Contratexts

I.
Emperor of Pawns

CHED chair Romulo Neri, key to the scandalous ZTE deal that implicates the President, has been quoted as saying “the executive privilege will stay with [him] for the rest of his life,” sending signal to his critics he wouldn’t spill the beans on a crime against the people — this, to stress his unflinching loyalty & gratitude to GMA as his avatar of fidelity & executive fiat.

Of course the godfather in Mario Puzo’s fiction knows only too well the efficacy of the stratagem to keep his enemy, like a trump card, close to his chest, something that Machiavelli would applaud in the conduct of the Prince.

Yet, Neri, an academic whom fellow bureaucrats hold possibly in awe because of his stint at UCLA (Wharton alumni would however sneer), is barely cognizant of history. He is dizzily trapped in the exciting rush of the moment, assured by his circle in Malacañang that veritably shields him from the wrath of partisans. His vassalage to his Boss has served him well: that they have vouchsafed him their confidence is something he has commensurably paid for, like any favoring technocrat.

But Gregoria de Jesus, widow of the assassinated anti-hero Andres Bonifacio, knew it also too well: “Walang lihim na di nabubunyag ng kasaysayan.”

Tempus fugit.

II.
The Nominated Immortals

They were dressed for the occasion, the winners of the UP Centennial Competition in Literature, who were proclaimed by the select body of critics/readers/authorities who in turn were proclaimed by the State as articulators of acceptable, hegemonic standard.

That Senator Edgardo Angara, regime’s loyalist, was in attendance to sanctify the affair, serves to relay a message that the state honors writers as its ideological partners.

But what is indeed their notion of literature that will single out this crop as exemplums of the universalized — beyond class, creed, race, color, et cetera— traditions of truth-telling?

Pierre Bourdieu accords to literature the “question of describing the gradual emergence of the entire set of social conditions which make possible the character of the artist as a producer of the fetish which is the work of art. In other words, it is a matter of constituting the artistic field (which includes art analysts, beginning with art historians, even the most critical among them) as the locus where the belief in the value of art in the artistic power of valuable creation is continuously produced & reproduced.”

Adds he, in reference to the personae who must constitute the field that valorizes the norm of literary value: “…the most tempting and the most irreproachable is undoubtedly that of presenting oneself as a judge or referee.”
A work of art is not in itself great or mediocre— it is scanned through the lens of ideological practices that are categorical imperatives to determine the parameters for “decreeing (through decisions as innocent in appearance or the inclusion or exclusion of so-and-so from a corpus or list of producers) who is an artist and who is not.”

How is a text, for instance, to be qualified as meritorious or insignificant?

Says Bourdieu: “If there is truth, it is that truth is a stake in the struggle. And although the divergent or antagonistic classifications or judgments made by the agents in the artistic field are certainly determined or directed by specific dispositions and interests linked to a given position in the field, they are nevertheless formulated in the name of a claim to universality…”

Such be the case, the gang of judges belonging to a school or a tribe, as it were, would now appropriate for themselves the notion of “absolute judgment,” making themselves the sole arbiter of what should comprise literature.

If a text subscribes to the requirement of “position-takings (literary or artistic forms, concepts or instruments of analysis, etc) and the space of positions occupied in the field, one is led” [eventually] “to historicize these cultural products, all of which” [again] “claim universality.”

To quote further: “the aesthetic disposition which establishes as works of art objects socially-designated for its use and application…is a product of the entire history of the field, a product which must be reproduced.”

In the Philippines critics— no matter how much they deny it & insist instead on this alleged openness—stick to partisan lines: they who rule necessarily reproduce “the aesthetic disposition” that passes for canon of  procedural method for assessing a poem, a story & so forth.

If a text therefore subscribes to the critic-ideological equation of a mode that pretends to be “universal”, objective, then consequently it is rewarded as the very representation of that “essence.”

The critic reinvents him/herself in the writer/producer he/she elects.

Similarly instructive is Eagleton’s: “…literature does not exist in the sense that insects do, and that the value-judgements by which it is constituted are historically variables, but that these value-judgements themselves have a close relation to social ideologies.”

If the winners strut like peacocks on stage, like nominated immortals, rest assured the judges are all smiles behind the curtain like power brokers who have reterritorialized their suzerainty.

III.
Toni, Part Two

In my blog, you felt slighted that you were made to appear as if you’re uncaring, like Emperor Nero who fiddled while Rome was on fire. That is, of course, the semiotic mishap in the reading of signifiers that generate multiple signifieds—as Derrida would pontify, like I do now. But that is not what is meant at all (you may take this as an authorial fallacy) by “dizzily in love.”

We are all heir to such condition:

One, of course, cannot presume to be rationally in love, as if everything happens within the ambit of enlightening reason & relations are not undermined by the Freudian unconscious. We are split-subjects; some would even venture psychoanalytically schizo.

One must therefore be crazy—to hype the pop-word—to fall in love, consequently eliding or blurring the troubling warts, so to speak, of the gazed at.

Yes, it affects all, even this old fogey who has never learned the time-worn lesson.

The insinuation that you are dense, insensitive is far from the truth, definitely not in your character—you, who have been through the years, the One who returns, touches base, from among the thousands who make me screw up my eyes for feeling stupidly a used tissue, ha-ha.

This clarification, needlessly so, is pure sadness.

May the candle of friendship burn on, despite the battering wind.

IV.
The Poison of Friendship

He didn’t approve of waterboarding, or possibly, physical torture itself, but “this soft-spoken analyst who spoke no Arabic,” managed to “cajole” Khalid Sheikh Mohammed into “spill[ing] the beans” on Al-qaeda.

Did he earn the zealot’s trust & confidence? Both the hunter & the hunted, after all, “were close in age, approaching 40; they had attended public universities in the American South; they were both religious; and they were both fathers.”

Torture, culled from the Korean experience, didn’t contribute any significant degree to brainwashing, says “Albert D. Biderman, a social scientist who had distilled interviews with 235 Air Force prisoners of war.” The Commie method only “elicited false information.” Brainwashing, the dreaded effect of brutal interrogation, was “bunk; [it was] no secret weapon to control the human mind…”

Moreover, there was nothing novel to the techniques employed: “waterboarding had been perfected during the Spanish Inquisition”; neither death threats, degradation, sleep deprivation,” which were “made part of the new handbook for interrogation at Guatanamo,” scored impressively, such practices having been employed by “police and intelligence interrogators of other times and nations.”

Yet the state minions are still at it, claiming a sure-fire efficacy: to exact vital info from terrorist cells, the social & political instability that escalates into a critical mass at times still plagues authorities: mailed-fist policies, says a Filipino army commander who finds Gen. Palparan’s mode of containment counter-productive in the long-run, have never produced the desired lab results.

What is to be done?

We have only the evidence of crippled minds & bodies to remind the future generations that living in fear is not an antidote to generative resistance; the mark of Cain—as they say—burns deeper in their foreheads, like a wound that festers, never heals.

Blood relatives will call for blood.

Closure is always an illusion. Memory thrives in the recollection of pain, unease, for body cells remember.

Since most victims, during incarceration, usually suffer manic-depression, bipolarity, the operative (Deuce Martinez which is not his real name) tactfully allowed Mohammed to speak freely, puff up his ego regarding the justness of his cause… Ultimately, he would volunteer bits & pieces on the confidential structure of power in Al-qaeda.

It could be that the session was preceded by some threat of physical comeuppance by some other functionary, but none is deemed the tipping point for his “confession.”

Having therefore become the sounding board of what Mohammed trusted as audience to his sermon—a religious rebel proselytizes, like any Christian priest who must turn on the loudspeakers several decibels higher for outsiders in the neighborhood who stray from God’s words, even if the slackers cover their ears against the audio assault on their equanimity—that unravels the history of justified infamy.

(“They believe in God, & kill in the name of God”)

A warning therefore to well-meaning protesters of the time: beware of those who call themselves “listeners to silent conversation,” just like Christ—this maybe the devil in disguise.

A young woman is learning too early in life that those who lined up behind her in the name of truth, justice, freedom are slowly fading away at the first blast of bureaucratic storm.

V.
The Cure

Dr. Joselito Pascual (“Are We Really Happy?,” by Eric Caruncho) says that, in relation to suicide brought about by “depression, or psychosis or substance abuse,” “problems [can be] treated through a comprehensive approach that includes pharmacological and psychosocial interventions.”

(The “imbalances in the brain’s neurotransmitters—dopamine, serotonin, glutamate” results in the aforementioned symptoms…” and the most common of treating these conditions is through pharmacology.”)

Psychotherapy helps because “if you only give medicine and not addressing the main problem causing the depression or psychosis, the patient won’t get well. The environment he’s surrounded with, also, the parents, for one.”

(This claim, of course is problematical, goes into the heart of the cure. It presumes the perfectability of the capitalist system & the stability of the familial triangulation.)

Briefly, this is meant, the so-called “talk therapy,” for the “patient [to] think of ways of changing and coping with the problem.”

Which basically projects that clinically the patient should accept the reality of the world, coping with the perception of his consciousness that cannot be aligned with the structuration of the encountered.

For Zizek, in interpreting Lacan who reinterprets Freud radically, “psychoanalysis is at most at its most fundamental is not a theory and technique of treating psychic disturbances, but a theory and practice which confronts individuals with the most radical dimension of human existence. It does not show an individual to only accommodate him—or herself to the demands of social reality; it explains how something like reality constitutes itself in the first place.”

If, for instance, the overall system fails the individual, or is perceived to have failed him, & he exhibits a resistance syndrome that is diagnosed as depressing, & the like—the cure will have to make him reformulate his imaginary, make him toe the line of common processes or responses to the social, perform a unitary behavior that is not to be deemed dysfunctional by the norm.

A rebel—on the political plane—for instance who comes in from the cold must be exorcised of his basic tendencies that allowed him to view the relations of the system as worth resisting itself, as an outsider to the mode of practices: forthwith he must attune himself to a collectivist order of things. The amnesty preconditions—that outsiders must return to the parliamentary/ legalistic fold symbolizing a superstructure of the usual values – enact the same cognitive practices of the hegemonic state enforced among the dutiful citizens, as if to say, indeed, resistance, in the final analysis, is futile; the capitalist system, in our case, allows itself provisional destabilization, but eventually, like a gyro, corrects itself.

This runs counter to Lacan’s view “that pathological formations like neurosis, psychosis and perversions have the dignity of fundamental philosophical attitudes toward reality.”

The cure for Lacan will certainly differ from the pharmacologist or toxologist, from any college of medicine. Lacan, after all, “mobilizes eclectic series of theories, from the linguistics of Ferdinand de Saussure, through Claude Levi-Strauss’s structural anthropology, up to mathematical set theory and the philosophies of Plato, Kant and Heidegger.”

The current crop of specialists is however heir to viewing the body—mental & physical—as a synapse of chemical implosions that govern behavior, with some token allowance for the individual to be adjusted to the working conditions of what constitute “reality”, the pragmatic version of it.

For Lacan, however, “the goal of psychoanalytic treatment is not the patient’s well-being or social life or personal self-fulfillment, but to bring the patient to confront the elementary coordinates and deadlocks of his or her desire.”

Here again is a return to the notion of the asylum in Marat-Sade, where madmen are possessed of that kind of wisdom so marginalized by a threatened society.

Social engineering is a contemporary discourse elevated to scientific cult to mean refitting individuals for roles in modernizing societies—a system has to be set in place that allows for maximization of profit in the guise of giving all the space for better living. & this is precisely why the war in Iraq is premised on changing the Middle East for the sake of a First World that is dependent, nervously so, on oil & apprehensive over the local dictators who zealously guard their turfs.

This is in accord with Alfred Sohn-Rethel’s thesis that the “introduction of techniques of scientifically managed flow of production…laid the basis… for new social synthesis— the intellectual tasks vested in…management as representing the worker’s mind, but as deriving directly from sciences and scientific technology.” What is advocated “the pure fetish anonymity and subjectlessness of scientific management.”

Today’s clinical psychotherapists seem to fill the bill for their vision of utopia.

VI.
The Impasse

“Where have all the protesters gone?”

They’re not rushing to the streets in droves, preferring to stay indoor, according to Carol Araullo, & “endure the hardship.”

“But until when?” she rhetorically asks, safely keeping to herself the option when push comes to shove.

Brig. Gen. Romeo Prestoza, ISAFP head who has been monitoring the public for danger signs that might engulf the ruling order, however would allude “to a culture”… that is not given to “looting & riots”. Because the Filipino masses are “mature?”

Now, if such is the template of history, then colonialism has again triumphed in metamorphosing subalterns into compleat slaves whose obedience & surrender, even to a bogus rule, marks what is postulated as authentically native.

Yet, it is said a revolution is upon us—online. The silent electronic conversation is like a ripple that may transform into a wave, flooding the streets of the mind where Malacañang agitprop police spectrally patrol.

Sometimes, lightning strikes so fatally on a summer’s day.

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5 Responses to Contratexts

  1. adududu says:

    re: the nominated immortals

    ang galing-galing mo namang magquote!

  2. edel garcellano says:

    i’ll dignify your cheap shot. ok i quote a lot of people: reactionaries, progressives, politicians, bureaucrats, fascists, academics, philosophers, critics, fools, idiots. i might even quote you someday to make you understand the process. see my uploaded lecture and learn. it’s never too late. p.s. church sermons are peppered with biblical passages-nobody is complaining. ha ha.

  3. erick says:

    as you can see adududu, its hard to quote someone unless you fully understand what that one is saying. now, if you’re asking why edel does so, its because simply he can! its hard to quote Bourdieu. can you?

  4. guess who says:

    It’s a good thing he quoted Bourdieu. If Edel quoted those “Nominated Immortals”, it would have been disaster.

  5. charm valenzuela says:

    sorry. wrong avenue for what i have to say. i somehow lost my contacts again and don’t know how to keep in touch with you. here’s my email: charmvalenzuela@yahoo.com. would appreciate an email sir. i need a break from the hospital.

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