates what a person can command with income and thus consume, rather than what is available in the market.”

He said it on Facebook, if that means anything.


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The Incapable Man

These past few days, I’ve been clicking pages like crazy on Facebook, commenting on the whole mess that was the aftermath of the Carlos Celdran incident. But I’m not even gonna go into the ideas I threw in the various debates and discussions I participated in because, most of the time, they felt like food fights. People throwing around greasy drumsticks and fried rice at each other’s faces. I’m not saying I’m above those discussions — just that unlike before when I was in college, this time, I have simply grown tired of them.

It’s like this. After a frenzied polemic on FB or on Twitter, I can’t help feeling stupid. Why?

Others look really proud of it. They continue on, blabber on, atheists vs Christians, liberals vs conservatives, facts vs theories, logic vs just sheer low-class insults. Like I said, I’m not saying I’m above it. The mere fact that I participated means that I care about what people say. But it’s the moment after that heated participation where I just feel like an actor with a dripping pie on my face, like a member of the audience threw it on my face because I suck so badly at what I do.

The truth is, I feel like I’m betraying my reality, the reality of my life as I live it. I mean, here I am, sitting here in my cubicle — one of the hundreds of square, cold, boring cubicles in a square, cold boring building somewhere in EDSA. I am a man who wakes up at 5 AM, works until 9 or 10 PM and sleeps at around 11 PM, these days, sometimes even past 12 o’clock. I’m a bona fide workhorse or beast of burden par excellence. Throw me some extra hay and I’ll work the fields for you. But it’s not even that. It’s not about the amount of work I’m doing, which results in this feeling of betrayal of reality.

No, that disgusting, pathetic feeling comes from projecting this image that I am somehow bigger than I am. There I was, saying things about poverty, what it means to fight for the poor, what involves the eradication of poverty, capitalism, fighting capitalism, love, Christianity, postmodernism, rationality, irrationality, democracy, sociology — the nerd list goes on. There I was, ranting on these things, allowing myself to feel frustrated, angry and even ashamed of a concept or a thought I defended or not defended, but every word I was saying there didn’t seem to reflect my life as I live it.

So was I acting? Continue reading

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When I thought about it, I realized it was not about spending money and acquiring fancy gadgets to flick open in the middle of a crowd. It was simply about having a ridiculous stash of cash somewhere and knowing you have a ridiculous stash of cash somewhere.

It was about wanting the means, not the end.

I almost wrote “I was reduced to this” next. But how can I say I was “reduced” to it? How can wanting a ridiculous stash of cash be a reduction, some sort of backward evolution of a person? After all, this is a capitalist world and we should only expect the most obedient students of the system to receive the most rewards. Why, if capitalism is currently the most advanced mode of production, isn’t the man who exercises the most control over the system the most evolved form of the human species?

This is all babble, of course. I’m merely saying I shouldn’t be hated by wanting more this time — more money. Tuck it in my wallet, store the value in a bank’s database, hide it in a safe, drop it in a piggy bank — I don’t care where you stack it. All I want to know is that it’s mine and it’s growing. Continue reading


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A Growing Problem with Communism

I’ve got a growing problem with leftist thinkers and people who associate themselves with the revolutionary movement. I used to be really comfortable with Marxist thought, the idea of communism, and even revered the people who had the balls to say they were “red” in the university. At one point, I even considered myself some sort of a closet Marxist even though I thoroughly believe in postmodernism, especially Nietzsche.

But somehow, I guess I’ve lost that fire. I cannot say with a straight face anymore that I want society to be communist, whatever that kind of society is. I know leftists would simply think of my condition as the victory of alienation over the human agent. Capitalist society had triumphed in infusing my being with ideology; and now I feel that everything here will last forever, and as such, I should just go with the flow like the million other deadwood of existences floating in this murky river of injustice.

Maybe they are right.

But what I wouldn’t concede is they are completely right. First of all, I still admire and support this movement to distribute the resources of society more equally. No one wants our fellowmen to die of hunger on the streets, or our farmers shot dead, or our women raped. That’s common sense. But what irks me now, as it never irked me before, is the idea of helping society push forward to that glorious moment of revolution. Continue reading


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I Love the Everyday Stuff

When you’re young and you’re fiery and you have tanks full of excess energy, you can’t help but be idealistic. Especially if you come from a prestigious university, you are automatically led to think that you have a great background and you have a great mission before you. Everything you see is great and therefore everything you do is perceived by your eyes as having tremendous effects in the society you live in (if you’re philosophical, even the universe). You’re big. You think gargantuan ideas. You live mammoth dreams.

But time has taught me the importance of seeing the value in the tiny, everyday stuff that occur to us. Continue reading

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Love in the Office and the Duality of Modernity

I am in favor of office romances, you know, love between fellow employees.

Now, that statement is almost kind of taboo in this capitalist world frantic with competition and productivity issues. For me, however, office romances are like those unexplored theories regarding human feelings and their role and place in the modern world. It’s like that long-held belief about gay men not being effective in the military because their insufficiently macho sexuality might prove harmful to national defense. Modernity has this curious obsession with objectivity disguised as promotion of science, but in many ways, it’s just one more tool for alienation and preservation of the status quo.

Feelings are not welcome in the public space. People have to hide them inside their rooms, so this world would supposedly run more smoothly.

I think modernity has this crazy duality or contradiction. On the one hand, it promotes customization and freedom of self-expression, but on the other hand, because of the capitalistic machine that is its main economic driving force, “consumers” are forced to push all that creativity and honesty into relatively cramped spaces called “private lives.” When they wear those uniforms, they become faceless once again. As workers, they lose their identities in order to sell better identities to others. A sales clerk may be the same as any other sales clerk in a cosmetics stall, but she can offer you some makeup products so, as a customer, you can be who you want to be.

I believe that office romances have very positive effects in terms of productivity. I know because I live such a life and I’m very happy. Critics might say, “Well, you’re happy that’s why your productivity is unaffected, but what happens when your relationship suddenly turns sour?”

Well, that again is a biased interpretation of feelings and their effects in the workplace. It’s as if before office romances, employees have been working like robots devoid of feelings. That’s bullsh*t. Every employee has subjective, personal motives for working. Now and then, those personal motives flood the workspace and they express their unique humanity through them. That is why you have coworkers that are rebels, coworkers who are hopeless romantics, coworkers who are outspoken gays and lesbians. You know these people for who they are because they’ve always been — now and then — honest in the workplace.

Given this fact that no worker is absolutely faceless and devoid of identity in the workplace, why do many people look down on employees in love with each other? Isn’t love just another expression of identity that surfaces every now and then?

One assumption is that you will be less inspired to do work because your main focus is to cuddle your officemate. Isn’t that absurd? Why not assume that you will be more inspired to work your ass off because you want to prove that you’re a decent, hardworking man to your officemate? Isn’t that a fair assumption, too?

There are many ways to avoid potential productive issues and I outlined them in one article for LifeHackery. I believe that once capitalism becomes more open to the idea that self-expression breeds more productivity, it will realize that affection between employees is generally not harmful to work.

It’s all a matter of productive forces breaking out of relations of production, like old-school Marxism. Productivity will speak for itself. Capitalism cannot remain this way forever. Workers will soon be free in the workplace just as they are in their bedrooms, and society will enjoy more goods, this time, more sincerely produced from the heart.


Dedicated to cool folks. 😀


Filed under Life, Love, Random Thoughts

Time in My Wallet, Money on My Watch

Time and money must be the same thing.

Think about it: if you’ve got more money, then you can buy more time, and if you’ve got more time, then you can make more money. I think there is a direct relationship here that could lead to the conclusion that these two concepts mean the same thing. Time and money could just be two different terms for power.

I’m in a position to hold this belief because I’m running out of these things these days — or nights. When I whip out my wallet to buy “budget meals” at Balog’s carinderia, I notice the thickness of paper bills there getting dangerously thin. After such instances, I usually remember that I have to work on my “freelance articles” immediately to make more paper bills next time; but then I remember that I also don’t have much time because I’ve got other priorities; sleeping and love life, for example (and I won’t compromise those easily).

And then there are also times when I need more time to work on the Web comic that I’m drawing for ages, but I can’t fit it anywhere in my schedule. Concentrating on two different things at night is really difficult, thanks to the unnatural settings of my body clock. Then I realize, if I were filthy rich right now, I can quit all my jobs and just go nuts drawing this Web comic forever. I could invest in something ambitious and put all my energies developing my art. But that’s not possible since I only have enough money to buy a short period of time for leisure and creativity.

Working hard for money also means working hard for time. Now that I’m trying to be a Senior Writer by writing ridiculously difficult stuff, I have to throw away all inhibitions and just accept my dark fate as a night shift employee. I don’t have “tomorrows” anymore, just a couple of hours before work starts again.

I’m crossing one day to another, pushing the night to its death and the day to its birth while hoping that I’m also pushing the contents of my wallet to grow overnight.

When you’ve got so much of these two resources, they eventually disappear from your life. People who have so much money can buy so much time that the pressure to fit things into schedules evaporates in the air. Money ceases to become an issue, as well as time.  Of course, there’s always the issue of how to make that money grow, but the funny thing is, you can buy people who will worry about that issue. Curiously, you set yourself free from time and money only when you have colossal quantities of them.

Indeed, the most powerful men don’t feel power at all. Power is natural to them, like their noses and eyes. Only people who don’t have enough are sensitive of power. To add another metaphor, beautiful people don’t feel beauty. Only people who are not beautiful enough are aware of its existence. Freedom means excess.

Time can be bent by money through various means. Rich folks pay for vitamins, good food, clean environments to live in, cosmetics and surgical procedures to bend time to their will. I bet when cryonics becomes possible, the wealthiest on earth will be the first ones to achieve some kind of physical immortality, erasing time altogether.

But that’s stretching the possibilities a bit too far. Right now, I can only observe that I need more time and money in order to keep on living sanely. Which reminds me, you can also set yourself free from time and money through madness and death — another identical concepts.


Filed under Life, Random Thoughts