Of old recordings and metaphysics

The words of T.S Eliot continue to haunt these last moments of my law school sojourn. Time and again I ask: will these four years of toil end with a bang, or whimper? For now, at least, it most likely seems to be a shrug. My classes this last semester mostly fall and end late at night, which fortunately means the drive back home is easier due to the light traffic. The classes are all review classes and, consequently, all ineluctably boring. Only at the end of these four years did I realize, however, that skepticism is a virtue when it comes to a prof’s lessons. An example: for three years we have been discouraged to answer questions with: “It depends.” Now, in one class that is the answer in several questions on recitation. So what’s the deal? For what it’s worth, this pivot did result to an insight in the profession that I will soon be joining: that it is in many ways still an art. Many professors these past three years have indulged in their teaching the law as a science that seems to lend it an aura of precision and mathematical certainty. For a large part of the past three years, studying law was mainly finding answers to questions, which, to be fair, is probably the most expedient way to formulate and check exams. But what about that skill of producing answers to questions? The writing of pleadings in itself is a craft – something that I hardly had any experience in – and something that I expect to be immersed in soon. In undergrad this production of answers was derogatorily referred to as bola, but whatever we call it – that was precisely what won Grace Poe’s case on citizenship. During those hour-long drives to school, I go through recordings of the oral arguments in Poe-Llamanzares v. COMELEC just to observe how these counsels made and delivered their argument (with, of course, the benefit of hindsight). It was truly a treasure to go through the interpellations once again.

Perhaps it is this act of production that draws the cloud of suspicion on lawyers, and perhaps justifiably so. Persuasion, after all, is a powerful skill and more so if the effects of such persuasion can contribute to the formulation of law. But the brute fact remains that some people just have a propensity to lie. Hell, even in law school people lie all the time. But I suppose nothing of that is new or even scandalous these days.

***

In light of the monotonous and dreadfully boring classes and hours spent on bar review this semester, I was fortunately referred by a friend to a book on Christian philosophy. With the abrogation of true electives such as Roman Law, it is hardly a surprise that law schools these days have turned into veritable factories that produce docile bar-takers. Whatever grandeur, culture, or grace that the law had was probably lost ages ago no matter what that damned signed says in the entrance to Malcolm Hall. Sure we’ve heard Manresa and Sanchez Roman mostly in passing (whether jokingly or not) by the older professors. But what about Homer, Cicero, Aristotle, or Aquinas? Those names were probably all relegated to some weeks of recitations in Legal Theory and then lost right after the semester ended. It was largely due to the discontent with the monotonies of classroom study and the lack of any interesting electives that I decided to read up on other subjects.

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So can one self-study metaphysics? I laughed the first time I thought about it. It seemed ridiculous. But the ridiculous ideas are usually the most entertaining ones: so I tried it. Owing to perhaps G.K. Chesterton’s biography on St. Thomas and a few chapters of the book in the picture above – I can say that I won’t be putting it down anytime soon. It is quite a relief to wrestle with ideas like this on a Sunday – call it a break from the day-to-day pressures of being “productive” or “useful”. In that sense I can savor what is left of weekends before I re-enter the workforce next year. Ciao!

Bye, 2016.

There goes another year. It’s quite striking how time flies (though for a senior law student, Time can’t fly fast enough!). A little over three years ago, I read Tolentino for the first time for Persons. Back then I had no idea how to read for class then (heck, I had no idea how to do be a law student). Cases came piling up and the recits came. Readings here and there, seven hectic enlistment periods, at least two instances when I thought I was going to fail a subject, and more than a thousand kilometers of driving – such was academic life for the past three years. Looking back and with a restrained chuckle of desperation, I throw back the question to myself of why I wanted to be a lawyer in the first place. I suspect the question will return (and more emphatically, if I may add) during bar review and on the first day of work.

Outside there is the intermittent sound of fireworks. A sound that bears a strange similarity to a small firefight – a sound I’m all too familiar with after clocking nearly 30 hours playing Fallout 4. Fallout 4: in a sequence of uncanny events, that game actually proved to be the catalyst for me buying a new desktop just to play it. It was a comforting thought that I can still enjoy playing games, given that I could only do so in between semesters.

From law school to Fallout 4 – talk about digression. But hey, maybe it’s good to digress every once in a while. The year 2016 will be remembered for many things – many things. Many, including I, may feel that 2016 itself is a digression (from more reasonable times lol). And yet the show goes on. Oh that reminds me, a few days ago my Mocha Uson blog post got over a hundred views. A hundred views! That’s almost as much as a whole year! Thankfully, it has normalized now and this blog can return to its regular state of oblivion. Heh. Happy New Year, reader!

Mocha Uson: theologian, historian.

So our very own Joseph Goebbels Mocha Uson wrote a column lambasting the CBCP’s stance against the current administration in her column in the Philippine Star a few days ago. This one was something, so without further ado let’s take it line by line. Original text in bold, annotations are in italics.

Title: Is CBCP anti-Christ? (Catchy title though)

Christianity is founded on love. It espouses the doctrine of loving thy neighbor, not judging others, and forgiveness. (In two sentences she summarizes the whole of Christian theology. Did you see that St. Thomas?) 

However, (uh oh, a ‘however’) the way the Philippine Catholic Church has been acting is the total opposite of what Christianity preaches (Yep because protesting against dictators encapsulates the whole of Church action). It refuses to forgive (Marcos burial issue). (Well, she just had to qualify it. I always thought the Church forgives people though and not issues. After all, issues don’t walk into confessionals, people do.) It judges Duterte but turns a blind eye on the immorality of De Lima. And it divides instead of unites. (Wait…immorality? Did she just judge De Lima right there? That escalated quickly. Since the author cites the Bible  verses when it’s convenient she must know that passage where Christ says he comes not to bring peace but the sword? [Mt 10:34] There’s hardly any credibility at all if the author claims that being divisive is a bad thing given how virtually all protesters are labeled as “yellows.”)

Why is this so? (ok let’s assume for now that all the conclusions you just made are now facts) Ever since the Spanish colonial period (oh she’s a historian nowin the Philippines, the Catholic Church has been a part of the lives of most Filipinos and it has also been very influential in our country. (and that’s how you summarize around 300 years in 32 words) The power of the Catholic Church is one of the things Jose Rizal fought against because the Church was able to use its power and influence in Spain to dictate who should be the Governor General of the Philippines. (Wasn’t Rizal a top student at Ateneo de Manila? He was Jesuit trained and wasn’t he a devout Catholic? And is there even a good source for this conclusion? But hey, let’s just believe her. Whatever.Because of this they accused Jose Rizal of being a cultist and an enemy who was going against the teachings of the church (or was it rebellion and sedition? Meh, same thing as heresy right?). You should know that back then fighting against the church could cost you your life or you could be excommunicated. (Well she should know too that there’s a book by Reynaldo Ileto called Pasyon and Revolution because, I don’t know, maybe it might actually give the semblance of an idea of how the revolution happened back then. Oh and fighting against dictators can cost you your life too! Too bad dictators can’t make excommunications though.)

One of the notable persons who were excommunicated for fighting against the church was Martin Luther. (so is this theology or history? histology! wait that’s the study of microscopic tissue structures…) He fought against the corrupt practice where people must pay for the forgiveness of their sins and for their soul to go to heaven. (Inaccurate. They don’t pay for the forgiveness of sins. They pay for indulgences, which “is a remission before God of the temporal punishment due to sins whose guilt has already been forgiven…” [See Pope Paul VI’s Indulgentiarum doctrina] because, and the author should have researched more, saying sorry isn’t the end of it: people have to pay it back.These are just some instances where the Church used its influence and abuse its power. The question now is, did it stop? (Can I make a guess? No?)

Looking back at EDSA 1, which forced the then Pres. Ferdinand Marcos to step down from power, Cardinal Sin (called it!was one of those who greatly influenced the people and caused the inauguration of Cory Aquino as the 11th President of the Philippines. They (along with our P500 bill) created an image that presented the Aquinos as the savior of our country and therefore the people again trusted and voted Noynoy Aquino as their president and leader in the 2010 election even if he did nothing. (actually if she took time to read our Constitution, ‘doing something’ in general is not required to be qualified for the Presidency. Just saying.) They hoped that Noynoy would save this country once again. So, what would they gain by allying themselves with the Aquinos? Let’s not forget that the church is an organization wherein they have no tax.  (Oh, how could we forget?! No tax? Despicable! Well, it’s actually real property tax and qualified revenues that they’re exempt from, not all taxes in general. But yet again, what’s the difference right?) Allegedly, (Congratulations on using ‘allegedly.’ With all those conclusions, here at least there is a semblance of caution with making claims.)  they have investments from the oligarchs who are being protected by the Aquinos. In the end, it seems like it’s all about the money. Catholic Church without money is a dying church, (Well that explains it. That’s the reason why the Church had a mountain of gold when it started out as a group composed mainly of Galilean fishermen.) it has lost a lot of followers due to some issues surrounding some of their priests. (Don’t bother with the numbers or reports, we believe you!)

It’s just saddening to see that the church that is supposed to teach unconditional love is encouraging hate and anger toward a dead person. (Aww 😦 ) Yes, the Marcoses should be held liable for the crimes they have allegedly (there’s allegedly again! and how can one be held liable for an alleged crime?? Doesn’t make sense.) committed but that is the job for the government and not the Church’s. (It’s the government’s job to prosecute, there’s no argument against that. But is that the exclusive way to hold one liable for crimes? Surely public censure and assembly are ways to hold people liable too. Since she cites the Bible I wonder how she takes the verse that “whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” [Mt 18:18]) The Church’s purpose should be teaching people about love for God and love for one another. (Good grief, have at least some sense of respect for an institution that has been around for nearly 2000 years.) It also says in the Bible, “Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love” (1 john 4:8)Now if the very nature of God is love, (hey, she’s a theologian again) then why does his “messengers” preach the opposite which is hate and forgiving with conditions? (…check…mate?) If they will claim that they’re fighting for what is right, then why don’t they speak against Sen. De Lima and her affair with Ronnie Dayan who is married? (No “alleged” here huh? Well played. I believe you. Not really.) Why do they focus on the inappropriate jokes and remarks of President Duterte? Why do they bring up “Thou shall not kill” with regards to the “EJK” issue but quiet on De Lima’s affair which is against “Thou shall not commit adultery”? (I’m actually impressed she knows the commandments. She should try going on to the 8th.)

Last week, through my blog, I answered a post of a La Salle brother about forgiveness. He said: “FORGIVE THE MARCOSES? But how? They have not admitted to any wrongdoing. They have not returned all that they have stolen. They have not apologized to the victims of their martial rule.”

Now, should forgiveness come with a condition? (If you break a window and say sorry without fixing it. Is that really an apology? If you’re really sorry then you FIX the window. So the answer is yes. Authentic contrition requires restitution. I don’t know if she’s ever been in a confessional but I’d really like to know how she interprets the penance at the end. Well unless in her world, it’s really ok to break windows and say sorry while leaving the owners to clean up the mess left behind. Haha ok I’m convinced. Let’s go with that world!) If I ask you, do we have to wait for our enemies to ask for forgiveness before we forgive them? I believe that the answer is in Matthew 6: 14-15: “14 For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. 15: But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.” (I thought the issue was whether we should wait. The passage cited was the effects of forgiveness, not whether we should wait for an apology. Oh well.). If Jesus himself can forgive his enemies and even asked his Father “forgive them for they do not know what they are doing”…if Jesus himself can forgive regardless of whether they asked for it or not, then who are we to deny that to our enemies? (Oh I highly doubt that Marcos didn’t know what he was doing.)

In conclusion, it is also written in the scriptures that there are wolves in sheep’s clothing (“Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. Mt 7:15”). (Ok I remember that part) They claim to be messengers of God but they are teaching hate, rebellion and self-interest. (Er…that part I don’t remember) It is clearly stated that these False Prophets who have the spirit of anti-Christ are pretenders to be light and teaching things that are opposite of the teachings of Christ. (Is it stated clearly enough for a quotation? Guess not.) The question is: if the False Prophets preach hate and rebellion and not love, what does the CBCP and some other priests teach? Love, forgiveness, or hate? (Ok she just called the CBCP false prophets and titled her column asking if the CBCP is the anti-Christ. Seriously, if there’s any hatemonger here it’s the author who presumes to know more about Church teaching than the Church herself.)

***

Looking back I don’t think there was any added value in making this blog entry. I might have wasted a few hours in an afternoon but hey let’s say this is my fair comment on matters of public interest.

Portrait of a rebel as a young millenial

So many things have happened recently that have caused such a backlash: starting from Grace Poe’s citizenship case, Duterte’s victory, Trump’s victory, and Marcos being buried at the Libingan ng mga Bayani. If only the reactions were just as interesting. One day you have protests on the streets and the next you see some of the same protestors hitting it up at Starbucks. At times I think maybe Zizek was right in saying that all this action – online or otherwise – is just an acting out, not for the crowd, but for the actors. And as always, I rely on a passage from Chesterton on this topic of rebels:

But the new rebel is a skeptic, and will not entirely trust anything. He has no loyalty; therefore he can never be really a revolutionist. And the fact that he doubts everything really gets in his way when he wants to denounce anything. For all denunciation implies a moral doctrine of some kind; and the modern revolutionist doubts not only the institution he denounces, but the doctrine by which he denounces it. . . . As a politician, he will cry out that war is a waste of life, and then, as a philosopher, that all life is waste of time. A Russian pessimist will denounce a policeman for killing a peasant, and then prove by the highest philosophical principles that the peasant ought to have killed himself. . . . The man of this school goes first to a political meeting, where he complains that savages are treated as if they were beasts; then he takes his hat and umbrella and goes on to a scientific meeting, where he proves that they practically are beasts. In short, the modern revolutionist, being an infinite skeptic, is always engaged in undermining his own mines. In his book on politics he attacks men for trampling on morality; in his book on ethics he attacks morality for trampling on men. Therefore the modern man in revolt has become practically useless for all purposes of revolt. By rebelling against everything he has lost his right to rebel against anything. (Orthodoxy)

So: reactions are just uninteresting because the reactors are not that interesting in themselves. Sure we can hate on Trump and Duterte for being this and that…and so we’re pro-manners? Then there’s that familiar adage that goes “just because I’m anti-X, doesn’t mean I’m pro-Y.” While it’s logic is sound, but wholly uninteresting and at times makes someone really come off as a prick. Likewise, does being anti-misogyny make you pro-equality? Or let’s just assume it since nobody bothers to bring it up (why would anyone be anti-equality anyway?). It would have been more fascinating if rebels these days actually had a creed – now that would be something.  But maybe we millenials aren’t hip enough to be Apostles.

Having nothing (specific) to stand for places some doubt on why should certain issues be of particular importance.  Are we faced battling a multitude of pro-X’s and anti-Y’s? Is this just part of the trendy arena of identity politics taking over discourse today? In this sense, maybe Fight Club is prophetic:

About the DPA’s new diamond ad campaign for millenials

There was an article I read a week ago about how the Diamond Producers Association (DPA) was rolling out a new advertising campaign for its diamonds. The article is entitled, “The diamond industry is aiming its new ads at millennials who aren’t that into marriage.” The bottom line of the article is that since lesser people are getting married, lesser people are buying engagement rings, ergo lesser sales for the diamond companies. What a tragedy. Gone are the days when you heard that slogan of “a diamond is forever.” Apparently now it’s: “Real is rare. Real is a diamond.”

It’s an amusing article for a couple of reasons. For one it shows how diamonds really had nothing to do with marriage until De Beers said so. It all boils down to what the advertising firms want us to want. And yep, we just keep drinking the kool-aid.

Another reason I found it amusing was that it dealt with fairytales:

The [ad] agency learned that millennials associated diamonds with a “fairytale love story that wasn’t relevant to them,” said Thomas Henry, strategist at Mother NY, in a statement. “We needed to bring this powerful symbol into the modern world by acknowledging that perfection is no longer the goal for a great relationship.”

After decades of Hollywood romcoms all selling their own 90-minute “fairytale love story,” the diamond industry finally turns out to be the poor guys footing the bill. Hollywood was just too good at selling “happily-ever-afters” that made us forget what was (ironically) real in the first place. It was the finger pointing to the moon but, as the great Bruce Lee warned, we concentrated on the finger and “lost sight of that heavenly glory.”

An alien coming to earth for the first time would not altogether be wrong if it referred to marriage as a “fairytale.” It was an institution, nearly universal among our societies, that unites two strangers, a man and a woman at that, in a permanent and lasting bond  for the rearing and nurturing of children. It was ,and is still, set against a backdrop of “free” sex and unlabeled relationships, of how the videos in the article described as the “wild and kind.” It is not perhaps new that we juxtapose what is “chaotic” or “wild” with what is poetic. G.K. Chesterton had already made that objection in his time when there was the notion that being in revolt was poetic. It is only in a dying and decaying society where we romanticize death and decay or in Tolkien’s terms where ,”Kings made tombs more splendid than the houses of the living, and counted old names in the rolls of their descent dearer than the names of sons.” The chaotic, the wild: these are situations that happen all by themselves. Anyone who has studied the 2nd law of thermodynamics knows this: it is entropy. Things, relationships, people – if left to themselves eventually decay irreversibly. There should be nothing surprising, therefore, of the sight of a fruit left on the ground decaying and rotting away. But if that same fruit were, after several years, found intact and ripe, now that might be poetic. Of the infinite possibilities where an endeavor might have gone awry, and yet it does not – that is poetic. Perhaps this is why Chesterton said that the most poetic thing in the world is not getting sick.

Take the notion of marriage. The promise of “forever” or the idea that love transcends the bounds of space and time never fails to stir the depths of the human soul (here’s to you, Interstellar). In the USA the statistics of the number of marriages that end in divorce are, what, around 50%? Whatever it is, it doesn’t take a divorce law to show how marriages end up sour (just take a look at the Philippines). There could be a million reasons why a relationship does not work out. Yet with all that, two strangers take their chances and enter into marriage. Now while Hollywood and the DPA are selling that moment, who could disagree at the magic of the first few minutes of the movie Up? Here’s the clip in case you didn’t see it yet:

A powerful clip. It’s fascinating because the magic (if you would call it that) comes not at the moments of joy of the couple (moments without any diamond rings, if I may add), but when we perceive their time speeding up, where one second turns into a decade, and then we blink and find that the two are now old, but still together. The scene where Ellie fixes Carl’s necktie is an example and my personal favorite. The thought that routine, while labeled by some as completely unpoetical, is turned on its head and becomes even romantic.

It was, therefore, quite accurate for millenials to refer to marriage as “a fairytale love story” and to reject it as not being relevant to them. At least they called it as it is. Marriage perhaps is a fairytale, but it might also be the only fairytale that’s real. Now, it’s quite another thing for advertising companies to make this rejection of the fairytale a fairytale in itself. I take it that the “real is rare” idea is just glorifying extramarital relations and injecting a demand for diamonds in the equation. So, are we going to keep drinking the kool-aid now?

If only I had known

If only I had known all the facts three and a half years ago while I was applying for the LAE, maybe I would have reconsidered.

Senior year feels like it came too fast. Time is just a cool breeze in this desert: so brief, so fragile, so fleeting.  At one point I knew myself as a freshman wondering what the hell a digest was and dealing with the day-to-day grind. It was simpler then when all I needed to do was learn the law. Books, codals, reviewers, and recits – that was the rinse cycle, it was the routine. But it’s different now. To a certain extent, learning the law still occupies my time in reviewing the lessons for class. But then there’s OLA.

People always told me that things get better as the years go on. They were wrong every year. Every year is harder, every year I understood better that the administration doesn’t give a shit whether a student lives or dies (truth), although they might be disappointed in the dying part since there would be lesser bar passers (provided he was a diligent student). Unless you have a well-known family name, or contacts in the college, the simple truth facing an ordinary student is just this: nobody cares.

As the years went by, I noticed a strange feeling in me that follows after I notice how someone is awestruck by the UP Law institution. Think of it this way: it is much like a  gladiator’s ghost looking at a tourist walking into the ruins of the Roman Colosseum. They walk in the front doors and into a wide hall and gaze upon the Roman text etched in stone in front of the theatre. They see an institution of honor and excellence with deep foundations and high walls of concrete. They see the names of honorable men and women. They see their titles set in stone: enduring, eternal. But the ghost sees only two things: blood and sand.

Dramatic? I don’t intend it to be. It would have been funny if it was freshman year. But now with only a semester and a half to go before graduation, seniors are too old to be complaining about law school. It is what it is. This is what they miss in the brochures and websites and testimonials and media coverage and the bar topnotcher list. Four years of your life dictated by the whimsical moods of professors and the administrators: they should have included that in the brochure.

 

Ode to endings

Thus passes another year
another month, another day
racked with fear and ending so far in May-
a fitting ending bringing with it calls
for a futile disconsolation: one for the faults,
falls, flaws of each examination
forced under paper and pen.
But at the end? Only in our own ignorance must we
remain – lest we crack our minds juggling
between grades of tolerance or of merit.

Thus passes another year
the third of four to end this
devilish sojourn: one began in dreams
and the naive nature of newborn children;
but in beginning, quickly ending as a dream ill-bidden
in the night – tainted by the tendrils of untested
maturities. To Them: what light is it They see at the end
to cost so much to make virtue bend into crooked
spires – mere steps up to Their peak of ambition?
What sums do pride and arrogance offer as a ransom
to such degree? To what end will our trust in them be?
Innocence often laces those early temptations
to stray the path in tiny steps; little cracks, but
with habit’s perseverance, and time, heralds
malice to greet our Innocence’s disappearance
in the unholy abyss of our own making.
What can the Law offer on its laureled crown
when its virtues are all but laid down bleeding
at the altar? Must it be a kingship unnaturally
won with Virtue hanging only by the crimson drippings
of the assassin’s blade? Would that it were better
if these stirrings stirred us only in our grave.

Climb, climb, and climb! Beginnings are no test
of mettle – all start with nothing but friendships
so innocent that, when cut, bleed only jests. Grit
often lies unperturbed ’til provoked
and, when roused, unyielding to those evils.
Trust yields folly and allies, when allied, abandoned
go their own way. Must there be such a myth as Integrity
now where ill deeds go under the guise of its complicity?
Call it not integrity then, but vanity. O, vanity –
precious lists of titles and deeds commended,
of names dropped, and posh socials attended?
Lay them as glitter and gold, and around your crown adorn
as your reward, yet all not worthy enough to earn one thorn.

Thus passes another year
one in three that were and one that will be.
Dissolved now are those persons that we knew
before so early under masks of acquaintance.
Friendships half in bloom but nipped away by
examination or by professors’ recreation.
Happy are those who live above all the struggles of the rabble,
for theirs is the glory and praise as our school’s preamble,
while we scurry along the table’s edges fighting over scraps.
Yet let not empathy crawl on their lips, or limp on top of their other
sympathies to the fallen. Mere words less deeds are but trees uprooted
and drifting among the weeds on the tides of their many vanities.
Now, Time and Toil have torn away our masks and to our
horror, revealed those who had or no disguise.