Tag Archives: philosophy

Kabaliwan at Sibilisasyon: O Kung Paano Kami Nag-usapang Lasing ni Foucault Tungkol sa Pag-Ibig

Bago sya dumating dito sakay ng eroplano, nagbabasa ko ng Madness and Civilization ni Michel Foucault. Basically, tungkol yung libro sa nagiiba-ibang kahulugan ng “kabaliwan” sa kultura ng Europe mula sa Middle Ages hanggang sa 18th century. Halos wala kong maintindihan. Pero may mga kaunting tumatak sa isip ko na lalo kong naalala habang kasama ko sya rito sa maikling panahon.

Sabi sa libro, at the core of madness is passion and a flawless, perfected reason.

Passion. Kahit anong translation nito sa Filipino, magtu-tunog cheesy: silakbo ng damdamin, simbuyo ng damdamin, pagkahumaling, pagsinta. Kapag hindi nakontrol ng isang tao ang kanyang passion, maaari itong mauwi sa kabaliwan–at wala na sigurong mas may alam pa nito kundi ako.

Gigibain kong lahat nang pinaghirapan kong buuin sa tatlong taon pagkatapos naming natapos, at iiwan kong lahat ang meron ako kulitin lang nya ko ng tatlong minuto. Yung kakulitan na parang bata na sya lang ang nakakagawa. Wala saking nagbago. Ipagpapalit ko pa rin ang trabaho ko, ang common sense, ang hiya, ang tamang pag-iisip–makasama ko lang sya ng ilang saglit. Kahit pilit. Kahit parang ampalayang mapait.

Siguro may mga magtatanong, “Eh kung ganon, bakit mo ginawa pa rin eh alam mo namang wala na? Di ba mukha ka lang tanga?” Sa totoo lang, hindi ko alam. At wala akong pakialam.

Makakalimot ang mga tao, iikot ang mundo, iibig si Kris Aquino, iiwan si Kris Aquino, iiyak si Kris Aquino, at –bukas makalawa–iibig sya ulit. Darating ang araw, mauubusan ng sasabihin ang mga tao tungkol sa kanya at saken, pero ako, di ako mauubusan ng nararamdaman para sa kanya. Continue reading

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Socrates

You know what sucks? Coming to a point in a twisted course of mental maturity to realize that you have absolutely no knowledge to impart.

It’s that Socratic understanding that you know nothing about the world, only you can’t put it philosophically because you’re too hopelessly dumb for that shit.

Maybe your old professor could have done it but not you.

And that’s what’s frustrating, you know? Some people–a lot of people–no, most people can actually impart knowledge. And not just the really smart ones but also the bluntest tools in the shed.

They’ll say things like, “Work hard, live free, love with all your heart and pray.” And lots of people will like that piece of hackneyed, bullshit knowledge and it’ll accumulate Likes and Retweets.

Or they’ll spout ideas such as, “Have peace in yourself and the world will follow.”

They sincerely believe that and a lot of people, upon hearing that message or reading it on their computer screens, will believe that. And that right there is a piece of knowledge benevolently given to people who love such positive thoughts. That was a good piece of advice genuinely given and appreciated.

And the Socratic schmuck that you are, you’re just there in your chair, disbelieving the shallowness of it all. You’re there, half-shaking your head at the inane kernels of truth people are joyfully swallowing.

But then that’s exactly where you’re wrong–when you think these thoughts are “shallow.”

And you know that.

You know you’re wrong.

You know that while you may know a lot of half-understood social theories and philosophies, such thoughts are probably as shallow and useless as the ones that repulse you every day.

Maybe you’re a Marxist who’s not really a Marxist because you’re not doing anything to change the social mode of production. Heck, maybe you’re having trouble changing the mode of your everyday office fashion, or the mode of your Sunday loserly hobbies.

Or maybe you’re a postmodernist who likes to debate on forums about the plot holes in massive theories. But the problem is, since you’re a postmodernist and you’re keenly aware of what makes people tick, of biases and rhetorical tricks, you’re also keenly aware that your being a postmodernist is just an excuse for your dry, postmodern life devoid of ideals worth fighting for. Case in point: you’re all for “differences” but you go gaga with every new revelation that some celebrity hunk is apparently as gay as a Teletubby.

Or you’re probably just another atheist hating Christians, a bookworm reviewing a stack of books in your blog like your literature teacher is going to make you summarize chapters anytime, or an indie and news media-guzzling social butterfly who can talk to anyone about anything:from the Eurozone’s crisis to Ai Weiwei to what the color of shit is after one eats a whole jar of prunes.

Maybe you’re one or all of that and you still can’t impart a single piece of knowledge. Not to your best bud, not to your romantic partner just begging you to spill it out, not even to yourself.

And why?

Why?

Hell, you don’t really know why exactly.

You’re not sure about a lot of things and that’s why you’re silent. You’re not sure that if you speak, somebody will listen, and if their listening would be worth the act of speaking that piece of knowledge in the first place.

I mean, is it worth it to say, “There is an ongoing revolution right now even if you don’t see it. It’s happening online and offline and this blog you’re reading is just another chess piece or battle tank in this historical battle to give Hegel’s Reason a worldly form.”?

And what will you do in case someone agrees with that? Would you like to be responsible for the things in his head? Would you egg him on? “Oh yeah, I have the truth of it, dude. Go ahead and read more Hegel!”

Doesn’t that suck? It’s like attending to a baby but you’re the kind of psychopathic mother who drowns her babies when they cry too loud.

That is actually what separates you from a normal, knowledge-imparting man of the streets: he believes what he says and he sticks with it. And even if he comes to disbelieve it in a week or two, he just doesn’t care.

But you care. You’ve matured so much you fuss over the authenticity of things. It has to be true before you can say it. As true as the fact that the sun rises in the east and sets in the west. But aside from being undoubtedly authentic, a piece of knowledge has to be driven by something inside you. It must be motivated.

And you’re not motivated. So here you are, smirking at people’s shallow ramblings when you don’t even have any motivations at all for whatever truth drops from the ceiling.

You’re the ultimate disbeliever. The monstrous, lab accident of disenchantment. Of maturity. Of sterility. Whatever you wanna call it. You don’t even care about the proper names of things no more.

Call the goddamn chair “Henry V” for Christ’s sake! That’s cool. But in the back of your mind, you know things are labeled “cool” because they’re worthless and the ones who thought of them just wasted their time. Because they’re like you, Socratic schmucks.

Somebody says you’re wrong? Who the fuck cares?

You don’t care about being right.

And the sad thing is, the few times in your life you’re sure of being right and you actually bring yourself to fight for your rightness, you just know no one’s going to give enough shit anyway.

You need shit but there’s never enough shit.

Never enough shit for you.

Your parents won’t learn a thing from your strangely busy days. Your kids won’t learn to tie their shoelaces from you.

You just sit there in your chair, smirking your smirk. A silent treasure of knowledge no romantic pirate from the most beautiful fantasy can ever hope to uncover.

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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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Lazarus

The other day, I lost my soul. I, slowly descending from that escalator in a mall, transformed into a mechanical part of it and lost all my feelings for humanity. I became a screw or a metallic plank or a generic shank with eyes. Yes, the eyes might have been the only humanly part of me.

Within those few seconds of descent onto the busy ground floor of the mall, I found myself immersed in the heartless randomness of life (or non-life). People seemed to me mere objects with a leathery fabric as shell covering. Their shells were empty. They were strolling along the malls as billiard balls would almost aimlessly roll over the carpet and bounce against each other during a game. They were carrying plastic bags that I couldn’t distinguish from the leathery covering of their bodies. What if they were mysteriously connected in some way? I mean, how could you know a plastic bag isn’t a part of you?

But they continued gamboling about the stalls, laughing, talking, smiling. It was all very cheerfully human and yet since I lost my soul that day, I honestly found it to be cold and external. They were like a bacteriological sample under a microscope, only bacteria are alive and they’re not. I had this urge to blame their purchases for the suffering that I know has ailed them since time immemorial but even that sort of humane, socialist analysis had lost its warmth to me. In fact, I couldn’t distinguish it from the very purchases it supposedly criticizes essentially.

Needless to say, I didn’t find any love or mercy in my heart for them. As parts of the extremely modified earth, I considered them as expendable as any of its pieces of gravel, steel or tree. Like they were building blocks for something pointless. Or shards of something alien. There was nothing special in their faces but their ability to fool the senses and make the brain conjure up something that’s “true.” But that was a trick that couldn’t work on a screw or a metallic plank or a generic shank with eyes.

I couldn’t judge rightly if my turning into a component of the escalator was my own way to grab power or to withdraw from it. Am I playing a human all too human game or did I just successfully quit and become the finest spectator ever–an object devoid of emotions and emotionally-guided thoughts? I wasn’t sure. But what I did know was that from that peculiar vantage point, every hope and dream of every person was a roundabout illusion only meant to satisfy the source for the duration of his sentient existence. Every illusion’s goal was to keep the source “living” productively until his organs can no longer accept air into his system. Perhaps the silent earth was telling him to do so? Maybe the earth and the sky were in conspiracy to make everyone wander around making purchases and loving and hating and smiling and crying? The origin of the senselessness was probably impossible to pin down. But oh, was everything futile. So futile in the eyes of a screw.

The solutions were but problems just waiting for their turn to transform monstrously. The problems were solutions that were justifiable when one considered a different moral system (a moral system of a screw, perhaps?). Hardships contained no romance. Sentiment didn’t come from principle. Love was as banal as the common cold.

Justice was everything that existed and that nullified the concept even further. It was just right that the homeless perished and the rich thrived. But anyway, if the homeless managed to launch a revolution that topples the status quo, it wouldn’t have mattered. For the present, whatever its conditions are, speaks of justice–for justice is what happens at each moment of this seemingly eternal illusion. The deceptive enchantment encourages people to speak up, denounce the wrong, and exalt the right but beneath the magic is an everlasting mantle that says everything is as it can only be. And therefore, there was justice that day but none of it.

The escalator reached the floor.

I stepped away and shook my head vigorously.

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I Talk to Make You Agree. Therefore, I’m a Jerk

Is agreement the whole point of talking?

Can we reduce it to this: two men discussing whether a rock is gray or brown?The first man  says, “That rock is definitely gray” while the other one says, “No, that rock is definitely brown.” So the first one gives evidence that the rock is gray, presenting perhaps a chart that lists down the conditions for when a rock is to be called a gray rock. The other one, upon reading the chart thoroughly, agrees. In this situation, talking ends.

Of course the problem here is when the other person vehemently disagrees that the rock is gray. If he can conjure up his own chart or exploit the other one’s chart thoroughly for mistakes that could destroy his proposition. If neither one agrees to the other one”s proposition, then things may even take a dive for the ugly. The gray-rock person can punch the brown-rock person in the nose for not agreeing. The brown-rock person can commit suicide to prove his point. In this situation, talking never ends.

And that’s the whole point of talking.

I talk to make you agree. Therefore, I’m a jerk.

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Spot On

It’s not enough, never.

You don’t have enough sleep. You don’t have enough dreams. You don’t have enough time to get your wits back before making an imperfect cup o’ joe. ‘Cause there’s not enough sugar even though you thought there should be. But you’re wrong and you discover that a split second after you sip it. Not cool enough. You burn your tongue and the roof of your mouth.

An automatic chewing machine, you go through the mediocre breakfast lacking in salt. Take a shower. Look at the mirror. Not enough muscles but more than enough muffin top. Definitely not enough hair at parts you would appreciate it growing, more than enough at the rest. Shaving will have to be put off for another month or two to the inconvenience of some people.

God there are so many cars, rusty and new on the streets and highways, but somehow, you just can’t get a decent ride to the office. The train doesn’t have enough space but it’s overflowing with acrid human juice. The bus doesn’t have a seat for you but it’s got a lot of rattle to make you puke your mediocre breakfast out. Continue reading

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A Philosophical Rat

There was once a rat who tried to understand the world. It was a philosophical rat, a rare kind of rat for its issues were not limited to when the folks around the kitchen table would leave. So this rat, coming to the conclusion that their little scrappy hole couldn’t foster deep thinking, scurried along the rusty water pipes and finally came out on the roof. It was above the neighborhood blanketed in darkness. It was below the glowing yellow ball in the sky and the tiny lights that always looked down.

And the rat asked, “Why do we rats suffer?” But it couldn’t answer its own question because it didn’t know why the folks around the table used a cane (caked in the blood of its relatives) whenever its rat family would go out to get their share of food.

It looked up at the clouds and wondered, “Is there really such a thing as love?” But it couldn’t answer its own question for it couldn’t delve into female rats’ minds and, were it a gay rat, it also couldn’t know what male rats thought. In fact, when it pondered the question more, it didn’t know what love consisted at all. Continue reading

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