Kristel Tejada, suicide and history
There may be a myriad reasons why she took her life. As with the deaths of Kurt Cobain or Lee Kyung Hae or Aaron Swartz, we are left to our second guesses and likely inaccurate interpretations of Kristel Tejada’s motives. This is discomforting for many, especially those who truly love her, but, alas, we will never know what really happened. We will never know the exact array of reasons why thoughts of suicide emerged and swirled in her head. History will never capture the exact truth. History will never give us the exact description of the psychology of Kristel’s final escape.
Are we then left perpetually blind by the fuzziness of history? Far from it.
Instead of letting us grope in the dark of the past, history gives us, more often than not, a shining vision of what is to be done given our defective hindsight. For history is as defined by our knowledge of the past as it is of the needs of our present. We replace the lack of facts with our overflowing imagination of what we want history to be so it can suit our objective to change the present and determine the future.
Our lack of understanding is transformed into, although never vindicated by, the clarity of our will. Our inability to deconstruct the complex tangle of causal relations behind Kristel’s suicide allows us to unidimensionally select a particular reason, address it, and contribute more to making the world better, and possibly preventing more suicides, than if we focused on understanding the minutiae of details of her death, either for the purpose of troubleshooting or simply to quench our scholastic predisposition.
Does it matter if Kristel had other reasons besides being denied education at the University of the Philippines? Of course it does, but to individuals. For the vast historical drama of our struggle to transform the Philippine education system, it does not matter as much. As Sylvia Plath’s handshake with carbon monoxide (to quote Radionhead) is now a beautiful and poetic exploration of death, Aaron Swartz’s is a desperate escape and protest act versus the intellectual property rights regime backed by state violence; despite all the proposed complex reasons (Plath’s suicide, for one, may have been accidental, and Swartz may have been killed), Kristel’s is now a silent indignation against the barriers to tertiary education.
Of course, there remains the need to address the matter of individual justice. By all means, let us move onward to pursue it. But for those who lead the way in this effort, let us not derail the movement toward a more universal and lasting justice by calling it a distraction to the “real pursuit” of individual truth and justice. They should not be counterposed. After all, it is the same inhumane system that is insensitive to the needs and aspirations of persons that drove Kristel to suicide, whether the academic reason had been the primary or not.
Whether Kristel would have wanted the attention or not, no one can tell. But she had no choice, and for those who love her and cared for her, they will just have to accept that. For now, Kristel is a symbol of a greater struggle that she might not have wanted to lead, but is now leading, by history. She is now every iskolar ng bayan, every parent, who had been refused the benefit of education because of the staggering inequality we now face despite the 6.6-percent economic growth.
All of us are now, by history, Kristels.
James Matthew Miraflor, 27, graduated from the University of the Philippines Manila and is now taking his master’s degree in computer science at UP Diliman.
If you or someone you know needs help, call the National Center for Mental Health hotline at 0917-899-USAP (8727); (02) 7-989-USAP; or 1553 (landline to landline, toll-free).
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