If anything, our experience with satire (and by “our,” I mean that fraction of the population actively engaged in the online experience: 75% of the total Filipino population would probably not know what we’re talking about) is not a pleasant one. The latest duping: GMANews.TV reports that the “Anti-Angry Birds Bill” published on SoWhatsNews is satire. While many people would grin and bear it, some people are actually outraged that an “Internet blog site” would actually resort to such tomfoolery.
Of course, this is not the first time this happened. At the height of the Chip Tsao hullaballoo and Adam Carolla brouhaha, I harped on how satire has the tendency – if not the intention – to hit a raw nerve. Of course, there’s a failure of reading – it doesn’t take too much reading between the lines to see that the author of the offending article was satirizing a Congressman’s penchant for filing laws against planking – but it’s not without subtext or context. While it explains us, it somehow also indicts us.
Now before we start accusing one another of being gullible, the lot of us would probably understand and appreciate satire if it was given enough emphasis in our educational system. I’m not saying that we should have a subject devoted to the works of Aristophanes and Juvenal, but a deeper appreciation for our satirical tradition is just one aspect of rediscovering and reclaiming our complex and beautiful identity. We have a great tradition in performed satire: the Moriones festivals and the moro-moros and the zarzuelas all have the message and undercurrents of satire.
Yet before this whole thing becomes a validation of the “Filipinos are shallow” thesis, allow me to get back to our earlier experiences of satire online. We have deeply-seated, deeply-rooted sentiments against government officials enough for us to deal with them with more than enough cynicism and distrust. Of course, no politician in his right mind will ban Angry Birds, but the many dubious laws and resolutions passed through Congress – everything from renaming streets to National Mango Day to emergency powers at a time of non-emergencies – somehow happen enough that it may not be surprising for a Congressman to file a ban on a very specific, harmless video game. We’re faced with institutions in dire need of reform and rebuilding, if not for the sentiment that we’re screwed over on a daily basis by inept, selfish officials. Our outrage over a fake news item is a manifestation of greater outrages: we feel that we can’t trust our public officials.
But what more for real things? On the other hand, it’s quite saddening to note that we rage over fake news, but somehow accept other more outrageous things as normal and not worth our vitriol. Everyday occurrences and truths of corruption, ineptitude, and ignorance somehow fly by as anomalies in the banality of the absurd and/or the routine, but we swear hellfire and brimstone when stuff like this happens. We latch on, guided by the blinding flash of rage and anger, and forget that we’re screwed in worse ways. It’s not being shallow, at that, but because we seem to not have our priorities straight. It seems that we have more affinity with Angry Birds than, say, the Reproductive Health Bill. Or workers with their backs to the wall. Or daily occurrences of starvation and disease. Or blights in the Cordillera uplands.
The daily affronts and assaults to our dignity and self-respect go beyond what is satirized, and I’m sure that’s what the author intended. But one thing about katuwaan: it ceases to become funny when all compass points are not considered. What we find humorous and funny may not evoke the same feelings to another person for many different reasons. It can’t be stressed enough: satire must be written so well to avoid unintended consequences. Forget the “death of the author” or the technicalities of differance: one must strive really hard to make the intention match the consequence, managing that perception as something is written. Which is why satire is very, very, difficult to write.
Then again, this is just 25% of our people talking. The satirical leanings of Marcelo H. del Pilar or even Jose Rizal, for that matter, were meant to hurt the raw nerves of the prayle, the Guardia Civil, and the oppressive usurpers of the Filipino people. Caiigat Cayo, the bastardizations of prayer, Noli and Fili were carefully crafted to piss off the mighty few and empower the great many. That, in effect, is what satire should be: it should offend the powerful. That satire is only permissible, valid, and can be called such when aimed, locked, loaded, and shot at the very heart of those higher up in the social ladder. When it offends – and most of all, not understood – by those below, it’s hard to play the satire card.
That more than for katuwaan‘s sake, social satire is obliged to make society a better place. More than just for expression and impression, the task of writing is in emancipation and liberation… which is something our 25% should do.
But that’s another story.