Back to the Womb
Christopher K. Travis, an architectural designer, has for his staff “a neuropsychologist and a chemical psychologist advising him” to promote his “method” in utilizing “an exhaustive psychological and aesthetic compatibility exercises for would-be homebuilders” that make for a dwelling that is not so much “bricks and sticks” but a “suite of emotional experiences.”
An expansive mansion is not necessarily an edifice that defines the perfect house; it is something that fits the psychological needs of the owner for a livable space.
Travis’s so-called psychological profiling of clientele allows early childhood memories to interplay with the project – the “layout and décor” of the space merely signifies “the story of a house [which] is the story of a life.”
“But interpreting that story is not just a science but an art.”
Buying a house is never shopping around for a simple roof over one’s head: the looking for the holy grail, as it were, starts from the womb – the design, the materials, the space of the habitat must complement the desire that is virtually DNA-embedded in the psyche. City dwellers, of course, who have had rural origins, would be unexplainably ill at ease in high-rise condominium in a crowded site, no matter how the initial comforts are – there’s something that the “soul” seems to subliminally dictate, or as Carlos Castañeda, mescal shaman of the hip ’60s, would put it, one must find his/her seat of “power” in any site (a room, a street, or whatever) for that sense of assurance, invincibility.
One views the quaint arrangement of the chairs, the opening of the windows, the temper of light that filters in, the foliage outside the room, the sound of trees & human voices, the quality of silence with visual & emotional conduct of a surveyor – all the living elements that rule the atavism of déjà vu.
This is not being bourgeoisly fastidious, but obeying the suggestions of the unconscious that stress the painful & the pleasurable.
(The townhouse he lives in is comparatively pleasant, but he always feels something is amiss… while the economic vise contains choices, he can only sigh for that distant time when a house was sun, ocean & the noises of children wildly playing in the streets.
& Grandma’s banana fritters in a light, breezy afternoon.)
When Kayenne curls up on the sala chair as if it were his imperial throne – his & his alone, he feels the ambience of peace & well-being in the domicile.
His languorous pacing of the ground floor & his mellow intransigence when strangers butt in (in his meatloaf stance, he would silently eye the visitors like a gunslinger), are indices of his guardmanship in a house he virtually claims for himself & we his housemates are merely friendly interlopers. We let him rule, in honor of animals in the world.
Once perturbed by human voices, he would briefly stretch his legs from his sleeping position, turn his bark toward the recalcitrant murmur, as if to purr, “Jesus, let me be.” Where he wakes up, he looks straight into your eyes as he sits at your feet, waiting for a caress on his nape, & for the pellets to drop down his empty bowl. He’s a sanguine observer of table protocol, & you wish all the humans outside the garage were all civilized.
What is there in animals that cushions the brutality of everyday life as overwhelmingly absolute?
Their eyes tell all: gentle, somnolent, you wonder how through the centuries they have survived the insensitivity & barbarity of cannibalistic humanity.
Loyal they are when humans turn deceitful & grossly traitorous.
Faithful to a fault & most forgiving, when lovers only have their heavy hands & averted scowl to effect inhuman affection.
“In Norway,” according to Dr. Raffy R. Castillo, “there is a farm clinic where horses and other farm animals are used to assist in the treatment of mental disorders such as depression, excessive anxiety and even frank psychosis.”
Moreover, “children who were abused or neglected or had undergone traumatic experiences find release of their fears and mental anguish as they communicate these emotions to their pet animals, which ‘never tire’ of listening to their human friends.”
In Spain, a vagrant’s dog would wait for his master, staying outside the ward every evening, never knowing that the old guy had passed away. Hospital personnel, moved by his dogged attachment, would take turns feeding him.
Times, indeed, when lowly animals tug at your heart & make you dew-eyed – never humans who come, who go like the wind.
Gold Rush, Russian Style
“There is a land rush in rural Russia,” & “huge fund managers, Russian oligarchs, and even a descendant of White Russian émigré nobility” are leading buyers of collective farms, reputedly “among the most fertile on earth.”
Russia, moreover, “has millions of acres of untouched, pristine land that would be used for agriculture” – & the “new companies dedicated to breaking up and reforming collective farms hope to bring huge tracts of land into production – tracts that can take advantage of the economics of scale.”
Michael Orloff, a “former director of the Carlyle Group’s Moscow office and the scion of a White Russian noble family “has a factory farm from outside Podlesmy – formerly the Sunrise of Communism collective farm… His model rested on the idea that the collective farms should not be broken up into smaller plots” [note that during Yeltsin’s time, collective farms “devolved into small holdings, which failed”] “but consolidated into larger factory farms, able to achieve economics of scale” which “he calls new corporate farm ‘clusters’.”
[This is similar to San Miguel’s project for Sumilao farmers, where land would subsequently be integrated into the corporate plan, as initially proposed. Individual farming would entail capital outlays & inputs which the farmers only as pure labor cannot provide.]
“Though many investors are piling up their investments” at the moment “remain small relative to the size of the huge agricultural sector.” But the idea of opening up Russia to foreign capitalism marks an uptrend in “socialist” thinking, when once collectivism under the umbrella of the state, locally generated capital itself, was the raison d’etre in Lenin’s time to disenfranchise the kulaks who subsequently rose in revolt. Remember the Hollywood film “Taras Bulba” & Sholokhov’s “And Quietly Flows the Don”?
But how did this happen in the land the international plenum envisioned as the possibility of the future?
Does it still shock the orthodox left & the progressive militants that the unexpected, like the Guinness world of shocking developments, would happen like Putin, a KGB agent in the mould of the discredited Beria, becoming President?
Zizek, in his “Georg Lukacs as the Philosopher of Leninism,” traces it to that time “when Soviet philosophy assumed the form of ‘dialectical materialism’ as the legitimizing ideology of ‘Really Existing Socialism’ – one of the signs of the gradual rise of Thermidorean Soviet orthodoxy… that elaborated general laws which can then be applied to either natural or to social phenomena” [Remember the fallacies in poetry that would compare human societies to the simplified hierarchy of ants? Villa would even celebrate this natural, instinctual phenomenon as complementary to social organizations]… thus depriv[ing] [diamat] of its directly engaged, practical revolutionary attitude and the turn[ing] it into a general epistemological theory dealing with the universal laws of scientific knowledge.”
Consequently, the ramifications in theorizing on the “triple syllogistic mediation of History, the proletariat and the party” resulted [during Stalin’s time] in “the third element of the triumvirate (the Party)” as the “reference to History… in order to legitimate its actual domination over and exploitation of the working class, that is to provide opportunistic pragmatic Party decisions with a kind of ‘ontological cover’.”
In this wise, the likes of Zinoviev, “in his famous intervention at the Congress… afforded himself a rabble-rousing and anti-intellectualist attack on the ‘ultra-leftist deviations’ of Lukacs, Korsch, and other ‘professors’ [whom he] rejected as ‘revisioni[sts]’.”
Zizek would satirize the fact that “Soviet workers were awakened early in the morning by music from loudspeakers” [note that in Japan, zaibatsus would organize a singing of the national anthem before work] “playing the first chords of the International” [we sing Bayang Magiliw at ceremonies, even when regimes fall short of mass expectations & themselves ideologically & pragmatically divisive] whose words are, “Arise, you prisoners of work!” is granted a deeper meaning: the ultimate truth of the pathetic original meaning of these words (‘Resist, break the chain that constrain you and reach for freedom’) turns out to its literal meaning, the call to tired workers, ‘Get up, slaves, and start working for us, the Party nomenklatura’.”
The task, in this regard, according to Alain Badiou, as quoted by Zizek, is to “think the necessity of the passage from Leninism to Stalinism without denying the tremendous potential of the Event of October” i.e., without falling into “the old liberal babble of the ‘totalitarian’ potential of radical emancipatory politics.”
[Note the French revolution analogy, where reactionaries decry revolutions to supposedly devour their own children, thus batting for a discursive impasse – & the marginalization of any revolutionary act. The Edsa event is even peddled as the failure of change, which can never be achieved because, as pacifists in Menshevik clothing say, violence breeds violence: & always the new reverts to the old.]
Zizek supplements that “the challenges to be faced here is… while conceding that the rise of Stalinism was the inherent result of the Leninist revolutionary logic, not the result of some particular corruptive influence, like the ‘Russian backwardness’ or the ‘Asiatic ideological stand of the masses,’ one should nonetheless stick to a concrete analysis of the logic of political processes and, at any price, avoid recourse to some immediate quasi-anthropological or philosophical general notion like ‘instrumental reason’.”
The Minister of Agriculture, Aleksey Gordeyev, boasts that Russia “before the Russian Revolution and the subsequent forced collectivization of farming under Stalin, it was the largest grain-exporting nation in the world.”
In its drive for global diplomacy & subliminal yearning for the empire, Marx & Lenin are turned on their heads.
The Revolution unleashed the power of the Russian masses: to deny the history of emancipation is to affirm the orthodox Party line that has gone the way of capitalist West & governance in the mould of the Czar.
So it is said, September 11 “is no longer yesterday but not yet history… There is an unmistakable distance now. No one speaks of the ‘new normal’ anymore. All these things are just normal.”
If the observers at the gates of Auschwitz had a longer time watching the trains pull up at the camps, they would in due time be catatonically inured to the ghastly spectacle that, in ordinary times, would have been hair-raising: behind their backyards scores of Jews are being gassed, their skin converted into lampshades, their false teeth & spectacles melted for whatever they were worth.
It would have been just any day at the office.
Human suffering, even in extreme form, can be devastatingly banal & we tend to look the other way: For instance, at the airport where it has become surveillance standard “to slip off your shoes, buy zip-top bags for liquids and gels” & turn worrywart if a beard grows on your face. Shaving creams – & there is no consumption statistics – must have made a killing these days.
(Filipinos, like any race, get accustomed to fascism, which they wouldn’t know if living inside it, anyway. The daily microrealities set up our daily acceptance even of the most arguably perverse practice.)
Big Brother is watching no longer passes for bizarre comedy; it is the farce of the epoch especially in cities where the poor live in hovels because America has extended its paranoia over potential enemies to the outpost of empire. When Washington sneezes, Manila gets flu.
(The “ripple effect” of the bombing would see a student working on his dissertation be held in England for downloading from the State Department website the manual on terrorism by Al-Qaeda. He was released days later without any charges filed against him.)
But should we ride the bandwagon?
Political pundits essay that warnings had been flashed as early as decades ago when Pentagon launched their little secret wars in the globe – & when they got it right at their doorsteps, Washington went on a road-rage, as it were.
In Manila, the inevitable is asked: What are those Yankees doing in Mindanao, anyway?
They are not without their first-line defenders: “They are not involved in combat,” shares Filipino & American officials, but Prof. Octavio Dinampo of Mindanao State University would “cite a case this year where… a US spy plane provided directions to Filipino ground troops conducting operations against Moro rebels.”
The public is bound to believe the apologists: after all, the MILF tends to shoots its foot, after the MOA imbroglio: photos of field commanders like Bravo & Kato looking like FPJ movie villains hardly endear them to the misinformed media viewers.
However, the question – real & relevant – remains: Will American troopers stay forever, making the South their base of operations against the “Asiatic hordes?”
With a compliant autocrat like GMA futilely running after McCain & Obama, we know the telltale answer.
He doesn’t know
how the festschrift
for a mass of faces
will turn out,
but for sure
it’s a farewell to all that,
edging toward a crack
There will be
the batch original
of lament & exultation
plus the community
of comradely translations.
He doesn’t intend, though,
to add a line
to what he had said
the truth of peasants
who do battle
his cycle of lives:
will it be
on the eve of martial rule
or in December
when the Party celebrates?
He has marked
the final dot
to a hypothetical return
that must rise like a Phoenix
what has long been foretold.
about the future
as if it were
history’s grand design
when the working class
finally wises up
to the usual bum steer:
whatever it has become
for young bucks
Isn’t it bad poetry, sir?
The kid on the block
grinning from ear to ear,
as if to cushion
a deadly attack.
But he gamely
brushes it aside,
with generational put-downs.
Hobbling back to his room
suffused with evening lights,
he gropes blindly
through his cataract.
O For a voice, a hand
to guide his arthritic steps
to where he can see
like her elemental beauty,
He ain’t ready yet
to give up the holy ghost
of the original cause.
Duke Bagulaya, in his forthcoming second book, Philippine Literature and its Critics: A Critical Introduction to Literary Criticism, writes that the “most involvement that [Salvador P.] Lopez had [with the left] was a few outings to Mount Arayat with the Lava brothers, Don Pedro Abad Santos and Luis Taruc, all belong[ing] to the Socialist Party.”
Lopez, then a well-known figure in Philippine letters, had “call[ed] for the creation of a ‘Proletarian Literature’ and cite[d] definitions of literature not from Soviet writers, but from US writers whose views had nothing to do with proletarian literature,” especially Ludwig Levinson, whose general mantra is “the interpretation of the experience of the working class in a world that has been rendered doubly dynamic by its struggles.”
But for Philip Rahv, in his Essays on Literature & Politics, 1932-1971, the controversy regarding the matter is “not the connection between art and politics and between art and society… but primarily its specific political history which explained proletarian literature.”
He adds: “It is impossible, in my opinion, to understand the development of literature, its rise and fall” [particularly in the West after Stalin] “without understanding its relation to the Communist Party.”
It was during the Depression “when suffering imposed on the bulk of the population [in America] by the economic crisis elevated the ‘common man’ to a martyrdom that almost overnight integrated him into the sympathies of the literary artist.”
So overwhelming was the juggernaut of their doctrine that in the words of Tom Wolfe, “The Marxist fable of the ‘capitalists’ and the ‘bourgeoisie oppressing the masses’ – the ‘proletariat’ took hold even among intellectuals who were anti-Marxists.”
It was in this context, the Philippines being a satellite of US imperialism & consequently suffering like fate, that Lopez saw his opening. He “grew up in the countryside,” according to Bagulaya, & “must have known the wretched condition of the peasantry.” He was “writing when sporadic peasant revolts were exploding in Central Luzon.”
His quarrel with Villa is a classic case of class differentiation. His partisan position was however premised on the liberal tradition of art being a “living force” that “cannot be separated from the life of the society.”
He definitely wasn’t into the contradiction that attends the class struggle, eliding the potential for violence in his call for the aesthetic shift in direction.
It was not his métier to view the context in terms of capitalist accumulation of surplus value that perpetuates the divide; he merely worked/articulated within the parameters of colonial discourse that playfully allowed local literary theorists to argue over form & content. But the Communist Party, which set up such imperative, had by this time a ready-made, although Stalinist, blueprint for the literary offensive. (Of course, the totalitarian party bureaucracy eventually collapsed in the West, but the debate on literature & politics still resonates until now in the Tel Quel of the ’60s as well as the “post-marxist” ramifications. Locally, the resurrection of party lit thesis by Gelacio Guillermo patterned after the Leninist mode is a case in point & although this is largely ignored in academes, it is the guiding light in underground production. It has rectified what the early proletarian literature committed with the top-down policies: writers as mechanical footmen of Comintern directives.
During the ’30s, Lopez’s formulation of “emphasis on social content” that “all the ends to which [a writer] may dedicate his talents, none is more worthy than the improvement of the condition of man and the defense of his freedom” is a revisionist position of what Rahv would allude to as the standard Marxist imperative that “the writer should ally himself with the working class and recognize the class struggle as the central fact of modern life.”
In a sense, the trajectory of Lopez’s life in the bureaucracy is tactically conceived project for accumulating, says Bagulaya, “his symbolic capital [to gain] real political capital.”
That literature, however, should be split into the warring camps between Villa & Lopez is the fallacy that is still very much alive. They are both sides of the same coin of negotiating with capitalism. (Same error attends Garcia’s dissertation on Abad & Almario where no ideological schism is affirmed, only a variation on a style, thematics, language.) Both were leery of the Communist Party, not for Trotskyite or Leninist reason, but for playing around with the hegemonic ideology of the US colonial politics.
The Depression implicated theoretically the Communist Party of the United States of America, which caused a lot of Hollywood writers to be blacklisted & thrown out of jobs. Lopez must have known it too well as a writing on the wall if he pushed his advocacy to a higher, logical level.
To wit, the Commonwealth polemics is virtually an intertext of the US crisis, which is remarkably Lopez’s blindside, or that which is equivalent of Barthesian “lost origin.” The irony of ironies of course, is that, for Tom Wolfe, the American intellectual is simply “the sweaty little colonial [who] still trots along the heels of… [European] sahib: Herbert Marcuse, Walter Lippman, Charles Reich, Philip Green, Dotson Ruder, even one named Susan Sontag.
In Harold Bloom’s version of intertextuality, as quoted by Jonathan Culler, it has “compressed [intertextuality] to a relationship between the text and a particular precursor text.”
This means, of course, that Lopez had repressed, arguably & probably so, the likes of Marx, Lenin, Trotsky, Stalin in what seemed to be his radicalizing import during his time.
Never has there been so much misreading of his importance during the Commonwealth years.
When the guy sighed
in a maudlin tone,
I miss her terribly,
he suppressed his smile
& set up the logic
of discursive presupposition:
Did she really leave?
She could be just
on the other side of the street.
Does she exist?
If she doesn’t,
why miss her?
Is there a relation
between the two souls?
Are they lovers?
Who are they?
he was babbling
like any fool.
But of what?
Is he hallucinating?
Is it a symptom
of the heart’s perpetual lack?
We always point
to ghosts in the attic, anyway.
His tears then,
real or imagined,
could only be for show,
Something painfully throbs
but where is the wound?
Like a penitent
on his knees
before St. Christopher
to whom he had vouchsafed
in his everyday journey
he fervently prayed
that no harm
would come his way.
But the Vatican
had issued an edict
the saint had never existed.
O He could never
when she failed to text
he’d never know
if she’s for real.