Jejemon: An Apology
Krip Yuson asks, who’s afraid of Jejemon? John Iremil Teodoro says, we are all Jejemons. One can print out everything written about Jejemon over the past few months to come up with a passable anthology.
I didn’t invent the word “jejemon” per se – lots of people can take credit for that – although my obsession with TV text chat channels in entries written over the years sorta kinda makes me an “authority” on the new field of Jejemonology. Then again, the field has become extremely intellectualized; the field populated with all sorts of cases to the point that Emily Dickinson may be a precursor to Jejemon (whaaaaat), and “Jejemaster” becoming almost professionalized. Really?
The defenses and critiques of the Jejemon way of life and the use of language by Jejemon (there’s no such thing as a “Jejemon language;” it is a play on existing language), to me, border on the overintellectualization and hyping of hate. Rather than explain, it marginalizes; it enforces and establishes the border of the “those who can” and “those who can’t,” especially in the proper use of language. The Jejemon themselves are alienated from the discussion about them: a kind of acceptable backstabbing that comes with dividing society between Jejemon and Jejebusters.
My conversations with Jejemon over the months made me realize that the emerging field of “Jejemon study” – if I may call it such – lacks anthropological rigor. Dickinson wasn’t a Jejemon: when she capitalized words, it was literary treatment more than a code shared to a particular audience. It’s not epistemological, it is not semantic, it isn’t the linguistic correspondence between numbers or letters or to claim that Leetspeak is virtually the same as Jejemon. Rather, it’s people adapting a code for themselves. It has little to do with the triumph of the State and Jejemon subculture being a protest to The Way Things Are: it’s a cap worn on the head, and self-expression on the limited medium of text messaging. It’s their quirk, their way of life, their business that we seek to interfere with, because we don’t share the same ways that they do. Leetspeak is not Jejemon. Jejemon can spell. Jejemon are people too.
Truth be told: our basis for Jejemon and everything in it is based on a single entry on the Urban Dictionary and hasty copy on Wikipedia. It should highlight the collective intention and effort to marginalize people, just because they dress this way, or write this way; that as they mind their own business, we who “know better” mind theirs and frame it on prejudice masquerading as knowledge, reflected to the world as pedantry.
I’m guilty of it. I’m guilty of promoting it. I take the guilt of every self-proclaimed Jejemaster and Jejemonologist in the sense that way before it became all the rage, I started it.
At the risk of exaggeration: every racist, class-ist, prejudiced statement made in the history of the world was almost always founded on poor scholarship, propaganda, and whatever was considered “authoritative” for the time. Hate for the Jews was based on the hasty scholarship that came with the “Aryan Race;” that it transcended the yellow stars sewn on clothing and went straight to the concentration camps and gas chambers. Apartheid went beyond segregated bathrooms and restricting the movement of “colored people:” it was validated by forcing the black man out of place for a whiter South Africa under the guise of legislation. Slavery and civil rights violations in the West was validated by centuries of something social science accepted and later rectified: to highlight human difference based on skin color, and the concept of “race” was born. The Philippines itself was subjugated by religion, by Manifest Destiny, and every other bigoted statement that to this very day, lives. Otherwise “Jejemon” becomes an acceptable pejorative, that violating the being of people is okay.
I say, let’s stop it altogether. We don’t have to open the school days with a policy that discriminates a student because he or she is a “Jejemon,” based on whatever standards we all have made. Live and let live: adding another layer of hatred and prejudice in a divided society and validating it with “theory” and “knowledge” is always invalidated by something so elementary: Jejemon are people too, and that they’re more of our friends, family, and children, than they are Jejemon. Perhaps we should all be more aware of the unintended consequences of Jejebusting and Jejemonology: that rather than holding the explanation, we may hold brick and mortar to the walls that keep us apart.
For all of that, I extend an apology.