Fragments in Transition
Where do I begin?
I think nowadays, writers (in general) are trying to mark everything they can to better remember things because the country will change either way after the 2022 elections, the same way the Philippines irreparably changed in 2016 when Filipinos fell into the trap of voting a demagogue into office.
For people tasked with remembering things, writers often exhibit bad memory. It’s got nothing to do with our grey matter, for the most part. It is simply difficult to remember, or worse, relive things in deep color and excruciating detail. So much of what’s occurred to the Philippines involves pain and anguish. There are also many unspeakable things that we’d rather bury in the past, never to see the light of day. The Duterte administration has unleashed so much terror in the past six years that it’s become understandable that many people are now numb.
I do not consider myself numb. To be both numb and claim to be a writer means I have made the conscious choice to ignore oppression as it takes place in front of me. I continue to live with the most painful stabbings of anger in my heart. I feel it every time I survey the news and see people sinking further into the mire. And oftentimes, I feel powerless, having only a little knowledge but no power. Biopolitical power and resistance only work when strategically reproduced, and when there is an effective seizure of power. Without the means to seize power, the master and the slave retain their places.
It is unfortunate that the unspeakable terrors of our time are Filipino history’s most salient features. These are the tracks of blood across the surface of empty time. However, one day soon, we wouldn’t have any more blood to spare, and we will begin the final death dive. There will be no recovery, then.
Our history is ours, no matter how bloody it has become. One could ask, truthfully, if there was a time that our history wasn’t bloody. I suddenly remember Walter Benjamin, and his claim that every nation’s culture is simply a parade of artifacts borne of victories of the oppressor over the oppressed. If this is true, then even as I write, I work only with the bloodstained artifacts taken from the imprisoned, dispossessed, or worse, summarily executed. And yet there would be no way to completely ascertain our complicity to this system, and if justice is even possible. How do you wash away so much sin of complicity that occurs even before you’re born into a system that concentrates power from the oppression of the working and peasant classes? Such is the fate of societies driven by class warfare and universal inequality. Will it ever end? Destruction is always at the end of every nation’s demise — or transformation.
The virus is crippling. I know that Filipinos are not alone is suffering since it is a global pandemic, but one cannot help emphasizing the Filipino situation. This is not our fault as Filipinos. I can’t even attribute how the government cannibalizes its own to the exiting administration. To do so would be an oversimplification of the matter. Duterte and his cabal do not exist in a vacuum. Rather, they are part of an age-old network of families who wield power over our country. These families, and the self-serving systems they’ve forged, have led to immense poverty and injustice.
Our people’s collective suffering is the result of many, many decades of governmental and institutional neglect. Corruption is another matter altogether. Neglect is the result of corruption, of dishonesty, of impunity so great that our elected leaders literally walk all over the dead bodies of the slain, like the Lumad teacher Chad Booc of the New Bataan Five. The landscape has always been uneven.
Schizophrenia is unavoidable. It is unavoidable for people to suffer from countless instances of split consciousness. Those forced into fighting for survival will respond, think, and act on instinct. And if the instinct is to fight their oppressors, they will lash out using the ways they know how, even if it means ignoring and denying everything else. The hyperbolic desire for freedom trumps everything else — even ‘good sense.’ However, the desire is shapeless and only possesses lines of intensity. Unmediated, these lines of formless intensities quickly become destructive, destroying everything in their path. And once these lines rebound, they also carry the potential of destroying their progenitors.
The desire for freedom also lacks direction, and without direction, the masses will fail to realize their objectives and accomplish the steps that lead to liberation. Alone and among themselves, genuine leadership must form within their ranks to unify them from within the confines of their intertwined class formations.
The libidinal desire for liberation stems from genuine grievances and injustices committed by the transnational capitalist class against increasingly proletarianized classes. To those seeking a solution to the class problem, it would be unwise to deny the existence of contradiction and consequently, class warfare. Class warfare is the natural outcome of converging planes of inequality. The stasis and stagnation directly caused by austerity measures and neoliberalism have begun to erode the foundations of national identity and history. The chaotic energy of liberation’s desire is clawing away at institutionalized histories. The systematic erosion of histories and the immediate (and systematic) revisions are thanatic and permanent. The practical model of overcoming takes place when the masses find it within their ranks to begin writing their histories, instead of simply reproducing sanctioned histories. However, attempts at writing one’s history take place after the expression of resistance and attempts at seizing power. With no power, there will be no new histories — except for existing Empiric narratives of oppression of entire peoples that define the age.