Friday, July 20, 2007

Is/Not and the Human Security Act of 2007

Republic Act No. 9372, more popularly known as the The Human Rights Security Act of 2007, passed on July 15, 2007 here in Philippines. It is the Philippine equivalent to the U.S. Patriot Act. And in an equivalent sense to the U.S. Patriot Act, the facile promise of security manages to generate a great deal of insecurity among the very citizens it meant to reassure.

What the Act does not affect is the weather. It has been so blistering hot that going outside is not an option. I’ve tried the reflective umbrella approach to the sun. I’ve tried the damp towel approach. My sweat reaches an equilibrium point with the humidity such that I become one with my damp cloth – hot and damp. I’ve tried imagining the coldest Chicago winter that my memory chips could muster, and still I’m finding tiny patches of heat blisters coming to life on my ankles and knees. I even have a smiley face pattern of them on one side. The heat is aided and abetted by the furiously hungry black pavement that eats old jungle growth and coconut groves. I would love to lie down in the many green stretches dotting the city, except that I’d be in company to grazing caribou herds, stray goats, and the still water that hordes the much feared dengue fever epidemic. In my opinion, time and space warp under the weight of this intense hydrothermal energy, so people move slower with my perception of them even more so. It’s like when you press the search button on a DVD and the scene moves at a fractionally slower pace. Temperature and time bear an inverse relationship.

The Human Security Act of 2007 also does not affect the latest Akon song from haunting me in every car, public thoroughfare, and indoor facility here in the Philippines. (Even the provincial capital building, army officers have it blaring on a boom box perched somewhere in the jungle of the ballot boxes they are guarding! “Nobody wanna’ see us together, but it don’t matter, noooo…..!” It has become one of those songs that I would consider going deaf to avoid. To me, it’s the worse marriage of reggae and pop hip-hop that a New Jersey raised and Senegalese born artist could produce. I first had the displeasure of hearing it on perpetual rotation when I visited some family in California. My cousin had a nine-year old daughter whose gangstah style obsessed uncle burned her a mix of Top 40 hits. And since I spent about seven days there, and since spending any amount of time in California means that you are spending at least 80% of that time in a car, it means I become an involuntary audio prisoner to Akon. It was the most exquisite form of torture that could be doled out in a Ford Windstar minivan. So having that song follow me here to the so-called developing world, 7,000 miles away, and have it hummed by people in my cousin’s office as I try to write this; to have it chorused by a bevy of Catholic schoolchildren skipping out of school; to have it invisibly emit from rust-yellow ballot boxes in a state building lobby; or (my least favorite) screeched by the mall rat set on the crowded jeepney, I heartily curse globalization. I curse the hegemony of American pop music growing like a rot in people’s ears, forming a sort of insulation against the news that a chunk of their constitutional rights got hijacked. (Someone I don’t blame the artist Akon, because I liked his collaboration song with Eminem.)

What the Human Security Act does affect is the content of church sermons. For me, if church is a voluntarily activity it turns into ethnographic spectacle par excellence. I was herded to the upper row of concrete pews on the balcony just in time to hear the pastor somehow take one little phrase in the book of Ezekiel, “God’s fat pasture,” and somehow, in the usual mystery that is Protestant Christian logic armed with a powerpoint show, the phrase turned into an overt political diatribe that went something like this,

Love the Jews! You must Love the Jew! The United States is defending the children of Israel. We must influence GMA (Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo) to do the same.

Note: This sermon was given on Sunday, July 15, 2007, the same day HSA 2007 passed on the Philippine congress.

Of course, while there is every reason to applaud a call against anti-semitism, but I am not sure if anti-semitism is a problem in the Philippines in the first place as much as an anti-Bush administration sentiment coupled with a resistance to capitulation to the demands by aforementioned U.S. regime, like can we have a strategic base here again? But how would even the best preacher connect “God’s fat pasture” to a pro-America stance since America is not, in fact, mentioned in the Old Testament?

"Postcards from Italy," Beirut, from Gulag Orkestar