the gapanese invasion is nigh!

"pinakamaganda ka nga sa buong kapuluan, pero latina na naman ang magwawagi ng korona at sash sa miss world! racism ba ito? lupasay!"

Friday, February 29, 2008

reality as dilemma in riles

Riles by Ditsi Carolino is a documentary on the urban poor life of Mang Eddie, a balut peddler, and his wife Pen, who is sick and whose diseased breast was removed. They and their biological and adopted kids live in the slums not far from the rail tracks (hence the documentary’s title) where trains are still actively passing by. The film shows Mang Eddie going to work, but when he gets happy-go-lucky, he engages in a drinking spree instead of peddling his basketful of unhatched duck eggs. The wife often had to threaten her husband that should he fail to sell balut, Mang Eddie will be “patay daw sa kanya” (dead meat to her). The film further shows the goings-on in the neighborhood, from the karaoke singing matches to bathing to eating to other activities usually seen in the urban slums.
Riles as a subject of cultural studies can be seen by the audience as representative of the exotic especially if the audience does not share the low socio-economic class of the people featured in it. Since Ateneo students have the general reputation of being integral parts of the bourgeois and the elite, they can probably view the documentary as something representing an alien reality. Mang Eddie and the persons and things peopling Riles are all “Others” of the Ateneo student audience, ideologically speaking. The former are engaged in things dissociated from an average Ateneo student’s reality: living in the slums, living along the riles, living a hand-to-mouth existence. The latter may probably be living in a posh village, among the old rich, and problematizing how to produce meals for tonight is farthest from their mind. Hence, it is likely for the latter to exoticize Mang Eddie and other subjects like him, for they are different, a break from the regular. To some extent, the representations are accurate, like life in the slums is a constant struggle. However, the present media practice of representing the “Other” as seen in the documentary is problematic, since Riles shows evidences of stereotyping of the exoticized subjects. For one, the atmosphere of desperation in Riles is such that a message is carried that no hope awaits the underprivileged among us. They may be forever trapped in the slums, inextricable in their hand-to-mouth existence. Secondly, the only way through which the exoticized rises from his balut-peddling occasion is through drinking sprees. Drinking being an unproductive activity, the idea being conveyed is that the “Others” are escapists, with no real way to unshackle themselves from the chains of poverty. This is further reinforced by Mang Eddie’s cynicism as manifested in the documentation. Because these are the representations being replicated in the media, the poor become irreparably connected to ideas of desperation, escapism and stereotyping. Hence, they become twice victimized by the society that fails to create real progress for them through the privileged class’ involvement in social development and, finally, that holds a formulaic representation of the poor as the “Other” of the rich. Insights from visual anthropology and cultural studies may be evaluated to check if, in any case, the subjects can still be happy despite their deprived conditions, as money is not necessarily a key factor in making people happy, according to recent research.
When the presentation ended, the main subject—in his vendor outfit seen in the five-year-old documentary—was there to interact with the audience. The director was also there, and they sat on a panel for the question and answer portion. Eddie brought along his balut which, while more expensive at P15 than the normal market price of duck eggs, were still bought by the audience. Here was the man represented of the documentary, seeming to have jumped out of the medium to be with the audience in the flesh. While the real Eddie and the Edie represented in the technically excellent (suitable lighting and sounds and unobstrusive direction) film are one and the same, there is the question of naturalness since Eddie could be showing an exaggerated Eddie character or could be repressing an undesirable Eddie character all because of the present camera in terms of the film and of the present audience in terms of public interaction.
Since the documentary, in consideration of Bilge Yesil’s “Reel Pleasures: Exploring the Historical Roots of Media Voyeurism and Exhibitionism,” is an example of mediated observation, it is a question whether or not Eddie is captured on film in his most natural role, given that he is aware that he was being taped. It is not hidden that Eddie senses himself as a performer to be scrutinized by others that are his spectators. Eddie acts with his audience in mind and may be conscious of the possibility of being checked whether or not his behavior fits social expectations. While Eddie may just be staging a performance, his showing is complemented by the audience’ interaction (the purchase of the balut being one such manifestation), the whole thing attempting to construct impressions of how Eddie feels from within and how the audience sees him from without. The documentary, in essence, makes the media and non-media worlds clash because the film must be, at best, liberated from representation in order to show Eddie’s most real but in the process, the film exploits this manner to the fullest in order to feed the audience with the kind of reality in the saturated images presented as in on stage.
This in-between-ness is actually caused by the impact of media in people’s lives as explained by Ronald Bishop in “Good Afternoon, Good Evening, and Good Night: The Truman Show as Media Criticism.” Since the media displays power while playing a pivotal role in persons’ lives, it is not unlikely that as the audience tries to criticize the documentary for its reality, the real will juxtapose itself (i.e. Eddie appearing after the film showing) to exploit and simultaneously dissolve the audience’ intent to do so. Instead of subverting the media’s power to make representations of the real by examining this mediated reality, this power is affirmed when Eddie appears with his balut eggs to corroborate the documentary’s presentation of his reality.
While the film has the intention of making the audience understand the plight that everyday plagues the less privileged class to which Mang Eddie belongs, it also becomes responsible for the portrayal and the mass fabrication of the “Other” as abominable for their lack of hope and for their escapist behaviors. Because of the failure to venture into a more critical approach towards reporting the life along the riles slums, there is really nothing new presented and that there is no fresh understanding regarding the media-represented subjects.

Bishop, Ronald (2000). “Good Afternoon, Good Evening, and Good Night: The Truman Show as Media Criticism.” In Journal of Communication Inquiry 24:1. Sage Publications.
Fursich, Elfriede. “How Can Global Journalists Represent the ‘Other'?: A Critical Assessment of the Cultural Studies Concept for Media Practice.” Boston College, Chestnut Hill , MA , USA
Yesil, Bilge (2001). “Reel Pleasures: Exploring the Historical Roots of Media Voyeurism and Exhibitionism.” In Counterblast: The e-journal of Culture and Communication, v. n.1. New York.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

countering the argument for inaction

In the February 21, 2008 Philippine Daily Inquirer article entitled “The Argument for Inaction,” Passion for Reason columnist Raul Pangalangan claims that “If Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo stays in power until 2010, she will remain in power after 2010.” His assumption is that Gloria will not allow herself to suffer the plunder cases that convicted the predecessor she had helped manipulate the ouster of. His grounds include Gloria failing to step down after her term expires since she has violated the law so frequently while in power, and Gloria and cohorts finding it too risky to transfer presidential powers. However, the author’s argument about Gloria’s power extension beyond 2010 can be countered by the fact that the Constitution prevents her from running a second term. Gloria cannot stay any longer than 2010 because her mandate is until that year only. It may even be that she will be booted out of office sooner than 2010 because of the current rate her embattled presidency is going. His grounds can be countered by the fact that sooner or later, Gloria will step out of office but it is a judicial matter to verify whether she indeed violated the law and repetitively at that, and by the fact that there is no way that Gloria can fix herself in the presidential position forever, practically preventing her successor to inherit her power.
Pangalangan also claims that “[Gloria] will continue the prostitution of our republican institutions.” His assumption is that she uses her presidential power to perform the shameful acts of keeping her position and enriching her family in the process. His grounds include Gloria choosing an ombudsman to give her the immunity from legal cases and manipulating the law enforcement to hide the truth from the public. Nonetheless, his claim may be countered by the fact that the democratic institutions are not run by morons who will permit themselves to be reduced to dog-like thinking by following Gloria’s absurd orders. His grounds may be countered by the fact that once out of power, Gloria cannot find any more immunity from cases even as she had chosen the ombudman’s appointment during her term, by the fact that the ombudsman to be chosen had to be qualified for the position, by the fact that the ombudsman has his own brain to use in order not to be ordered around, and by the fact twice in the past did law enforcement agencies defected from the President in support of the people power—why would the law enforcing institution at large reduce itself to mere presidential pawns?
In addition, the columnist claims “it takes a thief to catch a thief, and we must embrace this long-awaited fissure within the ruling elites.” His assumption is that the public should be involved in the ZTE deal being fought between the Arroyo family and the de Venecia family. His grounds include his wish to see Rep. Jose de Venecia explain his piece over fixers’ insistence on the NorthRail controversy and the good news for Filipinos that the swindlers are excited to engage in a brawl. Nevertheless, his ground may be countered by the fact that the breakup between ruling classes is not a cause of celebration since that cannot improve the impoverished lives of people—surely they have better things to do than watch the spectacle of political mudslinging amid their own poverty and hunger. His grounds may be countered by the fact that it is just he, not the whole public, who wished to see the involved politician’s explanation of the controversy, by the fact that it can never be good news for Filipinos to see their elected officials doing things other than improve their lives for which they were sworn to office, and by the fact that up to now, no massive mobilization the proportions of EDSA 1 and 2 has so far been mustered with the aim of removing Gloria from Malacanang—an indication of the public’s EDSA Revolution fatigue.
The writer likewise claims that while Gloria is and looks the most educationally qualified of all Philippine presidents, she is “evil” according to Cabinet member Romulo Neri. His assumption is that Gloria goes her way now in such an evil manner that alternatives to her presidency are the lesser evil. His grounds include the law asserting that Cabinet members are the president’s likeness, and this likeness’ branding the president as “evil” must be a proof that he is evil himself. However, his claim may be countered by the fact that the Cabinet member himself failed to qualify the derogatory term he used to call the President. Corollarily, his ground may be countered by the fact that it is not necessary that the evil things the President is supposedly doing are also being conducted by the Cabinet members, no matter how exact their performed tasks to be done are. It is arguable that other Cabinets who are performing their respective duties well will react vigorously to the brand that they are as evil as the President they work with. It can even be argued that Neri pointed out the evil in Gloria precisely because he can contrast this evilness by his lack of it.
Pangalangan also claims that Gloria has a Mafia sense of power. His assumption is that Gloria threatens to unleash the full force of her executive power if her critics refuse to respect the rule of law. His grounds include Gloria harassing her critics and her weakness in running after her cronies. Nonetheless, his claim may be countered by the fact that Gloria may just be performing her executive powers as limited by the Constitution. Meanwhile, his grounds may be countered by the fact that the rule of law has been unchanging since modern politics was born in this land: that politicians take care of their friends while damning their enemies. Hence, it cannot be just true for Gloria but for all power-hungry politicians. Then again, Gloria may just be doing her job as deemed by the Constitution, so it is up to the judicial department to run after her crony friends and it is really up to her detractors to continue seeing her as their tormentor for as long as they do not succeed in wresting power from her.
The columnist further claims that the Constitution has been cheapened repetitively by Gloria. His assumption is that Gloria betrayed the Constitution by manipulating it for her selfish motives. His grounds include Gloria reducing the Constitution’s legitimizing power and her perversion of the Constitution in such a way that the rule of law is irreparably damaged. Nevertheless, his claim may be countered by the fact that instead of cheapening the Constitution, Gloria may just be implementing the highest law of the land and her detractors see otherwise precisely because they are her critics. His grounds may be countered by the fact that Gloria actually executes orders as invoked by the Constitution and by the fact that she cannot possibly bastardize the Constitution without drawing the flak of the entire nation, so her damaging the rule of law is arguable since she actually enforces the law as the Constitution demands it.
The author’s final claim is that Gloria should be ousted. His assumption is that her forced resignation from office is not Gloria’s choice but the public’s. His grounds include the systemic change not being postponed for instant calls for her ouster and the demand for her ouster resting on the public’s decision and not Gloria’s. However, his claim can be countered by the fact that Gloria has just two more years to go to prove herself that the national economic miracles she performs can be translated to social developments—hence, she should not be allowed to go until she has fulfilled her presidential duties. His claims can be countered by the fact that systemic changes cannot be done overnight nor be done all at once via Gloria’s ouster and by the fact that democracy may be ours but there is the election, not another people power, as the correct political forum to decide presidential changes.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

reclaiming humanity: a reaction

The observations in the three major points raised by Fr. Manoling Francisco in his February 17, 2008 sermon in La Salle Greenhills Gymnasium are all agreeable, since all three were argued critically and well-informed. The statements made on major point no. 1, Ascertaining Credibility, were correct in consideration of small-time people ready to risk their lives in trying to expose the truth that will put their big-time enemies in trouble. It is not as if Jun Lozada had nothing to lose, but it is indeed difficult to expose one’s family to harassment, to get constant death threats, to try to crumble a formidable wall, among others, just so one heeds one’s conscience’ call to reveal the truth. Meanwhile, those made on major point no. 2, Rediscovering Our Humanity, were truthful since it is when Lozada opened his life to scrutiny and threats that he found himself. He has realized that whatever one has or is is not more important than what one can do to expose the truth. One’s life is worth risking if it is for the sake of the country one belongs to. In the process of one’s readiness to give up one’s life for truth, one shows how one values a life of substance rather than a life lacking in risk but full on distortions and lies. Finally, those made on point no. 3, Witnessing to the Truth, has validated Lozada’s exposure of his life to threats. He is willing to surrender this for truth, and which risk is more worth taking than offering one’s life to one’s country? This is all in the name of truth, for one’s courage is too convincing to dismiss it as just meant to fabricate falsehoods against a government gone rotten.
However, on the other side of the fence, the revelations of Rodolfo Lozada Jr. about the ZTE broadband deal mark a terribly challenging task of the Arroyo administration to survive the likely ruinous domino effect of this drama through the art of political spinning. How does the government ascertain its own credibility, reclaim its own humanity and witness to the truth if its is being unmasked as the enemy of the people? I believe that Gloria Arroyo employs the political spinning tactic in order to slant or interpret these news-hugging events to her favor. Indeed, her use of this strategy shows the shrewd politician that Arroyo is since she seems able to manipulate to her advantage this new spate of scandals being regurgitated from her embattled immediate presidential past. It is easy to see because despite the massive support for Lozada by different communities, Gloria can still proclaim that she sleeps seven hours every night and is not fidgety whenever she states that she will finish her presidential term.
In instances like this when Arroyo’s enemies are being sympathized by the public, it is important to perform damage control. She has produced an effective official party line in the guise of her watchdog cabinet members who concocted the spin and defended—and still defending—it by virtue of their personal knowledge about the matter. I already see the likes of Senator Joker Arroyo, a critic of the President, being recruited while not a political ally. Why not? Even he believes that the President shall survive her latest ordeal and finish her term. Meanwhile, the ones singing a different tune are neutralized, if not presented as a person unworthy of media attention. This I see in the guise of the latest news that Lozada being discredited of his whistleblowing because he, according to news reports, lived a king’s life when he went to Hong Kong for a gargantuan shopping splurge. How should the public see that except the implication that the revelation is supposedly about a conspirator not getting his just piece of the pie. Hence, the offer of P50,000 refused by Lozada is one form of damage control being enacted in Arroyo’s quest to appeal to the whistleblower’s naked interest. Some of her cohorts are bribing profit, security and safety so she herself may profit from a dying scandal, may get secured and may feel safe until the national elections of 2010. The truth and public sympathy may be on Jun’s side, but Arroyo wields sufficient power to get her by.
I see that there is some sort of triumph on the part of the administration when the Senate failed to get conclusive proofs to justify corruption on the ZTE broadband expose. The testimonies of some cabinet members bungled before the Senate alright, yet the ruinous admissions and contradicting versions of events (kidnapping or invitation, depending on whose side one is on) so far yields a one-night-only massive rally lacking EDSA proportions. It is a telling point that the people have grown tired and have gone fed up with perpetual versions of People Power Revolutions. Could the masses and for a being held in Lozada’s favor be enough to launch another EDSA? I doubt, for enough time has passed and terrible rotten beans had already been spilled and yet, Gloria’s head remains intact, the people seemed to have fallen silent like the rest of the key people mentioned by the priest who were all zapped to silence by Arroyo in her attempt to suppress the truth.
As for Lozada, he was asked to sign some affidavits that he later disproved. Arroyo had no choice but to discredit him like others before him. While I believe that Lozada’s exposes are credible what with the threats he dragged his whole clan into, these may not be sufficient corroboration and vindication to dislodge Gloria. This corruption tale is actually stranger than fiction. Why not stranger, when I analyze that the tear-smeared Lozada is just making a show at, befittingly enough, the Senate Blue Ribbon Theater? It was a theatrical piece that could give Clarissa Ocampo’s expose a pun-intended run for the money. It engaged me, entertained me, it amused be screamingly and parts of it seem spun out of tremendously hilarious comedies. I do not find the performance even relevant after the ZTE had been cancelled, dead as a dodo if the administration is made to speak alluding to this. From my viewpoint, what the courageous Lozada told the Blue Ribbon committee is not anything that he can prove in any court. The tales are fantastic, deep and totally related but the people do not seem angry enough to march down the streets and boot Arroyo out of office. They appear to be content in making pasa-Diyos na lang ng lahat (leaving everything to God’s will), for not even the truth can save the calamitous distress the country has fallen in.
Hence, I consider the priest’s sermon not only an exercise in futility in the context of Arroyo’s tyrannical government, but also, to an extent, a violation of the separation of the Church and State provision in the Constitution. As always, the Church becomes embedded in a moral dilemma whenever it reacts to political issues like this one. The prying eyes of the public have been glued on the Catholic Church once again in the light of Lozada’s exposé on the controvery-ridden ZTE-NBN deal that has gone dead after Malacanang has been dragged into the scandal. The restless issue about the separation of Church and State has been brought in the open with the participation of some of the personalities from the Catholic Church, notably the Greenhills’ mass’ officiating priest. There have been different opinions on the church’s participation in the political exercises not just among the people but strangely even within the Catholic hierarchy itself as the country experiences yet another excruciating process of division.
However, what does the doctrine on the “Separation of Church and State” as enshrined in our Constitution really mean according to the framers of the Law? It is rather ironic that even in the 1987 Philippine Constitution, the one Arroyo and her allies have been trying to amend, neither “church” nor “state” is defined explicitly. Article II, Section 6 of the Constitution states a brief one-liner provision which reads thus: The separation of Church and State shall be inviolable. What does the Constitution seek to separate between the church and the state? To separate oneself means to inhibit from, to be neutral or not get involved. Simplifying understanding of this means that the Church should inhibit from, be neutral, or not get involved with the State. Nevertheless, the ambiguity persists because first, the people who belong to different churches are also the same people running the affairs of the state. Also, what is there that the church should be neutral about or not get involved with the state?
What is manifested in the masses being officiated for Lozada’s quest for truth is that the Catholics cannot just kneel in prayer the whole day when they see the public resources being ravaged by greed of the very people who were tasked to look after it. They want to do something about it, especially with people becoming tired of holding people power revolutions that do not create long-term social developments anyway. If they simply surrender their rights and allow others to rob them of their dignity without putting up a fight, then they are equally guilty of being negligent in their duty as Christians. Might as well that they hold masses for truth to reign eventually than do nothing at all while the Philippine funds are being transferred to private bank accounts.
Being the so-called men of God does not strip people of the cloth of their citizenship or lose partly their Constitutional rights such as freedom of expression. They are also residents of this democratic society and each citizen has a claim to the basic rights as a person and one of which is the freedom of expression as guaranteed by the Constitution: liberty to air one’s opinion without fear of reprisal, freedom to assembly to gather together and discuss the issues of the day, political or otherwise, and if need be, let voices be heard in a collective manner. The priest may be violating the separation of the Church and the State, but it must be noted that he was born a Filipino first before becoming a priest.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

voyeurism in reality television

Across the globe, voyeuristic programs are sprouting all over the television. It appears that spectators want to take a look at the controversial show that is reality TV. After reality TV’s exceptional success, closet peeping toms were ready to sneak out of hiding and are currently getting voyeuristic enjoyment in a manner that the society can tolerate. Reality TV spectators can stay conveniently in the privacy of their own sala and study the personal lives of strangers unfolding before their very eyes. One good twist about this is that they can look and look, but voyeurs will have no chance at being caught red-handed by the very people they ogle at.
A closer examination of reality TV can articulate the question of how real it is. In a voyeuristic relationship in reality TV, the first set of participants comprises individuals who do the watching, and the other set comprises individuals who are unconscious that they are being watched by some outsiders. The latter group goes about in their lives without any regard that they have become unwitting performers for some invisible audience. The recent deluge of reality TV shows seems to be an unadulterated voyeuristic display or perhaps better, since program participants commit complicity with their exhibitionism, or their desire to be watched for entertainment purposes. How much exhibited actions are actually real by virtue of the unawareness in which they were projected? Are the participants natural, or naturally acting?
This voyeur-exhibitionist relationship appears in "The World of Wrestling." Author Roland Barthes identifies pro-wrestling as a spectacle that is the modern counterpart of the ancient drama in the panoramic Greek amphitheater. The audience watches god-like performers in the dramatic gesture of resolving good-versus-evil conflicts. In displaying suffering, defeat and justice, the actors don a tragic or comic appearance, aware that they must bring some purgative experience to their spectators. On a mutual act, the public views the ongoing drama in order to release cathartic emotions. While the invocation and acquisition of catharsis are somewhat questionable in Reality TV, it is noteworthy to see this modern phenomenon’s similarity to an ancient practice in terms of the unfolding drama as well as the mutual relationship between the watcher and the watched.
This is the case with imported franchises like the controversial Pinoy Big Brother. The participants of this reality TV program are aware that their actions are being recorded on video to be consumed and examined by millions of judging people. While the participants of this show are not performers in the conventional sense of the word, it becomes practically improbable to be comfortably themselves in front of a camera no matter how persistent they attempt to. Nonetheless, the show’s producer maintains that if a camera immerses itself within the people’s daily and natural environment very much like a fluorescent lamp or a vase, the subjects will lose their inhibition and shed a bit more of their real selves over time.
It is also possible that the characters may become exaggerated with particular aspects of their lives, or may pretend to cultivate a certain personality while the camera rolls in front. This was seen when one of Pinoy Big Brother’s hosts who became a housemate herself seems too sweet and concerned to look natural in the latest season that unfurled. They may also turn to dramatic overtures, exhibitionism or coming out into the open about their sexuality. In the case of Pinoy Big Brother, certain housemates have been notorious for being cry babies, for being too confrontational for comfort, or for admitting his homosexuality way too late when all the Philippines rightly suspected so.
Since reality TV does not demand for the conventional role calls, producers seek through piles and piles of videotapes provided by hopeful participants—their version of actor screenings when selecting a cast for a reality TV program. Candidates are picked based on personality and their potential of drawing a huge audience. Without scriptwriters to give guidance to the characters, the show will be only as good as the cast of participating individuals. Characters with certain personalities are cast together since they are potential contributors to bombastic stories. Pinoy Big Brother had its share of a frank half-breed who did not hesitate picking on rather self-confessed liberated women, elite model types side by side with jologs comediennes, bohemian artists compelled to hang out with pop individuals.
When casting coup is finished, the production team takes the task of transforming non-scripted stories into attractive tales that will rival elaborately woven fictions in terms of intriguing quality. At the end of taping, the production team will spend time drawing interesting story line, plot and unique characters out of film footages. With the more accurate portrayals of characters probably culled out of the footages, the more notorious and ratings-worthy episodes are aired on TV. In other cases, producers hire writers who do not create scripts but observe hours of taped sessions in search of the most enticing storyline buried in the piles of recorded footages. These writers become responsible for the creation of characters that the audience can like, empathize with or vilify. This kind of editing may seem improbable to undertake unless particular characteristics emerge from a person. In any case, whatever is broadcast on TV as a result of this creative and complicated editing will be watched and judged by millions whether they show true or they manifest acted-out personality of the reality TV subject. Only when the viewing becomes habitual that revealed personalities are decidedly good, bad or, at most, truthful.
The popularity of reality TV can be viewed as a reduction into voyeurism. Why not, when a season’s opening of Pinoy Big Brother will have at least five spawn programs that are variants of the primetime show offering? There are the 24-hour live streaming on cable, the uplate, the regular updates, the fillers, among others. The many permutations attest to the demand for the reality TV to be more accessible to the masses.
This pleasure in voyeurism and exhibitionism is discussed by a host of critics in "Pleasure and Meaningful Discourse: An Overview of Research Issues." Barbara O’Connor and company argue that media audiences commit to what they view because they experience pleasure in it. In the context of their viewing act, the voyeurs enjoy social and cultural instruments like genre variations, class, gender, sub-cultural identity and generation being displayed by the performers. Reality TV provides just that with its motley array of participants exhibiting class or jolog-ness, eccentricities or belongingness, comicality or seriousness, liberalism or conservatism, ethnic, regional and character differences, personal, cultural and religious diversity, and straightness or gayness. As a result of this diversity, the viewers find enjoyment from Reality TV and follow developments in it to sustain the pleasure that they get out of the viewing experience.
The lack of cathartic experience—only voyeuristic pleasure at most—in Reality TV can be explained in the light of Neil Postman’s "The Disappearance of Childhood." The deluge of Reality TV does not deviate from an emerging problem when Americans produced television technology: they ignored the psychological and social effects of TV on culture. As a result, the new technology wholly undid the young generation’s childhood phase in which children educate themselves in functional preparation for their adulthood. With TV, children get exposed to political, social and sexual content way before their gradual maturity. In effect, they become adults without undergoing the phase of childhood, with TV as culprit. This implication can be extended in order to include the entire population of viewers who are stripped of some aspects of their human development as they watch Reality TV. To illustrate, they are exposed to the idea of competition as something vicious so competitors vote off fellow contestants if only to give themselves the unfair advantage, are presented with unguarded moments in which morality and sociality are being pushed to the limit, among other issues. The whole generation of viewers is fed with shows like Reality TV and grows in its midst with the expected cultural dysfunctions owing to Reality TV’s psychological and social shortcomings.
Two of the most commonly repeated truths about reality TV viewers are that they watch in order to talk with friends and co-workers about the show, and that they are not as smart as other viewers. Although some people may watch because it helps them participate in the next day's office chat, and although reality TV gets easily dismissed for lacking substance, the voyeurism committed somewhat empowers them, for there is no risk of being gazed back at by the looked upon. It also empowers them because of the judgment they can pass on the participants whenever they undertake or finish tasks, show an eccentricity no matter how good or bad, or express the fellow humans that they are.
Barthes, Roland (1984). "The World of Wrestling." From Mythologies, Roland Barthes, Annette Lavers, translator. New York: Hill and Wang.
O’Connor, Barbara, et al (2000). "Pleasure and Meaningful Discourse: An Overview of Research Issues." International Journal of Cultural Studies, Vol. 3, No. 3. London: Sage Publications.
Postman, Neil (1994). "The Disappearance of Childhood." From The Disappearance of Childhood, Postman, Neil. New York: Vintage.

Monday, February 25, 2008

of loves and rules

One courtly love rule present in The Knight of the Cart was Lancelot’s unhampered passion for the very much-married Guinevere. Even as the lady has King Arthur for a husband, Lancelot did not deem her marriage an obstacle for his sensual yet gentlemanly love expression.
Another rule was Lancelot’s taking the risk of incurring the king’s ire, all for the love of Guinevere. Lancelot would not have gone to such dangerous proportions had it not been for “the power of love.”
Also, another rule was Lancelot’s willingness to prioritize Guinevere’s pleasure instead of his, believing that it was the right thing. If it pleased Guinevere to remain attached to the king (even as the lady beloved the knight), Lancelot would not wrest her away from his Lord, out of respect for him and love for her.
The rule that did not prevent Guinevere from being loved by both King Arthur and Lancelot was likewise present in the book. Being adorable and clever, Guinevere was loved by these men in their respective chivalrous ways.
Lastly, upon the “sight of his beloved” Guinevere, Lancelot would be considered excited because she was his love, after all. One could imagine Lancelot’s heart doing a crazy salsa inside his ribcage whenever the lady came into view.
Romance, with chivalric love as basis, exemplifies the abovementioned rules by showing that knights, instead of blindly following their heart’s basic desires, must follow a moral conduct in loving a lady in keeping with the gentlemanly qualities expected of them during the medieval period.
The Other Side of the Mirror is a movie about a middle-aged woman who agreed to marry a man believing in courtly love (i.e. no holding of hands, no sexual contact as in chivalric times). While their marriage setup was rather unconventional, the lady character went along with her would-be husband’s anticipated flow in order to marry someone decent and eventually, to escape blessed (or cursed) singleness.
The movie critiques the concept of courtly love by having the husband character cling to an anachronistic idea whereas chivalry harks back to the long-extinct Middle Ages. Common courtesy that dignifies humans and human relationships is all these medieval romanticism precipitated into, but a modern reconstruction of the knightly attitude in question is completely out of sync. To begin with, the gentleman of today is entirely different with the gentleman of yesterday. The lady must be nuts (as her husband is) to reach spinsterhood and yet enter a ruinous agreement that jeopardizes her chance to keep her and her husband’s generation alive.
When the movies closes with the lead characters giving in to the symbolic kiss, the audience realizes that their marriage based on courtly love cannot survive at these times and that the husband’s quixotic concept collapses along with said realization.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

macbeth: a summary

Deemed William Shakespeare’s darkest jewel of a tragedy, Macbeth is a brief play written from 1606 to 1607, the midpoint of the flowering of English Renaissance. It recounts the story of a king whose kingdom’s downfall was intently schemed by some supernatural element.
A thunderstorm becomes the signal for three witches to converge on the heath after the conduct of a certain deed. Then, a captain tells King Duncan of the triumph of Macbeth over a battle against Macdonwald. Ross continues that the Thane of Cawdor betrayed England during the fight. Returning home from the war field, Macbeth and Banquo are confronted by the three witches. They prophesy that Macbeth will assume the Scottish throne and Banquo, while never a royal himself, will sire kings. The witches vanish just in time when Ross tells Macbeth that the title Thane of Cawdor, as foretold by the witches, is now his. Macbeth thinks over the possibility of his becoming a king, and is confused whether or not he should realize the prediction. Malcolm informs King Duncan that Cawdor confessed his treachery at his execution. Then, the king welcomes back Macbeth and Banquo. To Macbeth’s disappointment, King Duncan proclaims his eldest son, Malcolm, as Prince of Cumberland. Back in the Inverness Castle, Macbeth’s wife gathers of his witches’ encounter and decides that she will convince Macbeth to fulfill his fate via foul play. She gets to persuade Macbeth to murder Duncan and frame the latter’s own guards.
Alone after a conversation with Banquo, Macbeth imagines that a bloody dagger is in front of him. He turns to his wife to report that he slayed Duncan, and proceeds to hear voices. Macbeth fails to return the daggers to the king’s guards, so Lady Macbeth assumes the work, bloodying herself in the process while Macbeth is driven crazy. When the king’s corpse is discovered, the princes-in-line escape to England and Ireland for their lives. Malcolm and Donalbain were accused of bribing the guards to kill their royal father. Eventually, Macbeth is instituted as king.
At Scotland’s castle, Macbeth thinks how he fears Banquo may beget children to usurp Macbeth’s throne. Macbeth hires mercenaries to kill Banquo and Fleance, his son, who manages to flee when Banquo is successfully murdered. At dinner, Macbeth claims to see Banquo’s ghost, alarming his wife and guests.
Macbeth visits the three witches for advice. They told him to beware Macduff, that no man of woman borne shall harm Macbeth, and that Macbeth will reign until Birnam Wood comes to Dunsinane Hill. Ultimately, an apparition of Banquo shows his eight royal descendants. The innocent Malcolm was being persuaded by Macduff to combine his arms with those of Northumberland and Siward to fight side-by-side against the king.
Macbeth’s wife sleepwalks and sleep-talks about Duncan’s death. Menteith, Angus, Caithness and Lennox concur the impending war with Macbeth and Birnam wood, where Malcolm commands to have the trees cut to be used as disguises. In the castle, Macbeth learns that Lady Macbeth died by her own hands and, to his frustration, that the Birnam wood moves toward the castle. The army lands and Macbeth fights against and kills Siward. Macbeth gets to fight against Macduff, who informs Macbeth that he was not of woman having been ripped from his mother’s womb. Finally, Macduff finishes Macbeth and then crowns Malcom as the new King of Scotland.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

the representation of urban poverty’s reality in ditsi carolino’s riles

The documentary Riles by Ditsi Carolino tries to capture the gritty reality of urban poverty through its representation of the life of Mang Eddie Renomeron, a balut vendor living along the railroad tracks. Eddie’s urban poverty is real in the sense of Roger Silverstone’s mediation as it is explained in “Mediation and Communication.” While the audience composed of Ateneo students belong to a considerably way higher status than Eddie, this audience can make sense of real urban poverty through the structuring of meaning and value of things that are found in Eddie’s environment, as this process had been communicated over time to the sensibility of the audience. The viewers’ sense of a poor man’s reality corresponds to the representation of Eddie residing in a riles, which gives the idea that he along with his general neighborhood cannot choose a less risky location since they cannot afford to buy a house and lot in a better neighborhood. He cannot afford a more convenient residence since he works as a balut vendor and does not earn much from the job. In fact, earnings from selling balut are just enough to make him, his sick wife and children survive from day to day. This brutalizing life sometimes makes him stop work temporarily to forget everything with occasional drinking with friends. Encouraged by the spirit of the liquor, he and his drinking buddies will launch into videoke singing of songs that match their daily reality.
How come that these kinds of representations of urban poor are valid in the eyes of Ateneo students who are supposedly sheltered from this brutalizing poverty? It is because the media they access from day to day trickle into their sense of perception meanings and values as they are structured in Eddie’s poverty condition. They may not live on the tracks like Eddie, but the Internet, movies, television and other media have all communicated over time the picture of reality that does not exist in the sheltered world of Ateneo students. The viewers can access these representations because the modern world has rendered realities other than that which Ateneo students live in. They have become so technologically invaded that even without direct exposure to Eddie’s poor environment, they are aware that the film did not represent a falsity but in fact, a reality that fits the picture of urban poverty.
The question of the privileged viewpoint has just one answer: the director who interpreted the film for the viewers. Ditsi tried to capture the urban poor’s reality with the edited sounds, lights, and cinematography and successfully did so by making this reality correspond to that perceived by the viewers as poverty had been relayed to them over time by the media they live with everyday. There is a gap between the poor and the rich, and Ditsi had the power to bridge this gap by representing Eddie’s reality in a documentary that is accessible to the sheltered audience. Without this bridging as well as other bridges made for them before y other such media, the audience had to immerse themselves in the railroad tracks area for them to come to terms with the urban poor’s reality. This power of the media had been explained in Ronald Bishop’s “Good Afternoon, Good Evening, and Good Night: The Truman Show as Media Criticism,” wherein the role media play in the lives of people they invade is so powerful that they are in the position to interpret things for the ones accessing reality from them. In the case of the documentary, Ditsi possesses the power to exploit knowledge of the urban poor to be able to offer, sell, and perpetuate this knowledge to the audience. The correspondence of Ditsi’s representation of the poor with that of the audience’s previous knowledge of poverty confirm’s the director’s power: there is a general agreement that the documentary represents the reality of urban poverty and in no way represents its opposite.
Because of the power play the documentary engages in as it represents Eddie’s real life in the railroad tracks, it tends to exoticize the audience’ “Other” that’s Eddie. This exploitation of the poor man’s reality by the documentary points to the media as the only one benefited from the whole process. We cannot determine the benefits given to Eddie by the film except for the effective endorsement of his balut which the audience bought even at a higher price when he actually appeared after the presentation. The audience, meanwhile, gets the same idea about poverty which, while affirming the kind of reality the poor from the riles live in, does not get any novel perspective from the media. This problematic situation, as tackled by Elfriede Fursich in “How Can Global Journalists Represent the 'Other'?: A Critical Assessment of the Cultural Studies Concept for Media Practice,” shows that the ongoing media practice of representing the “Other” makes the documentary the only beneficiary, especially because it limits itself to conventionally recognized interpretations of the urban poor’s life such as the complacency of Eddie (just laughing at his condition, having accepted his life’s trappings), or the permanence of poverty (no way out of the poor surroundings of riles, while the train of others’ lives hurtles by).
Bishop, Ronald (2000). “Good Afternoon, Good Evening, and Good Night: The Truman Show as Media Criticism.” In Journal of Communication Inquiry 24:1. Sage Publications.
Fursich, Elfriede. “How Can Global Journalists Represent the 'Other'?: A Critical Assessment of the Cultural Studies Concept for Media Practice.” Boston College, Chestnut Hill, MA, USA.
Silverstone, Roger (2005). “Mediation and Communication.” In The Sage handbook of sociology. Sage.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

ang mukha ng kapwa at lipunan sa tanikalang guinto

Ang mukha ng iba ang nagtatalaga ng kaayusan, ayon kay Levinas. Sa pagkakahulagpos mula sa sarili, naaalis ang pagkilala sa sarili at nakikilala ang iba. Sa sedisyosong dulang Tanikalang Guinto, mukha ng iba ang sinasalamin ng kay Liwanag. Ito sana ang mukhang ng ibang magbibigay-kaayusan sa lipunan noong panahong nabuo ang dula, kung kailan nasa ilalim ng pananakop ng Amerika ang Pilipinas. Ngunit hindi pa nakakatakas sa kanyang sarili si Ma-Imbot; makasarili siya kaya sarili lamang niya ang kanyang nakikilala. Wala siyang pagkakataong makilala ang iba sapagkat sapat nang kaayusan ang kanyang mukha na walang pagtingin kung nagdudulot ba ng kasamaan ang ugnayan niya kay Liwanag. Wala siyang malay kung nasasaktan niya ang damdamin ni Liwanag o ang katawan nito sa bisa ng bigay niyang tanikalang ginto. Nahihiwatig man niya na may hindi tama sa mapaniil niyang relasyon kay Liwanag, sarili niya ang kanyang iniintindi dahil ito ang nakikita niyang tamang kaayusan. Wala siyang pagkakataong makilala ang iba para sana umusbong naman ang kanyang abilidad na makakilala sa pamamagitan ng paglagpas mula sa sarili.
Mukha ang pamamaraan ng iba upang ipakilala ang kanyang sarili nang higit pa sa kaisipan ng iba sa isang tao. Hindi kasama ang pamamaraang ito sa paghiwatig ng tema sa paningin ng iba, sa pagkalat ng kanyang sarili bilang mga kalipunan ng kalidad na bumubuo ng imahe. Ang mukha ng iba ang lagi nang sumisira at lumulunod sa plastik na imaheng naiiwan sa kanya. Ganito sana ang ibig mangyari ni Liwanag: ang ipakilalang higit pa siya sa dapat na iginagapos ni Ma-Imbot, dahil may sarili siyang hindi kailangang tanikalaan upang makilala ang sarili. Mukha ni Liwanag ang sumisira sa pagtingin ni Ma-imbot sa dalaga bilang mahina at walang kakayanang mapag-isa. Sa kalaunan ay nagpapakita ng poot si Liwanag dahil dapat kilalanin ni Ma-Imbot ang kalayaan niya, ngunit sa halip ay ibinilanggo pa siya.
Kalimitan, nakikilala ang mukha sa isang kaligiran—mukha ng isang kaibigan, mag-aaral, guro o mangingibig. Bakit? Dahil mas malakas ang nakikita kaysa nasasalita. Maaari ring dahil mga mukha ang tagpuan ng mga pagpapahiwatig at damdaming nagtuturo ng katauhan at pagkiling. Kaya nga mukha ni Liwanag ang nagpapahiwatig na kapwa siya ni Ma-Imbot ngunit hindi sila pareho ng kalagayan dahil pinangingibabawan siya ni Ma-Imbot. Itinali siya, at hindi hinaharap ang mukha ni Liwanag na kakikitaan sana niya ng paraang makahulagpos sa makasariling pagtingin sa mukha. Sa patuloy na pagpatay-malisya ni Ma-Imbot sa paghihirap na ipinapahiwatig ng mukha ni Liwanag, mapapatunayang sarili lamang niya ang kanyang kinikilala at hindi ang kapwa at lipunan.
Sa dulo, naparusahan din si Ma-Imbot sa makasarili niyang hangarin na walang pagkilala sa iba na siya niyang pamamaraan sana kung paano makikiugnay sa taong kapwa niya nabubuhay sa daigdig. Sa pagiging ignorante niya sa mukha ng kapwa at lipunan, naging hidi rin siya malaya. Hindi siya makahulagpos sa pagtingin sa sarili bilang naiiba samantalang ang ibang tao mga ang magpapakita na siya ay siya at ang iba ay iba. Ang mukha ng iba, kahit namamaskarahan ng kolorete, hikaw, pakisap, bandana at iba pa ay sinasalubong ang tao ng direkta at makabuluhan. Ang pagharap ng isang mukha sa ibang mukha ang nagsasara ng kahinaan ng isa at kamatayan. Hubad at kaawa-awa, iniuutos ng mukha ng huwag itong iiwan sa kalumbayan. Upang maiwasan ang nangyari kay Ma-imbot, dapat na salubungin at maging magiliw sa ibang nakakasalamuha bilang isang dayuhang lumalapit sa mga hungkag at makasariling pag-iral na nagpapasabing nandirito siya. Kung ano ang ibinibigay sa isang pagsasalubong ng mukha ay isang katotohanan ng malayang pagpahiwatig ng iba.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

worst woes: constitutional violations of the current government

In the present course of the Philippine political affairs, the Government as represented by the Chief Executive that’s the President is already accused of having perpetuated and continually perpetrating countless constitutional violations against its people. Below are samples of articles and sections embodied in the highest law of the land which have been violated by the Government:
The 1987 Philippine Constitution’s Article III, Bill of Rights, Section 1, mentions that “[n]o person shall be deprived of life, liberty, or property without due process of law, nor shall any person be denied the equal protection of the laws.” However, this was violated when Rodolfo “Jun” Lozada, Jr., the ZTE national broadband controversy star witness, was forced to sign an affidavit clearing the First Gentleman from the ZTE scandal as well as confirming that he did not have any talk with any official or politician regarding the aborted broadband deal. While he made corrections and pointed his apprehensions about certain parts of the document, he had no choice but sign it because policemen were threateningly present during the meeting with Atty. Antonio Bautista. The Government is pathetic for having to resort to force in order to get what it wants done or not done. In the process of using this force, Jun Lozada’s liberty to decide freely for himself was violated because he was left with no choice over the matter under the pains of being executed by the authorities who kidnapped him. Also, he was denied equal protection of the laws because the very people he was exposing as corrupt were the ones supposed to uphold the rule of law. In order to save its tarnished reputation, the Government was willing to do all means—bribery, threat to family, among others—to keep Lozada mum over the matter. These numerous violations are considerable terrorist and anti-human rights acts by the Government itself since these consist of an organized and rampant attack against a civilian and being so, are detestable as a crime against humanity not only under the Philippine law but also in international humanitarian law and international human rights law.
Section 2 of the same bill states “[t]he right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects against unreasonable searches and seizures of whatever nature and for any purpose shall be inviolable, and no search warrant or warrant of arrest shall issue except upon probable cause to be determined personally by the judge after examination under oath or affirmation of the complainant and the witnesses he may produce, and particularly describing the place to be searched and the persons or things to be seized.” The Government violated this by abducting Lozada right after his arrival from Hong Kong where he splurged the money his silence over the ZTE deal was bribed with. It was shown in the airport video grabs that Lozada was whisked away in order to have him sign a document clearing the concerned personalities of any involvement over the ZTE controversy. He was toured circuitously in Laguna province before being brought to Libis where he was enjoined into signing the affidavit in question. This abduction is a clear violation of Lozada’s right never to be arrested without warrant. The government is awful for having resorted to this psychological tactic in order to prevent him from testifying before the Senate. It shows to what extent the Government will make its tentacle work just so its corrupt activities will not be exposed to the public, kidnapping the star witness for purposes of silencing him, for instance.
Section 4 states that “[n]o law shall be passed abridging the freedom of speech, of expression, or of the press, or the right of the people peaceably to assemble and petition the government for redress of grievances.” However, the Government violated this by having Jun Lozada sign an affidavit that will falsify his current exposés. Like any other citizen, Lozada has the write to express himself freely especially because his speech will expose corrupt dealings by the Government which must never be tolerated. By preempting his exposure with an affidavit that will clear the very people out to silence him, the Government suppresses Lozada’s right to speak just so heads from the Government won’t roll with Lozada’s statements. The Government’s suppression of Lozada’s freedom of expression proves that between individual rights and the Government’s credibility, the former may be readily sacrificed.
Sections 7 or “[t]he right of the people to information on matters of public concern shall be recognized. Access to official records, and to documents and papers pertaining to official acts, transactions, or decisions, as well as to government research data used as basis for policy development, shall be afforded the citizen, subject to such limitations as may be provided by law” is also initially violated by the Government. By trying to gag Lozada in order to save itself from credibility destruction, the Government denies the right of the public from knowing that the taxes they paid for are being spent anomalously instead of being used to generate national development. Also, by advancing political pawns in order to discredit the already controversial Lozada, the Government makes a way for truth to remain hidden, the exposure of which could foment mass opinion and action against the Government. By obscuring the truth to the people, the Government denies the whole nation its freedom to access information. These violations repress the public from their right to know, especially when the knowledge involves something that will incriminate or potentially oust the President.
While there are direct evidences of human rights violations presented via statements of the victims, photos and video documentations, the Government continues to ignore and be indifferent not only to the sacred constitution but also to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law. As signatory, the Government should have the obligation to abide by these instruments. The sustained violations make it appalling that the Government is a part of the UN Human Rights Council. While it has a constitution to abide, the Government disregards the moral grounds it is accountable to regarding the issue of human rights. The shameless arrogance of the Government is a mindset of all human rights violators and the reason behind the perpetuation of extrajudicial killings, forcible disappearances, the dislocations of countless people from their residences, the gagging of the press, the obscurantism being instituted against the public, and other unabated abuses on human rights. The current Government is faulted over the stark political reality that it shuns peace and rejects human rights as instruments in achieving a genuine development for the country.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

wandering roots: the contractual experience in endo

In Endo, Leo (Jason Abalos) rants, “Ang pangit-pangit ng buhay!” and it is not entirely unbelievable. Why not, when the context in which he expresses his ire contributes to the way he sees life?
Leo is a contractually-employed laborer, hired on a short-term basis the temporariness of which denies him of the benefits of health insurance, paid leave, among others when he goes beyond the six-month cutoff time and enters the permanent phase of employment. This contractualization has created the catchphrase Leo and young people of the contemporary times use in reference to their five-month work’s final day: “endo” which is a contraction of “end of contract.” Even as contractualization is not legal, it has become an ordinary condition for young laborers so they are left with job insecurity, recurrent training, lack of deep-rooted work ethics and constant risk of being fired from their one or only source of family income. Rather than be jobless, some of these young adults take the short-term work and undergo the training that is required for the job. Before they get to master their craft and before they acquire a permanent status, off they are sent by their bosses.
Since the culture of contractualization has seeped into the life of Leo, having wheeled from one short-time job to another, his love life somewhat mirrors his employment’s ephemeral and uncertain condition. His love life aside, the stark reality of the constantly wandering roots that young contractual employers are makes for one of the most depressing issues in Marxist criticism. It is true that up to now, the working class continues to struggle for proper wages, excellent working conditions and job benefits but at the same time, the capitalists oppose just these in order to gain more of the surpluses for fear of slipping into the shoes of the proletariat class. The contractualization in companies is yet another exploitation of the working class by the capitalists, a case which ignores the corporate social responsibility that business owners should practice as a way of returning the favors the society gives to them by way of patronizing their goods and services. But wielding power in the form of the mode of production and the surpluses generated by its utilization by the proletariat has somewhat encouraged capitalists to create ways in which to preserve the status quo. Hence, the contemporary corporate world has this “endo” status and the entire culture of norms and terms that comes with it. As capitalists strip themselves of the humanity coming from the moderation from economic and social greed, they simultaneously and irreparably dehumanize their workers by making them work like machines, giving them lower wage than is legally required and, eventually, denying them the benefits of regularization by ending their contracts just before the deciding time.

Monday, February 18, 2008

ang kalayaan ng pagkakatagpo sa tanikalang guinto

Simboliko ng hangaring lumaya mula sa bayang manlulupig ang dulang Tanikalang Guinto. Mangyayari ito kung hahayaang makasal si Liwanag kay K’Ulayaw, ngunit hindi ito papayagan ni Ma-Imbot, amain ni Liwanag. Sa pagkatawan (o pagkamukha) ng sakim na amain sa kolonyal na panginoon, ng binatang mangingibig sa mga rebolusyonaryo at ng dalagang iginapos sa tanikalang ginto sa pagkamulat sa kalayaan, makikita ang kasalimuutan ng kaisipang kalayaan base sa ugnayan ng mga tao sa lipunan.
Sa pagtatagpo ng mukha sa mukha, nagkakaroon ng batayan ang etika. Nagkaharap-harap ang mga tauhan ngunit si Liwanag ang pangkaraniwang uganayan ng magkatunggaling sina Ma-Imbot at K’Ulayaw. Nakikita nila sa kanilang sari-sarili na hindi magkapareho ang dalawang lalaki, dahil makasarili ang mas matanda samantalang nakilala na ng mas bata ang mukha ng kanyang iniibig kaya nga nagpupursigi siyang makalaya sa pamamagitan ng pagkakitang ito. Nakilala rin naman ni Liwanag ang iniibig sa mukha ni kaulayaw, ngunit dahil hindi kinikilala ni Ma-Imbot ang mukha ng pamangkin sanhi ng pananatili sa sarili, hindi siya hinayaan nitong magapakasal bagkus ay ginamit pa ang tanikalang gintong regalo sa kanya upang sikilin ang kalayaan nito. Ang pagtatagpong ito ng iba sa pamamagitan ng mukha ang naglalabas ng kahirapang pumipigil upang hindi magkapareho at makakapa ng tungkulin para sa iba mula sa sarili, gaya ng nadarama nina Liwanag at K’Ulayaw sa isa’t isa ngnuit hindi ng makasariling si Ma-Imbot. Sa pagkikilala sa isa’t isa ng mga mukha, nauugnay ng isa ang sarili niya sa isa pa. Samantalang kilala na ng magkasintahan ang mukha ng isa’t isa at nagkakaugnay sila upang hingin ang kalayaan, hindi naman makahulagpos ang amain dahil sa tanging nakikitang sarili.
Mas radikal pa ang pagkakaintindi ni Levinas sa mukha ng etika, dahil nauugnay ito sa pagkakahulugan ng isang kalayaan mula sa kahulugang natatanggap mula sa mundo. Namulat sa kalayaan si Liwanag sa pagkakakilala kay K’Ulayaw, kaya inihagis niya ang regalong tanikalang ginto dahil nasasakal siya sa ugnayan sa amain. May katuwiran sa mukha, ang tuwid nitong pagkabilad, nang walang pagtatanggol. Sa pagkakita sa mukha ng iniibig, hindi na kailangan pang pangatwiranan ang pag-ibig na nadarama dahil ang bawat ngiti at kislap ng mga mata, sumasagisag ng pag-ibig. Pinakahubad ang balat ng mukha, pinakakalunos-lunos. Naipararating nito kung masama o hindi ang nararamdaman nito sa pamamagitan ng hitsura. Nagtatagal sa pagkakabilad ngunit disente ang kahubdan dahil walang pag-iimbot—matapat sa sarili. Makahulugan na ang mukha sa kanyang sarili dahil inaaakay nito ang tao sa kawalan.
Gaya ng pagtrato ng panginoong kolonyal sa mga katutubo at sa pagkasakim ni Ma-Imbot para huwag makasal sina K’Ulayaw at Liwanag, hindi talagang pantay ang pagtingin ng isa sa kanyang sarili at sa iba. Sa hitsura ng iba na nakikita sa pamamagitan ng mukha, binibigyan ng importansya ang kanyang sarili. Bakit nga naman kailangang intindihin ni Ma-Imbot ang damdamin ng iba kung sarili lamang niya ang kanyang nakikilala? Samakatuwid, ito ay bago makaramdam ng pagpapahiwatig ng hangad na paglaya ng iba. Sarili muna ang kikilalanin, at kung nakaramdam na ng kalayaan, kumakawala dahil kumikilala na ng mukha ng iba. Tanging sa kalayaan lamang natatagpuan ang sarili, dahil ang kaibahan ng iba ang isang bagay na naghihiwalay sa atin sa iba, at nagbibigay-daan sa atin para makilala natin ang iba.
Mabuti na lamang at ang pagkakatagpo nina Liwanag at K’Ulayaw ay naging mabiyaya dahil hinayaan nilang umalpas sila sa pagkakakulong sa sarili. Samakatuwid, lumaya sila nula sa kanilang sarili dahil handa silang kumilala ng iba bilang pagpapalaya sa kanilang sarili. Nakikita nila ang iba na kakaiba, ngunit dahil sa hindi pagkakapareho ng magkasintahan, may maaalam sila sa isa’t isa at sa bawat pag-alam, lumalaya sila. Samantala, dahil hindi sumusubok kumilala ng iba ang amain, sarili lamang ang nito ang kanyang sarili. Wala siyang mapagkukumparahan ng kanyang mukha para makita sana niya ang kapwang may tungkulin tayong gampanan, sarili niya ang tangi niyang iniisip hanggang sa mabawi ang kanyang kalayaan ng pagkarit ni kamatayan.
Sa pagtagpo natin sa isa’t isa, masasalamin ba sa mukha ang paglaya?

Sunday, February 17, 2008


sometime today, the world ends...

Saturday, February 16, 2008

an orientalist gaze at arthur golden's memoirs of a geisha

Memoirs of a Geisha (New York: Vintage, 1997), the first-born novel by Arthur Golden, recounts the story of Nitta Sayuri's very secret world in which she lived the strange life of a Japanese geisha during the 1930’s until the early part of 1950’s in urbane Kyoto, a universe away simplicity-wise from her fishing family’s rural origin, Yoroido.
The protagonist Chiyo is a simple girl from a poor family in the Japanese countryside. In order to improve her family’s mode of living, she goes to Kyoto where she turns into a geisha named Sayuri. This proves what extreme sacrifice a person is willing to render, even becoming a prostitute, all for the sake of supporting one’s family. As a geisha, she gets verbally and physically tortured by her fellow geishas but eventually fights back to show that under brutalizing times, a person as innocent as Chiyo can transform from a victim to a fighter. She realizes that she can use an inherent power—her body—to her advantage when her virginity is sold off to a customer and later develops into a renowned geisha.
Memoirs of a Geisha is a story of a strikingly pretty, unusually gray-eyed child of a low-class fishing family in Yoroido. At a tender age of nine, Chiyo's mother died, leaving her and her sister to the sole custody of his very old father. It was at this lugubrious point of Chiyo's life when she met Mr. Tanaka Ichiro. She thought, even hoped, that Tanaka is her family’s savior—that he would be able to redeem them from their impoverished lives. However, she was totally wrong. As she herself admitted, "But the truth is that the afternoon when I met Mr. Tanaka Ichiro really was the best and the worst of my life. He seemed so fascinating to me, even the fish smell on his hands was a kind of perfume. If I had never known him, I'm sure I would not have become a geisha." So, Chiyo and her sister were sent to faraway Kyoto and sold into slavery to a renowned geisha house where Chiyo was renamed Sayuri. This was the most painful part of her life, as she struggled to survive the new life she was into. She fervently yearned to go back to her father and be reunited with her sister, but she could not do anything. She was censured and physically abused by some of her fellow geishas, particularly her rival, Hatsumomo. Perhaps, those geishas in the geisha house were not originally cruel but the harsh, decadent events in their lives probably turned them into cruel, tough creatures. Whether the geishas were naturally or developmentally brutish, Sayuri must learn to swim the tides of the geisha ocean or she would sink. Consequently, she boldly cultivated a new image with the help of Mameha, a renowned geisha. She succeeded in becoming a famous geisha through Mameha's guidance. Mameha had skillfully arranged the two main events important to Sayuri's life as a geisha: the auctioning of her virginity and the finding of a danna or sugar daddy.
The theme seemed to be revolving around Machiavelli's principle "The end justifies the means," and Tanaka first practiced this. He was not motivated by money to sell Chiyo and her sister to slavery, but in his own way, he did care for their future. Though his means was bad, Tanaka knew that the end would be good for the sisters. Geishas, in order to survive, must sell off their bodies to men. The means may not be morally right for the society at-large but for them, the end did something good for their sake as their trade provided for them economically. Also, the novel depicts predatory man's exploitative craving for power, money, and sex at the woman’s expense. Men try to assert their machismo by merely objectifying and commodifying women instead of treating them as human beings. The oppressive patriarchal society of Sayuri and her fellow merchandises makes the women savage one another.
I never thought that the term geisha would be synonymous to the word "prostitute." Before I read the book, I have no idea what this novel was all about, although the title gave me a clue that it would be something about Japan or its culture. I was partly right. After reading the whole novel, I was shocked to know that this novel was all about the life of a prostitute. It is said that the term "geisha" does not necessarily mean "prostitute;" rather, it means "artisan" or "artist." Whatever it means, it boils down to one concept—"prostitute". The art of entertaining men and of selling off one's virginity to the highest bidder is the work of a prostitute or someone involved in prostitution. What shocked me though was that early in those times, prostitution was already prevailing. Though subtle in form, it does exist in those times, even how prostitutes were trained and how their virginity was auctioned both of which were ambivalently interesting and shocking.
Arthur Golden, an American who majored in Oriental studies, was very successful in writing the novel in the voice of a Japanese woman. While I was reading the novel, I genuinely felt the voice of a woman. And the first person point of view was used and maintained consistently throughout the novel.
I still wonder though what could be the motive of Nitta Sayuri on her reason for wanting to recount her life as a geisha, although I suspect that it has to do with having a story to tell, so whatever lessons in her life that others may learn, she becomes instrumental in their shaping of destiny, be them prostitutes or non-prostitutes. This novel is an eye-opener about the prostitution in Japan during those times. The oldest profession was and still is one of the world's prevailing problems that seemed too difficult to resolve, but whoever thought one cannot find pearls amid murky geisha waters?

Friday, February 15, 2008

of scandal and damage control

The revelations of ousted House Speaker Jose de Venecia Jr., those of his son Joey and those of Rodolfo Lozada Jr. about the ZTE broadband deal mark a terribly challenging task of the Arroyo administration to survive the likely ruinous domino effect of this drama through the art of political spinning.
I believe that Gloria Arroyo employs the political spinning tactic in order to slant or interpret these news-hugging events to her favor. Indeed, her use of this strategy shows the shrewd politician that Arroyo is since she seems able to manipulate to her advantage this new spate of scandals being regurgitated from her embattled immediate presidential past.
In instances like this, it is important to perform damage control. She has produced an effective official party line in the guise of her watchdog cabinet members who concocted the spin and defended—and still defending—it by virtue of their personal knowledge about the matter. I already see the likes of Senator Arroyo, a critic of the President, being recruited while not a political ally. Why not? Even he believes that the President shall survive her latest ordeal and finish her term. Meanwhile, the ones singing a different tune are neutralized, if not presented as a person unworthy of media attention. This I see in the guise of the latest news that Lozada being discredited of his whistleblowing because he, according to news reports, lived a king’s life when he went to Hong Kong for a gargantuan shopping splurge. How should the public see that except the implication that the revelation is supposedly about a conspirator not getting his just piece of the pie. Already, sacrificial lambs are about to be sacrificed in the persons of Arroyo ally Mike Defensor, PNP Chief Avelino Razon and others should the political spin not entertain the public. Hence, the offer of P50,000 refused by Lozada is one form of damage control being enacted in Arroyo’s quest to appeal to the whistleblower’s naked interest. In the mean time, I am confident that Arroyo is indeed unperturbed as she appeared to effect just that yesterday in the forum of international entrepreneurs. Some of her cohorts are bribing profit, security and safety so she herself may profit from a dying scandal, may get secured and may feel safe until the national elections of 2010.
I see that there is some sort of triumph on the part of the administration when the Senate failed to get conclusive proofs to justify corruption on the ZTE broadband expose. The testimonies of some cabinet members bungled before the Senate alright, yet the ruinous admissions and contradicting versions of events (kidnapping or invitation, depending on whose side one is on) so far yields a one-night-only massive rally lacking EDSA proportions. It is a telling point that the people have grown tired and have gone fed up with perpetual versions of People Power Revolutions.
I felt disappointed that former NEDA Secretary Romulo Neri let down the public with his apparent dishonesty. Having exposed that Arroyo put up with an unimaginable millions of pesos as bribe for resigned Comelec Chairman Benjamin Abalos, nothing more is heard from him. He even had the gall to lurk behind his executive privilege just so he will not be coaxed into disclosing more damaging statements. I see this as a way of damage control of a government about to crash.
Last night’s appearance of Joey de Venecia at the Makati rally failed to convinced me that this man has enough integrity to overthrow Aroyo’s government with his revelations. To me, he is just an ill-motivated personage who had an axe to grind after failing to advance his corruption with a government contract bid. After all, everyone in the ZTE picture seems to be just corrupt characters fighting over possible kickbacks from the bidding.
Now that de Venecia is ousted with the administration’s cunning maneuvering, his political power base may have crumbled but by seeing alliances with the opposition, he can still prove to be a pain in Arroyo’s neck. It is only a matter of time when he completely reveals all of the government secret hiding as skeletons in his political closet. In fact, I see more corruption tales to come in which the President herself figures as a significant accomplice.
De Venecia was discredited in order for damage control to work. It came easy since I think he is not the kind of politically immaculate guy. As for Lozada, he was asked to sign some affidavits that he later disproved. Arroyo had no choice but to discredit him like others before him. While I believe that Lozada’s exposes are credible what with the threats he dragged his whole clan into, these, Joey’s and his father’s may not be sufficient corroboration and vindication to dislodge Gloria. This corruption tale is actually stranger than fiction.
Why not stranger, when I analyze that the tear-smeared Lozada is just making a show at, befittingly enough, the Senate Blue Ribbon Theater? It was a theatrical piece that could give Clarissa Ocampo’s expose a pun-intended run for the money. It engaged me, entertained me, it amused be screamingly and parts of it seem spun out of tremendously hilarious comedies. I was wondering how this can possibly be advantageous to the legislative works of the senators. It may just be a leeway for Senator Jamby Madrigal to do grandstanding by filing an anti-administrative case in the Ombudsman.
I do not find the performance even relevant after the ZTE had been cancelled, dead as a dodo if the administration is made to speak alluding to this. From my viewpoint, what the courageous Lozada told the Blue Ribbon committee is not anything that he can prove in any court. The tales are fantastic, deep and totally related but shouldn’t the Senate be doing things that more clearly look like they are "in aid of legislation" or maybe even things that can be used against the corrupt people in government in a court of law to finally put away many of the bad eggs in the current administration?
This is the problem with the present Senate. It seems to be frittering off its powers in pursuit of the trivialities and frivolities of political life rather than closing in on graft and corruption, the wrong projects and even the wrong direction that this administration has taken this country in view of our rightful future.
One might ask our senators the same thing. Don’t they have anything else that they can talk about but an aborted deal? True, if it had gone through, It would have been a waste of public funds as it was approved; but if it had gone through as the main witnesses against it—Joey, Neri and Lozada—had wanted it to go, as the project of a private contractor that’s Joey, would such an NBN deal have been any better? No, absolutely not. It would still have been a waste of public funds, anyway.
The charges above are possibly damning. Yet, even if concrete evidence is produced, how will they help this benighted country? If Gloria resigns, what alternative do we have?
A military/civilian junta like the failed kudetas of Senator Antonio Trillanes IV? Composed and led by whom? This is the only alternative if constitutional processes are thwarted. Yet, this alternative will surely throw our country back into the dark ages.
So the question arises, who is behind this concerted effort to bring down GMA? Is it the opposition? But they're fractured even with Erap Estrada around. Even if they weren't, what would they gain if Gloria resigns? Noli de Castro would just assume power and we will be worse off. I think that what could be done is to be aware that it is not about a change of government, but that Filipinos are mature enough not to be bowled over by tactics and schemes outside of the decency of the constitution.
What can be concluded out of all of this? No one is really after the Filipinos’ welfare. If ever Gloria is ousted, another crop of the corrupted will take over. So do the Filipinos retain Gloria? It is easy to say that Filipinos need to fight for instead and be keen on constitutional processes. If constitutional processes will effect a peaceful change of leadership, then so be it. It will keep the next leader accountable.
The whole business of this “investigative” proceeding is actually reduced to the battle between the administration and the opposition, made colorfully nasty by the political bickering and mudslinging that is in no way connected to the duties these politicians are supposed to carry out. As the opposition accuses the President of electoral illegitimacy, of advancing her naked interests via the proposed Charter Change, and of graft and corruption by virtue of this latest scandal dragging her, her allies are busy saving her majesty queen by countering all these antagonisms on their political benefactress, to the detriment of the constitutional functions begging to be disposed in the name of progress. As our great leaders divert their energies on consequential matters other than the passage of bills into executive laws for the country's development, the constituents suffer in poverty because its alleviation is relegated to the sides by more pressing issues involving the President. What should be done is for our officials to perform the job we elected them in, period.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

reflections, reflections: reviewing olivier, olivier and europa, europa

Olivier, Olivier is a very engaging film because it has lots of suspenseful twists and is able to sustain the mystery up to the very end. For instance, I did not expect Marcel, a family friend of Duval’s, to be the culprit behind Olivier’s disappearance. He did not seem the type who could manage to live blissfully along with the family whose son’s death he caused, let alone rape children like Olivier. Marcel’s eventual police confession of the crime was a revelation to me.
In European films, sex scenes are shown the way they naturally happen. Scenes depicting sexual intercourses seem less romanticized, i.e. no background music, no metaphors of volcanoes about to erupt, minimal sweet nothings—matters that may show humanity but not necessarily meant to arouse the baser desires in the audience. Compared to these, American and Filipino films with sex scenes are deemed fetishizing and malicious, respectively, because of the Americans’ take at money-making objectification and Filipinos’ moralistic conservatism, cultures that are different from that of the Europeans.
All throughout the movie, the swing was always shown with Olivier in it—until the reason for his disappearance was divulged. One interpretation is that due to the revelation, the fake Olivier can no longer pretend to be—and in effect, replace—the real Olivier, hence the latter’s image’s non-necessity to haunt the swing. Two others are that with the image’s final disappearance, the family’s hope to find the lost son vanishes too and the dead boy is already free with no more Marcel victims in tow. Meanwhile, the ball rolling with the clown’s face points to the illusion the fake Olivier affected for pretending to be someone else. Clowns symbolize make-believe, and the hustler will make Olivier’s mother believe he is the lost son.
The last scene wherein Olivier enters the room with Elizabeth staring glassy-eyed into the blank space suggests that the mother already knew the real score about her lost son, and in her hysteria, was drugged by the veterinarian father in order to calm her. Being tranquilized, Elizabeth could only look “stoned” instead of bawling out.
I have little suspicion regarding Marcel’s culpability because I got carried away by the director’s suspenseful handling of the scenes such that I believed Olivier ran away willfully. Besides, Marcel seemed harmless, as any family friend in real life appear to be.
Olivier, Olivier and Europa, Europa are entitled thus for emphasis: repeating the name tells that the plots have their respective subjects as the center of the stories, which case helps the audience grasp intuitively what the films are about.
The drowning scene at the beginning of Europa, Europa prepares the audience of the life the main character, Solomon Perel, will lead: suffocated, because he lacks the air to breathe his true identity and is being devoured by the waters of deceit.
Perel’s dream of a dinner with his family who slowly vanishes from him refers to the major consequence of hiding his identity: losing the family he identifies himself best in, aside from his country. Meanwhile, the dream of sharing the elevator with Hitler is a mockery on his having to give up his Jewish identity and assume the life-saving German pretense, whereas in the dream, Hitler himself owns up to being a Jewish, the identity Perel is trying to hide in the first place.
The soldiers themselves praised Perel for being a great hero, and I agree to their observation. The very fact that he ultimately charged into the Jewish side to join his own kind showed how he finally threw away the opportunity to rise above the German-caused persecution of Jews during the Holocaust.
Both the impostor Olivier and Perel decided to shed their deceit in order to liberate themselves and the people around them. While the two acted favorably according to human standards, I was affected more by Perel because the stakes were higher with his eventual admission of true citizenship—his life-altering choice to embrace his Jewish nationality poses a greater challenge, I believe.
Europa, Europa, if only for the happier ending it had than Olivier, Olivier, is the film I like better. The high-risk stakes met make me admire the Holocaust movie more, beside the fact that it is more complex and humanly interesting.
Agniezka Holland is a director who has the power to disturb her audience wit the plausible characters she creates and with the heartbreaking settings and scenes she renders. For that, I become one with the critics who praise her films to high heavens.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

what cesario minor, jr. means

what appears below is a decoding of my name, which gives an insight into the person that i am. compare it with your own assessment of my personality.
You are very open. You communicate well, and you connect with other people easily.You are a naturally creative person. Ideas just flow from your mind.A true chameleon, you are many things at different points in your life. You are very adaptable.You are friendly, charming, and warm. You get along with almost everyone.You work hard not to rock the boat. Your easy going attitude brings people together.At times, you can be a little flaky and irresponsible. But for the important things, you pull it together.You are the total package - suave, sexy, smart, and strong.You have the whole world under your spell, and you can influence almost everyone you know.You don't always resist your urges to crush the weak. Just remember, they don't have as much going for them as you do.You are usually the best at everything ... you strive for perfection. You are confident, authoritative, and aggressive. You have the classic "Type A" personality.You are wild, crazy, and a huge rebel. You're always up to something.You have a ton of energy, and most people can't handle you. You're very intense.You definitely are a handful, and you're likely to get in trouble. But your kind of trouble is a lot of fun.You tend to be pretty tightly wound. It's easy to get you excited... which can be a good or bad thing.You have a lot of enthusiasm, but it fades rather quickly. You don't stick with any one thing for very long.You have the drive to accomplish a lot in a short amount of time. Your biggest problem is making sure you finish the projects you start.You are well rounded, with a complete perspective on life.You are solid and dependable. You are loyal, and people can count on you.At times, you can be a bit too serious. You tend to put too much pressure on yourself.You are confident, self assured, and capable. You are not easily intimidated.You master any and all skills easily. You don't have to work hard for what you want.You make your life out to be exactly how you want it. And you'll knock down anyone who gets in your way!You are very intuitive and wise. You understand the world better than most people.You also have a very active imagination. You often get carried away with your thoughts.You are prone to a little paranoia and jealousy. You sometimes go overboard in interpreting signals.You are fair, honest, and logical. You are a natural leader, and people respect you.You never give up, and you will succeed... even if it takes you a hundred tries.You are rational enough to see every part of a problem. You are great at giving other people advice.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

multiple effects of the aborted zte deal on rp’s foreign relations

With the Philippines’ cancellation of the controversial ZTE deal with China, economic, security and political repercussions are expected to strain in varying degrees the country’s foreign relations with said country as well as with other countries the Philippines is diplomatically close to, most notably the United States of America.
The Senate’s inquiry into the kickback-rich $329-million contract between the Philippine government and Chinese firm ZTE Corporation is potentially ruinous economically. While the revelations of overpricing and bribery are mere allegations, this was enough reason for the Chinese people to attest that government corruption in the Philippines is indeed spectacular. No company in its sound corporate mind will dare tarnish its reputation with participation in anomalous deals, hence the readiness of the ZTE people to file suits against those who vilify the firm or its products or projects. More importantly, corruption-ridden contracts like the ZTE deal will be cancelled one after another until such time these aborted dealings, with no one trusting them anymore, will already turn the Philippine economy into a bearish hibernation.
China is the Philippines ’ third biggest trading partner, following Japan and the US. Also, it has the fourth largest market for tourists. This economic enjoyment can be reduced if China eventually closed its doors to the Philippines . The country might lose one ally with so much money that it offers no conditions over the country’s credits. The Philippines currently enjoys a whooping 80% of loans from China for the funding of local projects. In addition, the Asian superpower is the country’s fifth biggest lender. With the scandal created by the ZTE deal, China might have to think twice about lending loans again, to the detriment of the local projects benefiting from these credits.
If this scandal creates a domino effect, then the country might even lose its biggest trading partner, the US . Known for its hard-hitting stance over countries riddled by corruption, among other social ills, the US might also cancel its economic aid to the Philippines in the midst of the ZTE fiasco. Lost of loans to fund project is of course terrible to the developing Philippine business.
Problems on security may also crop up following the ZTE controversy. While the US may be preoccupied with Middle East concerns, the Philippines ’ other superpower all China might take opportunity at the internal problems of the Philippines and just take over unexpectedly. This is not entirely unfounded, given the rebel infestation problem, terrorism, illegitimacy hounding the presidency of Gloria Arroyo and government corruption. If predicaments like these make the country vulnerable, then China might invade us with all its tremendous powers utilized to confront the local forces. It does not help that China seeks better relations with countries comprising the ASEAN, for its established friendship with the ASEAN may prove a tactic for China to widen its imperial reaches. China being more secured than the Philippines , the latter is an easy prey to the superpower.
However, such an act of barbarism may be a last resort by a country the Philippines has had a whole generation of diplomatic ties with. Whereas the tie binding China and the country only became tighter during Arroyo’s administration, it might also be imperiled right before Arroyo gets to step down from her office, granted she does not get overthrown. The ZTE deal may be cited for such a risk tearing the two countries apart.
This is truest if the statement of Arroyo regarding China relations after the cancelled deal will be taken apart. The President has signed the contract even if she found the contract full of loopholes, all for saving the relationship the Philippines has with China. Arroyo has placed more importance on the political relationship with China than the interest of the Filipino people she is representing in that scrapped deal.
On the other hand, the fiasco brought about by the failed national broadband deal might create no serious impact on our bilateral link with China since the country is dealing with a matter of internal bidding that just happened to involve a firm from China. It would have been more serious if the company was identified with people close to the Chinese government, in which case a ngative impact would have threatened to end the golden period of RP-China diplomacy.

Monday, February 11, 2008

sleep mode (for m.)

Tell me your dream,
That instant when you soared in the sky
Or scaled a mountain
Or touched the ocean floor.
You heard snippets,
Saw things in technicolor,
Experienced Kafka or Borges.
You dream, and dream in many ways
And I marvel at how shape-shifting,
Swift-moving galaxies are bared
To you through your subconscious.
Let me listen
While you spring loose
Your animated imaginings
Of far-off places, exotic beings.
Take me there with you,
Lay me in your arms,
As I myself am dreaming.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

a third world reality in city of god

The Fernando Meirelles film City of God, produced by Andrea Barata Ribeiro and Maulcio Andrade Ramos and written by Bráulio Mantovani, produces an effect that shocks some viewers into awe as if they were cleanly hit by the hammer called revelation. The movie begins with a knife being sharpened, food being prepared violently, loud, quick-paced music being played in the background by bongos and tambourines, all of which quickly turn into a chase after an escaping feast item (a chicken). The pursuers begin to shoot at the chicken, but to no avail. Rocket (Alexandre Rodrigues), a boy with a camera living in the City of God comes across the chaser’s target and is asked to capture it. In the process of catching the chicken, Rocket finds himself in big trouble when a patty wagon parks in the background and policemen quickly rush out baring guns. The group of young men (who turn out to be gang members) chasing the chicken reacts by bringing out their own arsenal of guns. Time rewinds at this point 20 years back as Rocket reflects on how the City of God came to be.
It’s the 60’s in the city outskirts where the poor have been forced out into. The poor create a community which would evolve into what would be known as the City of God. All seem fine despite the occurrences of truck hijacking and robbery until murders break out. Li’l Dice, the youngest member of the gang of thieves, turns out to be the killer. The scene fast forwards into the future wherein drugs and weapons are introduced into the City of God which no longer looks like a desolated dust bowl. Li’l Dice, still in the City of God now refers to himself as Li’l Zi (Leandro Fimino da Hora) and is a figure of authority and power as a drug trafficker and gang leader.
The movie depicts life in the slums as one filled with violence, death, sex, drugs and corruption. It has brothel massacres, children pressured into killing other children, people being shot left and right, gang wars, cops being paid off, and all this while getting high on drugs at the same time.
The atmosphere that the movie sets is dark and depressing. Even during daytime, the sense of poverty and hopelessness of the City of God is made apparent with frequent killings, drug addiction, and unlawful acts of violence and delinquency. There are the occasional tension-relieving moments like when Rocket is trying to impress this girl that he likes. However, despite this hint hope or happiness in the movie, it is always either accompanied by drugs, violence, sex, corruption, or it switches directly into a scene mainly for those purposes. An example is that Rocket has always liked this girl that his group of friends hangs out with at the beach; however, when he does get a chance to impress her, it has to be done by obtaining drugs for her which then leads to a scene where Lil Zi takes over the place that traffics drugs and shoots the owner (Blacky, Rocket’s friend) in the leg.
In the end, the true story-based movie reveals life in the slums of Rio de Janeiro as harsh and extreme where one has to be corrupt, willing to kill and willing to risk their life in order to survive. I’m not saying that this happens in all slums; however, I assert that the movie not only shows life in the slums but can also relate to the harshness of reality in Third World countries where poverty is a norm. People across the world do realize that the poor exist; nonetheless, media has become ‘tamed’ by having details left out or kept from the public. Watching the movie really does shock people into stopping to think about the lives of the people in the slums and what they go through and what really goes on in the world. For some, this movie may be a shocking representation of real life, but for those who fearlessly live in areas of lawless violence, it is still as equally satisfying to see it anyway. In effect of this sado-voyeurism, interested watchers—like those in the City of God—seem to become accessories to the crime.