(or laughter as the worst medicine)
it was an unlikely but perfect match: a bad stomach, a long rainy, dark and dreary day, and three lessons learned from 4:30 to 5:30 with only coke and very little food in my body.
one, you can pretend that you ARE an activist by saying that you WERE one during the first quarter storm and throughout Martial Law. it apparently gains you enough credibility to be invited to talks and have books published in this country, even if they are about communism – and even when the issues you raise are old and the problems you assert have since been solved. apparently, any person who’s proven by word of mouth as activist of three decades ago, can get away with pretending that he remains one, by virtue of the fact that he continues to talk about it. with an air of credibility, and – dare i say it? – wisdom. which is directly connected to something i proved to be true: if you admit to being old, you also apparently deem yourself wiser. and you can say, i’m tired and want to study rats. can you – addressing the young impressed audience, of course – please continue what i started? (which of course presumes that what you’ve done so far is worthy.)
two, you can talk about texts of what you consider a historical landmark – this is of course how you define Martial Law – and a Party that’s 35 years old, and actually get away with just that: talk. no clear analysis, no grounding in what exactly that era meant, no concrete definitions of the people who created your primary texts. other than saying that activists – wait, communists – sang these songs, and their context was the CPP; and other than the token (and wrong) theory that was Darnton’s on fairytales in the context of an oppressive State. never mind that you don’t elaborate on Darnton’s theory of the fairytales as the masses’ way of responding and subverting the King. what’s apparently important is that you let that theory take meaning vis a vis the humorous activist song (your primary texts) and the CPP leadership and what you insist is a party line against these songs. of course you don’t actually talk about the latter two, so it isn’t clear what it is you are contextualizing your reading in.
which brings me to three: while murders happen everyday, we commit it time and again in the words we speak, and in the silences we deem important. because the crowd of young 1989-born students laughed at your rendering of these activists’ songs in your slightly off-key voice and bisaya accent. because your subject-position remained unclear, save for what it is you establish about yourself: your age.(this, by the way, is really stating the obvious.) because you were the master of self-effacement and humility, and did it well: you are probinsyano, you are old, you are tired, you want to do other things. you had fans in the audience, your generation of non-activists, and they clapped; as did the young ones who were unfamiliar with you but found you entertaining.
but as you reveled in the noise that you created (and i assume expected), your silences revealed what you create as your white noise. the irrelevant. the wrongs of your past. the mistakes of your youth. you are asked about present activism, and you say: i don’t know. and then go on to talk about the probability that activists are sending text jokes akin to those humorous songs. people agree, and nod their heads. but too, they agree with your silence: that everything’s fine and there is no reason to fear that cellphones are being monitored, and even more so websites and email addresses. it’s as if there is no HSA, no extrajudicial killings, no gunning down in the provinces, and no violence in the city.
it was irrelevant to you that the concerns of many of the humorous songs were real and serious, not just for the activists of Martial Law, but for those who continue to be activists today. that those struggles must remain real, even when they have evolved. songs on love in the face of the more important task of the revolution. on engaging in gendered if not sexual relations and keeping from opportunism and oppression. on a history of the kadres in the countryside and their resolve to see the revolution through. you overlap this with a set of songs obviously written by activists who had time to look at their kolehiyala counterparts and even more time to write a song – politically incorrect as this song was. you highlight the funny in songs about truncheons and the metrocom. you seem oblivious to the need for better contextualization, ignorant of the fact that texts must be done justice through analysis. but all you do is point to the fact that these are funny – you make them funny – and then stop there.
you must know that there must be one kadre who has died in light of what you do, one activist who is gunned down in the middle of the urban jungle, a student, a journalist, a teacher tortured and killed for what they believe in the city. and as you elicited laughter from that roomful of students, it was your silence that proved your true politics, even when you refused to speak of it. you must know what you do. but you don’t care.
question: given the disparity of concerns in these songs, isn’t it possible that in fact what you are talking about is not “the communists” or “communism” in general, but particular activists and their class origins?
you answer: good question. i don’t know. i don’t want to deepen this. this is all it is.
and you reveal that you are after all just this: that uncalled for, unwelcome, unacceptable – and sometimes dangerous – disruption when phones were still analog, and black, and low-tech, and heavy. the party line.
(the question is not so much whether communists laugh, as it is a question of who it is they’re laughing at.)