An open letter to the antiseptic critic
I lived by a simple rule when I was a radio commentator: be ready to receive as much as you can give.
I was ascerbic.
In my prime I had a sharp tongue and, as a member of an activist media circle and what I once thought was a revolutionary group, I believed only my vision of the world and my principles were right.
I refused to admit for a large part of my adult life that I could be wrong.
I was right all the time.
That was a certainty.
A certainty not bound even by the second universal law of thermodynamics: entropy, that all things break down.
I used to share your certainty and the all-knowing attitude of one fashionably-termed now as a social justice warrior, what others also call as snowflake – you who live by the worldview that all things must be taken apart because all things are wrong, that only you hold the right view.
You who believe that all things must and can be criticized, a worldview enabled by social media that has created thought ghettoes and fragmented realities.
I know that right is part of our democracy, the freedom of expression upon which our civil liberties rise and fall if this is left undefended.
I fought for this right long and hard as a press organization leader and as a reporter.
This right, however, I later realized comes with great responsibilities.
You who are fond of talking about “narratives” and argue ad nauseam about the meaning of life even if you live with your parents way beyond college.
Pardon me for being blunt.
You are what we call in Hiligaynon as a “casera,” a boarder in your home who cares not a whit about the monthly bills or even if your parents continue to laundry your delicates or cook your meals.
I used to think like you.
Except that I did not live with my parents starting at 19 and I know how to cook.
But are you to blame?
From a Marxist perspective that you are simply part of a system, an “oppressive” and “exploitative” one, you cannot be blamed.
If we are to presume that this perspective still holds true even if this has apparently been overtaken by changes in “relations of production” (a fact that Marxists continue to dispute), it can be assumed or delusionally thought of that you young one are among the heroes and heroines fighting against the Machine.
Like Neo and Trinity in the Matrix.
But not in leather.
Viewed from different perspectives, however, like that of Jordan Peterson (just as an example), you can be asked: when would you realize that you have power over your life as an individual?
That you can take control of your life and not just become a clone of the herd you find on Facebook or Twitter?
Not just one of the millions of thought slaves and intellectual serfs chained to keyboards or keypads?
But then I could be wrong.
Remember, I don’t find comfort in certainty anymore.
Between us, I did risk like you. I did it as an activist going to the field, spending my weekends not in some swanky coffeeshop drinking frothy or cream-topped coffee but among farmworkers doing DGs or discussion groups while drinking grounds-laced coffee that made me spit every so often.
And oh, the government once listed me as a Communist. Got myself in a list (an order of battle) that nearly had me killed.
Please indulge me. I know whereof I speak.
But I could be wrong.
I admire you for your crystal clear idealism. I envy you for your fresh optimism and youth.
I envy you and long for your sprightly steps, your strength and endurance to reach wide, open spaces, scale great heights and dive to deep bottoms.
I once was like you. Thought like you.
Allow me to tell you this as one who used to fancy himself a warrior: your youth, angst and anger make you useful.
Beware of those who tell you they are out to save the world and ask you to be a savior, too.
Hindsight does bring clarity and this I have learned: there are those who pluck on our hopes and prey on our fears.
I know so.
I used to teach that in many propaganda courses.
In the end, when suppleness deserts our joints, brittleness sets in our bones, and when the applause for courageous display becomes a thundering silence in your life, you will come to the sobering fact that to live your life as best you could sans the applause, approval, approbation, and admiration of the crowd is the ultimate reality.
Don’t be lulled into the delusion that you are a Hollywood star.
You are not.
In the end, only one pair of eyes will fix on you: yours.
The circus has left town.
Please be ready to be offended. It comes with free speech.
Don’t cancel everyone.
Soon you will realize that society is a collection of discordant voices and you are powerless to make everyone sound like you.
Or shout like you.
I leave you with this line from Desiderata: “With all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world.”