smoke

I write better when I smoke. Don’t ask me to reduce it to a science.

Is it wrong?

Caffeinesparks called it the “inane platitudes of those who would seek greatness where there is none.” Marocharim spun off an angry manifesto about it. And yet, all Alex Lacson really did was to propose a little bit of gratitude and positive thinking.

Izzat so wrong?

I see nothing in Lacson’s article that suggests any sort of surrender to the shitty way things are. Lacson does not advocate burying our heads in sand, nor does he say that we live in a social paradise. All I see is a listing of things we can be thankful for and suggestions of where we might draw inspiration from, presumably to struggle our fight to uplift ourselves. All Lacson really says is that we shouldn’t consider ourselves – in Marocharim’s words – an embarassment. 

Izzat so wrong?

It would be wrong, I suppose, if one were to heed Lacson’s advice to “have a positive and healthy image of ourselves” and stop there – happily wallowing in what we call our greatness. And perhaps that is what Marocharim and Sparks are railing against: our tendency to be overawed by our perceived heroism and magnificence that we slip into complacency. 

Make no mistake about it: we do tend to rest even on those laurels we crown ourselves with. benign0 would prolly call that the shawarma effect or something – whatever his latest buzzword happens to be; I call it the golden age syndrome – or at least a variation of it: the predisposition to fixating on what is good about us, to the point of ignoring what is wrong about us.

But see, one of the things wrong about us is that we also tend to beat ourselves senseless about our inadequacies. We do so like to wallow in our misery and to thunder at the heavens for not giving us everything we want. Nothing wrong with that either, but if that’s all you do, well then, you have a problem.

A negative outlook is a self-fulfilling prophecy. Like fear, it enervates you to the point of paralysis. And when you are drowning in your own despair, how can you fight your way out of it?

You can be angry, as Marocharim is; or resentful, as Sparks says she is. But at the end of the day, what does your anger and resentment net you? Nothing but more reason to be angry and resentful.

Positivity, on the other hand, allows you to accept that things are shitty, but that there are still some things you can do to make things a little less the color of crap. Maybe not big things that will shake the world necessarily, but things that can bring about change nonetheless. 

Of course, positivity is not in vogue. It is often seen as pathetic or sterile. But is relentless anger better? 

Positivity and anger are two sides of the same coin. We can work for the betterment of society – and our lives – fueled by the belief that we are intrinsically capable of being better than we are; or we can work for the betterment of society – and our lives – fueled by rage at the way things are. 

Without a doubt, either approach untempered by its opposite, is fraught with peril. Too much positivity and you become Barney; on the other hand, too much anger and you become just another angry man, shaking his fist at the world and never quite managing to get his arms around it.

The trick, therefore, is to find the happy union of these two extremes. A middle way that acknowledges the power of each, without lapsing into saccaharine pap or vitriol.

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Filed under: society, , , ,

16 Responses

  1. brianbro says:

    Like MLQ3 and I once argued about, is there really a golden age for the Philippines? I say, we make up one and establish a true conservative party. Liberals will have nothing to say this crisis year and the crisis years to come, but conservatives do. Jesus, you know how important conservatism is now? THAT important.

  2. UP n grad says:

    Feelings of anger or resentment can also empower a personn to acts of injustice and cruelty and the target victim can be self or “the other”. Many examples in Pinas blogworld, to include Marocharim, Ding, Schumey.

  3. brianbro says:

    UP n grad, elborate. This is too deep for me.

  4. UP n grad says:

    Starting at marker :44, the lyrics go:

    The game of life is hard to play
    I’m gonna lose it anyway
    The losing card I’ll someday lay
    so this is all I have to say.
    that suicide is painless
    It brings on many changes
    and I can take or leave it if I please.

  5. cvj says:

    What’s wrong with Barney?

  6. brianbro says:

    UPn

    Now I miss my M*A*S*H box set. Someone, another blogger, once wrote: suicide is a chemical thing, has nothing to do with logical thinking.

    In the song suicide means the war. FYI.

  7. rom says:

    cvj: h’s saccharine.

    brianbro: suicide is painless

  8. Marocharim says:

    Smoke:

    Thanks for the thoughtful response to my entry.

    What I’m railing about (I’m thinking Quake III right now) is that every praise and pat on the back we give to ourselves – in the case of Alex Lacson, for example – should be put in context; that is to say, we should also realize that these platitudes and ego-boosters exist in situations where we should be “embarrassed,” so to speak, about our lot as a people. We live in a rich country, as Alex Lacson says, but many of our own people starve. We lionize the few who bring honor to our country, but lots of other people and avoidable situations embarrass us for all the world to see.

    I think that we shouldn’t merely passively accept the faults and errors of how things are run just because of shikata ga nai: lots of things *can* be helped, but they’re *not* helped. I.e., I can only buy enough Slurpees at a 7-11 or bread at a bakery to give to a kid. After all, it’s just small help in a world where lots of people don’t help at all.

    The fact that there is injustice, an acknowledgement of it, and nothing done about it is enough reason to be angry. I need not be directly affected to have an affect, and i don’t need to be within the line of the effect to have empathy.

    It’s like putting your arms around the world and giving it a few blows, just so that the world can put its own arms around you… well that sounded emo…

  9. Marocharim says:

    And oh yeah: “spun off” is a very kind way of putting it. 😉

  10. sparks says:

    I articulate the anger and frustration of one who simply wants inspiration from my elders, my supposed betters and my peers. That I find none (or very little) is frightening.

    But anyway, here’s to hope and expectations – motors of progress.

  11. BrianB says:

    sparks, my grandfather once said to me that I am smarter than him and yet obedience to my elders remain a necessity. I took it as an explanation that things should remain as they should be, whether you know better or not. Now I see it as a hint. Obey your elders, obey the ten commandment, obey the rule of law… just what they tell us to do, and we should do it.

    smoke: someone on TV told me it refers to war.

  12. rom says:

    brianb: maybe it does. i was just quoting the song. 😀

  13. Marocharim says:

    BrianB:

    There’s a song that goes… (invective) you, i won’t do what you tell me. 🙂

    But that’s just from an angry guy. If we just do what they tell us to do and don’t explore other means of resistance – or don’t explore resistance at all – then we’ll never prosper, or at least have that possibility or option on our hands.

  14. BrianB says:

    Maro, I mean, the worst thing we can do is take what they tell us literally. That’s how you deal with hypocrites.

  15. cvj says:

    sparks, i observe that ‘iwas talo’ is a Filipino trait which is why such inspiration that you are looking for comes few and far between. For example, sentiments expressing EDSA fatigue coming from those who participated in those events originates from their disappointed expectations. Not wanting a repeat of such disappointments, they retreat into apathy and cynicism. Cowardly, but safe.

  16. UP n grad says:

    marocharim: think aikido.

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