Let us consider three contemporaneous news events.
1. Father Robert Reyes, the so-called running priest, wrote a letter to the editor & pointed out the presence of three Catholic bishops & Sen. Juan Enrile at the ceremonial groundbreaking for an entertainment complex, which includes a casino, at the reclamation site in Roxas Boulevard.
2. In Eldorado, the police raided a Texas “polygamist compound” & “emptied” it “of 400 children.” It was “the site of pervasive sexual abuse where girls were groomed to accept sex at puberty & boys were indoctrinated to perpetuate the cycle.”
3. A photo of an old woman – gaunt, shriveled like a prune – who was carrying in her frail arms 3 plastic bags of cheap rice after queuing under the sun at a parish store in Cubao & allegedly muttering, “It’s a hard life.”
Seen as pure objectivity in the realm of knowledge, the first is a report on three figures of the same gender shoveling soil into a hole at a reclamation site. The second is a camp in Texas where children had been pulled out & placed in a federal center. The third is an old woman holding plastic bags of repacked rice from a store.
Beyond the context of history, politics & other determinations at a certain time & place, they can be read as phenomena that erupt & pass away like tornadoes crossing a plain, then vanishing in the horizon until another precipitation of same nature comes along.
These events for Badiou are “ontologically undecidable – a multitude of occurrences caught in the network of social determinations.” They maybe “self-referential in that [they] include [their] own designation” & consequently “involve the engaged subjective perspective[s] on the event[s].”
An “interested perspective” is thus required – “an interpreting interpretation,” meaning “the perspective of those who accept the ‘wager’ that such Event exists.” Or the seeing eye partakes of it as a visceral thread of totality that it initially configures by way of myth, dogma, vision, program, spectacle or fantasy of alleged reality. [It is on this mode that Baudrillard would deem the Iraq War as unreal because language is reality itself.]
We are positing here that any interpretation must submit itself to the problematic of seeing such as not simply contingent (it must be conscious of its causality), but from an organizing matrix of conceptualization (the ideological must be stressed) or a unifying narrative so much so that the so-called interconnectedness, as in a web, of the complex & the multiple in reality is established in a dialectical mode.
There should therefore be an intersection of the lines of progression of events themselves, otherwise it would be metaphysically presumed things happen by their own volition – & the interwoven fabric of the social exists by itself, as an essential given.
The letter of Fr. Reyes implicates the politics & symbolization of the Church, which compromises with the state (the PCSO largesse is too obvious to be denied) as represented by Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile who is a stalwart of the regime, a bureaucrat-capitalist of the Marcos kleptocracy. That the Church doesn’t speak with one voice – a sector surreptitiously recognizes gambling as having a positive value – already underlines the non-separation of the ecclesiastical & the secular.
The second event, that of the polygamous camp, goes against the grain of monogamous polygamy itself, as an anthropological issue (other tribes practice such in Africa, unofficially in open societies) has been sidetracked in favor of the more odious crime, the sexual abuse of minors.
Besides, there are clutches of practitioners who espouse that the libidinal egress is merely confined to the so-called primitive organizations but modernized civilization itself has accepted the positivity of excess – repression of sexuality causes dysfunction & your next-door neighbor may graduate into a murderer if his id is blocked.
Moreover, the women, who are forced to be wives to church-blessed studs, find themselves comfortable with the idea, explaining that they do not consider the seemingly abnormal practice strange, perverse – the caveat being however that they have grown into the culture since childhood & internalized the ideology of the temple. (They surrender their kids when they reach puberty for initiation or devirginization by their elders – & this in accordance with the preaching that women serve men’s desires for their salvation.) The naturalization of abnormal is the central thematic of cults, reminding outsiders of how the battered-wife syndrome occurs: they turn against themselves if beaten, rationalizing that as members of the inferior order, they deserved the punishment because they failed God’s injunction. This happens however not only in Texas but in Manila. & elsewhere where patriarchy reigns.
The mimicry of Christ’s crucifixion exemplifies the internalized inversion of the slave blaming himself for his activity, his degeneration.
The third example graphically shows how the colonized – assisted by Church dogma of sufferance – would accept her fate of a brutalized life. The woman is unable to exhibit any violent rancor but a whimpering affirmation of her beggarly state. She probably would even confess how lucky she was that day, to be able to procure her allotment, much like the behavior of inmates at Nazi concentration camps for some break from their daily torture.
There is hardly any unease to approximate the expressive distress of Haitians – & this speaks well of the success of the church & the state in their pacification campaign. (In a sense Bamboo in the Wind is text of slave’s abjection metaphorized as heroism of subalterns.)
This reading, of course, is born of an interpretive strategy that accommodates Agamben’s rightwing discourse on “the bare life, the camp & the state of exception.” His theme of the “state of emergency,” the more media-savvy jargon, as a norm in Western countries, which reduces them into virtual prison houses, harps on the “Bush administration [that] embarked on a new line of policy & created institutions to make war on an abstraction. The United States became a ‘homeland’ which – having no ties of blood to make war on abstraction, it had never been – made security the old catchphrase of states of exception everywhere as justification executive overruling of law.”
But Mark Greif critiques this development like the virtual end of history where Mein Kampf has assumed a genteel form, as “heavily tied up with World War II.” In this period, powers had been bestowed upon heads of state in the context of a global war that saw organized invasion by Axis powers. That today’s governance should not be based on the aberration of decades ago has been elided by proponents of mailed-fist philosophy – i.e., bankers, industrialists, generals – who lay claim to Asian culture as embodiment of nativist dictatorship, according to Estrella D. Solidum.
Having therefore said that, the troika of events is traceable to interlocking waves of colonialism, capitalism & fascism, all of which remain empirical & real as operative systems in everyday life. They are not events of a mystical origin, like some inexplicable phenomena but are truth-effects of the political paradigms in our time.
Definitely, this is not an unfolding of heavenly signs that the Apocalypse is near.
But to argue for interconnectivity of contradictions – the unity of opposites – is to reproduce the argument for “grand narratives” which post-marxist scoff at, in view of the so-called Fall, where history always seems to miss the bus of destiny, of utopia.
Eagleton would however remark that this problematic “would be among other things a way of saying that we no longer knew how to construct one effectively.”
Which brings us to the stuff that Badiou & Company project in their discourses, namely “pluralism, mutability, open-endedness, yet are constantly to be caught demonizing humanism, liberalism, the Enlightenment centered subject & the rest.” (Indeed, like people who live in glass houses, & all that.)
All this, Eagleton would aver, is the handiwork of a political defeat attributed to the collapse of the Soviet empire & the resurgence in China.
Of late, there has been a perceived impasse, even failure, by the left, so much so that in a quirk of perversity, fascism/neo-liberal humanism are paradoxically peddled as exit doors for the God that failed.
The university circuit makes sure this atavism stays: the slave puts back his handcuffs, labor valorizes capital. No one after all, among tenured professors, can be hauled off to jail for being a postmodernist.
If we go back to the beginning of our vignette of an essay, we take note of the specter of revolution that hangs over the aforementioned events. But the “revolution” itself is slowly being withdrawn from circulation in private & public spheres.
But in the aftermath of theory, Eagleton still leaves “socialism” as the nut to crack in the polemics of salvation.
Then, Zizek would say of the ’68, it was to banner socialism with a human face. Now, it is to advocate global capitalism pretending to be most human.
Does the Church breed criminals?
Steven D. Levitt, in Freakonomics, narrates that in the early ’90s everyone was scared shit by the rampaging crime that stalks the streets of America. “Death by gunfire, carjacking, crack dealing, robbery & rape” were high on the list. People suspected the presence of the so-called “superpredator”… who strikes everywhere. “Criminologists, political scientists, & similarly learned forecasters laid out a horrible future.”
Then, suddenly, “crime began to fall.”
The tipping point, pundits realized, was an event that “took shape more than twenty years earlier & concerned a young woman in Dallas named Norma McCorvey (eventually Jane Roe in the case filed in court), who was a poor, uneducated, unskilled, alcoholic, drug-using twenty-one-year-old woman who had given up two children for adoption, & now in 1970, found herself pregnant again.”
To cut the story short, she figured as plaintiff in a class action lawsuit seeking to legalize abortion. The defendant was Henry Wade, the Dallas country district attorney.
It eventually became the landmark Roe vs. Wade case that allowed abortion.
Relatedly, observers would cite this ruling as contributory to the lowering of crime rate in America, because “the pool of potential criminals had dramatically shrunk.” Few kids were now being born to millions of “poor unmarried and teen-age mothers for whom illegal abortion had been too expensive or too hard to get.”
Of course, this is not a brief for the Aryan formula of upgrading the race, or the final solution in an abstracted, 21st century Treblinka. Neither is it a eugenics imperative for the gifted & the rich to procreate themselves, as though it were an entitlement.
But the logic is irresistible. So many brain-dead urchins in slum areas run around like cockroaches, who in turn breed their own cretinous, subhuman selves – as holduppers & rapists (transgressors of the Law) for lack of opportunities in the very system that purports to include them in its constitutional palaver.
Now, does the Church breed criminals?
In the same manner that the tipping point was recorded to have happened twenty years before the turn-around in the crime rise in the US, will the Supreme Court’s decision on executive privilege formally initiate – a point of departure for historical periodization – the reign of oligarchy (a transparent, institutionalized one that does away altogether with the imaginary populist will & the freedom to be informed) in the Philippines?
Rarely does the future reveal itself in the minutiae of the here & now. Even Fidel Castro would confess that in twenty years he wouldn’t be able to divine the real face of socialism in Cuba. (Even now, his brother Raul as president, is slowly revaluating its policies of self-preservation in a world proclaimed borderless & porous.)
Arthur Clarke founded space exploration in bucolic Ceylon, not in Einstein’s Berlin or Benjamin’s Paris, on a piece of paper where he diagrammed an orbiting satellite synchronic with the earth’s to bounce off waves of pictures & sound to another location on earth, almost like a scientific recuperation of Merlin’s magical domain.
When Al-Sadr of the Shiite Community recently denounced the US Secretary of Defense Gates as a terrorist – having ordered a surge of counter-insurgency in Basra – Agamben’s description of Bush’s war against an abstraction, which is terrorism, comes home, as it were, to roost. The idea, a generalized concept, cannot exempt of course the articulator of it. Somehow, when you spit against the sky, it will hit you smack on the face.
Although Agamben presents himself as a philosopher of post-modernist events, he is quick to denounce the crudities – the after-effects – of finance capitalists, whose paranoia involves electronic fingerprinting at the international airport (high-tech allows the state funding of research, & consequently huge profit for contractors; it also siphons off taxpayers’ money that should have gone into housing & public benefits). He wouldn’t even return to America for lectureship, but it would appear that he has no takers for his small dissident act. After all, his notion of the “camp” subliminally establishes authoritarian regimentation as the way of the future & represses the right of the people to question what seemed to have become a naturalized swing toward the right.