FACES OF DECAY

1.

The guy in Lubao, Pampanga who held hostage the passenger bus Genesis, where started the parodic tragedy, had the “women strip themselves naked, ordering them to take off their bras & panties” because they are, like his wife, generic & must pay out his humiliation. She “cheated” on him, but is safely out of reach in Negros.

Hell hath no fury like a man scorned; & woe to those who would snicker behind his back in a country where women should be fiercely loyal & religiously pious. Marriage, after all, had warned them to serve their gender superiors.

O he couldn’t understand the times. Feudal knights, when off they run to battle the infidels, would lock up their ladies’ chastity belts because the latter cannot be trusted. Only a horse was worth the freedom of his fief.

But the world seemed to have turned inside out the tradition that kept the ship of love cruising on an even keel.

She’s nowhere to be found at moments she’s most needed. A truant with ants in her ass?

He could only raise a storm in the teacup of his powerlessness.

He was, in his mind, the sacrificial victim in the name of justice. After all, the police who did him in surely shared his point of view.

2.

It’s almost like a religious mass: there will be talks of a school crisis (read: educational infrastructure is shoddy, teachers are underpaid, tuition is skyrocketing, & so forth) & the state in turn will intone the same panacea: bigger slice of the pie & so forth. This will be repeated year after year; still all will be muttering the need to raise the alarm on the quality of education.

But this has been ongoing since Rizal’s class in physics. We’ve always managed with mediocre students & the country is none the worse for it.

After all, educating the young is meant fashioning them according to the tenets of the apparat of the state: loyal to the cause of capitalism, dutifully subservient to American hegemony, blindly keeping the machine functioning. There is no imbroglio: we get what we want – a docile population & a diasporic labor force that worships at the lavatories of Europe & maintains the safety valve of a boiling kettle that is this archipelago.

Quality is substandard? But if we produced intelligent kids, would that disrupt the system? A thinking mass is anathema to totalitarian rule.

Things as they are, the state merely churns out proactive press releases.

It is at home with the idea that civil society should rather go around it, never meet it head-on.

3.

Certainly, the campus scene will be punctured with pockets of resistance against tuition hike, et cetera. The young resistors will be at it again, while the rest will scrap it in a system that best serves their ambition – bourgeois & republican.

How long must the dissenters keep up with their passion.

Cynics shrug: only time will tell. A history of apostasy has blurred their vision: the most vociferous have turned parliamentarians, the most adventurous have sought comfort zones, the most wild have invented an infrastructure of reasons that they are beyond all that…

But as armchair observers, should we knock them for what has been perjured as historical error?

If they failed their mission, it was not their own undoing; but apathy of the multitude that wouldn’t rage against the dying of the light.

The signifiers “masses, party, revolution and dialectics,” for Badiou, must be uploaded with new signifieds.

4.

A.

It was a sleepy afternoon when he dropped by Kowloon to buy food for supper. The cashier hardly listened to him as she was preoccupied with her kids running around like the Chinese restaurant were their own backyard.

The waiter grouchily listed down his order, then ambled off to the kitchen for which he had to wait for some 40 minutes or so. The other members of the staff listlessly paced the floor – there was so much time on their hands & only a long table at the farthest end of the hall was occupied.

They were engaged in light but sporadic banter about someone else’s kids who probably would be pampered into thinking the world revolves around them… The crew looked like they were hard put to hide a routinary ennui, & would pull, if they could, the afternoon faster on its wheel: cold beer & that evening show would make their day…

He computed a thousand afternoons must have elapsed before that afternoon & they were erect & uprightly then… All their lives they would be staring at daily servings of noodles & fried chickens, arranging spoons & forks & plates on the table, changing covers & napkins, refilling glasses, all for the glory of the future.

They had probably forgotten how to think out of the box: their minds a metronomic repetition of all the afternoons that usually pass into mornings, then start all over again.

In this deadend life, he wondered if he was better off communing with kids who in turn would repeat themselves to their own kids…

The revolution seemed so far, far off, like Godot waiting for Godot.

B.

The Erestain Flores de Mayo wound down the fourth street & he could smell the estero as they passed him on his way home from the lottery.

The unshod were screaming like crazy, engaging in silly chatter, & lighting missiles to turn the occasion in their lower-class mind like a television episode in color. They must have their fantasy.

He again wondered if this execrable mass – who would rob you blind if you so much as lie drunken on the street – which bleeding hearts call the downtrodden, deserves their pitiful attempt at claiming a patch of the moonlit sky for themselves.

Yes, these religious freaks breed like fruitflies. Regardless of the sentiment however (which are structural, not subjective), the neighborhood mob of anarchists will not create that wished-for history.

Unless an epiphanic rupture – beyond all scientific theories, & actuarial forecasting – miraculously descends upon them like an angel’s avenging sword.

C.

How could Althusserian rupture happen?

He was reminded of the raucous crowd who’s all spleen, semen, spittle, yellow teeth, dusty feet & smelly armpits.

How could they lead us to the promised land?

Certainly, not with the mystique that enveloped Paul on his way to Damascus – that is too transcendental & requires of volumes of proofing. Something concrete, tangible, empirical to convince us that salvation is not pure imagination, but the possibility of Lacan’s Real.

(Imagine the mob raising its fists because it knew Lenin by heart, spouting poetry by poet-priest Ernesto Cardenal who was the Sandinista nightmare of America.)

What confluence of logics must occur for all the motley desires to conjunct in a calculated & progressive mode toward utopia?

Sizing up the crowd, he couldn’t believe in miracles. For a moment, his heart fell.

But he remembered this was the terrain in Moscow at the time of Lenin, Beijing at the time of Mao, Cuba at the time of Castro…

The future embraces us from behind & we stagger, as if shell-shocked.

5.

The project is to introduce the masters for pedagogic purposes: they would write up their massive texts in small but crystalline doses. The intention is to bring the profound, convoluted philosophers right onto the dining table, as it were, of popular taste, so the inheritors of the future would be guided accordingly. Commendable it is, indeed: & hardy souls have picked up their choices in Zizek, Agamben, Nietzsche, Giddens, Habermas, Althusser, Confucius, Lao-Tze, & so on to make the world less impoverished, such as it is, & edge out of the mainstream cheap talk & fascist discourses that have become tradition.

About time that a philosophy reader be made available for Filipinos – the repetition of state & religious lies has become truth itself.

But retelling the masters, in his mind, is akin to re-translating them – both processes intertwined to ambiguate a simple task. Milan Kundera, in refuting the vulnerability of a sentence in Kafka’s “The Castrating Shadow of Saint Garta,” (redone into English by Vinlatte in 1938), explains that “while the translator’s situation is extremely delicate: he must keep up with the author and at the same time remain himself… he is faced with the dilemma of want[ing] to invest the text with his own creativity, as if to give himself heart… choos[ing] a word that does not obviously betray the author but still arises from his own initiative.”

Reading an author is not a simplistic relaying of information: the text is refracted when it passes through the ideological matrix of a reader who must reinvent the writer (all intentions to duplicate the author are assumed as lily-white). But, of course, translators/readers have been warned against this.

Be that as it may, reading consequently is a mode of translating. But such task of defining philosophers of the ages is served well by a generation that has the discipline of monks out to preserve the legacy of multiple truths.

In this light, he has decided to go his separate way: he’ll just stop & smell the flowers. Too late in his life has he realized he’s not cut out to wrestle with the griffon of words & he cannot undo time & circumstance.

6.

The couple drifted by his table at Heaven N’ Eggs.

The guy kept to himself, while the woman fussed over her orders.

He didn’t mind the two lovers; he couldn’t care less. After all, they wouldn’t with his.

Moments later, he caught a glimpse of the guy solitarily staring into his dalandan juice. The woman had left him.

When he had finished, he passed her sitting at the patio table, as if pressed for air.

The two were only an eyeful of a distance off.

Love on the rocks? Or simply, to be by her own lonesome & watch cars roll by.

But this is a tale already prefigured in Lubao – if pursued to its grim conclusion.

7.

He was exultant at his presence in a world forum that saw him commingle with writers of probable renown – guys who had been blessed by their embassies to speak on behalf of their native kind, which meant status quo, connection, normative reputation.

At the podium, the crown would relish every word from his tongue like it were pearl cast before dignified swine; after all, his coming was index of his importance, his literary output, his right to 15 minutes of fame. Anyway, it was the unwritten code among participants not to be disputatious: it was not a debating society set to establish their claims to truth, but a comradeship of the elect in the name of the word. That they’re blest because notified & noticed was fair enough – every writer had dreamt of such eventuality.

Committee assistants, janitors & kibitzers would certainly gawk at the high-spirited exchanges, as if the world was listening to their politesse. Literature, after all, was stuff they were told to read & digest if only to serve as lampposts to their personal inquiries. Their own wisdom they would hold secret in themselves like familial heirloom rarely made to see the light of day.

So he was receptive of their celebratory mood. His words did matter, after all. Detractors were nowhere in sight. Only the magnanimous civility of librarians, autograph hunters, CL majors in awe of everything bound in print that kept his spirit high…

He was indeed well pleased with himself, & would be quick to tell the tale once the plane landed in Manila.

8.

She’s an unica hija to middle class parents when she was young. Pampered but not abusive of origins, she was modest in ambition & style. All she had probably wanted was a humdrum life of keeping house, tending the garden, caring for the cats her mother gave shelter to in the village neighborhood.

But her mother passed away; soon her dad, after a lingering illness, followed; she was left to fend for herself with her only son who had a hole in her heart. Of course, he’s grown now, but would vanish much too often to be with his lower class paramour. She had only herself & an old nursemaid, ever faithful to a fault, to mind the house now badly in need of repairs. She had wanted to sell off the property, along with some inherited lot in the province, but times seemed to be hard & no taker had come forward.

Bills, bills, bills. & there was no one to turn to, except some relatives who acted out like her virtual pawnshop: strictly business, & she could retrieve the family heirloom if money could be made available.

Everyday, she had to ride public transport, because the old Honda & SUV had broken down, on some small errand for a casual employer. But it’s a paltry grind, enough to work out the ennui of the day.

This second of June, she was startled out of a troubled sleep by the intrusive beeping of her phone: the voice on the other line was warm, solicitous.

She had even forgotten her birthday.

9.

Inside the classroom, so early in the morning when everyone is still bleary-eyed & sound bytes from the night concert were still ringing in their ears, he will be scanning, like Cortez on the cliff of Darien, for something familiar or strange. But their faces will always be the same: impassive with this time’s neurosis, which unnerves him a bit. He has to work double time again to exorcise their point of view, like a high priest, that has held them in check: keeping faith in the system, blindly carrying on the ideals of a corrupt generation, & playing the game smoothly, “successfully.”

They will make as if they’re focused on what he’s saying (but is he focused on what he’s dispersing?). At the end of the session, they’ll heave a sigh of relief –patience is all that’s needed to beat the path to their dreams’ door. Who cares about ideologemes?

They know better: money is not the root of evil; they’ll snatch it if they can, for blessed are the loaded because they’ll inherit the future.

Always, as in his own lifetime, barbarians storm the gates of hell.

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3 Responses to FACES OF DECAY

  1. jhen says:

    Wow, new look ang blog. See you around, Sir.

  2. June na kasi. Malapit na ang delubyong unibersal ng mga aktibista sa UP. Magsisi-graduate na kasi.

  3. Beng says:

    Dearest Sir, while your stories in class never fail to make me laugh, your writings have this cloud of sadness so pervasive they make wonder how you’ve been. that certain toni, sir nic, that tailor and this solitary lady without a name…i wonder if i’d end up as another melancholy footnote in your labyrinth of narratives. (i flatter myself.) i will definitely see you soon. cheers!

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