Friday, February 20, 2009

Mad World

Turning and turning
The world goes on,
We can’t change it, my friend.
Let us go right in now
Through the days,
Together to the end,
Till the end.

-- Les Bicyclettes de Belsize

ON MIRANDA STREET, in Angeles City, just beyond the rural bank, a young man, insane, his right arm bent in an imaginary sling, hobbles near the street where traffic quietly flows.

Then suddenly he flings out his left arm and stomps his foot at the path of oncoming vehicles, in the middle of the street, as if he is a thin sumo wrestler confronting the metallic snouts of the formidable Saraos rushing at him. To be more convincing, he sustains his posture with a menacing “Yaaah!”

Naturally, the jeepneys swerve, forming a patient arc around him. The drivers are not angry, their tolerant smiles indicate that they understand. Some of the passengers laugh, their forefingers making twirling motions near their temples. They, too, understand.

Nearby, in another street, in a building where a councilman holds office, an editor of a rival paper shows the councilman a story about him that appeared in The Angeles Sun and audaciously asks for money. The councilor gives him P50 and the editor pockets it.

“Now, how about the writer?” the editor asks. Eventually P200 is added. Finally satisfied, the editor leaves. The councilman is not angry; though he is frowning, he understands. Some of the secretaries shake their heads, drawing small imaginary circles in the air. They, too, understand: that editor has a case history.

Somewhere far away, in the country’s capital, a silly woman files a libel suit against a rotund columnist. She’s just a regular plaintiff, she says, and then appears in court surrounded by an orchestra of bodyguards. She’s only a civilian, she says, yet her trial is broadcast nationwide. The judge shows his impartiality by allowing it.

But the people are not angry. The carabao-patient, masochistic Filipinos are apathetic, pessimistic, even sycophantic, but they are not angry. They are sometimes mad, in both sense of the word, but they are never angry. And they understand, oh, how they understand this silly creature they have hatched out of the egg that was EDSA. Just a widowed housewife in a dead president’s shoes.

Beyond EDSA, in the imaginary land of Bloom County, Donald Trump, whose brain was transplanted inside a dead cat’s body after a falling anchor killed him, converses with a poor black girl, Ronald-Ann (her mother named her after President Reagan), who owns a headless doll named Reynelda.

Trump: My Palm Beach cottage has 118 rooms… how many rooms does your cottage have?

Ronald-Ann: One. But we have nine beds! Reynelda here sleeps in a soup box.

Trump: I have a $100-million boat. Do you have a boat?

Ronald-Ann: When the plumbing breaks our sofa floats.

Trump: I have a dream… a dream that one day I might get six points on margin for the Eiffel Tower deal… What do you dream about?

Ronald-Ann: Dinner.

Trump: And imagine… in this great, quality nation, folks like you haven’t strung folks like me up by their intestines.

Reynelda (to Trump’s back as he walks away): …yet.

Ronald-Ann (To Reynelda): Hush.*

No anger there, just an acceptance of the plight of a troubled man in a cat’s body.

Insane, so you say? Then let’s go to a real and distant land, halfway around the globe, where the cream of modern civilization, using the highest means of destruction, pounds away at its own cradle – all in the cause of an oxymoron: a Just War.

But the Iraqis are not angry at all, even if their broken bodies arc through the air and their dying lips echo the cry of a madman in Angeles – “Yaaah!” They cannot be angry, they just die and then spin in their graves.

We shake our head, but this time -- in the year of our Lord, 1991 – we realize we really don’t understand this insanity, this madness, because we are a part of it. Turning and turning, the world goes on, it grudgingly carries us as it forms never-ending coils around its axis. And we have to ask: Is the Earth angry with us? Does it understand?

I know the answer, for sometime long ago in someplace far away I have heard the Song of the Earth:

If the earth could write its history,
Names of those who strangled her
Would figure prominently;
If the earth could plead insanity
It would spew us all
To a distant nameless galaxy.
Then the earth would sing a new melody;
It would be a lovely tune
With perfect harmony.

* From Berke Breathed’s Happy Trails!
** From Earth Song, sang by The Company with Cris Villonco.

This article first appeared in The Angeles Sun in March 1991.

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