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Commentary

This is all on us

/ 05:14 AM July 26, 2018

I think we have to start facing the monsters we are becoming before the turn completes itself. I am tired of the intellectual acrobatics that justifies the denial of justice, that exhausts us because, in our grasping for truth, we also accept that “fake news,” for instance, can be a reality.

It cannot. A lie is a lie, no matter who is doing the telling. I am wary of talking strategy among allies in the struggle who simply see what is going on as a game to be cracked, as if people in power were merely pawns to be played, as if the faceless, nameless poor could be eliminated like cockroaches we don’t hesitate to kill.

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Recently, I got sobering news. A widow of an extrajudicial killing victim was murdered, thus orphaning her children who will now be raised to think this world knows no justice. Just-tiis, remember? This news comes from Caloocan where the drug war continues for naught. I am reminded of the tired cliché: It takes a village to raise a child.

And so my question is: Where the hell are we, this village? Will we abandon our responsibility to each other, not just as Filipinos and whatever attendant baggage that claim might have, but as human beings—fully cognizant of the fact that it is only money and the value we perceive paper to have that makes the poor different from “us”? Will we look upon these children with only our spare and pithy pity? Is that all we’ve got?

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It just doesn’t stop. Just as I pondered the death of a mother seeking justice for her murdered husband, I got another message that, on a street uncannily called Katarungan, another body lay lifeless. A person was stripped of his humanity, denied justice in life and now also in death.

Philippines, this is on all of us. What are we becoming when night falls and what sort of dawn do we really expect or hope for? My fear is that we forget that the violence we are exposed to is not normal. My fear is that we look at situations like Marawi and militarization in Mindanao and think they are necessary, inevitable.

And we don’t directly suffer the consequences of our inaction. Other people do, and the number of the displaced and threatened keep on growing—and when you threaten someone, you prep the breeding ground for violence to take root. So tell me again that you feel safer in a country where we are being played against each other’s differences. I am tired of these lies we tell ourselves, of the convenience of simply saying that democracy is dead, of believing that human rights is a Western concept, of believing we just need a “winnable” slate to oppose what ails us, never mind if they aren’t ethical leaders who can help us navigate complex, grey areas and rely on others to keep their vision fixed on a North star—one that shines the truth of people’s dignity, in life and in death.

I am tired of being a complicit activist who will resist when it is convenient and fashionable, but not when the challenge of reimagining a future becomes about personal sacrifice. I am as confused and tired as you all are. But for all our sakes, can we start looking in the mirror again and asking, sans the promise of public adulation, whether or not we like the people we see?

I am tired of having cynical conversations with others about how quickly we ought to swim because the ship is sinking. Most of all, I am tired of the denial of the need for institutions, of this notion that touching dirt makes us dirty.

Well, guess what? We are so interconnected I’m willing to wager that our actions affect what becomes of the lot of our fellow human beings. We’re all complicit in crimes, but I have hope because every good gardener works with sh*t, works with what dies in order to cultivate the earth and help things grow. Can we cultivate this garden, or will we merely scorch this land with the heat of our ineffectual tears?

And don’t even get me started on the President’s State of the Nation Address that needed to be “directed” and produced to numb us from what is really our objective, harrowing reality today.

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Nash Tysmans is an independent researcher doing work on Philippine narratives of resistance.

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