Sunday, December 31, 2006

Brave New World

“…actual happiness always looks pretty squalid in comparison with the overcompensations for misery. And, of course, stability isn’t nearly so spectacular as instability. And being contented has none of the glamour of a good fight against misfortune, none of the picturesqueness of a struggle with temptation, or a fatal overthrow of passion or doubt. Happiness is never grand.”

-Brave New World by Alduous Huxley

In the not-so-distant future, ‘mother’ is a smutty word, promiscuity is a social norm, and what passes for religion is having an orgy (orgy-porgy, Ford and fun, kiss the girls and make them One) every fortnight. A powerful anti-depressant is distributed freely (one cubic centimeter cures ten gloomy sentiments) among the masses. The brave new world is thoroughly stable: politically, economically and most important of all—emotionally.

In Huxley’s world, babies are created in factories. Each embryo is predestined to become an Alpha, a Beta, Gamma, Delta, or an Epsilon Semi-Moron. Alphas are engineered with beauty and intellect, travel in helicopters and have eight different eau de cologne scents running from the taps; the Epsilon Semi-Moron is semi-human in appearance and does the most menial drudgery. Nobody is unhappy; indeed, no one is capable of being unhappy. With intensive conditioning from birth to control desires and emotions, no one is capable of yearning for what is not, and will never be, given.

This bovine contentment is blood-chilling because it is inhuman. If what is human is equal to struggle, passion and misery, then, happiness for an indefinite period of time is inhuman. Of course the premises for what is human are no more than hasty generalizations, assumptions. Still though, for many of us it is truth.

Who does not want to be happy? The mere fact alone that it is considered as the highest intrinsic good implies that it is a rare achievement. Like god or beauty or truth, happiness has been the topic of countless debates among the philosophers simply because its nature and attainment cannot be compressed in a universal handbook for all. For Plato, the moral person is the truly happy person; for Aristotle, one must attain virtue, or excellence, first before achieving happiness; for Lao Tzu, it is gained through the recognition and acceptance of nothingness; and so on. Whatever the philosophers say, however, there is an intersecting point: happiness is achieved through some form of struggle against the status quo.

In Huxley’s brave new world, ‘happiness’ is achieved by genetic tweaking and Pavlovian conditioning. After the initial major struggle against what is human, against passion and instability, the world is considered a stable place eradicated of war and hunger. I believe that such a future is not impossible; just improbable. It has its merits. However, there are two questions which must be hurdled: what man or woman would be willing to give up his or her humanity for a future of stability? And once achieving such future, will he or she give up to the stagnation that is bound to follow?

I am taught not to ask rhetorical questions in a composition and then give no answers. But I have no answers now, although the questions must be asked.

Brave New World is considered an anti-utopia, or a negative utopia. Its other famous siblings, so to speak, are: Samuel Butler’s Erewhon, George Orwell’s Animal Farm and 1984 and Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver's Travels. Interesting tidbit: Butler and Huxley are English, Orwell is British, and Swift is Anglo-Irish. So what the heck is it with their part of the world that makes them concoct such miserable futures? Good question. It will be the day when a Filipino writes an anti-utopian novel.


We’ve got more than enough misery for all, such spectacular, picturesque, grand misery.

Happy New Year.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

The Irony of It Is

Spongebob: Patrick, your brilliance is showing!
Patrick: Where?

Monday, December 25, 2006

Bah, Humbug

Kids I've met for the lovely first time started their daily rounds today as per schedule chirping 'namamasko po!' in that high-pitched lilt particular to people below seven. Huff. I'm not amused.

I've never seen them before in my life and I know the feeling's mutual. So why do they come to my house asking for cold hard cash? Munniemunniemunnie? Is it because it's Christmas? Oh. Riiiiiight. Christmas is Legalized Extortion Season.

I am very distressed. I'm hiding out in my own home like some fugitive grinch. I know I'm not exactly the personification of the Ghost of Christmas Present (depicted by Dicken's as a jolly, robust woman with mistletoe in her hair), but I am also not exactly Scrooge. These's pure blackmail. How can you not give them anything? Even munnie? They chirp to you in their crisp new Sexbomb outfits and pants and polos. It's either you heart melts with aw or you hide besides the fridge pretending they don't exist.

I opted for the latter. I'm paying for my sins, thank you very much, what with extra four pounds mocking me from down the bathroom scale. Yeah.

So now tell me something: is this kid-begging-er-asking-for-money-from-strangers phenomenon exclusive only to Cavite?

Saturday, December 23, 2006

What I’d Just Hate to Have for Christmas

Christmas is for kids. Christmas is for people who are still innocent enough to believe in the more inspiring things in life. Like hope. Or faith.

I have long given up on regarding Christmas as an exercise of religion. The turning point may have been the time when it was stolen from me by Eli Soriano; who knows. But it may be the disillusioning atmosphere I expose myself to during the season of giving. Suffocating malls with the stench of money low in the air and Christmas jingles pathetically manufacturing the Christmas spirit—sickening.

Is it just me?

I can only speak for myself (so it may just be me, after all). I am agnostic but I celebrate Christmas like a good celebratory Roman Catholic. No sweat. I am not one who makes qualms about distinction, considering how most experiences in life are subjective. So has Christmas lost its subjective meaning to me? Yes. I did use to believe in Christ. I did use to attend masses. If we are to be technical about it, then to me, ‘Christmas’ is as real a word as ‘Hogwarts’.

I am a kid. I am still innocent enough to believe in the more inspiring things in life. But by golly, Christmas may not exactly be the thing for me.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Illogically Irate

My period must be coming up. I got really roaring mad at the dishes this morning. I told them that if they don't stop being grossly uncooperative, I'm going to leave them to rot in the sink until New Year or until I get into a good mood.

Which of course I didn't do. I got more annoyed when the chicken I was cooking cooked so slow. And when I couldn't find my bag of candy loot. And when I barely understand Tom Wolfe's The Bonfire of the Vanities. As for that, it's either I'm just getting dumber as Christmas break progresses OR I just don't yet have the literary depth to grasp the fucking book.

I'm betting on the latter. This 'literary depth' thingummy first came into my consciousness after I reread a book (Beggar's Ride by Nancy Kress) I first came across when I was in Fifth Grade. It was an elaborate sci-fi novel with a kiss-kiss bang-bang plot and I appreciated it for not much else than that. Exciting, but it was not intellectually stimulating simply because I did not yet have the intellect to be stimulated.

I read the book occasionally in the later years, but I only appreciated it intellectually after my Philosophy I course from last year. There. Literary depth. I'm explaining my concept of it poorly. So let me try again.

A wide reader usually has a big vocabulary. A wider reader has an almost perfect grasp of the figures of speech and idiomatic expressions, along with their permutations. A wider wider reader knows the dirtiest slang available in the literary world. A wider wider wider reader knows philosophy.

I think, The Bonfire of the Vanities is as yet beyond me. Some of the figures of speech, the idiomatic expressions and the slang---beyond me. I'm writing this post so that one day, when I reread it, I may be able to fully grasp the impact of my ignorance.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Empty, Asexual, Smiley

Smiling unto eternity, yellow and garish
Two blank dots for eyes

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Horribly Funny

I witnessed my first (and also second) Oblation Run this week! The first was in my college last Tuesday, and the second was at Palma Hall yesterday. It was fun. All the girls (and some guys) kept screaming their heads off whenever the group of naked men ran by. The first time, I screamed (emphasize ‘just once’) so I would know how it feels. I felt stupid.

A difference between the two Oblation Runs is that some guys took their masks off in Manila while the Diliman runners faithfully kept the tradition of anonymity. Also, the naked men in Manila were camwhores and would sometimes pose for the gaping girls. Those in Diliman were solemn.

The Oblation Run was an act of protest against, first and foremost, the UP system-wide tuition fee increase. Sadly though, the TFI was approved by the Board of Regents, 7-0. I was in that rally at Quezon Hall yesterday, as an observer. It was painful to witness students barricading the entrance of the hall so that the Board of Regents would be forced to hold the meeting outside where a table and chairs were put up. All for nothing, since the BOR decided to hold the meeting in another building altogether, the College of Law. Long, long story. Having an activist Spouse Equivalent doesn’t help much to make it less long.

Shit, I’m disgusted with myself. The paragraph above illustrates my apathy. I know I’m supposed to do something about it, but I’m too comfortable doing nothing, so why bother? I can give me a lot of reasons. All of which makes me feel more disgusted with me.

Activism would be the easiest way out of this self-revulsion. Maybe I can even pretend I’m doing something right for once, fighting for something real, for once. But I find that I am chronically incapable of deceiving myself. I’m not good at playing with paradoxes. I still hold that activism is not a concrete solution to anything, and what transpired yesterday is a sneering example. I also believe, though, that this apathy should be made to go away. Now what do I do?

Heck, I’m 18. But I still expect myself to save the world. I still indulge in the childish delusion of making a significant change, a significant mark, which will make this shithole better someday. Now I’ve said it out loud, it’s so horribly funny it could make me weep. Maybe I will, after the delusion has gone away.

Silly. I am silly.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

For The New Lab Rat

First lesson: if it's a yes, say so. If it's a no, say so too. If the question asked begins with a how or a why, then explain exactly how or why. You don't have to be right. You just have to think you are.

It's hard to live within a closed environment because, as in a pressure cooker, no air comes in and gets out---you become enclosed. Everyone around you is prodding you into conformity. To think otherwise would be to deny reality...if you have a guess as to what it is, really. Conformity begins with answering questions without answering them, because that's the safest way to get by. And the safest way to get by is to conform. Petitio principii.

The safest way, however, is not always the best way. Which is best anyway? Let me think about it, and I'll tell you one day. Do you even understand this? After you reach the ∞th lesson, you would.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Gung Ho Congressmen Give Me the Heebie Jeebies

If Manny Pacquiao becomes president, I swear I shall stick a pump into my jugular and drain all the idealism out of me and bury it without ceremony into the deepest cesspit of this country. Well, okay, probably nothing that dramatic since by the time that horrible event would have come to pass, I’d have been out of college and into a crappy job. No sweat.

But seriously. President Manny ‘Pacman’ Pacquiao is a strange, choke of a sound the more enlightened citizens of the Philippines would love to avoid uttering one day. That is why the proposed shift from a presidential to a parliamentary form of government appeals to some intellectuals. Since they come from the middle to upper class, they are aware that they are outnumbered by the non-intellectuals who would vote for the most popular, and not the most competent. Popularity is an easy variable to measure. But competence? Who has the right to and who will be right in measuring competence? The answer of the pro-Charter Change is a parliament.

In a parliament, the MPs or the members of the parliament will be elected by the people, much like the way we elect congressmen. They would, in turn, elect and remove the Prime Minister as honest representatives of the people. Isn’t that great? We would have MPs who are smart and rich enough to get themselves elected into office. It should follow, of course, that they won’t elect someone like Pacman as Prime Minister. They would know that competence should be the middle name of the highest governing official in the land. Not Pacman. Nor Poe. Nor Erap.

However, the above situation is theoretical. Theoretically, the MP’s would be elected by the people. Theoretically, once they are elected they would honestly represent the desires of their voters by choosing and removing the country’s ruler. Theoretically, they would know who is most competent to lead the nation because they would, theoretically, be an educated lot who’ve heard about economic equilibrium and political stability and lots of other for-smart-people-only gunk.

Theoretically. Looking into the activities of the House of Representatives in the past two week or so, we have a pretty good picture of our future Parliament. We saw congressmen railroading a proposal in two days, breaking their own house rules which they ordinarily, elaborately, and lengthily follow amid public outrage. We heard a congressman screaming ‘you are not representatives!’ to the same people he represents. They are the future members of the parliament. Please do not entertain the illusion that a new breed of selfless politicians will emerge once a parliament is established. Please do not also dream awake of a competent prime minister, given that the same selfish, educated idiots would be the one to vote for her—and worse, she comes from them.

Education would not necessarily give people honesty, responsibility, compassion, and public accountability. The competence to govern a country may be measured by educational background, but the competence to govern well can be measured by virtue. Education and virtue do not come in a buy-one-take-one package. Charter Change can not make it so.

Thursday, December 07, 2006


For Macroeconomics today, the professor showed us a graph mapping the trade surplus of the Philippines from the 1980’s up to the present. The line representing the trade surplus is depressingly taking a path below zero. It is very stable. Stably negative. The professor dryly remarked that the line would probably never change.

“Forever?” I had to ask.

“Forever,” he said, “unless the government does something about it.”


He gave me a non-committal look and mumbled something incoherent.

After class, my seatmate Reighben pronounced with some heat that the most horrible thing about Charter Change is the amendment giving parity rights to foreigners. For those who do not know, this is equivalent to suicide. While it is true that the capital pouring into the country from foreign investments would provide more jobs and thus more income to our countrymen, we would not own the capital. We would not own the profit. Just look at the depressing state our economy is in today given the scant protectionist measures our government is employing against exports and massive removal of foreign capital. Now imagine these measures totally removed. Suicide. It would be worthwhile to note that the most successful economies in the world (such as the US and Japan) are the most protectionist of them all.

Reighben and I are both baffled by this ridiculous amendment. Gloria is an economist. She knows these basic and obvious facts. And yet…the only reason we can come up with is that Gloria is simply out to please our beloved neo-colonial master, Uncle Sam. It does seem to run in the blood.

I believe that Charter Change is being proposed for all the wrong reasons. First, it is a brilliant maneuver which effectively deflects the public scrutiny regarding Gloria’s legitimacy as president to more useful channels—channels which are, ironically enough, designed to affirm her legitimacy. And last, it is simply a power struggle among the country’s political elite with no concern whatsoever about the public good. Now ‘public good’ is a vague concept at its best, and it would be very difficult to define the phrase objectively, if there is such a way. But let it suffice to say that the fight now is the Senate against Congress and the Congress against the May elections where the public exercises its duty and freedom to vote.

I have taken to the streets only once, but it was required for Political Science 14. It was a rally for human rights and I was not happy to be in it. You see, I do not believe in rallies. I prefer to wait and look for more concrete solutions to our nation’s problems and ‘rallies’ do not come under the heading of ‘concrete solutions’. Shouting myself hoarse does not give me a sense of fulfillment nor accomplishment, and I don’t see activism making significant changes today.

There must be another way.

I rarely read newspapers and I rarely watch the news, and I don’t care about politics. Ironically enough, though, I am a BA Political Science student in the University of the Philippines. What a place to be for a person such as me! And given the political situation today, what perfect timing for an apolitical political science student. It’s a great challenge. I have decided to finish the course.

Why? Let me think about it, and I’ll tell you one time.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Romeo and Juliet by Indigo Girls

Love struck Romeo sings the streets a serenade
He’s laying everybody low
He’s got a love song that he made
He finds a convenient street light and he steps out of the shade
And he says something like,
“You and me babe, how about it?”

And Juliet says, “It’s Romeo! You nearly gave me a heart attack!”
“Yeah well.” — “He’s underneath my window” — “Now she’s singing” — “Hey la, my boyfriend’s back.”
“You shouldn’t come around here, singing up to people like that…”
“Aw anyway, what you gonna do about it?”

And Juliet, the dice were loaded from the start
And I bet and you exploded into my heart
And I forget, I forget
The movie song
“When you gonna realize, it was just that the time was wrong?”

We both come up from different streets
And they were both the streets of shame
You know they’re both dirty, both mean
Yes and even the dreams were the same
And I dreamed your dream for you
And, and now your dream is real!
So tell me honey
Now how can you look at me as if I was just another one of your deals?

Now you can fall for chains of silver
And you can fall for chains of gold
You know you, you fall for pretty strangers
And the promises they hold
Well you promised me everything, and then you
And then you promised me thick and thin
And now you just turn away and say
“Romeo? I think I used to have a scene with him!”

Oh Juliet, when we made love you used to cry
You said “I love you like the stars above, I’m gonna love you till I die”
There’s a place for us, ha
I know you know this song
Now when you gonna realize
It was just that the time was wrong?

I’m so in love
So in love, yeah

But I can’t do the talk
Like they talk on my TV screen
I can’t do a love song
Like the way you sing to me
I can’t do anything but I would do anything for you
I can’t do anything except be in love with you

All I do is miss you and the way it used to be you know
And all I do is keep the beat
I keep bad, bad company
And all I do is kiss you
Through the bars of this rhyme
When Julie, I’d do the stars with you

Oh Juliet, when we made love you used to cry
You said “I love you like the stars above, I’m gonna love you till I die”
There’s a place for us, ha
I know you know this song
Now when you gonna realize
It was just that the time was wrong?

Julie, Julie, Julie

Well this love struck Romeo sings the streets a serenade
He’s laying everybody low
He’s got a love song that he made
He finds a convenient street light and he’ll step out of the shade
And he says something like,
“You and me babe, how about it?”

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Id Est

Another week ahead—just thinking about it makes my stomach lurch. One month into the second semester and I'm wasted. Now that's weird. Is it just me getting older or the world moving faster? A good question, but one which has been asked, and consequently unanswered, before.

I had intended to waste my time cataloguing all my books—you know, write all their titles and organize them according to genre. But I had to give up after Sweet Valley High Twins. My 'For Adolescents' books are too many, and I haven't even gotten to science fiction, fantasy, romance, classics, suspense/thriller, and mystery yet. So I just stuck everything wherever they would fit. Oh, and I was sorely disappointed when I did not find a trace of Stephen King's The Green Mile. All six books I bought for ten pesos each, and they are, sniff, lost.

I know, I know. This is all boring and unenlightening. So let me say something profound: ignorant people do not deserve intelligent conversation. Got that? Write it down. Ignorant people tend to stretch your patience. They cannot be reasoned with, not easily anyway. The bad part is that the effort would be worthless.

With that said, let me continue ranting. Rant. I'm sick of analzying myself, my friends, my dogs, my preference of soap operas—basically anything or anyone I care about. It gets in my nerves. As I keep telling Betch: makati sa kili-kili. I just want to be blank, the epitome of Locke's tabula rasa. I just want to hide in the bathroom forever reading Isabel Allende or Stephen King or Lloyd Alexander or Madeleine L'Angle. Rant.

I'm done.