Tag Archives: communism

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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Quite Convinced That You Have To

Sitting here, quite convinced that I have to.

A pretty girl joined the communist armed forces. They said she helped the farmers harvest their corn while teaching them to do the math. After all, she was a former scholar. She treated the rebels’  wounds. Treated them until it was her time to bleed from a bullet that penetrated her chest and existed through her nape.

She laid there quite convinced that she had to.

A single mom promised her mom that she wouldn’t get herself pregnant again. They believed her for she looked as innocent as an angel. Turned out she was a heavy smoker and owed a lot of money to  the cash register. Turned out she was pregnant with another baby and had a married Muslim security guard for a lover. He said he impregnated her precisely because he loved her.

She loved him quite convinced that he loved her too.

A wealthy couple brought their children to Canada. They were thinking about their future, and the future of their sons and daughters, and the future of the sons and daughters of their sons and daughters. From air-conditioned offices to sweaty warehouses, from quiet nights to livingroom skirmishes. It was quite a gamble.

They were quite convinced of the money.

A woman did some scandalous things not too long ago. Been ashamed of them forever. She joined a high-end church and called on others to follow her footsteps. They flooded the social networking site with Bible excerpts.

She was quite convinced of her salvation.

A sector of believers slammed a bill promoting  the dissemination of contraceptives to the population. The priests preached. The non-believers mocked. A man dressed up as a Spanish colonial era dissident and pumped the uproar to fever pitch.

They were quite convinced of the issue.

A hulk of a man decided he wanted more physical challenge to test himself. He climbed a mountain, conquered it, then moved on to the next peak. Pretty soon he had a mountain of a list of mountains he trekked. He wants more.

He was quite convinced of the experience.

A white-striped brown hamster stepped inside the wheel. It has grown too big for it but it ran its heart out anyway. It ran and ran all night and only stopped for a nibble and a sip of water. Didn’t even give its white hamster partner any chance to take its turn. After all, it was only needed for mating.

It was quite convinced of its necessity.

I find myself in an air-conditioned office for the upteenth time. I dream of a pretty girl in Canada who was once a heavy smoker every weekend. I have mountains of plans to follow her footsteps but all I can do today is read the daily preachers on the social networking site. I occupy my chair like a hamster occupies the wheel.

Sitting here, quite convinced that I have to.

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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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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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