In “Black Skin, White Masks,” Frantz Fanon writes a very poignant vignette of the consequences of race:
To speak pidgin to a Negro makes him angry, because he himself is a pidgin-nigger-talker. But, I will be told, there is no wish, no intention to anger him. I grant this; but it is just this absence of wish, this lack of interest, this indifference, this automatic manner of classifying him, imprisoning him, primitivizing him, decivilizing him, that makes him angry.
I believe that race is an antiquated, simplistic, and naive concept. Race has no scientific significance; we all belong to the same genus, the same species, and the color of our skin is a consequence of genetic variation. Yet as a social construct, race is very powerful: it classifies us qualitatively and subjectively. It creates a context within a whole set of contexts, forcing us to act and behave and achieve according to the expectations of dominant, discriminating forces. In a way, we become nothing more than the color of our skin.
All this, of course, should pertain to a particular men’s magazine cover, but I’d like to deep into it a little further. Maybe overthink it a bit, and snap a few branches from the learning tree along the way.
Whenever I write about the 1986 EDSA Revolution, I tend to underscore one thing: I am part of the generation that grew up after it all happened. At the time, I was seven months old. Suffice to say, I wasn’t in EDSA. I have no EDSA story to tell.
Yet if anything it is my generation that was taught the most about EDSA. It was my generation that reaped what was sowed on the streets on those four days, and the years that led to it. We were the first generation of Filipinos that grew up with no living memory of what it’s like to not be under the iron hand of Asia’s most infamous – and venerated – dictator.
My teachers and professors all shared an impression of Marcos that somehow stuck: an articulate man commanding of so much respect whose intentions for a “mandate for greatness” was marked by human flaws, like the thirst for power and the desire for great personal gain. He was “the greatest president the Philippines could have ever had,” if not for a catalog of reasons that included, among other things, Martial Law.
Gonzales claims that by typecasting the Congressman as a villain or a crook – much less a crocodile – the general public forms a negative impression of our hardworking, august, and honorable elected officials. Gonzales appeals to the entertainment industry to stop doing so, that it somehow sullies the good name of those Congressmen who do their part in uplifting the conditions of their constituents.
Yet consider the crocodile; unlike other reptiles, crocodiles have a cerebral cortex, a four-chambered heart, and a very prominent spine. The cerebral cortex – grey matter – has an important function in attention, memory, thought, language, and attention. Crocodiles wait for their prey to come close before they attack, and can survive long periods without going for the hunt. Crocodiles may eat pork, but they prefer to hunt. Crocodiles may be thick skinned, but they are adept at absorbing heat. Crocodiles may thrive in murky water, but definitely not polluted ones.
In her Rappler.com piece, Chay Hofileña writes that media has the responsibility to “connect the dots.” Hofileña claims that the journalist, in the quest to arrive at the truth, develops some form of expertise on the matter; that a journalist’s role, facing a “lethargic public, too tired or lazy to do the math, or simply apathetic,” is to rouse and mobilize the masses. That, as “shapers of informed public discourse, if not facilitators of discussion and debate in the name of truth,” the ultimate check of the media is that “informed public exposed to a marketplace of ideas” would “be in the best position to judge whether what is being fed them is hogwash or scraps.”
Not to be disrespectful or anything, but let’s turn that argument on its head. What if the public is fed hogwash or scraps? If the symptoms of public discourse include lethargy, fatigue, laziness, and desensitization, wouldn’t those characteristics be a consequence of what is presented to them by the media? Isn’t the situation, for that matter, symptomatic and characteristic of the quality of information we have, courtesy of the media?
Sometimes I think that when you’re a 26-year-old guy with a great job, an awesome girlfriend, really nice friends, and having the respect of your peers and colleagues in spite of imaginary chips on your shoulder, the last thing you should worry about is the taste of tocino.
But I do: if only because you trade off a few things here and there as you do what all other 26-year-olds do.
It started out as one of those usual trips to the Jollijeeps to buy lunch… that was until my senses were tickled by the familiar, delicious smell of that old Filipino staple, tocino.
Like the chicken cheesedog and skinless longganisa, tocino occupies its own place in that realm of the familiar and the taken-for-granted: the Filipino “Frigidaire.” The sugary sweetness and the faint notes of salitre, its special role in caricatures of a failing public school system, and the degree of burning required to make a tocino delicious all make it somewhat complicated. Surely the supermarket tocino purists will have their own debates on the matter of Mekeni vs. Pampanga’s Best, but it is, to me, something rather special:
I haven’t had it in months. Not tocino per se, but the tocino I actually like.