On the opening of classes, Brigada Eskwela and the Marxist vision of abolishing the state

Zygmunt Bauman’s conclusion in “Zizek and Morin on monotheism” (from “On Education”) smacks of an intelligently ironic distance which I feel we must adopt more as we find rooms for critique in a neoliberal system touted to be encompassing.

Bauman’s advice: “take the status quo… at its word and so confront it with the full volume of the ambitions it inspires… and endorses—a volume which far exceeds its powers to support it. And so the demands… are bound to accomplish a truly revolutionary feat: to discredit the status quo, lay bare its impotence, and thereby prompts its collapse.”

I was thinking about the resumption of classes and the customary Brigada Eskwela weeks before it when I recall Bauman. Weeks ago, my tita from my mother’s side—one that is dominantly composed of teachers—posted pictures of her and her colleagues doing the typical work done during Brigada. They were designing the classroom, arranging cabinets and chairs, posting class schedules on the doors. My tita used captioned the pictures with #bayanihan, referring to that Filipino value of helping one another and the context of community living.

Mula sa” http://www.thepublicschoolteacher.com/brigada-eskwela-2017-tarpaulin-layout/#

Continue reading “On the opening of classes, Brigada Eskwela and the Marxist vision of abolishing the state”


Thinking Now, of Now and Ahead, with some help from Trainspotting’s Renton


If we look at it closely, we can appreciate Renton’s jutting butt much better. For the mesmerizing irony is his butt is a whiff away from the subs, the subs which the butt’s projection (and the subsequent scenes) betray. Aside from this, Renton’s uneasy figure is overpowered by the colourful, clean and very organized background; hence, his littleness is in place precisely because he is out-of-place (almost an inconsequential presence) in the entire scene.

Which can be said as well to the last urinal in Do You Not Think so Far Ahead? The rest of the urinals in the work are mere backgrounders to each section’s title; even some of them are blurred. But the last urinal is presented in so meticulous details: with parts labelled, an inset and a see-through. What is a “wax ring,” a “ballcock”; how about “flange bolts”? The last urinal shows those. Before this, the urinals shown are dead daily company. In the last one, it is presented as an intricate machine, with all its mechanical workings implied.

I’m no longer alive, said all previous urinals. Not true. Renton went as fast as he could, looking for any decent toilet; while fantasizing too.


Kristeva distinguished the symbolic from the semiotic mode of signification: the former is an “expression of orderly meaning” and the latter is a “discharge of subject’s energy, emotion, drives.” Renton had fantasies not only of order but of pristineness, not only a toilet seat but


Eventually, what he had was an artless, if not perfunctory, discharge. He too anticipated it, he was aware of the circumstances, he was aware of the pathos of fantasies, his very own fantasies


To posit, obliquely, that art is or can be autonomous is to flirt with fantasies. And most likely it is the pathetic kind of fantasy (I fancy it precisely because it not here, it is not real, I cannot make it real). But it can be read in more empowering terms: rather than art striving to be “autonomous”; art recognizing itself as “situated,” as located and invested and as “Do You Not Think so Far Ahead” put it, “such formulation certainly brings in the sociality and the materiality of a given work.”

I recall Zizek and his notes on “The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie” and Desire: the very unfulfilment of Desire fuels Desire – fulfils it, why not?! In more solid terms that can defeat those defeatist undertones, we can say of art and autonomy that art, now explicit about its location, its situatedness, “bursts forth” “towards it,” towards autonomy, or more aptly, towards the abandonment of this very pursuit.

The notion of an autonomous art has long gone filthy; it is time to flush it.


In many ways, we have these confounding contradictions: always have them, so the great differences will lie on how to confront them. “What if the very properties which were supposed to repel market forces are the same properties which pull it towards the market?”

What could be these properties of art? What are the forces of the market – the art institutions, the purchasers of art, the art auctions? But not all art institutions are the same; so are the purchasers and auctioneers of art. Here, not only raising questions are equally, if not more significant than raising a point; making explicit and interrogating, again, the very location, where one is making her point, where one is coming from is significant too.


In the movie, it makes sense. What was just announced as the “worst toilet in Scotland’ revealed itself promptly as indeed, worthy of such title (an interpolation ‘outside’ of the film, for, if you let me spell it out, what Renton saw was just the “toilet,” not “the worst toilet in Scotland – now I feel like a loser for spelling it out).

Yet outside the movie again (literally “outside” for this was presumably hardly known until this  came out) there was a betrayal – a perfectly harmless and logical one for movies are all about representing reality using its techniques – props and effects included.

But not all makes sense neatly in this sequence in Trainspotting. Okay, it is the worst toilet in Scotland; but if that is so, then why this look on Renton’s face:


Further, why this?


And finally, this:


Can we go back to Kristeva? Or, is this a going back to Kristeva? The motherly womb, the place of plenitude, oceanic fullness, psychoanalytic pleases?

Easy, we are forgetting that Renton was on heroin


And as he said much earlier in the film and much famously: Who needs reasons, when you’ve got heroin? Who needs Kristeva and Zizek when you’ve got heroin? The heroine is not the Mother, but – sorry – heroin.

The contradiction is resolved in the film, in a way. Renton’s retreat into fantasy is an upshot of his drugs. But drugs are not explicitly the gimmick involved in “Do You Not Think so Far Ahead.”

So when it said that “we will never run out of gimmicks,” we can ask if the inexhaustibility being implied here is the liberal one – the surplus of ideas, the surplus of gimmicks, often without asking, for what purpose?. In “On Choosing,” a suggested answer: for every gimmick, a certain amount to be paid. Will it be a payment for resistance, a payment for individual glorification, a payment for lazy indoctrination, a payment to have, finally, a will? We choose.

(What did Renton choose? Interestingly, he chose something seemingly Zizekian):


What did “Do You Not Think So Far Ahead” choose? In “On Access,” it chose to speak of “carollers from the gaps of the gate, tugging at each other, hesitant to sing their song” while it also speaks of people who “exude confidence and the importance of their words.” In a single page, it chose to speak of hesitance and confidence, exuding importance and tugging at each other and the access of art becomes an axis of the social divide.

And this divide is present not only in SOCIETY AT LARGE, but in one’s self, the tininess of one’s selves: the conflict, the “chasm” “between a person’s radical ‘principles’ and her/his decadent lifestyle.”

This paves the way for “On Choosing” and “On This Right Now,” with the latter I am opting to read not as a simplistic insistence on the now, the moment (ATM! ATM!). “On This Right Now” gets back to questioning, looking at the very ground where one is standing, where one does the thinking and the looking – whether it be looking away, looking and thinking against, looking and thinking ahead.

Which brings me to this conclusion: I should not think so far ahead, I should not forget to think of the here and now where I am doing this thinking ahead.

Baguio is the tears that you cry when you read Eco, the tears when you write chronicles (IN Baguio Chronicle, TO Adamson Chronicle)

The silent — though uncontainable – feeling is that the final fifteen, sixteen, seventeen days remaining in 20166 will be Baguio. As much as you want to EEWW the ‘looking-back’ stuff happening as the year ends, you also see some of its value: something cliched: putting the past to a thought-process in order to set fire to the future)

(This is not just nostalgia trip, and is that not a bit rude to the word ‘nostalgia,’ using it in reference to events just in the past months? You counter yourself, 2016 feels so big, the months seemed like the bookshelves of Calvino and the deaths in the name of the ‘war on drugs’ in our country)

Goodreads made me review my “Year in Books,” and the Baguio-to-Manila plotline is alive there and evil, wounding, adding salt to the wound, licking the wound with a salted tongue.

Again, our Baguio window

The books you’ve read, they speak of memories that in turn speak of specific locus, concrete locations, situations. I was reading Eagleton’s “The Function of Criticism” upon waking up – 7am, 8am – in our Parisas home, and it was January and you know how Baguio is when it’s January, and we are not talking of city centers but a semi-secluded village in the fringes of Bakakeng. Bauman’s “Towards A Critical Sociology,” I remember bringing to Mt. Cloud’s Third Monday from the Sun and I almost left it, almost. F. Sionil’s “Vibora” I cram-read as I cram-conceptualized a paper for KRITIKA’s call for submissions. I finished the novelette in two days, I guess, but did not find it worthy of writing at least a ten-page paper about. Kruger’s “Remote Control,” Jameson’s “Marxism and Form,” Graff’s “Literature Against Itself,” all these man, I read them with brewed coffee and our Parisas windows which offered calmness and gathering dogs sometimes, sometimes a goat, sometimes a sheep, and always, the unassuming but pretty trees. All these three I borrowed from UP Baguio’s library, while I was a graduating Graduate student, erratically prolonging thesis completion mainly to continue availing of the library’s sexy books. Malabou’s “Changing Difference,” Mao’s essays, Gamalinda’s “Empire of Memory” were all borrowed from UP Baguio’s library, through Mam Brenda, through the cheery librarians of the campus (Sometimes, they will ask me, O kelan ka ga-gradaute? Thesis na lang ba? something).

“The Critical Villa” edited by Jonathan Chua is the bridge. I started reading it in Baguio, did not finish there, was able to finish it in – surprise – Manila, courtesy of Adamson’s library, the university where I am now teaching. “Mga Gerilya sa Powell Street,” I remember reading at Silahis, 100 meters away from NCCA’s office at Intramuros, while I was waiting for Jesa. Wark’s “The Spectacle of Disintegration” I remember reading during the dull moments of our retooling seminar, again at Adamson.”Days of War, Nights of Love,” I mostly read during LRT rides to and from work (I suspect my eyesight has to say “fuck you” to me about this, for I can feel it is deteriorating). Adamson’s library is not without its sweetness. I was able to read Badiou and Engelmann’s “Philosophy and the Idea of Communism” here, and Raymond Williams work on Modernism, and Kerouac’s “Tristessa” and Almario’s thick “Balagtasismo versus Modernismo” which was reserved at UP Baguio (and which curiously I hardly bothered to even check when I was there). Yesterday I finished in one sitting, Marquez’ short “Memories of my Melancholy Whores,” while I was eating time in the last week of school this year. I remember doing that to Apol Sta. Maria’s “Alamat ng Panget” too, only that, again, I was wearing boxers, and long-sleeves and exhaling fog even as Baguio’s own fogginess engulfs me some eleven months ago.

My writings will also make me cry about this (big) city shift. January, I was taking writing for Baguio Chronicle quite seriously, contributing essays about Whang-od and Panagbenga or reviews of an exhibit about film at Baguio Cinematheque. December, I find myself writing a riposte to a lampoon article published in the Adamson Chronicle. Last night, I just returned the revised draft of a paper on Session in Bloom. Nights ago, not only the writings were about Baguio; they were IN Baguio.

Here, right now, I try to chronicle 2016 via the books I’ve read and where I have read them and where I have sweated for them and via the writings I’ve done and there is Baguio, like God (and if there would be blasphemy here, it will be with respect to the former, not the latter): all-powerful, all-present, all-known (not “knowing).

Will I end this piece the way Cesar Ruiz Aquino ended his “Proheme to Zamboanga” (All you were amoeba-fashion Zamboanga Zamboanga Zamboanga)? Enough to put it there because I will not.

My tears for Baguio are so big I sort of bled for almost 1000 words and an earlier plan is yet to be carried out: I will write about Baguio, bearing in mind Cesar’s “Proheme” to his city and Umberto Eco’s own cry for his “Alessandra” – which he described thus, “Alessandria is made up of great spaces. It is empty.”

I almost cried man, while reading Eco’s piece on Alessandra, his city, his place, the locations that make him throb. I was having brewed coffee – still bought in Baguio’s dirty and yet somehow fragrant and charming public market (all markets are dirty, rarely are they eerily fragrant and charming) – in our apartment in coughing Pasay when I almost cried on Eco’s Alessandra, and though the sad thing is that that brewed coffee is the only Baguio remnant I had, the happy, dazzling thing is that Baguio is 256 kilometers away, six hours via Genesis, four hours via Joybus (we are very near the Pasay terminals). Baguio is away like that, just some kilometric count, and another big decision away, another city-shift, (more aptly, a reversal, a return), one that is most surely a lovelier and less agonizing one.

A Map of Friends

Papuntang Ermita banda, kuha ni P

P and L have finally found a place for us to leave our books and to have our snacks and to hang our clothes in mad, metrical Metro Manila. There were rains but not snoring; our sleeps so far have been sweet.

One jeep away, I guess, or maybe some minutes of walk, is D, who is still, I guess, writing his favorite hovels and his favorite cities. More surely, he is still redding his cigarette packs and keeping his shoes unclean.

P is a station away – busier, both body and streets. Sometimes, we go to the movies, the three of us P and I and P and hurried siopao and the lonely sparks of Friday. P is still shyly cuddling with her camera.

D must be giggling inside university classrooms, maybe snoring sometimes, sometimes maybe writing down notes in her head. I guess she is two rail transit lines away, four beep card taps and a seven-peso jeep. The green walks are for her too and the statue of a fig and her shingling announcements about art.

M and M are still prancing at least 252 kilometers away, breathing breaths on mirrors to make clowns’ faces. Most likely they are still jazzing the Datu’s Tribe and wining from time to time, with their hands and clothes as jackets. Occasionally, we plan to walk together in other cities. When some plan happens, we find ourselves in 1am buses.

B is also universitying in QC, reading the fig with a thousand weights. I am not sure if she is sleeping in the city where Bonifacio has become stone or somewhere near the Metro’s most populous city. Most likely she is still sleeping with directors and film actresses I will encounter only three years from now.

The news about C is that he will run back and forth the 252 kilometers every time he has classes in the university with the fig statue. I do not have a more recent update. Maybe he lives in Slovenia or China; whispering real struggles. Or he is loving Harvey evermore.

The last time I saw J, he was going to the university with the fig statue where he is also studying, the same course I believe as D’s and B’s. Before imdb was laughing, J has been sleeping for hours with a neorealist smile as a phase. It is not his face that is filmic but his overall mood. In this map, he is not a location; he is here.

C is in one of the most raucous stations of Line 3. She is computing words with people from across the line; her little kid seems to have started wording too. Poems are budding but less swiftly than feelings well-taken care of. Near her, buses can travel 252 kilometers in five six hours.

We are here, and here, we test our skins.

Here, we slow dance

Our Baguio Windows


The eye is the window to the/Old night./The sky’s soul is big/The screen is the old screen/We have given our loss.



In the morning, we held light, like the precarity of insects.

We used souls but not as the window to the eye.

We lost blackness; we wept.

For nine years we slept, and we did not sleep.

Mar Roxas and The Famous Joke about the Two Jews in a Railway Carriage

“Where are you going?” asked the first Jew.

“To Cracow”, was the answer.
“What a liar you are!” broke out the first Jew.”If you say you’re going to Cracow, you want me to believe you’re going to Lemberg. But I know you’re going to Cracow. So why are you lying to me?”

Freud says of this joke: The more serious substance of the joke is the problem of what determines the truth. … What they are attacking is not a person or an institution but the certainty of our knowledge itself, one of our SPECULATIVE possessions.*

Kung i-aapply sa recent na isyu, mai-include ang larger social context (at di lang tao-sa-tao) sa formation ng knowledge at public opinion :

Who’s leading the pre-election surveys? tanong ng isa.
“Si Mar,” sabi ni B.
“What a liar you are! sabi nung isa. “If you say Mar is leading the pre-election surveys, you want me to believe that he is REALLY leading the surveys. But we all know he is not So why are you lying to me?

We can say of this Mar joke: What this joke is attacking is not Mar per se but the way knowledge is formed about him. Who conducts the surveys? What interests informed such conducting of the survey? Why are they lying to US?

*Sipi ito sa essay na “‘The Pas de Calais’: Freud, the Transference and the Sense of Woman’s Humor” ni Joel Fineman


Mula sa: https://adobochronicles.com/2015/12/02/philippine-presidential-candidate-mar-roxas-true-champion-of-the-masses/


Chopping Duterte’s Head Off

One can recall Mark David Chapman, John Lennon’s huge fan and also his infamous killer if one wants to see a deeper disappointment in the behaviour of many of Duterte’s supporters.

On December 08, 1980, Chapman, virtually a nobody, shot John Lennon outside his apartment in New York. A friend used to tell me that Chapman did that out of his obsession with Lennon. Killing him would be the only way by which he can have a significant part in Lennon’s life; killing Lennon was the only way Chapman can get to be included in the biography of the Beatle.

Other accounts would point to the fury that seethed in Chapman as he became keen about the contradictions in his idol. Wikipedia quotes Chapman, “He told us to imagine no possessions, and there he was, with millions of dollars and yachts and farms and country estates, laughing at people like me who had believed the lies and bought the records and built a big part of their lives around his music.” His counsel initially worked on the insanity defense in order to absolve Chapman but Chapman eventually told him that he would like to plead guilty. His lawyer opposed this but Chapman stood by his decision and finally convinced the judge of his mental ability to come up with the guilty plea. He was then convicted of second-degree murder and sentenced to at least 20 years of imprisonment.

One can think of Chapman’s obsession with Lennon and find an unusual affinity – an inverse one — with the idolatry many seem to be forming for presidential candidate Rodrigo Duterte. We are all familiar now with Duterte’s rape joke days ago and how it has led to a divide between those who criticized him and those who defended him. The lines of reasoning were mind-boggling less because of the way they referred to ‘greater’ deeds of the Mayor, which for them hugely offset one verbal remark, than the way they seem not just to decriminalize rape but even to justify it. When one sees ‘rape victims’ or females coming out to express support for Duterte, one wonders if it is part of a campaign ploy or a more widespread attitude that spells out how doomed our democracy is.

I see this massive outpour of support for Duterte and Chapman’s decision to gun down Lennon both as unproductive ways of ‘looking up’ to someone – a kind phrase, this “looking up,” for we can ask, have we seen not an unhealthy idolatry for Lennon in Chapman; are we not seeing a blind celebration or an inert obedience to Duterte on the part of many of his followers?

And yet, despite being literally destructive, Chapman’s act is not the worse one between the two. At least some versions are saying that what prompted Chapman to kill Lennon is the contradictions he saw in him, contradictions that shattered for him the image of his idol, and more importantly, contradictions that made hollow all self-conceptions he has made by identifying with this idol. Criminal as his act may be, it can be treated productively as a symptom of that social phenomenon of fandom, the status of celebrities and its tendency to obscure actual relations. On the other hand, there is nothing criminal in what Duterte’s supporters are doing; it’s part and parcel of the freedom of expression blah. But what I read as the underlying situation it merely serves as symptom of is a political dynamic that is ashamed of its name and wishes to change it to political passivity or political laziness or Holy-art-Thou-Political-Master kind of politics.

Yet more intent cogitation can bring us right to the mark: do not Duterte’s supporters and Duterte himself make a perfect fit? The former’s very act of strong-willed defense and nearly unwavering glorification of Duterte complements Duterte’s stature as a knightly icon in electoral politics. Conversely, Duterte’s stature as a bearer of seemingly supreme and unfaltering political force is complemented by his followers’ sheep-like support. Many of Duterte’s supporters do not have fangs; they do not have the balls to make the politician they support accountable when he errs. They will not cover their noses when Duterte farts; they will say that it may smell bad but it is not bad to be inhaled.

Is this a dig at Duterte or his followers? I say no, not exactly. More aptly, this is a dig at the very political terrain where such blind obedience takes place.

In Italo Calvino’s “Beheading the Heads,” we see a political setup that apparently laughs at and spurns most of the existing ones we witness and practice now. It begins with a scene of preparation for a national festival, a festival when the politicians are beheaded to mark the end of their terms. As someone explained in the story, “Authority over others is indivisible from the right of those others to have you climb the scaffold and do away with you.” He added, “Only heads of state can be beheaded, hence you can’t wish to be a head without also wishing for the chop.”


Judith Beheading Holofernes (1598–99) by Caravaggio mula sa: http://www.johncoulthart.com/feuilleton/2013/01/19/decapitations/

We can recall Chapman and the disillusionment that fazed him in relation to his idol John Lennon and finally spurred him to kill his idol. We can always say, Oh that was too much and we are likely not in the wrong. At the other extreme, there are supporters of politicians, who will never dare even to point out their political heroes’ creased polo or take offense when he jokes about rape. Elsewhere, someone abandons an island ravaged by a super typhoon; someone deprives supplicating farmers of food and we feel not even a tinge of uneasiness.

Perhaps it is not only that these politicians not feel the necessary threat of a chopping – mostly figurative – whether when they are just running for or are already in a government position. Perhaps as a people, we too are not just hesitant but unwilling to ‘behead’ our leaders, unwilling to make them accountable, unwilling to criticize them when called-for.

We do not need a literal gun as Chapman did; we just need a symbolic ax as Calvino insinuates.


The Dictator’s Threat and the Challenge to Realize Democracy Beyond the Ballot

The National Elections is one of the prized components of the democracy. With its ideal captured in the epithet “for the people, by the people, of the people,” democracy’s appeal arguably lies not just in the way it supposedly accounts for the interests of the majority but also in how they endow the people with venues for such interests to be tackled. In the prevalence of representative democracy however, it can be said that the election becomes the foremost way by which the people can act on their interests. People are given the chance to “elect” whomever they think can rightfully represent their interests in the government. But in this manner, democracy lessens the extent by which the people can directly participate in governance. Democracy is simplistically equated into casting votes during elections. This tenably comes at the expense of more meaningful and engaged forms of democratic participation such as the articulation of political opinions and social interests, taking part in the expansion of venues or platforms for such articulation or joining organization or groups which can engage the government in more sustained ways. Aside from this, the continued hopeful spinning of the “power of the vote” tend to obscure the loopholes in the very context where the elections take place.

Elections: the Limiting View of Democracy

I always find handy to quote Alain Badiou’s valiant description of democracy at a time when the popularity of this political system is undoubted. As it appears in Slavoj Zizek’s The Year of Dreaming Dangerously, Badiou asserts that “Today the enemy is not called Empire or Capital. It’s called Democracy.” To this, Zizek added that there is the persistence of the “democratic illusion… the acceptance of democratic procedures as the sole framework for any possible change… which blows any radical transformation of capitalist relations” (87).

As an annotative remark, I think that what both Badiou and Zizek particularly have in mind here is the election, the esteemed feature of democracies. With too rosy and too often positive estimation, the limits of elections are hardly pointed out. For instance, a classic description of elections derived from the Philippine Left is its being a game for the ruling class (“laro ng mga naghaharing-uri”). We all know that in order for one to have a legitimate chance of winning an electoral post, one has to have the funds and machineries to conduct campaign projects/initiatives (the higher the office, the bigger the geographical scope of the campaign is). Notably, this is one of the criteria of the Comelec in determining the nuisance candidates. Most of the numerous people who filed a Certificate of Candidacy for the Presidency were weeded out after their incapacity to launch a campaign of nationwide scope was claimed. With this, the set of choices from which the people can “freely” decide who to vote is mostly confined to the ruling class: the traditional politicians, the daughters and sons of former or current politicians, the daughters and sons of hacienderos or corporate moguls. It is at this point that we can buttress the point that the elections, more than enabling the people to realize democracy’s ideals, actually point to the deadlock in existing representative and liberal democracy. Here, the utterance “Kahit sinong manalo, wala namang pagbabago” – the words as tired as what they mean – reverberates. It seems that casting a vote come Election Day has been reduced to choosing the lesser evil. The creeping in of resignation when it comes to the elections is then connected to our inability, or perhaps refusal to look and work for opportunities that go beyond that supplied by the ballot. Following this, rallying behind a candidate posturing as a budding dictator can pose more complications than resolutions. Duterte’s candidacy may disturb the existing democratic setup, but the challenge to democracy he presents is allied to his self-glorification (precisely in the ‘dictatorial’ possibility) and not to the more meaningful empowerment of the larger population.

The Rise of the Dictator at the Expense of Democracy

Maria Ressa’s article “Duterte, his 6 contradictions and planned dictatorship,” published by Rappler can be a good reference in making sense of Duterte and the dictatorial tendency not just attributed to him but which he himself enacts and proclaims.

I interpret that four of the contradictions mentioned in Ressa’s article point to a singular idea: the first (breaking the law), third (leftist and dictator), fourth (womanizer and women’s rights advocate) and fifth (sexist and gay rights supporter) contradictions all reinforce while also shedding more light on a common interpretation of Duterte and what he stands for — a preference for an iron-hand, if not autocratic government, which can be instituted, with him at the top of things — if he wins.

In the article, Ressa spoke of Duterte’s “insistence on the maintaining the rule of law” and quotes the mayor, “Sabihin mo sa kanya, THIS is the law. Putang ina, pag hindi mo sinunod ang batas, putang ina ka sa akin.” But I posit that the meaning of dictatorship or a dictatorial tendency here must be plumbed beyond the surface. They amount neither just to the fierce, unbuckling imposition of the law, nor even just the trenchant equation of the law with the words of a singular entity, the dictator. Underlying these contradictions, a unique relationship of the ‘dictator,’ the superior political figure, to the law is being suggested.

It intimates the “state of exception” which the Italian scholar Giorgio Agamben talks about in his book Homo Sacer: Sovereign Power and Bare Life: “The violence exercised in the state of exception clearly neither preserves nor simply posits the law, but rather conserves it in suspending it and posits it in excepting itself from it” (64, emphasis mine). At the same time that Duterte doggedly affirms the inviolability of the law, he is not secretive about his own violations, or perceivable willingness to violate it, as we can see in Ressa’s article. Hence, the suspension of the law in order to “except” one from it adds weight to the supremacy of the ‘dictator.’ The closer the personality is to this image, the more the ideals of democracy are to fade. The more the applicability of the law is defined by a singular power, the less the people can claim for their active participation in the management of society. But the same premise can be the enabling condition for people to work together in skirting the singularly enforced law and challenging its very maintenance.

This brings us to the curiosity: a budding dictator’s popularity in a country that usually celebrates its being a “democracy.” I was reminded of Jaime Oscar Salazar’s thoughts about the film “Heneral Luna” at the peak of its fame. In the conclusion of his post “The General Lunacy of Empire posted at the Young Critics Circle Film Desk, Salazar spoke of “our paternalist lunacies” and our being “besotted by authoritarianism” (2015). A sentence earlier he referred to “an electoral season that has been marked by the resurgence of popular longings for the caress of an iron hand, for the smell of ‘gold and blood and flame’ (2015)” which I read as having Duterte in mind. To what extent can we affirm that the popularity of Duterte (and to an extent, the character of Heneral Luna) is tied to our yearning for “authoritarianism” and our perhaps unrecognized paternalism? What could this question imply to the state of our oft-boasted democracy and our changing evaluations of our role as political citizens in our society?

Forgoing Responsibility?

I can hazard to imply a correlation between the popularity of Duterte, particularly his persona as a budding ‘dictator,’ and the changing ways by which we appreciate our role in a democracy. I surmise that what is bubbling underneath is a quiescent wish to let a singular power see to it that the law – seen as a primordial factor in bringing about order in society — will be enforced. This is in contrast to a more encompassing view: a view where law is seen not just as something shakeable or contestable but also where the very participation and engagement of the people is entailed in its continual reassertion or re-examination. We can even go beyond the hardcore, sometimes limiting frame provided by the law and legalities. We can include in the agenda of our participation and engagement not just the content and execution of the law but more vitally the larger conditions that both comprise and enable democracy: the education of the citizens, the improvement of their living situations, the provision of healthcare to keep them mentally sound and physically fit among others. Following this view, greater responsibility is placed upon the entirety of the citizenship. The state of the affairs of a national community is not just for an elected autocratic personality to steer; it is for everyone to be concerned with.

In the end, this is tied to a broadening, nay, a revisiting of the ideals of democracy. We confine its substance and applicability to regular elections. We hardly appreciate, even actualize the idea that democracy should be about us, the citizens – the supposedly principal and systematic roles we should be playing in our political and societal organization: from creating multifarious venues where our interests and issues will be tackled and determined to the very programs which will reflect these interests.

People's assemblies as a feature of democracy (Kuha ito ni Jesa)
People’s assemblies as a feature of democracy (Kuha ito ni Jesa)

Democracy is not just about us selecting between the haciendero or the self-made woman, the celebrity or the dictator come elections. Democracy is not just about the established institutions and the personalities which are on top of such institutions. Democracy is about you and me and our daily, sweaty and excruciating experiences on the ground and the potential of us establishing platforms where common interests can be asserted and coming up with programs on how to materialize them concertedly.

Kultura at Sining Lampas sa Sentro: Better Living Through Xeroxography 8 sa Baguio*

Pinagpapawisan na ba sa kaba ang tinatawag na ‘mainstream publishing’ o mainstream literature – mga kabit sa mga institusyon tulad ng akademya, mga pangunahing publishing house sa bansa at generally iba pang institusyon ng estado na siyang nagbibigay approval sa kung anu-ano ang pwedeng ilathala – habang umuusbong na ang mga umaalternatibo rito tulad ng tinatawag namang ‘independent’ o ‘self’ publishing? Or to begin with, dapat ba silang kabahan? Inaaway ba ng huli ang una; inaangalan ba ng independent o self publishing ang mianstream publishing?

BLTX Baguio

Sa April 25, sa Yagam Cafe, gaganapin ang ika-walong edisyon ng Better Living Through Xeroxography (BLTX). Pangalawang edisyon na ito ng BLTX sa labas ng “comfort zone” nitong “Cubao/QC/Metro Manila” area. Earlier this year, nagpunta na silang Davao. Nagkakalat na sila ng mga punla para sa ibang uri ng artistic practice, kaiba sa moda ng artistic production na talamak sa nakaraang mga dekada, moda ng artistic production na nakatuon sa “self-perpetuation” at “self-aggrandizement” (2015) ng mga nagsasagawa nito.

Sabi sa isang “brief” patungkol sa BLTX na matatagpuan sa medium.com, walang kurap sigurong pinangalan ang mga hinihindian at sinusubukang lampasan ng initiative na ito: ang “padrino system” at mga limitasyon ng “state support” sa paglikha at paglalabas ng sining.

Limiting conditions ang mga ito at arguably sumasagka sa pag-usbong ng mga bagong uri/moda pa sana ng artistic production. Sumasagka rin ito sa pag-welcome ng mga bagong boses, mga bagong manlilikha na makatutulong sana upang gawing mas diverse, gawing mas nakakagulat ang mga lumalabas na gawang-sining sa isang community, o kung di man sa buong bansa. Sa gayon, ang initiative na BLTX  ay nakaaambag upang palawakin at pakapalin pa ang layers ng sining sa bansa hindi lang in terms of production kundi in terms of audience. Pwede itong makatulong sa pag-iinvigorate sa inaantok na lagay ng sining at pagpapalapad ng kulturang umiikot kay Kris Aquino, sa latest Youtube sensation o Wattpad. Sa gayon, magkakaroon ng mas maraming venue para sa kultural na pagtangkilik at pwede rin eventually, sa pagmumuni-muni una sa mga ganitong kultural na bagay at susunod sa lipunang kinapapalooban ng mga ito.

Isang community ang nais buuin ng BLTX – isang mas malawak na community ng mga manlilikha ng sining, cultural workers at ng kanilang mga tagabasa at tagatangkilik. Allergic ang communtiy na ito sa pagka-tengga, sa pagkakapako; naglalaway ito sa paggalaw at paglago. Kaya ang “participants” sa community na ito ay hindi lang ang mga tagabenta o mga gumawa ng cultural products tulad ng do-it-yourself na folio o collection ng drawings. Participants din ang buyers, yung general audience hanggang sa susunod pwedeng maging sellers na rin sila gaya nga ng sinabi sa brief patungkol sa BLTX. Kung gayon, hindi makitid ang mga kategorya, hindi magkahiwalay. Paano ito nagaganap?: sa pamamagitan ng pagpapalitan ng mga kuro-kuro at pananaw, pagbabahagian ng mga ideya o suhestyon. Pwedeng mangyari ito sa activities tulad ng fora o roundtable discussions na may semblance ng formality; pwede ring semi-random lang habang nagba-browse ng mga naka-display na akda.

Malay ang BLTX sa “potential pitfall of ending up as closed a circuit as the systems it’s trying to topple” (2015) na binanggit rin nila sa kanilang brief. Kaya naman ang tingin ko, kailangang buhayin ang ideya na kailangang laging umiindayog ang community na ito, hence, lagi sanang papalabas, naghahanap ng mga bagong ideya, bagong makakasama, bagong makakabalitatakan, bagong artists at cultural workers.

Ngayon, isang isyu na maaaring i-bring up ng iba: paano ang usapin ng ‘value’ o ng standards na pagaganahin sa pagbabasa ng isang cultural product, say panitikan, o drawing, o tugtog? Kapag dumami masyado ang mga gumagawa ng sining o naging cultural worker, paano pa matutukoy ang mga maganda o effective o insightful na mga akda? Sabi nga ni Marjorie Perloff sa isang panayam with Front Porch Magazine, “I do, however, worry about the sheer information glut. …it’s too easy to get published somehow” (2013, 219). Maituturing ba na parallel ang epekto ng internet sa epekto ng small-press endorsement ng BLTX: that is, i-boost ang quantity ng mga cultural (artistic/literary) production nang nasasakripisyo na sa isang banda ang usapin ng kalidad ng mga ito? Gumawa lang ako ng blog sa wordpress, pwede na akong mag-‘publish’ ng tula. Mag-print lang ako ng ilang kopya ng mga akda ko tapos i-compile at i-stapler, meron na akong published work. Masalimuot ang usapin ng ‘valuation’ o ‘quality’ pero ‘di dapat dahilan ito para ‘di na siya pag-usapan. Mula uli sa brief tungkol sa BLTX, sinabi nilang nanggagaling sila sa “notion that there is no one way to practice art” (2015). Ibig sabihin, walang singular na magandang pamamaraan ng paggawa ng sining o kultura, walang iisang batayan ng magandang sining o kultural na likha. Pero hindi rin naman dapat ito mag-lapse sa kung anong free-for-all type of aesthetics at cultural practice kung saan lahat na lang ay acceptable, lahat na lang ay maganda na at ‘di na pwedeng paghusayin pa.

Tingin ko, ‘pag napapadpad na sa usapin ng value o quality, mahalagang magsimula sa similarities kesa differences. Sa kaso ng BLTX, siguro ito: pag-ayaw at pagtalikod o pagka-esta-puwera sa dominant na sistema ng literary at cultural production na as abovesaid, mainly state-sponsored or –dependent. Ayaw namin diyan, exclusivist, too hermetic, nakakapatay ng aestheic o cultural development, not to say personal kong aesthetics; ayaw kong maki-ayon sa standards nila. – or anything to those effects. At sa similarity na ito, may venue para sa pagsasama-sama na binibigay ang BLTX. Pero hindi pa rin homegenous ang community na ito, may iba’t-ibang peceptions at kinikilingan o moda ng paglikha ang bawat sumisilip o pumapasok sa community – seller man o nagmamasid lang. Hindi rin static ang community, precisely dahil nga sa discussions, palitan ng mga akda at iba pang activites na nilalahukan ng iba’-ibang participants na makatutulong sa pagpapaunlad hindi lang ng kanya-kanyang pag-iisip tungkol sa artisitic production at mismong paggawa nito kundi hindi pati na rin ng kabuuang thrust, disenyo at larga ng BLTX. Sa ganitong proseso, nagbabago rin, lumalago rin ang values at direksyon ng artistic production ng bawat kalahok at marahil ng BLTX rin mismo.

At kung may ganitong venues para sa artists at cultural workers, maganda na ring i-maximize. Ang dami pang pwedeng ikalawak at ikalapad ng cultural products sa bansa. Sampung dakot na kalawakan pa ang pumipintig sa labas ng tuldok ng mga museo at mga tagapangasiwa raw ng sining at kultura galing sa estado.

*Lumabas na rin ito sa April 12 isyu ng Northern Dispatch

Works Cited:

Front Porch Magazine. Interview with Marjorie Perloff. In Poetics in a New Key: Interviews and Essays. Edited by David Jonathan Bayot. (2013). Manila: De La Salle University Publishing House.

Swimini Titi. 2015. Better Living Through Xeroxography — a brief towards a more sustainable publishing industry. Accessed: April 09, 2015. Available at: https://medium.com/@SwiminiTiti/better-living-through-xeroxography-a-brief-towards-a-more-sustainable-publishing-industry-64b5c7f5f0ec.