Commentary: Choices in dark times


There is the privilege of keeping to ourselves, on guarding our spaces and creative niche because we don’t want these tainted. There is the option to keep the peace because our words and voices might just add to the din and lose their power. Or worse, we become targets of the violence and terror that we fear. We might just decide to keep to the fringes and peripheries because being on the main road intimidates or frazzles us. Settling in the comfort of our sanctified position or sanctuary seems justifiable. We dare not wade into the mundane and murky waters of politics lest we tarnish our soul that we believe can transcend it all. We write only to soothe ourselves, announce our angst, and protect our byline. We paint to see only the colors and frame we appreciate and keep the viewer guessing; we sing only about inner worlds, lyrics that do not perturb the usual orbits. We designate our warning signs, keep to the safe ground, wary of any hint of external agitation or provocation. Oh, how much we engross ourselves with guarding our delicate cocoons, how much we protect our fragile bubbles that keep us in denial.

Wait. This is the Philippines. Of which we, no matter what genre of arts and culture we’ve chosen, are registered in the latest population census. Unless you’ve chosen your own dimension of reality, or applied for a different nationality.

This is 2018, under the presidency of Rodrigo Duterte who has waged war on every human entity who does not adulate him or concur with his pronouncements and ramblings, and his coterie of political goons and propaganda army. This is a time of war of words, a clash of intentions, a battle of reason and bigotry, a running contradiction between those who get their vested interests accomplished whatever means, and those who will not allow brutal governance to reign. It is a daily siege by pseudo-baganis to win the hearts and minds of those they have betrayed. If we are awed and locked in George Lucas’ world, it is a nerve-wracking chase by the automaton storm troopers of the Dark Force, of the tireless Jedis building their strength and wisdom for good and justice to triumph. There is cyber battle between purveyors of misinformation who dastardly mislead the public, and word warriors whose weapons are hard facts and actual events and realities.

There is the vicious and vile hierarchy of self-proclaimed protectors of their foul-mouthed patriarch inflicting themselves on an already damaged Filipino psyche. Official denial of state-sanctioned murders of impoverished and innocent blood, and whitewashing of shenanigans in public office have become predictable and trite. Ramming the TRAIN down our derailed economy and twisting the CHACHA to swing in favour of the economic elite and powers-that-be are the latest assaults on the people who had hoped for true change as promised. Are these too provocative and agitative for our sensibilities and jarring to our zen existence? How can we remain rooted in our illusory peace zone? How can we even create in this space devoid of human decency and reason?

So alright, this tedious and oft-repeated litany of issues is cacophonic to our creative process and intrusive to our wall of privacy. But we have an option to change our settings because whether we like it or not, sooner or later, we will be swept by this deluge of hard facts and realities that our timeline cannot contain nor hide. Or we can shed that cloak of self-denial that our world as a culture bearer or a creative is immune to the ugliness of our present landscape. We choose beauty and serenity and calm because we’re standing on hallowed ground? Now, more than ever, is the time for navel-gazing and we might just come to a realization that our inaction is a hollow reason for being. If innocent blood could be spilled, bystanding can be collateral damage to this escalating, irrational war. By then it would be too late to take cover behind our shield of artistic invincibility.

There is an option as an artist, a writer, an actor, a musician, a culture bearer in these times when tyranny can tear our soul and dictatorship can rob us of our right and will to create and express. Our negation of involvement and aversion to politics cannot cement our great wall of apathy. The fence we’re sitting on is not the safest spot to be spared as a mere spectator. Our cocoon can crinkle and leave us with the naked truth that we are here because we always have a choice to give a damn. #

(The author had made a choice. She joined the LODI ti Baguio or Let’s Organize for Democracy and Integrity, an Arts and Media alliance against Charter Change, Tyranny and Dictatorship)


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