Vice Ganda is right: not all who protest are really out there protesting. Some of them were just paid to protest. Some of them were just bribed; perhaps to buy a few kilos of rice for their trouble. But there’s the rub: that’s the cost of dissent in this country. I don’t think that Vice was being “elitist” or anything; everyone has the right to opinions, and there’s a lot to be admired in frank comments when everyone’s walking on eggshells. What it was to me, for all it was to me, is a betrayal of biases. There’s a big difference between people being on the take for dissenting, and how much is paid for that dissent. In doing so, Vice Ganda reveals that we don’t put a lot of stock in our individual actions to move this country forward. In saying so, Vice Ganda also reveals that it has gotten to the point that the price of protest – for those of us who should protest – can be paid for in the form of rice. And in spreading so, Vice Ganda reveals that this is the quality of questioning we like: divisive ones, and not constructive ones. What follows, I hope, isn’t “cyberbullying” or anything.
In 2000, Edward Said – the man behind Orientalism and the driving force of postcolonialism – did something that most public intellectuals wouldn’t do: he threw a rock in the immediate direction of Israeli Army personnel deployed at the Lebanese border. Not that Said hurt anyone, but the act of throwing a rock was symbolic: defiance towards his opponents, strength for his beliefs, and solidarity with his people. More than that, though, I think Said threw the rock not because he could, but because he should. It was him acting on the strength of his convictions. This was 14 years ago, way before Twitter and blogs and all pretenses of being “intellectual” (more on that when I feel like it). Tumult and the disruption of public order are the order of the day in a critical society. Although most of us prefer it done in the “proper forum,” where the tumult and disruption don’t get in the way of our traffic lanes, our coffee breaks, or the speeches of the President, for that matter. Which brings me to Pio Emmanuel Mijares.
Much has been said about the BIR’s half-page ads on paying taxes, mostly from doctors who see the ads as “unfair” to their profession. Lots of “two cents” shared on the matter, too. But I’m not a doctor, a lawyer, or an online seller: I’m one of those people who do ads for a living (although I’ve never worked for the ad agency that made that BIR ad). So with all disclaimers engaged (these are my opinions, this POV does not reflect that of my employer, etc.), here’s what I think. I think of ads as business solutions. Advertising is one of many ways to make businesses work better. Badly put, advertising helps businesses by talking to people to spread the word about the business. Whether that business is a commercial enterprise, a manufacturer, or government, it’s pretty much the same thing.
By now, much has been said about the whole Binay imbroglio. Binay’s own camp weighed in, which makes this all the more interesting. I’m not the biggest fan of Binay – not by a long shot – but the guy has always been consistent about playing the victim. In the minds of the Binays, it’s the family against the world. A cursory view of the chatter around this controversy shows that the Binays and their supporters may not take too kindly to netizens. And then there’s the pink war elephant in the room, one that has always been the choice weapon of “oppressed politicians.” Dasmarinas Village is the seat of the wealthy and the powerful: the Binays need not appeal to them. The Binays need not appeal to the Filipino Internet community, either: the previous elections show that the promise of a crust of bread is more important than the thoughts and musings of the upper crust. Erap didn’t win second place in 2010 – and Nancy Binay didn’t become a Senator – on the basis of things like “social media sentiment.” They are getting away with it as we speak. To follow their way of thinking, why should their constituency be bothered at all with the rules of people living in posh subdivisions or the ranting and raving on social media? If anything, Binay – and the political mindset that precedes and perpetuates public figures like him – thrives on things that are far more real than Tweets and…
Without beating around the bush, here’s the reason why Thomas Van Beersum is hated and reviled by many netizens: he is a white Communist from the Netherlands who’s friends with Jose Ma. Sison. What’s there not to hate? We don’t like being told off by foreigners who think they know everything. We don’t like Communists who think they know everything. We sure as hell don’t have any love for Joma Sison, who thinks he knows everything. He’s easy enough to hate as it is, and when he’s hurling strong propaganda on an already-crying cop and disrupting the President’s State of the Nation Address, we hate him even more. Deport him. Let him go back to the Netherlands and fraternize with our enemy. Fuck him. Now I’m not writing this to defend Van Beersum’s actions. But he was not the one who made PO1 Sevilla cry. He was not the one who instigated any sort of violence when he was in the streets that day. His crime is this: he is a white Communist from the Netherlands who’s friends with Jose Ma. Sison.
I don’t believe in the idea that only taxpayers should vote. Without going into a rant about how “elitist” and “anti-poor” this idea is – and let’s face it, there’s nothing to this other than the denial of rights to those who can’t afford it – it sounds like a good idea. Middle-class sensibilities were once again trumped (perhaps even insulted) in this election, which favored the likes of Nancy Binay and Grace Poe at the expense of people like Richard Gordon and Risa Hontiveros. Rightly or wrongly, much of the blame is passed on to the “masses;” those who can be swayed by popular surnames or P500 bills passed around the precinct just before the polls begin. Never mind that these are the same masses that kicked out dynasties and entrenched political figures in other provinces, but that’s another story altogether.
“Copying,” says Senator Sotto, “is the highest form of flattery.” Yet in three Senate terms, the Filipino voting public flattered him through a copying of a different sort: his name in the ballot. The French have a term for it: l’esprit de l’escallier. It’s a perfect retort made too late, as when one argues on a landing, ends up descending from the staircase in frustration, and ends up thinking of a brilliant comeback once he reaches the bottom. The problem is that Tito Sotto never left. He had the temerity to deny the act, the audacity to belittle his critics, and ended up giving a half-hearted – if not half-assed – apology to the Kennedy family for his blatant plagiarism and misappropriations of the “Day of Affirmation” speech. Today he continues to be recalcitrant and even irreverent: perhaps maintaining that his plagiarism is not the worst thing in the world. To be clear, plagiarism is not the most grievous sin Filipino politicians should be pilloried for. If we take Senator Enrile’s word for it, countries copy each other’s laws, and maybe that’s “plagiarism,” and then again the Senate is not the academe. If we take Sotto’s supporters’ words for it, plagiarism is the concern of the non-masses: those who are educated, who have access to the Internet, and value intellectual property and academic integrity. The gibbets should be reserved for more heinous sins to the public sensibility, and true enough, it should.
For those unfamiliar with the history of the fractured Left in the Philippines, the past few days were a very compelling – if not agitating – crash course. As Anakbayan and Akbayan have locked horns on the matter of “red-baiting,” “yellow-baiting,” and baiting of all sorts, we saw two things unfold. First: the arguments and principles that fractured the Left were brought to the limelight. Second: the same old problems are taking place under the red lights flashed around these days.
Today in the news: Pampanga Rep. Aurelio Gonzales files a resolution appealing to stop portraying members of the House as villains and crooks in movies and telenovelas. 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.