Friday, May 25, 2012

Corona's downfall

I am what you can say, a mediocre law student ; I get a few units every semester, I failed two subjects three semesters  ago, I dropped once, and I attend my classes not as a law student, but just like how I did in my undergraduate  classes– no wonder that I am a year delayed. I blame myself, my other commitments, and some of my law professors for this. It cannot be denied, however, that even with some ‘mediocre’ law professors who attend our classes only four times in a semester, or those who prefer telling their life stories and favorite viands rather than really teaching us; there were a few gems in every Law School that have drilled us with legal principles that will, from time to time, appear as the legal truth.

When the impeachment trial of Corona started, we were excited to see an actual application of what we learned in our first year’s Political Law subjects. Finally; we can make sense of the concepts and doctrines which our professors taught us for hours. We were excited to witness a live telecast of the relevance of ‘Checks and Balances” in our system. I must confess though that I have pre-judged Chief Justice Corona simply because he was appointed by former president Gloria Macapagal Arroyo (who is one of the most corrupt presidents in our history), especially because his appointment created division among the members of the Supreme Court and necessarily planted suspicion on the public mind. It is not because I am a Pnoy fanatic (I did not vote for him), even if there is truth that the impeachment is a crafty machination of a vindictive and single-minded executive in an effort to protect his family and personal interest. This has no bearing since Corona once penned a decision which suggests that "impeachment is inevitably political in nature". Personally, I still believe that the impeachment is still a necessary process in checks and balances provided by the constitution.

As the prosecution conceded to the imperfect conception of the complaint, it still managed to raise one issue that has given relevance to their case: The declaration/non-declaration of assets in his SALN. Even a Barangay Kagawad like me was advised, actually ordered, to fill it up with necessary honesty, we even subscribe and swore to it - as Enrile pointed out; "it's an order directed to public officials". Thus, I even declared my guitar and cell phone (and there was actually a waiver for the Ombudsman to look into my records and employ it’s given powers to check other government agencies to ascertain if I am telling the truth or not). Now, if the Chief Justice, the head of the last bastion of justice and truth, or the highest court of the land, will not do this, or have failed to do this, then what message does this give to even the lowest public officers like us?

When former Justice Morales dropped the bomb (thanks to the defense team), it created strong waves that forced CJ Corona to attend the impeachment hearing to answer queries from the senator-judges and the prosecution team. He appeared however with a script and a drama in his last effort to sway public opinion on his side, he acted more like a politician than a magistrate – he did not stick to the issues immediately. In law school, that will fail you automatically; even that one moment of going around what is not relevant to the issue will cost a student points in recitation, and worse, even a semester. And after the walkout and the drama and the obvious stage act, I thought I have imagined another Angelo Reyes on the making.

The last hearing ended with admissions, more drama, more admonitions, and that rare increase of anticipation. There were foreign accounts, period. It was an asset, period. It was not declared in the SALN, period. It is a violation of a constitutional mandate for public officers, period. It is something alleged in the complaint and a necessary issue in the case, period. As law students, we were trained to give the highest regard to the courts, especially to the highest court of the land and its officers. Hence, his reasons for not doing it (for years) because it was co-mingled funds, or that it was forbidden by another law to disclose it was unsettling, much more to us who thinks that he must possess the highest standards of legal knowledge as the Chief Justice. The point is, he did not declare it. The purpose of disclosure sprouts from the public need to know about their officials' transactions and accumulation of wealth, thus, discouraging them in committing corruption or any illegal means of acquisition. It is a precaution, and it is also a means to repair the system. As an official, he has to know the essence of it. That may decide his moral fitness, integrity, and honesty in this case. If a mere judicial 'employee' was removed from office because of non-declaration of a sarisari store, then how much more for "millions and millions" of pesos and dollars?

In the last interview with Angelo Reyes before he committed suicide, he spoke these words that might have helped the Chief Justice in contemplating what he might have done with the case against him;

“Coming clean, on the other hand, cannot be done without giving up something. I have decided to come clean, bare my heart and speak the truth. The truth can cut two ways: 1. If you are guiltless, you can embrace the truth and hope that it will protect you; 2. If you are NOT guiltless, speak the truth and it shall set you free.”

“Honor is above all else. More valuable than freedom or even life itself. Therefore, honor must be guarded/defended with your life.”

“Living life without honor is a tragedy bigger than death itself.”

Indeed. What is the essence of living a life without it? When you have been doing something that has purged it, sliced it, and burned it all away? He could have told the truth earlier, in the initial stage of the proceedings, and walked away from it had he chose to like former Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez.The public can accept bravery, and acknowledgment of mistakes and omissions. There is no half truth, and three-fourths truth - he could have admitted guilt, or even simply step down and it would have led to a better result - it could have set him free. Life is too short. 

But because he did not, he is doomed.

If he is convicted, in which he can no longer appeal to the Supreme Court, because on matters of Impeachment, it is the Senate, sitting as an Impeachment Court that is actually the Supreme Court (although former Judge Cuevas opposed this view), and because he has already submitted to the process, and rejecting the result from the process is absurd; he will still be written as a precedent to future events of is simply a disgrace. If he is acquitted, the people will still judge him for his deliberate or intentional ignorance of the law – whatever personal reasons he must have. He is after all, the Chief Justice, and he should know more. Whatever the decision is, CJ Corona has already tainted the image of the Supreme Court and the institution of laws and justice. He was already judged.

 The lesson here is simple; "students must hold on to even that smallest bit of idealism that they might have, even until they get to rise to the ranks of the real world". In the movie based on John Grisham’s book; The Rainmaker, it shows a side story of how law students enter lawschool with a certain amount of idealism, only to forget them all and become like the people they criticize before. In the final scene that ended the movie, Rudy Baylor, the protagonist contemplated on the reality of every lawyer who attempts to climb the post. He said; “Every lawyer, at least once in every case, feels himself crossing a line that he doesn't really mean to cross... it just happens... And if you cross it enough times it disappears forever. And then you're nothing but another lawyer joke. Just another shark in the dirty water."

The Trapo (a fast fiction)

The Trapo (a fast fiction)

He drained his beer in his throat along with the chunks of grilled beef he bought at a restaurant on his way home. He opened his personal computer to check on his facebook account and the smirk which he carried from a day of adulation faded…instantly. He never imagined that this boy, which he met a few years back will do this much harm. At a point, he regretted the insults and the ‘demolition job’ he had thrown to this boy’s father - he never anticipated any retaliation, but then; he is reaching his 40s, and he must have to show a brilliant political glamour to climb the higher posts. He’s new to politics, but has learned how to win it from observing the “old-styles” – the old political system of the province. He had invested much to it; constantly present at events and communal occasions in their town and pretended helping, “what’s important is the presence”, he had thought, “…that is all that matters”. He played with the mouse and he remembered that he uploaded pictures in the net, ones which he copied from others, edited and inserted his name for the “name-recall” purpose he intended for the campaign. Nicely done, he guessed…the voters in the province will never know. He had paid for the posters, the streamers, and all that political paraphernalia he sometimes doubted but conceded to be necessary…and this boy, he thought, does not have the right to destroy it.

He counted the years on his mind; “councilor today, mayor tomorrow...” he silently grinned, “This is not the City, fool”, he cursed the boy some more. He’d done that as a habit when nobody is looking. One thing that he abhors most is intellectual pestering – he hate the feeling of being reminded that he is dumber than the college drop-out he is, he hate intellectual dealings…especially when it is in the ‘English language’(one which he has no skill of). Sometimes, he regretted it, that chance of education he missed because of his frequent and expensive late night-outs, even though he was provided with everything he needed. His father was after all, a wealthy man.”It doesn’t matter” he muttered, he firmly believed that politics does not demand education but only “popularity” - good pictures hanging everywhere, greetings on streamers with his name in bold letters, being present in events and occasions and waving hands at almost everyone, “even pictures on facebook will enhance political image”, he grinned some more at the ignorance of the people who voted for him.

He browsed at the internet some more to find some quotes he can claim his. He closed his porn tab and opened a private message which popped up a minute ago – the clock on the toolbar declared that it was 7 o’clock in the evening. Then, his knees weakened as if on cue; the shivering cold of that sight was enough to make him half insane. He threw his beer on the wall which broke the silence of the house. The boy warned him of retribution, one he shoved away because he claimed invincibility after having that taste of power. “This is not happening!”, as if to beg the computer screen to eat itself and disappear. His back slumped on his chair. At the corner of the screen shows thirty-two pictures, the enlarged image is enough for him to understand – it is naked picture of him with another naked man having “fun”. The image is very clear, and he remembered the place, he remembered the exact date. He bowed his head, and thought of his family members and relatives, he wondered how they will take this. He took a short reflection on the future of his political career, how he used the little power he had to hurt others; for the sake of more power…then, he thought of the boy and his plea for him to stop the unfair campaign he proudly started against that boy's dying father.

“Retribution huh?” Somehow he had a glimpse of a visible reflection of himself on the computer screen. He thought that it was a demon mocking him.

Buck ends there...

(This is not exclusively mine. This is an inspired literary activity (some friends call it "one-liner") done by several individuals, including me, who still believes in the human value of written arts...maybe, haha--it was done by posting a reply to a comment on a facebook status until an idea, a poem, or a story, will take shape. I did some minor editing, for grammar purposes - even to my own posts, but then, feel free to raise comments. However, I am encouraging Literary criticisms which focuses on the interpretation of the story..Tnx!)

The Buck Ends Here ( a short story)

There was no text message for him that day. The emptiness of words numbed his warm body - her words drifted with the message for him that day. Indeed, ambivalence's cloak clouds over him, never before has anticipation been so sweet, only to be stained by waiting's vain bitterness. This gadget failed to provide him the noise he needed (or thought he needed), still, almost immediately he sat himself on his father's chair of forgetfulness- in front of the TV. "press ON"and it continued over and over again.

How boring and empty was it? Then, minutes before his phone would beep, his heart skips; something somewhere beneath the TV cabinet starts to light aglow - he intentionally left it there. He realized that he was not watching the TV after all, only the small screen of that celebrated gadget of technology. He picked it up. His heart throbs as he reached for it...even before he could reach it, a familiar sound reverberates. Shock and disbelief struck him. So many questions are now meant to be answered, but it was just an act of hope, which a simple gadget could not do. It wasn't a sound, he presumed after a longer glance and before the vivid screech: a book flipping on its own; and so, the message would wittingly contain: "the buck ends here".He was wrong, it doesn't contain any wit nor even a sensible message, only a puzzle, perhaps a code, he reads but does not understand ( it's essence)... But the gadget commanded attention, perhaps all gadgets do: A phone rings it must be answered or stopped. The text dragged him into a suspicious rumination- "the buck ends here", it was then that his father called him - yet the message from somewhere transported to him by the gadget haunts his sanity. Then again, he sat in a sullen silence, contemplating on something unreal.

He couldn't get it off his mind- puzzled..."the buck ends here"...? whatever the message meant, he knows it's time...somehow - the message wants to deliver something...(AND SO HE REPLIED WITH ALL CAPS) For another search, sanity is a vacuum cleaner as he walked past his dad recuperating his lost virginity of faith. Past his own dad - his father who is a politician and wondered why people thought that politics would complete the circle of success - education, name, wealth...then a position. He started pressing " W" , then decided to ask,"what?' “what must I do to show that I am (thinking what to say), he paused - "oh! this is crazy!", he said to himself. Now, he remembered or rather, realized that in his own people's circle of success, never was there any notion of "family" or "marriage"-- which was perhaps central to her people--or at least to her. His father called him once again- his father who was wearing that tainted old shirt, revealing a hint of what must have been dark blue, etched in what must have been silver linings. But he knew the etching didn't stop there. "Silver linings", was what he whispered with his dried, crackled lips. "The buck", he further pronounces, followed by a bellowed deep breath, pauses a while, then mumbles further, "ends here”. He wanes, then saw a tux, a tux that suits his personality, a man appeared in the mirror to check what it seemed to be a mere act of vanity and discovered the age that lies in his right temple; "twenty years", he whispered, then proceeded to the bathroom.

The urge of urinating transformed to a simple pleasure of natural relief (and still not relieved at all), “why”, he dreamily asks himself. Perhaps he desired a more carnal pleasure? His imagination almost took flight when the door bell rang, "why has it gone to this?" He thought. His eyes open with a blank stare. Steady, but focused at nothing. Nothing had registered into his mind, nothing audible to have meaning. As if the thought had blinded him momentarily. Then his thighs felt cold. It's the first common feeling his brain had been able to recognize in the last three minutes that he had been standing there. His eyes gained focus again. Then, he jumped back at the sight of his pants, wet with his own fluid. The door bell rang some more, and yet he did not move a bit. There was a feeling of victory, however suspicious, in ignoring his father, the door bell and the text message. Looking at his "mess" he decided to leave them all behind. "The hell would I care...why would I bother now?", he said with much remorse as if someone from the realm of his imagination is real. He ignored the persistent noise of the door bell. He instead started to contemplate on that day..that very day. He can still hear his father say..".... "When are you going to start thinking about your future?" "When will I see you make money for yourself and contribute to society?! Have you even seen yourself in the mirror lately? Look at you! You filthy and useless blob of frustration!" then he escaped from the words that had been chanting a morbid melody and decided to continue thinking... "why bother about the society? the society dictates whatever it wants anyway”, but no matter how mighty his words were, he will still remain unyielding, abjuring. The sun sets.

Three days later their house is barricaded with the words "Police line Do not Cross". Inside the house, the chair of forgetfulness is etched in blood- his father's. The details of the murder were very enigmatic. They found the lacerated body in the toilet where he once stood and thought of "it" - where he would start losing himself to an idea, even he himself would consider "monstrous"...where he had not only excreted his liquids, but also his sanity...

The rock and roll life

(I wrote this when I was 20 years old. I was too idealist back then; I don't know if I can live up to the message now. haha)

The sin of the youth today is their delusion that they are living the rock and roll life. The laid-back culture, borne from television shows and yes, MTV, had taught our credulous young generation to experience, “sex, drugs and rock and roll” – although this time, getting high with drugs was substituted with getting drunk – a more acceptable yet an equally deviant practice.

I was just 16 years old when I first tasted the bitter liquid they called “gin”. I did it to impress some friends; I took a shot and even with a sour face, I ended up liking it. There’s something about the feeling of getting tipsy that makes me long for it every time. With every sip, inhibitions fade; people become the closest of friends or an enemy for a night, strangers become lovers and can go all the way to having sex, people can laugh really hard or can cry oceans, you can sing really loud or dance stupidly and it will not matter because you’re drunk – drinking is, after all, an outlet to divert the antisocial violent and sexual human nature into a more acceptable domain.

The mass media can be traced as one of the major culprits on introducing these rotten tendencies. Rock music, which evidently appeals to the youth, has presented itself with intoxicating drinks and, of course, myriads of sex symbols such as sexy women – a suggestive message to resurrect the rock and roll life. With this hypnotic appeal, college life and even high school life were mostly about late nights at bars, drinking with friends, and hangovers at school.

Wine, gin, vodka, beer or brandy – what ever form it may take, remains to be, simply, an intoxicating and depressing liquid. But, it is not surprising at all that most of us would rather be intoxicated than to face the realities of life; the corrupted world, the angry parents, the strict teachers, the broken love life, or even the irritating classmate. Drinking has become an escape to another world – free from the agony of life’s pains, frustrations and disappointments. It became an outlet to the tiring norm of life and the stress of everyday hassles.

Today, I’m 20 years old in a world that is starting to make sense to me. I’ve finished a degree and started working for a future that is getting clear. I have finally realized the value of every sober moment that I have. Although I drink occasionally, I have come to point where getting drunk is boring. When I look back at those four years of having fun; of waking up with women, of being drunk for weeks even with the strongest hangovers, and of regularly absenting from my class , I don’t regret that - although, I can’t see that person in me now. I’ve grown (maybe); the rock and roll life is not really for everyone but only for rock stars who can afford it.

Death: Life's Final Page

by: Valred Olsim
They say life is a mystery to be solved, a riddle, the ultimate puzzle that can only be deciphered through living it. For centuries, writers and poets have written loads of literary pieces, not just to celebrate life, but to mystify the human experience called, “existence”. It struck me, however, as a cynic, that this proposition is trying to disguise the most important part of life: Death.

Sometimes, life is really simple; you‘re born, you live, and then ultimately, you die. Death, as a subject, has been always avoided, not just by conformist writers (which I’m already sick of), but nearly every soul you want to talk it with. None of us seems psychologically ready to the idea of permanent unconsciousness, whether to others or to ourselves. We always seem to deny the condition of being lost to nothingness and its cold grip that haunts our human thought. The idea is simply, terrifying and different from the day to day events that we are used to face. Death’s reality and its closeness have always inspired methods that would help us cope with the anxiety and fear that we repress. We disguise its power through mystification, religion, jokes and euphemisms such that we forget about its terror; much like hiding from the glares of a monster. We hide our eyes from its face, but still we spread our fingers just a bit, because there’s something in us that just can’t resist a peek.

Death is never the other side of life as others claim; it is just part of a vicious cycle that everyone will go through. The truth is, nobody knows what lies there; whether there is an after-life as they call it, or maybe nothing, but an empty vacuum. See, what scares us is our weakness and inability to know – our “innate fear of the unknown”. Still, we try to conceal its presence and live our life as though we can live forever.

I have nothing against the conformist and optimistic view of life and death. Certainly, it is not a crime to hide the dark and absurd reality of life by covering it up with flowers and rainbows. It’s just that I am bothered by how humans have become conceited even with its mortality; we have successfully reached the moon but have never visited our closest neighbor, we have made a lot of discoveries but have not discovered the secret to happiness, we have advanced technologically but have moved backward with out our ideals and values, indeed, we have forgotten the only thing that can humble us.

I have my own experience of watching a person you know or even you’re close with disappear from the face of the earth. It is painful; it takes a long time to realize that it is the nature of life that you must accept. I wrote about death not to scare anyone, but to remind us once more of studying how we have been living this temporary state. It is very evident that we have all been caught with the false and tempting promise of this material world; that, we are obsessed with the latest gadgets, money and property as if these are the only things in life. We have become soaked with vanity and triviality as if death is not looming in the corners. I wrote this for us to perhaps, stop for awhile and think about our lives and how we make every second valuable; after all, life is so short. 

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Snakes and Ladders

I feel the hunger to write, not to search for some precious solace…but once again, to transcribe, albeit poorly, these broken ideas which has disturbed and amused me at the same time.  Although I have a poor coat of amusement, which means that I have a rather low tolerance of boredom, I am a bit surprised to discover that I am much more entertained in doing nothing the past couple of days. Perhaps it is the result of a recent fever which was, in my theory, a confirmation of a recently concluded “war” (if I may use that term), or perhaps,  a warning of an impending one.  

Well, it has hit me once again that life, as we know it, is like playing a game of snakes and ladders – not because you win or lose some of it, but rather, technically, our life choices can be compared to that roll of the dice; we chase a goal, make a step, gamble and struggle to prepare, we raise our fist with those dreams and swesshh… after the dice come tumbling, you will instantly recognize some push or pull. It all depends on which number will turn out…1…2…3..4..step, either you chance into a ladder and step up closer to your goal, or you get bitten by a snake and you slide down.  

In life, we struggle to come out from this choking collision course of our choices and those by others – you were hired for a job which means the others will look for another, your win for a position means the loss of another : the joy of one, the sorrow of another- you turn left and you will met someone or experience something from that side.  However, it is not just this forceful circumstances that decides our life or the fate of others. There are myriads of incidents, there are many results from that roll of the dice, myriads of chance, of accident, or even of that one little step – of losing a job because the manager has to hire his nephew, of getting in the bus not knowing that in a few hours it will change your life forever, or of failing a subject merely because your instructor did not have the best day, or does not like your haircut, or of betting in a lottery the first time and waking up a millionaire---Snakes and Ladders.

Well, there are much more interesting life metaphors. A few in quotes however is obviously much more philosophical like, “life is shit’, or a shit sandwich, what it means did escape me. Perhaps the one who came out with it was really in deep shit at that time, but that is how it is, one describes life basing on how one has been living it. A rich person who has not experienced any financial twinge may describe it with some quote copied in the internet (I don’t want to know), and for us who have felt it, we say, “Life is hard”, which is true. Nagrigat biyag. But life as it goes on, we must move with it as well. It was said that the gods envy our lives because even though it is not perfect, it is still undeniably beautiful. 

These things, really, is obviously common knowledge. We contemplated about it, we feel it, we anticipate it, and we accept it…and a few decorated words cannot tell it much differently. At the bottom of it there are actually two basic choices: ‘quit’ or ‘keep going’. You quit, and you lose...nothing will change until you decide to keep moving - take note: "movement". And to all of you, who are reading this, I would like to say, ‘rock on!’ whoever you,..and yes , you miss beautiful (haha).  I am amazed by your strength to move on. I am joyful that you continue going on even after hitting some bottom of the slides, or after getting bitten by a snake, and I promise you that even in this little note... I really wish you all the best in life. KEEP GOING.

Days of Age

My father logged out his facebook account and fell silent for awhile before he left the  computer table. He stood like he is still 35, far from what he looked like 18 months ago after he had his operation. Cancer. I’ve witnessed my friends, mentors, and my ‘lolos’ being devoured away by this disease ..after which, they cease to exist. Just when you thought you could still have the chance to talk to them..awan dan met gayamen. The absurdity of life is often reminded to you by the simplest pondering of everyday. Tonight, I saw a man who can still live for another 20 years.

My father proceeded to watch the evening news while I start to cook our dinner. My sister is already married and my mom is away from home about 3 years now, so naturally, “karne” nga kanayon ti maluto for us 3 guys . My brother is not yet home, I bet he’s on a night out – on a bar having his gig. I thought he could turn pro if only he can change some of his ‘rock and roll’ attitude, but then, he is rock and roll - just like me 6 years ago.

“Mangan.” (Eat) I called out, and prepared  our plates. I remembered that when I was in my first year college in my rebellious years, I had broken plates and glasses, after the occasional shouting and the screaming – ironically, I hated my father for his unmanaged anger on even the most mundane things, and often quarreled with my siblings because of reasons that I seemed to have forgotten. Tonight, there was only silence. “Kasano eskwela?”… “Ada bagsak ko ya…” I bowed to avoid his gaze. But he did not look at me, “istimarem ah nu next”  he said without any emotion at all. My typical dad. Back in college, even with the inviting explosion of demand for nurses, I took up “other” courses and shifted thrice – accountancy to political science to philosophy and finally to English literature, because it’s the easiest to pass…honestly. My undergraduate life was a joke, or shall I call it “rock and roll”. “Wen.” I said. I must have said that word a thousand times only to break them.

I finished my meal earlier and paced to the computer table. I thought I will just check my facebook for 5 minutes but I knew that ‘that’ will not happen – 5 minutes will turn to 1 hour to 2 hours to 5 hours. I suspect that FB is the reason why I failed the subjects. It’s really hard for a 23 year old guy, in a post graduate course who is, at the same time working, not to crave for a little bit of diversion or entertainment…in this case, Facebook (and occasional parties of course). “Single and ready to mingle”, I recalled while scrolling down on my FB status. And after a while, it caught my eye, I saw a link which my father posted and I saw a sign of a middle age crisis. It was a picture of a man with a quote which says:

“First I was dying to finish high-school and start college. Then I was dying to finish college and start working. Next, I was dying for my children to grow old enough for school, so I could return to work. Finally, I was dying to retire. And now, I am dying and I realize I forgot to live..”

My father, a 50 year old man who has yet to see his grandchildren, is evidently absorbed in a melancholic crisis of growing old. When I was in college, I fiercely debate for existentialism and even brand faith, the arts, and even entertainment as weaknesses to exist. I took the arrogance of sounding smart but now that I have succumbed to it, I realized that I have to live and pass through time, one year after another, to understand the ideas and feelings of the old and of course, the reason why they always tell me that I am  "too young".

In this life, the old is reminded by their impending demise when they see the young and see themselves in them. However, for us who are young today, soon, our skin will get wrinkled, our sight and hearing will get weaker, our body will be more fragile..,it will be a battle against time and disease, of this mortal age.,and soon we leave our names and possessions in our grave--not a professional, or a  doctor, a lawyer, or a wealthy man..but a decaying corpse. We, the young, shall also be reminded to take things slowly before we die.

So what is the meaning of life if this is how absurd it is? Is it in our own adventure or journey that will give us the answers? Perhaps.

With that conviction, we must move on from those questions to find answers..moving on even from regrets, from those mistakes.,and accepting that we are not any bigger than life itself. Perhaps, it is only then that we can understand…or perhaps, I can only put some words in this note to give me peace of mind.

(My father died about 7 months after I wrote this)

Happiness, Slavery, and Call Centers (2007)

by: Valred Olsim

“What’s the point if you’re not happy?” I announced when a friend asked me why I quit my call center job. I wonder why I have to work on a stressful environment and pretend to like what I do when, in fact, I don’t want to do anymore of it. Most of my friends are working as call center agents and I could tell from the look of their eyes that they are not happy – they go home tired, weary, stressed and depressed. They wake up and do the same routine; wake up, go to work, make a call or receive a call, endure the rude deafening comments of customers and even the cold sarcasm of their supervisors, log out, go home – broken, unhappy and wondering; how the hell could they face the next day.

The rise of the call center industry has given a social status to call center agents – they are seen as sophisticated, articulate, professional and highly paid working class. Maybe it is really true; maybe it is an avocation of a remunerative description - a high paying job, but, maybe…it is not; you lose time trying to earn money and lose money trying to enjoy the little time that remained. After they get their salary, they go drinking at bars, enjoy expensive food, shop for new clothes, or buy new gadgets not just to relieve themselves of the pressure and depression that they get in the work place, but, to make them forget that they are exploited people – slaves of a bigger and more powerful structure of capitalism, industrialization and globalization.

Everyone wishes for a job that they would enjoy, at the same time, get paid for it; earning millions while just shooting the ball, or getting checks by just smiling or dancing. We fantasize about it in our secret dreams, so pleasurable but yet, so foolish. Most of us wanted a luxurious life, but behind every luxury, are exploited people who don’t have a choice but to do things they don’t want to do in order to live. Behind the lights of malls are security guards, sales ladies and underpaid employees working overtime to make ends meet. Behind the glamorous parties that are thrown are cooks, abused waiters and harassed staffs that only wanted to have food on their plate. Behind the things that we use are mistreated workers, tolerating the harsh working conditions that the industries impose just so that their families could live more comfortably. And, behind all of these abused and exploited people is an ancient powerful social order of masters and slaves - of people who live like gods in mount Olympus and of mortals who only wants a piece of that paradise -- an order that has been maintained by the powerful few by instilling us a culture of consumerism and apathy; “When you want to be happy eat chocolates”, “ When you want to relax, go to this place”, “If you are stressed, drink this”, “ To be in, buy this”. They utilize art, technology and the media to create a chaotic environment of entertainment and fear, such that we will be preoccupied with things that may wake us up with the truth that we are, in fact, slaves.

Maybe, I have thought of it too much. Maybe a certain kind of paranoia from watching a lot of socio – political documentaries and from submerging myself with history books has confused me about it. But, maybe it is true; maybe humans have created a corrupt order that will always define the destiny of history. That, behind us is a great system capable of manipulating our tendencies and us, especially those who don’t have much choice. Or maybe, I wrote this because I cannot find happiness or contentment in what I do, that maybe there is more to life than just making a call. Or maybe, I have yet to learn how to enjoy what I do rather than waste so much time being unhappy about it. But then, maybe if there are other options, why not choose? Like what they always say: “What’s the point when you’re not happy?”

Bluejeans: Hope

I’ve just seen the numbers. This month, another set of hopefuls who have passed their professional licensure exams must have gained a gleam in their eyes, probably still celebrating what they have thought of as a great victory. Towards the end of this year, hundreds of thousands or even millions of new nurses, teachers, engineers, criminologists and all other professionals will find themselves in the first steps of their career – confident, believing, imagining.

Ironically, national news reports had been confirming the growth of our unemployment and underemployment rates, (as if we have never known of it); the oversupply of nurses and teachers and other graduates who have resorted to taking call center jobs or even jobs in retail stores, or the unlucky professionals who have spent most of their lives seeking for a permanent job. The truth, however, of the hideous link between population, oversupply of professionals, unemployment, and poverty is kept behind a curtain of cheap optimism. Unable to find a proper solution to these economic problems, our government has been promoting overseas work as a noble alternative to earn a living. For the hopeless professional, it is not just a noble alternative, it is the ONLY alternative – to work and earn a decent wage, not minding the pain and homesickness of being away from home and family.

In this society devoid of humanistic goals, in this society built on enterprise and money - making, and which the new professionals find themselves a commodity, rather than a human being, what is then there left to do?  For some who still hope, they pursue higher studies; they take up graduate school, not on the assurance that they will be employed after, but in hopes that they may be someday, some take up Medicine or even Law, but even Lawyers would chuckle on the fact that there are a lot of them in the country, “throw a stone in session road and you are sure to hit one”.

The dilemma that our generation of today has to face is numbers - more people, more schools, and more competition. New professionals find themselves competing with last year’s new professionals, or even the other professionals from years ago who haven’t been employed until now, or even among themselves. In the process, they are reduced to their innate tendency to self – preservation, call it acts of realism, or maybe, just simply being practical. They are trapped in a suffocating chaos, competing for vacancies of jobs and even of positions; there is not much hope in this “dog eat dog” world, this neurotic society, this jungle that is ruled with only one law: “survival of the fittest”. Whether we like it or not, we will be submerged to the absurdity of life and of living. 

The irony is; we cannot afford to give up even if our ideologies can’t cope up with reality, in the end, we must accept that we can never defeat the system, that we cannot blame the government or the school, our parents, or the “flying cockroach”. We can never make the world revolve around what we want, or what we have exactly dreamed of; nevertheless, even if we have grown cynical with just about everything, perhaps, the best thing is to keep even the tiniest amount of “hope”, that tiny thing left in Pandora’s Box even with all the evils released. Hope that someday, and maybe someday…”things will get BETTER”.

The Existentialist

The Existentialist
By: Valred Olsim

There is a self in us that that longs to make sense of day and night; that self which pulls itself into a distant, strange, yet, familiar encounter with the absurdity of our existence – of being born, of eating,  aging, working and ultimately, dying. There is this stranger in us that feels this boredom of human routine, the one that seeks meaning and asks why? And what? And who? And back to “why?” again. “Why do I exist? Who have put me in this world? Why was I not consulted? If I have something to say, To whom shall I take my complaint?”
Most people regard Existentialism as a very high thought. This philosophical thought which contemplates on our existence and our struggle to find “meaning” in this, suppose to be, meaningless existence. During the past fifty years, it has influenced mainstream culture, revealed itself through arts, the media and even through music – from Pollock’s paintings to the Matrix movie, from Goth music to Sponge Bob square pants. It has become a house hold term, however, portrayed as an evil thought, associated with cynicism and atheism. It has been misunderstood, not by wrong reasoning but of ignorance – only a few people seem to care about philosophy and metaphysics anymore, most will choose to play video games than to get a book to read, we refuse to neither ponder nor even care to know about Nietzsche, or Sartre, or Camus. We are in this industrial world after all, a profit-centered society, of practicality – a culture that forces us to escape philosophizing and choose to be oblivious to these ideas and thoughts.
Existentialism is not actually those “never-ending questions” or those lots of whys’. It is only the gate to a deeper understanding of life before we live it. It is a consciousness or awareness of facing the emptiness or void of our existence and struggling to find “purpose” to fill that void. There is this myth of Sisyphus, who was punished to roll a stone forever in never ending drudgery of pain and boredom. “What then is there left to do?” Revolt. Find meaning behind that senseless rolling of stone, make a purpose out of it; That, is existentialism.
Humanism is existentialism; it is a revolution to confront the absurdity of human existence. Unlike Sisyphus who is pointlessly chained to roll a huge stone FOREVER, humans only live TEMPORARILY, we only live once. We are only a shooting star who will be brilliantly luminous and beautiful for a short moment of time. We are born, we grow up, meet people, will work, experience things and will, ultimately die. That is human. Humans will struggle and live behind the emptiness of it - they will find meaning to what they are doing; Find meaning in human activities, find meaning in work, in school, find meaning in their dreams and goals and everything that humans have come up with so that they will be happy or at least to enjoy this short and temporary thing called life.
Humans will revolt and will struggle to find meaning even in the smallest and most insignificant things; behind the repetitive cycle, behind the boredom, behind the angst, behind the drudgery, behind the absurdity...they will. That is Existentialism - Humans will struggle to put meaning and purpose on this short and absurd life, they put colors in it. They struggle to be happy and search for happiness behind life's gloom and bleakness. They will Revolt, and they will Struggle...That is existentialism.


Wasted World

WASTED WORLD (by: Valred Olsim, 2009)

So much has changed since the 18th century industrial revolution; at the beginning of it, few could imagine humans flying, communicating with people on the other side of the globe instantaneously, the explosion of modern inventions, and the evolution of information technology – indeed, we have moved into a faster era, a faster world: The world of the instant. Yet, despite this increase of available information, there were remarkably few insights – we are constantly faced with the inquiry of “what now?”

Each second, a portion of our world is carved away from the little space where we can freely roam. The philosophy of private property which has enabled us to own and keep owning parts of this earth sprouted from a culture that we invented to secure an important necessity: Shelter. Yet, this culture, together with the idea that our existence is far greater than the lives of any other living organisms on the face of the earth, created a system of enterprise that compromises the subsistence of our natural resources; we burn forests for a space to construct our houses, we cut trees for it, we mine minerals, and we reconstruct our very own natural habitat such that, we become more like gods with the power to build and destroy.

As if we had never done enough damage to our mother earth, we have fashioned a false illusion of “wants” that would keep us working from the little time that we have in our lives. We dream of bigger houses, finer clothes, more shiny stones, just to live the arrogant and luxurious lives of those who we call 'the rich and the famous'. We attempt to fill up an insatiable urge, and we remain empty-- no contentment, no happiness. Consequently, we have reached the point of squeezing our resources to satisfy the needs and "wants" of our population, we have reached a turning point of rapid consumption and exploitation of these gifts – we continue to expand our numbers; more buildings, more cars, more factories, more products to consume, more profit to the global economy and, more wastes. The issue is not just about overpopulation, capitalization, industrialization and global-warming, it has something to do more of the responsibility that we have forgotten as caretakers of the world. That even in these modern times, we are no different from our hunter – gatherer ancestors; we will always depend on the fruits of the earth and the gifts of our environment.

With all these readily available facts, we blind ourselves to the vanity and pleasures of modern day life, unnoticing the reality that the world has evidently grown older, showing signs of illness every time; the year-to-year fall of the water level, climate change, natural disasters like floods and mudslides, food shortages and waste problems. We refuse to listen to these voices, our earth’s sobs, perhaps of being tormented…we never gave these problems a single thought. That, unless we take action to redesign our ways to manage our economic system and stop the pressure to our environment; unless we sacrifice the comforts of using plastic bags, unless we stop dreaming of having many cars, unless we do the simplest things to reverse our culture of vanity and consumerism, we will ultimately destroy the natural fabric that underpins life itself – our planet.

It has been centuries since literature had discussed about a Utopia – a perfect and ideal society of the future. Surprisingly, today’s art, literature, and futuristic movies depict a future of global destruction, chaos and anarchy – the end of the world? Is it possible that the civilization of humans had also mapped its destruction? Maybe. There will be no plane crash without the invention of airplanes, no complicated diseases had we not poisoned our air with chemicals and smoke, no wastes without the system of production which we had created.

Nature always finds ways to reckon with human’s arrogance. There is an end to everything whether it is great or small; like the birth and death of a star, or the life cycle of a butterfly. There is such a thing called doom’s day; when our planet will fail us like how we fail it - when we eventually deplete its resources and die. We may not live long enough to witness it, but maybe our sons and daughters would. It does not take a complicated deduction to measure its reality; there is an impending doom and we cannot stop it…we can only postpone it.

(Although I wrote this about 7 or 8 years ago, it is surprisingly still right on spot for the environmental issues that we have today. What  changed anyway? Still, I hope to make this an entry to PIA-CAR's social media campaign on environment..and yes, hope..:)

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

The Idiot Box

“Do you know what the greatest and worst invention that humans ever made was? Television. It pollutes the mind of those who watch, those who lose themselves in a dream world, afraid of reality.”

I don’t quite remember where I got these lines, whether it is from an animated film or from a book that I’ve read a year ago, is now completely beyond the memory that I trust. There is something on these words that always hit me every time I touch the remote control. Whatever it was, I came to contemplate on it every time, such that I became accustomed to the very idea that it suggests.

Indeed, television is one of the greatest inventions that men ever created. It is the favorite son of technology, making its space on millions of household all-around the world. It doesn’t only seek to entertain, but it also seeks to inform. Through it, the world became a global village – much like viewing the world through a window, watching it as it moves. People in this modern world regard it as an indispensable object that makes life easier and more convenient. Yes, it has become a necessity – People can’t really imagine themselves living the same life without television. It did not occur to them, however, that the invention of it, is maybe, as worse as its greatness.
Television, in a way, has become an escape from reality. Humans will always seek to escape reality – this gloomy, dark and corrupted world. So, they immerse themselves in a great, big image formed by little dots of insignificant light. In its own self, television has become a new religion. People watch it to be happy, to get through by the day, to relieve them from things that they don’t want to see. It bombards us with numerous information, such that we lose ourselves. Commercials and Ads have turned us into willing consumers, controlled by the psychology that reality exists on that box-like frame. It controls as and forces us to oblige on a standard; that being beautiful is to look like models, and to try their product to become one, that we have to eat “this” or to do “that” in order to be “in” – it fed us with a rotten culture of vanity. We become too anxious and confused on what we should do that we become depressed – and the only antidote is the one which caused it: Television.

Sometimes, I wonder who is crazier. The only intention of that dirty homeless man on the streets we call insane is to satisfy his stomach. We, on the other hand, are preoccupied with a lot of things such that we don’t know what we need and what we want. Is it possible that we have truly lost ourselves? Is it true that the television maybe the culprit of it? Are we consumed by its effects that we can’t decide on our own?  These questions have dwelled in my in my mind since I started my contemplation about it. The only answer that I have is not to answer anything at all, for it leads me into a wider web of unending questions. The only sensible thing that I realized is to turn off the “idiot box” for once and think about how I am living this life. So that, whenever I touch the remote control, I ask myself; am I controlled? Am I in an escape? Am I…lost?