Support Statement for PNU’s The Torch: Kung ayaw niyong matulog, kayo ay magpatulog; kung wala na kayong makain, magpoprotesta rin kayo


Here goes again the status quo, menacing those who seek to usher in an alternative order of things. Always this resort to desperate measures, always this resort to desperate measures.

The Torch, the official publication of the Philippine Normal University-Manila is currently under the attack of an individual supposedly part of one political organization in PNU, the Student Union and Leadership Onwards (SULO). The most glaring of this individual’s accusations on The Torch is that the student publication “uses the funds of the students to propagate the ideologies of their communist-led party-list groups.”

The Torch, a student publication that recently marked its 100th year of existence, already provided a substantive response to these accusations by Nadora.

There are other issues though that this event has opened up. Even prior this event, a lot of other progressive organizations, campus publications included, has been red-tagged (read: labeled as ‘communists’) systematically under the Oplan Bayanihan policy of Pnoy which works to repress critical elements in the society since being tagged as a ‘communist,’ as an ‘enemy of the state’ makes an individual or organization a justified target of various forms of human rights violations, the most extreme form of which is political killing. This policy embodies a bloodier version of how Zizek described the response of the powers-that-be to the people’s ‘hysterical’ cries, if not recurring complaints: “Say it in my terms or shut up!” What is at work in Oplan Bayanihan is less accommodating, less pretentious: “Do not say anything against me or I will execute you!” Such is the evil of Oplan Bayanihan. You can only relish democracy if you are in agreement with the status quo. If you are critical, democracy cannot be for you.

Going back to the case of The Torch, what is interesting here is that instead of the government using a more systematic approach, we have here an individual, a representative of a certain political organization red-tagging by her lonesome a student publication that has been existing for over a century, a publication whose enduring existence must be enough to speak for its credibility and relevance. At this point, we should ask, what could be the motive of this individual in making such accusations? While the government’s Oplan Bayanihan exhibits their intolerance of contrary elements in their beloved status quo, what then is this individual trying to accomplish in her tirade?

In their position paper regarding this matter, The Torch Publication made a suggestion already:  “But never has it been aggressively brought in the middle of a political arena to be a subject of vilification and defamatory statements.” To contextualized, it is during the heat of the Student Council Elections in PNU when Nadora blurted out her concerns about The Torch. Moreover, as abovementioned, Nadora is part of the SULO Party, one of the political parties vying for seats in the PNU Student Council. But this is not all. In her Facebook, Nadora calls on Akbayan personality Risa Hontiveros “kasama,” and hence, making clear the political affiliation of the former.

How then should we approach this matter: Red-tagging being committed not by the government but some other elements. Notably, UP Baguio Outcrop, another student publication also experienced such red-tagging. During their exhibit during the Human Rights celebration last December where they featured stills from the Stanley Kubrick’s Full Metal Jacket to express their opposition to the ROTC program revived in UP Baguio, they set up a feedback area where students can pitch in their comments and reactions. One comment in the feedback tagged the Outcrop as “commies,” a cuter term for ‘communists.’ The speculation is that this comment was made by one of the ROTC people.

This is where we can bring in the idea of class analysis, one of the esteemed interpretive lenses provided by Marxist criticism. The “class” in this class analysis is not only constituted by one’s role in the economic production of a society, it is also determined, and this one is often overlooked, by one’s position with regards to the status quo: that is, if one is in favor of or against it.

Coming from this, things can have more lucid sense: The SULO party to which Nadora belongs seems to be affiliated with the Akbayan partylist, one of the more obvious underlings of the Pnoy regime. It is therefore hypocritical to accuse one of “propagating the ideologies” of certain partylists when one is also involved in such act. And as if there is someone or something outside ideology today. From the food we eat, the movies we watch, the things we do in our lives are all in a way, influenced by ideology. Having enjoyed a certain political advantage because of their relationship to the current regime, the SULO Party and the bigger Akbayan bloc to which it is part of can be said to be reactionary; that is, preservative, if not protective of the status quo.

In the case of UP Baguio Outcrop, the accusations are supposedly hurled upon them by members of the ROTC people which as such expectedly carries with them the ideology of the status quo. Their interest, as ‘reserves’ of the Philippines Army is to protect the government by monitoring the activities of the ‘enemy,’ if not outwardly suppressing such activities.

These two parties – the SULO Party representative of the Akbayan bloc and the ROTC people – are banking on the dominant conception of “communism,” “being red” in flinging these “negative” attributes to the student publications they attack. In the current scheme of things, these ideas have resonated in a bad light precisely because these are ideas that threaten the status quo. Again, this only confirms that both the SULO Party and the ROTC people are in favor of the status quo.

But there is nothing wrong to believe in communism, we say. There is nothing wrong to believe in, and more vitally, to work for a state of things different from the current one – an alternative state of things where there is equality and justice for everyone, where everyone can go to school, where everyone can get proper medication when they are ill, and where everyone can have an occupation to feed herself and her family and more importantly, to harness and hone her talents and skills.

Before the gay rights movement, the homosexuals cowered in calling themselves out, in asserting their (homosexual) identity. They were being derogated as “queer.” But then they started to appropriate this very term used to denigrate them and collectively, they huddled under this term, queer, and used it as a counterattack, a statement of pride and ownership. By doing that, they only proved that there is nothing wrong with being queer, with being homosexual. This is also the challenge for those who fight against the current, oppressive system. They must “struggle over the sign,” as Bakhtin puts it. They must embrace these terms thrown at them: “activist,” “enemy of the state,” “leftist” and infuse them with a new meaning, change them from demonizing to proactive ones.

Lastly, if one thinks this is youthful idealism talking once again, we say: what is wrong with such idealism? In “The Affirmative Character of Culture,” Marcuse invokes Hegel’s protest against the “degradation of the idea” against “playing officiously with the mind as though it were an object that has nothing to do with human history.” Hegel protests against this severing of the idea from material existence, for such move eliminates the potential to think beyond the system, to think and imagine an alternative better than the current one. But certainly to imagine a better alternative is easier than actually working to birth that alternative. Maybe this is why there is this infectious repulsion on “going against the system.” Raymond Williams says it well, an alternative will not be simpler than the current one, “imagine daily life and the organization of a society wherein human beings are fully in control of their own destinies, makes demands on the mind which are forbiddingly difficulty for subjects of the present ‘administered world’.”

Maybe the current system has become too comforting to most of us and so it is hard to imagine “a better one.” But as in the idea behind “Kung ayaw niyong matulog, kayo ay magpatulog,” nothing can stop the activists, the leftists, the ‘enemies of the state,’ especially not those who refuse to join them in their cause, from crying foul over a system that continues to impoverish and oppress the Filipino people. The same way as “Kapag inantok kayo, matutulog rin kayo,” we say here: “Kapag nagugutom na kayo at ang pamilya niyo at hindi nyo na mapagkasya ang kakarampot niyong sweldo sa pag-ko-call center o kung anuman sa pag-aasam nyo ng mga latest na gadgets, magpoprotesta rin kayo sa sistemang ito.”

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