Fanatics are Losers, Pluralists are Losers: On Mocha vs. Tanganglawin


Of the recent brouhaha involving Mocha and Ateneo’s Matanglawin’s annual lampoon issue (called Tanganglawin), some observations can be made on how the first months of Duterte have shaken us out of stupor (whether ‘just’ in social media or in the fleshly streets of everyday) and how being ‘involved’ is not enough.

A few days ago, the Facebook page “Mocha Uson Blog” called attention to Matanglawin’s recent lampoon issue which is called “MOCHANG TANGA BLOG.” Apparently, Mocha took offense at the publication, as hinted at the way she continued talking about it in the comments section (There was implicit imputation of malice in the very way (or more aptly: how she thinks) the publication is being circulated: “patago daw na pinamimigay,” as if it is unlawful, illegitimate). In its own page, Ateneo’s Matanglawin was quick to clarify, accentuating the “officialness” of their lampoon publication, quickly negating Mocha’s implication that since she thought the issue was being spread around campus unopenly, there is something fishy about it.

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Mula ito sa Mocha Uson Blog

We even have a personal copy of the issue, which Jesa chanced to obtain sa Ateneo mismo when she had a work-related visit to its library last August.  Maliban pa syempre sa aming familiarity with Matanglawin being Ateneo de Manila’s official student publication and the inference that Tanganglawin is its lampoon issue. This is thanks to our quite special, quite notable involvement with the campus press during college – a stint that brought a libel case to Outcrop, a case based on – surprise, surprise! – a lampoon issue.

How then can we read Mocha’s response to Tanganglawin which obviously played around with the blog she is maintaining? Is this fanaticism, Mocha being the prototypical dutertard – the dutertard being, I strongly suspect one of the types of citizens Duterte himself detests? In his side comments, he often underlines how criticizing someone, mostly if he or she is a public official, is part of one’s freedom of expression and it is something that is essential to democracy. Following this, are the dutertards not the destroyers of the ideals of democracy themselves: instead of a critical and productive exchange of ideas about societal issues, they espouse a fervent and unknowingly passive behaviour, electing the Almighty Shepherd – in the person of the President – to lead them and chart the way for them?

Does this make then the other camp – contra the Duterte fanatics are the anti-Duterte – the favourable position to be in? That is, being fanatic of the President is to be unintelligent and submissive and being against him, specifically his iron-fisted war on drugs and the more recent anti-US stance, is to be a protector of human rights and more generally, to be the more ‘enlightened’ one? Am I even asking the right questions? What if not all supporters of Duterte are fanatics, and what if not all who oppose him are the same (reminiscent of the silent clarification: to criticize Duterte does not necessarily make one “dilawan” or a member of the yellow army)? To frame the possibilities of positioning in relation to Duterte as a black-and-white matter is to deny the complexities that surround his presidency and the various social issues that his first three months in office have boldly opened up. As these matters are simplified, so the ways by which we negotiate and think about them and eventually, imagine how we can intervene are limited.

Clearly, Tanganglawin is a gesture of intervention. How does it imagine Duterte, how does it want its readers to imagine and relate to Duterte? And what does it say about the potentials of critique in a society that narrowly understands democracy as casting one’s vote every three years?

Campus Journalism as Always-Alternative? Lampoon, Laughter and Avoiding Leniency

In my four years in college, I have been involved in campus journalism. I was writer and then editor in UP Baguio’s student publication, Outcrop. My stint there taught me how campus journalism can be a venue for alternative discourses to be aired. This is coming from two major premises:  (1) that student publications must serve the interests of the students, their being the student papers’ publishers (via the student fees collected every enrolment) and (2) that the main characteristics of the education system (colonial, commercialized and fascist as we call it) mostly put the students at a disadvantage in various ways (the collection of exorbitant fees – the very fact that education is being paid for, actually! — the stifling of academic freedom, the skewing of education’s orientation in general to bypass the needs of the nation and so on). Airing these alternative discourses is done by writing about things that are not normally discussed, if not overtly made hidden to the student; issues that otherwise they should be minding about. These alternative discourses hence act as propaganda – or more aptly, counter-propaganda, for what they seek to counter is ‘propaganda’ as well, propaganda of the ruling ideology. Since they carry more the baggage of what the term “propaganda” connotes (as dry, as dogmatic, as narrow-minded, as simplistic), the concomitant burden of complexly formal presentations is similarly heavier for the camp of the marginalized. The lampoon is one of the more effective ways by which student publications can downplay their status as ‘propaganda,’ with the formal ingenuity making the ideological content less explicit (again, a task that is less prominent for the ruling ideas, since they have this aura of being matter-of-fact).

This is where I am coming from as I venture to offer my reading of Tanganglawin; as I venture to offer this critique of a publication which in itself is (I believe, consciously) critiquing something.

That “something” being, what?

The cover page conjoins the parodied title of the blog (Mochang Tanga Blog) and the line “Dudirty Die hard Supoters”). An early jab at fanaticism?

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This will be sustained in the next page, “Kuta ng DDSS, Natagpuan!” The second and third paragraphs of the article read as follows:

“Nagsagawa ng isang raid ang Feelipin National Pulis Patola (FNPP) at Feelipin Bureau ng Imbestigasyones (FBI) tungkol sa pugad ng mga tagasuporta ni Pangulong Rodrigow Duteti na Die-hard Dutetians Super Square (DDSS) o “Dutetrolls.

Walang natagpuan sa nasabing gusali maliban sa 109 na abandonadong mga kompyuter unit at altar na may mga pigurin ni Pangulong Duteti.”

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Note the ironic play: the PNP, supposedly the main implementer on the ground of Duterte’s notorious war on drugs, is being parodied here (as the FNPP). It is the FNPP who raided the “pugad,” the place where the Dutetrolls are nestled. But the twist is that the FNPP found nothing but computers and Duterte figurines. What is being implied here: first and more solidly, how fanaticism over Duterte is getting alarmingly akin to the religious and second, how the presence of the Dutetrolls can be reduced to a cyberforce, a force enabled less by actual people than digital computer mechanisms.

What else does Tanganglawin read from Duterte aside from the Dutetrolls they evidently repulse (albeit the two must not be collapsed with each other; as hinted above, Duterte himself might be ashamed of what his avid supporters are doing)?

There are pages about two former Presidents and Duterte’s problematic attitude towards and relationship to them: first, the controversy surrounding former dictator Marcos’ burial in the Libingan ng mga Bayani and Duterte’s professed approval of it and the executive pardon given to Gloria Arroyo.

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Here are excerpts from the page dwelling on the latter:

“Dahil sa Acquittal Beauty Bar, naalis ang dulot ng plunder virus! Nakaalis na si Glory ng Veterano at nawala na rin ang kanyang neckbrace.”

And the last paragraph: “Mabibili ang Acquittal Beauty Bar at iba pang mga produkto sa Karte Supremo, Palasyo ng Mekelengyeng at sa lahat ng ahensya ng gobyerno. Tanging kailangan gawin ay palihim na abutan ang saleslady o ‘di kaya naman kaibiganin si Rude Dutirtry para magkaroon ng pribelehiyong magamit ang produkto.”

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These concerns related to Duterte are valid points of discussion, and by bringing it up at the very least, Tanganglawin deserves some credit.

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It also appears that there is this existing notion that Ateneo is a bulwark of “yellow minions,” supporters of the Liberal Party, or the Aquinos. I am not part of the community so I do not have a more solid notion of how this is alive there although I suspect that this has something to do with an anti-Marcos statement that was released by the Ateneo professors early this year (This connects to another simplification: to be against the Marcoses is to be supportive of the Aquinos or the Liberal Party, a narrow view that symptomatizes how we look at history as a stage where big families (and not individual and collective agents) are at play.

But several parts of the lampoon make us reconsider this simplification.

Is this not precisely where the potency of the entire Tanganglawin is coming from: this exhaustion of the possibilities of play that are proffered by the chosen form – the lampoon? Notably, the lampoon issue does not exempt its creators, as can be seen here:

Since they are also part of the Ateneo community, the very community being tagged as “napaka-bias sa mga Akinoknow,” it can be argued that the writers of the piece are also poking fun at themselves, revealing the extent of their awareness of the issues which they are tackling, to which they are responding. Most importantly, this reveals that they are aware that they are part of this whirlwind of events, that in their practice of writing, they do not subscribe to the hackneyed and already-refuted idea that the writer is this privileged documenter of events. What this practice of writing evinces is that these campus journalists are aware that writers do not merely document; writers also analyze the events, and since they are also players in that string of events, they are also analyzing themselves and how they relate (and more vitally, act in relation) to the events around them.

And maybe this is where I would finish this essay – for now (and if that sounds paradoxical, then let it be paradoxical; after all, it is mostly through paradoxes, if we only unflinchingly negotiate them, that we advance our thought) – if only to finish in a sort of positive light.

In an old essay, “Hermeneutics for our Time: From Where do We Speak,” Edel Garcellano closes the essay by recalling the very opening he made in the title: “Finally, there is therefore only one question that must be immediately asked of all of us: From where do we speak.”

In the rabid, and rapid exchanges happening in our time, no thanks to social media (the very platform where Mocha calls attention to Tanganglawin), we become more oblivious to this very important question: where are things, opinions, dispositions, attitudes, coming from? We all know this: how most of the ‘discourses’ happening in the Internet have only reinforced generalizations, sweeping statements, sweeping attacks, non-dialogues pretending to be worthwhile exchanges.

This can remind us of the two pervasive attitudes when it comes to the pursuit and the production of knowledge, of ideas, of truth; two attitudes that are seemingly diametrically opposed each other but are actually two sides of the same coin (as two disparate things commonly are): the attitude that is adamant in claiming it represents the singular Truth and the attitude that resigns to the multiplicity of truths, all having equal valence and value. In the explosion of opinions in social media, we see these two attitudes dominate: (1) a close-mindedness stemming from stern belief in one’s position, blocking meaningful exchanges with contrary views and (2) a liberal celebration of pluralities, usually concluding (when tedium sets in) with the very loserly “Let us agree to disagree” statement.

What did Zizek say? This: “There is, among the multitude of opinions, a true knowledge but this knowledge is accessible only from an interested, partial position.” Forget about Truth, forget about the Master Opinion, the Most Right Opinion, the Most Valid Point-of-View. But also do not get charmed by the allure of the pluralistic and often non-committal let-us-respect-each-side eklat. What I propose is truer, more committed engagement, with each side showing awareness of the bases of their positions, the interests and biases that these positions articulate.

Is Mocha coming from her fanaticism, a fanaticism which she herself does not acknowledge? A closed doggedness she herself is blind to?

How about Tanganglawin? I want to believe that they are aware of the political functions of their “having fun.” The back page of the issue will appear to support this:

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Clearly, they are not just “playing around;” this “play” is aware of the very situations where their play is launched.

Maybe this is the most important reminder of all: when we type things, when we make our keyboards bleed with our emphatic sharing of opinions and views, when we engage someone in social media, we are located someplace, literally and symbolically. These social locations and our very identification with them, we articulate with our online presence. The cyberspace is not as big as we would like to believe; neither is it cut off from our social realities. Old thing to say.

Locations are significant. Adbots are real things – so are fanatics and pluralists — but we can be realer and more proactive and smarter and self-aware and self-critical than them.

Chantal and Jean-Marc with Jesse and Celine with Franz and Odile, or, Kundera with Linklater and Godard


Jean-Marc: Everything changed when I met you. Not because my little jobs became more exciting. But because everything that happens around me I turn into fodder for our conversations.

Chantal: We could talk about other things!

Jean-Marc: Two people in love, alone, isolated from the world, that’s very beautiful. But what would they nourish their intimate talk with? However contemptible the world may be, they still need to be able to talk together.

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Maybe before their fallout with their director, Celine and Jesse were able to have one last conversation, albeit a shorter one.

Chantal: They could be silent.

Jean-Marc: Like those two, at the next table?

Jean-Marc laughed.

Jean-Marc: Oh, no, no love can survive muteness.

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But, via Godard, Franz, Odile and Arthur were able to survive muteness.

Pagtulak, Pagbuo sa Sarili: Ukol sa Salin ni Janine at Tilde sa Apat na Tula ni Mikael Co


(Kung may tinutulak ka, bakit? Kung may tinutulak ka, patungo saan? Okay gets, ang pagsasalin hindi na lamang bilang pagkakawil na siya mismo ay tinulak mula sa “pagtataksil,” kundi pagtataksil muli na tinulak muli mula sa pagkakawil.)

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Ang reaksyon (mala-pagdepensa) ng sinaling awtor na si Mikael Co sa Kidapawan Massacre noong Abril 1 ang isa sa mga pinanggalingan ng proyekto nila Janine at Tilde

Sa “Apat na Tulak,” kinalasan at pinag-aklasan nila Janine at Tilde ang apat na tula ni Mikael de Lara Co, dating manunulat para sa nalusaw, lumutang na rehimeng Aquino. Kumalas sila sa mapagtalimang uri ng pagsasalin; sinalin nila hindi lang ang tula ng may-akda kung hindi ang buong panlipunang milieu na kinabibilangan at tinutulungang paganahin nito. Akala ko ang tinutulak ng proyektong ito ay mga tula ni Co o si Co mismo, ngunit naalala kong ang kritisismo ay ‘di dapat nagsasayang ng laway sa vanity, sa mga personalidad o indibidwal lamang. Tinutuntungan lamang ito upang magsalita ukol sa mas masaklaw na sityong ginagalawan nating lahat, at ang mga uri ng ugnayang meron tayo rito.

(I hope it was noticed, and if not, then here I am, making it explicit: how I am not bifurcating the individual, the author (and the author’s works) and the larger environment to which he belongs and where he works. A few times before, I was flirting with the idea of tagging Tilde and Janine’s project as a kind of conceptual translation, or, translating conceptually. Then, as now, I am coming from a small proposition I made about conceptualism based on two works by Angelo Suarez: that conceptual works can make more explicit the social relations that underlie its production. The same is at work in Janine and Tilde’s “Apat na Tulak”: the translation both of the texts and the social relations (including its author’s position) that engender them. Perhaps strangely, while I see this as a strength, this is also where one of my problems with the project is stemming from. How to reconcile, how to harmonize these two translations? Should one be privileged over the other? And how should the translational work fashion itself when it is translating more than one thing?)

Maybe looking at how their translations went will be helpful.

Ang “nature-nature” na source text na “Elegy,” ginawang literal na madugo sa “Elehiya.” There is Gelacio Guillermo’s “War,” which I was reminded of here, painting the similarity between birthing a human being and birthing a new social setup. There is also Carlos Bulosan, whose poetry I find eminent in depicting nature as violent, as uneasy, as clamorous: “All the night the sea rushed in silence and knelt/ In the darkness, complaining in monosyllables.” “red tiger lilies are bravely shouldering/ Their delicate thinness above the parched earth/ Crying for rain”

Renaming the seasons becomes “baguhin ang panahon,” and it was not just what is being changed, but more tenably, what process of change will be enacted which was violated. The first one consists of a more forward interpretation – it is not just the natural seasons that are changing, that will be changed, but the “times,” with its more social connotation. But what kind of change will be inflicted? “Elegy” speaks of a “renaming”; “Elehiya” speaks of the more general “baguhin.” The former homes in on the language, the name. The process of change it speaks of is a shallow one, I think: a renaming, a changing of the garb, a changing of external appearance comparable to the way we replace the calendars as a year ends.

Can we equate the act of making the name notable – foregrounding it – to positing it as the horizon of understanding? The only way to change things is by changing their names, changing their external appearances? The limit of my language is the limit of my?

The get-up and the make-up vary but the clowns keep mellowing, weeping on the inside.

In the original, already notable is the slight veer from the naturalization of phenomena: Yes, the seasons are renamed; seasons do not just change naturally. But the act of changing is not just in terms of how they are called. The natural is bloodied. The natural screams, is made to scream.

Ang “panahon” ay di lang pag-ihip ng hangin o pagputok ng bulkan; ang “panahon” ay pagtaas-pagbaba rin ng presyo ng petrolyo at mga bilihin; ang panahon ay ang state of national emergency, ang dahas ng bombahan at sagupaan. This is elegiac.

In “Warrant,” what was “A sky, teeming with spears” in “War Chant” became “Ang langit, lango sa pulburang pumurga sa komunismong nagpalaganap ng kagutumang nilunasan natin ng kaunlaran at kaayusan sa daang makatuwirang tadhana ng lahing maka-demokrasya.” Why such protractedness?

Again: the translation here explicates the web of social relations to which the author of the original text belongs and which he actively, if not smugly, reinforces. “Daang makatuwiran” and “lahing maka-demokrasya” recall the Aquino regime. The safe and universally sweet final line in “War Chant” became reeking of sour mockery in the lengthier, albeit syntactically and semantically suspicious (“sa komunismong nagpalaganap ng kagutuman”?) final line in “Warrant.”

Not just elegiac but foreboding are the last lines of “Gravedad”: Minsan napapaginipan ko ang pagbagsak ng demokrasya/ Nagpapasalamat ako sa bawat paggising sa tuwid na daan. It cannot be mistaken: the “demokrasya” here is the same as the one in “lahing maka-demokrasya” in Warrant. This is another jab at the very role and position of the original author in society.

Elsewhere in the translational work are other cute parts: “I wish more creatures had evolved wings” was translated to “Sana mas maraming nilikhang binigyang-bagwis ng evolucion” in Gravedad. The sleek Hegelian sound of internal or self-development in the former is erased in the latter where a more complex relationship can be read. “Mind” became “naudyukang isip”; “sparrows” became “Sparrow yunit.” “The weather” becomes “panahon ng pagbabago.”

Generally speaking, I like this project, I like the concept most of all. I get what is being articulated in the work’s preface: “Kailangang kasangkapanin [sic ba ito dapat?] ang wika bilang larangan ng pag-aaklas at ang metodo ng pagsasalin bilang paraan ng paglikha at pagpuna. Sa huli’y dapat itulak ang “Four Poems,” upang ibunyag nito ang kanyang sarili, ang tunay nitong sarili, ang tunay na reaksyunaryong sarili. Itong tulak ang tangka ng proyektong ito.”

But I have questions, questions that concentrate mainly on the project’s form (even as frankly, I am also questioning my questions, clarifying to myself my premises). I am thinking if it would be dry and dull to demand some kind of internal solidity (“unity” is a word I avoided, because of its connotations not the least of which is the formalist one) from the work.

“Elehiya” is most effective in enacting the multi-layered translations: the text-in-itself and its sociality: “Ilang bala ba ang kailangan/ para sa isang masaker?” More vitally perhaps, “Elehiya” to me is the most solid in-itself; that is, not just as a work of translation, but as a work in its own right.

Which I think finally brings me – after a semi-circuity – to the core, the rock, the rurok(?) of my concern. Is it fair or reasonable or not too demanding to ask a work of translation whose task is to explicitly translate both texts and social locations — explicitly because while all translations speak of or symptomatizes social location, very few explicitly do – to be also solid in-itself? What does it mean for a work to be solid in-itself: this is somewhat akin to the formalist notion of organic unity but without the sound of closedness; this speaks of the work being self-organized enough for it to command meaning. In “Manikluhod” for instance, the pronouns (the “nila,” “sila,” “ating,” “aking” etc.) and their antecedents are confusing; blocking meaning-making in the process.

Varied a little: does this demand not miss the point of translations like this? Is a kind of internal solidity still desirable – if not possible – when the translations are openly working on both words and social relations? External logic (ibunyag ang reaksyunaryo) seemed to predominate the translations and so they become internally loose.

In their efforts to betray, reveal, burn the reactionary, can we affirm that the translations have forsaken to build themselves?