Welcome to Volume 6 of The Marocharim Experiment. This blog is authored and maintained by Marocharim, the self-professed antichrist of new media.
Marocharim is a 21-year-old college senior from the University of the Philippines Baguio, majoring in Social Anthropology and has a minor in Political Science. He lives with his parents, his brother and his sister in Baguio City - having been born and raised there all his life. He is the author of three book-versions of The Marocharim Experiment.
Most of his time is spent at school, where he can be found in the UP Baguio Library reading or scribbling notes, and sometimes hanging out with his friends or by himself in the kiosks, or the main lobby. During his spare time, he continues writing. When not in school he hangs out with his friends, or takes long walks around Baguio City to, as he puts it, "get lost."
The Marocharim Experiment Volume I: The Trial of Another Mind, Subject to Disclosure is Available Now
The Marocharim Experiment Volume II: The Nevermind Chronicles is Available Now
The Marocharim Experiment Volume III: The Sentence Construction of Reality is Available Now
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November 16, 2007
< go ahead, send me hate mail >
Summing up everything I have read on the suicide of 12-year-old Mariannet Amper led me to a poem written by Prestoline Suyat, entitled "Para sa Isang Batang Martir." Even if I don't understand Filipino as well as I should, Mariannet was privy to the indignities of life. But to proclaim her a "martyr," I don't think so.
Indignity caused Mariannet's suicide: to beg for cold rice from her neighbors, to skip class because of hunger, the last straw being that her father didn't have a hundred pesos for her school project. Depressing, yes: but I've heard that story before. The common denominator is that it's a poverty caused by unemployment.
All too often, there's dignity to be found in poverty, albeit a quiet one: something you won't find in a black-tie dinner party or a speech by a politician. There are things you cannot pin squarely on the government: there are crimes the government are perfectly innocent of. Unlike Pilate, they can freely wash themselves out of spilt blood.
There are scenes out there of quiet dignity: there's nothing wrong with taking up laundry, skewering bananas and fishballs, or peddling cigarettes from open packs. There's nothing wrong with borrowing a hammer to nail down a plywood board, or smoothing out cement. There's nothing wrong with being poor as long as you keep your dignity intact, that nobody has to suffer from the indignities of it.
One of our national heroes, Andres Bonifacio, is an example of that quiet dignity: he sold fans and bamboo canes at the entryway of a Church. Say what you will about Diosdado Macapagal (or his daughter, for that matter), but there was a quiet dignity that he brandished despite going to school barefoot. There is a quiet dignity in children who skip class not for the computer shops, but for peddling plastic bags at the market to earn tomorrow's snack money and to put an extra viand on the dining table by day's end.
One of the biggest things we lack as a nation full of poor people is an understanding of poverty. We deprive the poor of their dignity by showing them another kind: a kind of pecuniary dignity that comes with ribbon-wrapped gifts under a glittering tree on Christmas morning. We show them a kind of dignity that comes with our ability to go to a Starbucks for a hundred-peso café au lait when the bulk of our poor would understand coffee to be water with a smattering of instant coffee grounds to make it pass for one. We silence the spiritual Stoicism of the poor and uphold the materialist Epicureanism of the rich.
We are a capitalist society: "making it" here means "making" it. The rewards of what our society has to offer can be reaped the easy way or the hard way. Since we can't all have it the easy way (like run for office and take gift bags of bundles of money from wherever), we all have to do it the hard way. Success through hard work is the rule, not the exception. The Philippines is full of rags-to-riches stories as it is.
Here's one for you. I have a high school classmate - the son of a laborer - who never really stood out for our rather paltry and petty canons of early-evening Counterstrike games. He's now an electrical engineer - a board topnotcher - who earns P42,000 a month for Meralco. He's reaping the benefits of working hard because he did: no government handouts because he studied in a private university. He was a consistent scholar. Now if I had the same initiative he did I would make a lot more than the zilch I'm making now.
That's what's lacking in our country today: initiative. We look for incentives in working, then if we don't, we hurl out invectives. That's what made - and makes - progress in our society, where expectations are something you make for yourself than laying it upon others or some grandiose version of "The System."
Those who work hard are the real martyrs of our society: those who fill the public coffers for some corrupt politico to pilfer by day's end. Mariannet Amper is a victim: a kid who committed suicide for the lack of a martyr.
Posted at Friday, November 16, 2007 by marocharim
November 15, 2007
< hmmm... >
Since I do much of my writing in Internet rental shops, I have long since developed an understanding of children who cut classes. I've long since stopped going to the nearest Net café in UP (the one behind the Baguio Convention Center), since I'm continually being pestered by kids. Boys, in particular, who after crowding the terminal beside me where a friend of theirs is playing a game, crowd behind me and read aloud what I'm writing, then murmur about my mad typing skills, and to a certain extent, ask me for ten pesos to tide them over for a round of games. You see, you won't type as fast as I do if you're only used to shortcut keys in computer games, and if you don't do your own fair share of schoolwork that requires typing.
You'd see all sorts of people in Internet cafés: in some Internet shop here that I won't mention, when the mood hits you on exploring hidden files, you'd see a hell of a lot of short pornographic video clips in stuff named "New Folder." I don't, and I won't, moralize: I've browsed and downloaded my own share of porn. But the bulk of porn in that shop are homosexually-inclined. It's one thing to tout "gender equality" until your biases show: in my case, lesbian videos are arousing, but when your "exploring" leads you to an interracial gay porn video where you hear grunts instead of purrs, your blogging energies - like your growing erection - deflate like rocket balloon.
Back in UP Diliman, where I wrote some rather sporadic blog entries a couple of summers ago, I wouldn't head on over to Philcoa: I've been long warned about how bad the service at ALVA was (and boy, did I ever know: the one time I've been there, I was sandwiched between two guys watching porn). That stretch of cafés at the Shopping Center - that one with the high chairs and the cold airconditioning and the colored neon lights - was where I blogged back then. Anyone know the exact name of that place?
Posted at Thursday, November 15, 2007 by marocharim
< hmmm... >
First there was Mariannet Amper, the 12-year-old Davao girl who killed herself because of poverty. Just this afternoon, some friend texted me to say that yesterday, a man committed suicide at Trinoma. It only necessitates a recollection of certain foibles in recent Philippine history - like Elly Pamatong scattering caltrops in major highways, and Jun Ducat holding 40 children hostage in a bus - to know that we are, if anything, in a state of anomie.
As a passing "sociologist," I consider anomic behavior as a red-light, a ward of caution that there really is something really wrong with this country. Anomie, for the uninitiated, is something akin to "social depression:" that because of a decay of and in social integration, people commit to such deviances as suicide, crime, and so on and so forth. While it was Emilé Durkheim who first articulated anomie as a phenomenon located immediately as sociological, I think that it was Talcott Parsons who provides for a proper scheme into what leads to anomie. It is a matter of lack: a lack of adaptation, an inability to attain goals, a lack of integration, and the absence of latency all lead to anomic behavior (pardon the bastardization).
Suicide, or crime for that matter, is not something that you can pin squarely on anomie. However, one thing that must be noted about anomie is that it is not exclusive to the agent: from what I can recall of functionalist theory, manifestations of anomie are manifestations that the whole of society is suffering from it. Consider the ULTRA stampede: while the finger of blame could rightly be pointed at the organizers of the "Wowowee" anniversary special, another finger could rightly be pointed at how poverty led to anomic behavior. The hopelessness of situations have led people to abandon hard work and their trust in the government, turning to game shows for their salvation.
Hope is, of course, wasted on the hopeless. Hopelessness is itself anomie.
Posted at Thursday, November 15, 2007 by marocharim
November 14, 2007
< politics >
Baguio City Mayor Peter Rey Bautista has a Multiply account. In many senses of the word, Mayor Bautista is "virtually" running the City Government of Baguio (yes, I am of the belief that the Mayor is virtually in his office at City Hall: i.e., he has the potential to be there, but in actuality, he's on another engagement abroad).
Now as much as I like the idea of "cyber-governance," that would lead us to endless political debate that starts with the ZTE broadband deal, and to figure out how many people in government actually know how to manipulate a computer. "Cyber-government" is something I will leave to our generation, where negotiations are done along the lines of Civilization and meetings are done through instant messaging services. Now that's how you run a government.
The ramifications of Mayor Bautista's Multiply account gets me thinking: why in the hell would he want to do that? Multiply, to me, is for angst-filled teenagers where they take pictures of themselves through camera phones, perhaps blog entries that would be given failing marks if they were ever passed off as secondary-school formal themes.
That's unless the Mayor falls under that category.
Nope, I wouldn't go as far as to "critique" the Mayor's blog: that's none of my business. But blogging sort of "belongs" to a particular generation of people: a particular social milieu. I kind of feel a bit like Wowie de Guzman nowadays, knowing that people like Miriam Santiago also have blogs of their own. What's up with that? I'm not talking about "fashion" or "trends," but look at it this way: it's like going to a nightclub to dance the "Macarena," or for an 80-year-old wheelchair-bound hacking old fogey auditioning for "Extreme Papaya" in "Pilipinas: Game KNB?"
Grotesque, yes. Maybe the Mayor should figure out a better way on how to use his Multiply account outside of obligatory rah-rah entries. He doesn't have to be all political about it.
Posted at Wednesday, November 14, 2007 by marocharim
November 13, 2007
< ah, deleuze and guattari >
The nursery rhyme goes:
The toe bone is connected to the foot bone,
The foot bone is connected to the ankle bone,
The ankle bone is connected to the leg bone,
The leg bone is connected to the knee bone
The knee bone is connected to the thigh bone,
The thigh bone is connected to the hip bone...
There is no "the" machine: machines are not singular wholes. Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari write of "couplings:" there are machines connected to other machines. The inclined plane that is the cog of a gear, connected to other gears, connected together to form a bigger machine that is coupled to a bigger machine. Everything is connected: I am a set of machines coupled to another set of machines as I write this, and the connection reaches an infinity.
The paradox of it all is that while the whole is stronger than its parts, the chain is only as strong as its weakest link. We live our whole lives in a series of marrying machines and divorcing machines. Breakdown is the inevitable: the watch only works when it breaks down, when the gears wear out and the springs lose their bounce. The record player only works when it breaks down: when the vinyl record is scratched out and the needle is worn into a stub.
The same is true for your average run-of-the-mill human being, one among many biological machines: it only works when it breaks down. A realization of mortality is that breakdown: when you grow older, when your heart beats the billion or so heartbeats and your lungs go over the billion or so cycles of respiration, when you are perfectly capable of committing suicide to terminate your machine, and perfectly capable of committing homicide to terminate the machine that is the Other. The human machine is no different from a television set, a hair dryer, a toaster, a vaccum cleaner, a water dispenser. It breaks down. The difference is that there is no warranty card to the human appliance. If anything, I hold Jean-Paul Sartre to be self-evident: "Man's life is what he makes it." There is no 30-day money-back guarantee to meet a human soul sent back to wherever it came from because it failed the lifetime guarantee.
Posted at Tuesday, November 13, 2007 by marocharim
< hmmm... >
I've heard that line before: "renegade academic." It's a term so often used to describe me: an irreverent academician. I'm not a straight-edge, level-headed academic with the intellectual ascendancy of a summa cum laude: I'm a crooked, passionate academic with grades that run the gamut of the 12-tier grading system of the University of the Philippines.
Next year, I don't only have graduation to look up: 2008 is rife with international conferences where I have at least three prospected projects to look forward to. The most realistic prospect is that of a paper I am writing with a senior professor for Baguio's Centennial Year. There are two international conferences where a completely truncated version of my thesis are to be submitted: with luck, I would deliver papers abroad.
Leave me to worry about having to condense a 400-page thesis into eight pages for purposes of double-blind peer-review, passports and visas, and the funds to get plane tickets and suitable accommodation (I won't mind sleeping in park benches, but UP deserves a bit of dignity). I'm worried sick about a possible future in the academe: I'm a bad teacher. Teaching requires lucidity, which I am lacking.
Posted at Tuesday, November 13, 2007 by marocharim
November 12, 2007
< not sex, but profane >
I hate coffee crowds. I'd gladly work at a Starbucks if it means stirring a cup of macchiato with my penis just to spite the pecuniary canons of the leisure class. I'd even crush the ice for mocha frappés with my testicles if it means defiance against coffee drinkers.
What is it with coffee, anyway? Coffee is just that: a caffeine source. The whole issue with coffee being somewhat of a standard for taste is a connotation, a mythologized signifier, a signifier of a signifier. It's not something new, but gourmet coffee is an embarrassment to agriculture: what's so French about "French Vanilla," and what's up with "Cappucino" variants of instant coffee without the foam?
I'd blame the Europeans, but that would be "racist" in this politically-correct world of ours. Gourmet stuff will pass out as feces at the end of the day: I don't understand why foam has to be sold as a gourmet dish nowadays. I would happily dispense foam out of my penis and serve it as a meal to those who score restaurants. Depending on whether or not you make me have sex with a herpes-infested piranha, you'll get many different kinds of foam from my penis.
Posted at Monday, November 12, 2007 by marocharim
November 11, 2007
< hmmm... >
I'm wont to call it "the prostitution of self-image:" the propensity of the youth today to take their own pictures. Darned webcams and camera phones: whoring yourself in the Internet necessitates having to take your own picture and posting it in your Friendster account for everyone to see. Which begs the question: why?
It hasn't always been like this: unless you had the dexterity to handle a Nikon SLR and operate it backward (where you face the lens), then there was no way you can take your own picture. Rembrandt took self-portraits, but not after looking at himself in front of a mirror dressed in one of his costumes. Nowadays, it's a matter of taking your camera phone and taking a go at your own portrait.
Roland Barthes writes that the photograph is asymbolic: that it is not reducible to language. When I commit myself to the relative permanence of a photograph, I am immortalized to the interpretation not of taking the photograph, but of my feeling towards that photograph. But there's a particular strangeness in taking one's own photograph: I take a photograph of myself, and then interpret myself in that image as a relationship with myself. I effectively make myself Other.
That itself would make for interesting philosophical commentary for genuine philosophers. When you stare at a photograph of yourself that you took yourself, you subject yourself to what Jean-Paul Sartre's concept of "the look." You capture a self-image that is not permanent: it's all a matter of Photoshop-ing your own image to make it look "better" than what you really look like. You eliminate moles, blemishes, perhaps give your eyes a tint of blue. Put simply, you can't stand your own image, so you take your own picture.
Posted at Sunday, November 11, 2007 by marocharim
< oh man... >
Back in my heyday as a serious activist, there are people who made a permanent imprint in my mind. It was more of a hot branding iron to the very cortex of my brain, a hot poker dug deep into my very consciousness. Whatever standpoint I hold now, or whatever paradigm I have shifted to, there are people who stand out on the other side that I have the highest respect for.
Lilette Fatima Raquel was one of them. Some people know her as "Ka Trina," but to me, she has always been my "Ate Lilet." She got killed at a gun battle in Abra on October 26, 2007. She was 30 years old.
To some people I know, for me to write about Ate Lilet is nothing short of desecrating her memory: I left serious activism for something that she has always warned me not - perhaps even never - to pursue. But Ate Lilet was one of the driving forces that have made me, at one point in my life, a good Marxist. In those days, Ate Lilet made me carry flags and streamers and put me at the very front line of every rally. One of my fondest memories of Ate Lilet was when an educational discussion was slated just in time for my birthday. That was July 4, 2003: she cooked up a nice big pan of pancit bihon that we all savored... never mind that I sliced up the cabbage a bit too thick. Or that if I was her right-hand man for every conference or caucus, I did a rather unsatisfactory job with it.
As much as I wouldn't agree with much of what Ate Lilet taught me back in those days as I sit here now, I would agree that if there's any magnanimous soul out there who would take the patience to talk to me about how they view the world, Ate Lilet was one of them. Ate Lilet pushed me to do things I thought I can't do: from watching polls to giving educational discussions to shout my heart out on the city streets clamoring for change.
I bid her goodbye today... in the hopes that from this green hill where I view the world now, the red beacon of Ate Lilet may fade in sight, but never in my memory.
Posted at Sunday, November 11, 2007 by marocharim
November 10, 2007
A Hundred Pesos for Mariannet Amper
< pardon me while i rant >
As a passing "social anthropologist," I would call the death of 12-year-old Mariannet Amper a suicide of the acute economic anomic form. But why she killed herself baffles - and at the same time depresses - my usually incompassionate self: she hanged herself inside her family's barong-barong after her father said that he can't give her the P100 she needs for her school project.
One hundred pesos is the sum of my daily allowance: I have a hard time budgeting it for the necessities of fare, photocopied readings, lunch, and my own excesses. Mariannet killed herself for what I already have: a cost that her jobless father would find beyond belief for a school project. What that school project is, I do not know: maybe it's a diorama, or to pay for the tocino some incompetent teacher hawks to her students. I do not know, and I don't want to know: to think that what's in my pocket is what Mariannet's life cost is something that burns a hole in my conscience.
I can only imagine the kind of poverty that Mariannet has to go through before she hanged herself, and I piece the stories of so many other children who have gone through the sheer, utter indecency of poverty and hunger. They are indecencies that go beyond pornography and sexuality. I've heard stories of children's lunches being nothing more than a two-peso pack of fish crackers and a box of cold rice brought from home. I've heard stories of children preserving old, battered shoes by walking to school barefoot, negotiating kilometers of muddy roads and forest trails. I've heard stories of children forced to cut school to sell newspapers in the afternoon.
Mariannet adds to that story: because of a P100 sum that she needs for her school project but her father cannot give, she hanged herself. I can only imagine how: maybe she tied together some blankets, maybe she fashioned a noose out of an old yoke. Maybe she found a length of rope somewhere. We can only speculate what went on in Mariannet's mind that All Souls' Day when she found herself in that room with her hand clutching a makeshift noose. Maybe the poverty was too much to bear that she decided to end her misery once and for all. Maybe she couldn't take it anymore. Maybe she cannot have any more than what she already has, so the grim future was to be found at the loop of that noose.
Like I said before, poverty is something made more poignant when seen through the eyes of children. We try to protect children from the grim and harsh realities of life that would strip them of their innocence. Poverty is one of them: I'm reminded of that sandwich spread commercial where the line says something about imagining a ham sandwich, or how many poor children have to imagine that the lowly plate of pancit bihon has more toppings than the small bits of meat that it already has. Or that old Vic Sotto movie where he and Rene Requiestas sniffed a piece of dried fish suspended above their rickety dining table. Seeing poverty is one thing, but experiencing that poverty first-hand is different. There's nothing funny about it. It's enough to drive you to the very edge. That's what happened to Mariannet.
Blame is a luxury of those who feel like pointing fingers: I'm not in the mood to do so. I can't blame the government, if only because they have already accepted the blame for Mariannet's death. I can't blame society at large, because I don't have enough fingers. I sure as hell can't blame myself, because that's a burden will drive me to commit suicide. It's a vicious cycle, and we're all caught up in it.
This blog entry cost me a hundred pesos to write. It's the least I can do, to immortalize the memory of 12-year-old Mariannet Amper, who killed herself because of a hundred-peso school project. I write this with a kind of shame I hope I will never feel again for so long as I hypothesize, test, and conclude.
Posted at Saturday, November 10, 2007 by marocharim