Nothing dramatic. Just grin and bear it.
by kara angtawo
I am disillusioned with my old heroes. They are no longer the great people I thought they were. They’re just the same color as every other people who don’t really think much it turns out, in this country. But they used to be great. They offered fresh new insights, they were funny in subtle ways. I idolized them. And like all idols, you are blind to their flaws. The first crack to emerge was this seeming preoccupation by them with things that afflict young people – love, and that of being in love, of being out of it, of being blocked from its fulfillment. The more I looked, the more I realized I am no longer the target audience. Maybe their being constantly surrounded by younger people, by that age range I was when I first encountered them, altered or stunted their growth as artists.
They are no longer creating something novel. They have become the establishment. But then again, does not every revolutionary eventually turn out to be part of the establishment? Absorbed like some errant drop back into the ocean. But then there are counter-examples, people who stuck with their ideals, and fought to the very last. Of course one could say that those people haven’t lived long enough to deal with a lot of compromises, compromises which I see these idols of mine are now facing, or have faced numerous times.
Still, I have my limits. The moment during that talk show conversation when they have nothing but praise for this one person, which for me is the personification, the symbol of everything horrid and infesting this nation, I thought this is it. The keystone have been crushed. I am free. My eyes are now open. I have become disillusioned.
I can’t work as a gravedigger, because I can’t bury things. Things that happened years, decades ago, still leave a stinging wound in my psyche. The more that I read, the more that I am aware of all these terrible things that happened. How they could laugh through all that misery, while I and people like myself are still trying to process how to express our disgust, was when I realized the distance between my way of thinking with these people. The gods have died, and I am looking for new ones.
This of course bears directly to the great calamity at hand, of how this great calamity is being handled by the media. The overly-sentimental voice overs, the big-puppy eyes of the beautiful celebrities, the rousing emotional songs, all the clichés mindless people tell to those who just survived the most terrible experience in their lives, all these are evidence supporting the assertion by the United Nations that this country is not taking this great calamity seriously. The nation seems to be incapable of taking things seriously. I thought before that this could be some sort of survival mechanism, because if the country really starts to feel, to realize the gravity of what has happened, people would start killing themselves. They’d think ‘How could we have debased ourselves so much?’
What we have is a brutalized mentality. Others claim it is a survival mentality. Whatever it is, we see its manifestation in the mass media. What do the common ordinary people in the country watch regularly? Soap operas, dramas, the prime-time news. It’s very emotional and dramatic. High emotions being bandied around as if there’s no tomorrow. Lots of tears and crying. There’s laughing, joking, some boring good character spouting some nonsense about the triumph of good over evil, about the virtues of honesty and truth over lies and evil. But these are just the surface. Once the television screens are turned off, during those minutes before sleep, the mind is assaulted by its poverty. There is a sense that it is all surfaces and pakitang-tao, everyone is just acting, there is no depth, no seriousness to it all. And this is repeated day after day, night after night, months, years, decades. A whole generation raised on lies.
It is not surprising then given this shallowness, that even with the news of the great calamity, of the still unresolved massacres, we still see people able to smile. Is this the survivor mentality? There are people who when confronted with great anxiety, grin. It is not the dignified countenance of those who have something to stand up and fight for, but the empty grimace of someone who is at the absolute edge of his sanity. What is he to do next? How can he possibly do something about all these calamities and deaths and disasters, this misery which is his life?