As I sit on yet another all-too-familiar 14 hour flight (which, by the way, I paid for my damn self and categorically deny that I ever made any statement to the contrary) a myriad of disturbing ideas ricochet around my head as if banging on my cranial walls, resulting in a massive headache. For someone so used to the immediate cathartic release of honest to goodness conflict, that these thoughts keep banging around in my head with nowhere to go (like when you point a bottle rocket to your enemy’s crib only to realize you forgot to roll down the car window first) raises my heartbeat and agitates my breath. All this is a long and maarte way of saying I can’t fucking sleep. Some people have been asking why I don’t blog anymore. It never fails to amaze me that people actually read this thing. So why not.
After my first stint in the wacky world of Philippine politics many moons ago I came to two major realizations that I intended to put down in a reflection peice. I never quite got around to writing that peice but every time I go back my two realizations are enforced. I guess now is as good a time as any to take a stab at draft 1.
I am a socialist. I do not believe in status, title, or heirarchy, which perpetuate inequality, repress dynamism, and restrict access to the means of both material and intellectual production. As a result I have been told multiple times, by multiple and disparate people, that I don’t know my place. Hindi ako marunong lumugar. To that I answer, “Thank you. Hindi talaga.” If I knew “my place,” I could have easily ended up a teenage mother, someone in and out of jail for petty drug offenses, and maybe eventually ended up enrolling in community college in hopes of eventual stable work (self-fulfilling work not at all a consideration) once I all too late realized the mistakes of my adolescence and my lost opportunities. Ok, that describes a minorty of my peers from my neighborhood (though a substantial minority), but to be sure, if I knew “my place” I was fated to live a not at all remarkable life, 5/7 of which would be wasted yessuh- and yess’m-ing some uppity asshole who felt entitled to my humiliation because of the color of his and her skin and the contour of my eyes.
That is a place I refuse. With great skill I learned to be angry and defiant. I learned to hide the neighborhood slang and speak “proper English” so that I would be taken seriously in academic and later professiomal settings. Yet, I always make sure to slip in the swagger every now and then just to break the stereotype and prove a point. I would shake with anger at the world when my mother would hide in the back at my school events because she wasn’t white and we weren’t rich and she was wearing old clothes while the other mothers wore designer jeans, eventhough their only accomplishment in life was being born or marrying into the right class. I would shake with anger when in college, other students laughed when I brought up the shooting of one of our own. I decried how the media quickly portrayed him first as a gangster, part of that distant subculture wrought with violence, and only secondly, if at all, as a victim of a senseless crime. It didn’t matter that the young father had no criminal record or history of violence. His murder was treated as entertainment. My classmates literally laughed out loud when I breached the topic. For them, such things were just expected. It was our place to just accept 60% of us would be dead or in jail before 30. It was their place to laugh about it.
It is with this knowledge and these experiences that I not only rejected the false markers of status, title, and heirarchy, but became determined to break them. It was this rejection and determination that drove me to become a socialist. My socialist ethos was reinforced and nurtured at IPD where, at least during my time, we celebrated the ideal of a flat organization. The first words Joel said to me were, “The most important rule at IPD is everytime you say ‘po’ you have to contribute 200 pesos to the community beer fund.”
But my identity as a socialist is not only rooted in my vehement rejection of status and heirarchy. It’s also rooted in the simple but powerful fact that I believe in luck and the powerful role it plays in everything. It was a mere accident of luck that my father was born to a camote vendor while a friend’s father was born to a doctor. My father began working as a driver and mechanic when he was 14 while my friend’s father, despite ample resources and private university, was rejected from all medical schools he applied to in the US and ended up paying to go to a second-rate medical school in Mexico. My friend’s father ended up becoming a doctor and has spent the better part of his life practicing medicine for 6 hours a day, 3 days a week and playing golf in the balance. My father remined a mechanic and welder until he retired, with books and books of design sketches that never went anywhere because he doesn’t have a formal engineering degree. The powers that be would have us believe that their disparate outcomes are because the doctor was more intelligent and hard-working, basically that he deserved it and my father didn’t. I do not believe that. I believe it was luck.
This viewpoint was exponentially reinforced when I came to the Philippines. It is in the Philippines that I learned to dabble in socialite circles. Where I wine and dine in exclusive restaurants and hotels with people whose names can be found written in our history books and painted on the biggest commercial and industrial sites in the country and around the world. I see these people, I talk to them, and I often find myself wishing they had half the insight as the simple kasama I had casual beers with the night before at the usual bar. One is thoroughly unimpressive while the other is thoroughly humbling. Yet, one shits wads of 1,000 peso bills while other moves from racket to racket in a game to balance maintaining decent livelihood while still contributing to the movement. That unfortunate circumstance can be attributed to luck.
Perhaps most reinforcing, however, is the obvious fact that luck is not lost on me. One too many of my childhood peers became that single teenage mother and although I was angry and defiant and refused to let the low expectations society projected on me determine my future, luck played not a small roll in the fact that I didn’t become that single mother. Why have I gotten all the opportunities I have, and so quickly? Is it because I deserve it, I’m just that good? I dont’t believe that. There are plenty of people out there, there must be, who could blow me out if the water. I’m here because of luck. Because a series of truly great people were willing to take a chance on me, and I, as anyone in my position with half a brain would, made myself available to soak up all the knowledge, experience, and training I possibly could, and still pushed myself to take in more. The luck, on my part is that people, again, took a chance, invested in me and brought me up when they had no real reason to think I’d be worth anything. Or maybe the luck is in the convergence of teachers looking for students, a student looking for teachers, and timing when the supply of new recruits isn’t exactly overflowing. In any case, I am well aware that I don’t deserve this. But now that I’m here I’ll do all that I can to justify my teachers and the cause. I am a socialist and as a socialist I do not believe in working for myself.