Monday, September 19, 2016

This War Is Kind (A PaRody of Stephen Crane’s Classic Poem War Is Kind, 1899)

Do not weep, maiden, for this war is kind,
Because your brother was a drug peddler to the sky
And he is not to be arrested but destined to death and not alone,
Do not weep.
This war is kind.

Hoarse, booming drums of the law enforcing regiment,
Great souls thirst for your blood yet you didn’t fight,
Men of your kind, they say, are not human hence must die.
The unexplained glory flies above the gory will in them.
Great is the butcher-god, great, and his abattoir (or was it his kingdom?) —
A field where a thousand corpses lie.

Do not weep, babe, for this war for change is kind.
Because your father was spared by the “yellow” trenches,
Raged at his breast, resisted thus died.
Do not weep.
This war is kind.

Swift blazing desire to feed his family, his ever-loved regiment
Eagle whose irreparable self is forever red for gold,
These men born to felony must straightaway die.
Bystanders were taught the virtue of slaughter,
Tutored or tortured on the excellence of killing
And a field where a thousand corpses lie.

Mother whose heart hung humble as a button
On the loosen packing tape that wrapped your son,
Do not weep.
This war is kind!


Here is Stephen Crane’s original poem text:

War is Kind

Do not weep, maiden, for war is kind,
Because your lover threw wild hands toward the sky
And the affrighted steed ran on alone,
Do not weep.
War is kind.

Hoarse, booming drums of the regiment,
Little souls who thirst for fight,
These men were born to drill and die.
The unexplained glory flies above them.
Great is the battle-god, great, and his kingdom—
A field where a thousand corpses lie.

Do not weep, babe, for war is kind.
Because your father tumbles in the yellow trenches,
Raged at his breast, gulped and died,
Do not weep.
War is kind.

Swift blazing flag of the regiment,
Eagle with crest of red and gold,
These men were born to drill and die.
Point for them the virtue of slaughter,
Make plain to them the excellence of killing
And a field where a thousand corpses lie.

Mother whose heart hung humble as a button
On the bright splendid shroud of your son,
Do not weep.
War is kind!


(Photo : Time Magazine)

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Resembling The Lone Ranger and Tonto

I was barely ten when I had my first close encounter with the Mindoro indigenous peoples. I ate, slept and played with Mangyan children each time of a year. During our town’s fiesta celebration, Mangyan families from the boondocks of Mansalay, daring the two-day and one night foot travel via Insulman in Batasan, gather at my grandparents’ residence in Capt. Cooper St. to witness the festivities of lights and colours. My Mamang cooked food them, prepared their beddings in a vacant store room near our family’s ancestral house. The Mangyan elders chewing nganga, with wide grin in their faces and smile in their red lips, simply nod every time my grandma reminds them not to spit on the cemented part of the pavement. She treated them as visitors and not as ordinary strangers seeking temporary refuge. Unlike the town’s wealthy matriarchs, she never drove them away.

Claro, her son, even risked his life for his friends in the upland in many occasions, they say but not going into specifics. They said that their chief cowboy made them change their attitude towards lowlanders who are mostly arrogant and mean. Each time my uncle sits on his weapons carrier truck heading to the mountains, boxes of canned sardines, kilos of dried fish, candies, sacks of rice and bunch of dried tobacco leaves were neatly piled behind his WC51 for his friends’ consumption. The Buhids are treated by him not only as his workers in the ranch but trusted friends. Because my Mamang loves his son, she cared for them. It was her son who gave them the first taste of the modern world. At the very tender age, I’ve learned stories how the Buhids hunt wild animals and nurture the ranch owner’s thoroughbred horses. He even related to me how good my uncle was over the saddle, on catching a stray cow with a rope and firing his revolver. There are many untold stories about his cowboy years that I’ve heard from David Ighay, the Mangyan chieftain, the one who speaks fluent Tagalog. After his cowboy days, my uncle also excelled in other manly actions like motorcycle dirt riding, scuba diving, practical shooting, among others.

I remember the much younger David Ighay, the lead cattle worker, always accompanied by his “bodyguards” Danum Dauy and Ligduman Humbos. I remember my uncle, in full cowboy outfit, with spurs attached to his boots, hat and all, going out of the truck with David beside him in red poplin G-string and his long waist-length hair hooped by a strip of cloth with floral design, no footwear whatsoever.

As they appear at the wooden gate and walk together on the pavement, they looked like The Lone Ranger and Tonto to me.

Even when I grew up and finished my studies, had a family of my own and got a job, he keeps on going down the mountains though my grandparents are now long gone and the ancestral house no longer there. And the ranches all over are just things of the past and Mindoro’s cattle business ceases to be as lucrative as before. He also drops-by at the houses my uncles and aunties and their immediate family for more than four decades already since the day they first reached our Cooper home of yore.

He brings native wallet, panuhugin (bracelet), kadyos (black legume), a knife or a broom for a present every time he visits us especially on important occasions such as fiesta and Christmas. Rice, used clothes, salt, coffee, sugar, medicines and a little cash were given to him in return. He had been close with all our clan members and treated him as a distant relative. David Ighay, upon learning that the cowboy already passed away, wept. And over cups of coffee that night many years ago, the aging Mangyan, who was already a teenager when the war broke out, told me wonderful stories how my uncle, generous and caring as he was, won the hearts of the average tribesmen, women and children alike, and gained the respect of prominent Buhid leaders in the highlands of southern Mindoro in the early 70s’.

Bapa David Ighay, tribal leader from Banaynayan in Panaytayan of Mansalay town, Oriental Mindoro gave in to senility and peacefully died on his sleep on the night of August 19, 2016. The following morning, following the Buhid burial custom, his remains were wrapped in a banig, placed in a big basket locally called buyog and immediately carried to their sacred ground atop the hill with the splendid Caguray River angrily rolling below. A Daniw was performed for the eternal repose of the chieftain’s soul.

Their stories at least to me in this particular moment, like that of The Lone Ranger and Tonto, cannot be told separately. ..


(Photo: From the movie “The Lone Ranger” (2013)

Friday, September 2, 2016

Confirmation Bias and the Philippine Anti-Drug Campaign

When the president you have elected or his closest political rival or his critics and their publicists go with your opinion, you think you cannot go wrong. How could you err if you share the same sentiments or them confirming your existing beliefs? You tend to look for or interpret information in such a way it confirms your biases that lead to disregarding or ignoring other information or evidences contrary to your preconceived ideas or prejudices.

In many points of my life, I have also been a prey to confirmation bias. This is due to the difficulty that, human as I am, I cannot easily see it coming. According to Shahram Heshmat Ph.D. in his column Science of Choice which appeared in Psychology Today dated 23 April 2015, “Confirmation bias occurs from the direct influence of desire on beliefs. When people would like a certain idea/concept to be true, they end up believing it to be true. They are motivated by wishful thinking. This error leads the individual to stop gathering information when the evidence gathered so far confirms the views (prejudices) one would like to be true”. Regardless of the things that divide us, for instance our social standing and religious or political beliefs, humans deceive themselves in many occasions. For example, when a junkie or drug pusher is advised by his parents to stop his vice, he has this tendency to be confident that he can still be a good family member - a good loving father or a husband, a good neighbour and a good citizen despite of the fact s/he is hooked on drugs or peddling it. He can still feel morally upright as long as he does not harm other people. As long as he constantly prays to God and ask for his forgiveness each day and pray for the Lord's blessings. As long as he does not hurt, do injustice, kill, rape or rob people. So if the junkie or pusher gets busted, killed or in the process commits crime to satisfy his cravings for drugs, his false optimism brought about by his self-deception paid an important part in his sad fate.

Having mentioned this, self-deception is as deadly as shabu (methamphetamine hydrochloride) or any prohibited drugs littering the slums or during parties for it deadens our perception of reality. Confirmation bias as self-deception is a thing that blinds us to weigh things by gathering evidence and participate in some intellectual quests that is required in every thinking species in the face of the earth. Confirmation bias as a form of self-deception makes us act like those hooked into shabu.  Robert Pagliarini, writing for I Have Net in an article titled Five Tips to Avoid Confirmation Bias, aptly puts it, “The problem with confirmation bias is that you selectively filter what information you choose to pay attention to and value. So, not only will you actively look for evidence and seek out experts that confirm your existing beliefs, but even more perniciously, you'll hide from or discredit any information that contradicts your viewpoint.” If drug addicts do the most heinous of crimes because their minds are poisoned by meth and other substance, he is at par with those who are drifted into confirmation bias for they both do not see things objectively. They only do and believe those things that confirm their prejudices, as I have said. If those who are fallen into confirmation bias ignore and reject all that cast doubts on their beliefs, the drug addict (and sometimes the political publicists in our midst and including of course their patrons) defy moral compasses, ethical standards and legal dictums and instruments just to serve their own cravings and agenda. They are incarcerated in their own assumptions.

Scrutinizing the exchanges of those who favour and those who oppose the bloody anti-drug campaign happening in the Philippines today, especially the posts, comments and memes over the social networking sites concerning the rift between President Rodrigo Duterte and Senator Leila M. de Lima, it’s easy to point out  how one sector of the publicists deceive their readers. They deceive people by hiding or distorting the truth (or evidences not favouring their line of thinking) and like nincompoops, the readers believe them. To those who deceive people, theirs is the advantage for they know what they have imparted are lies. It isn’t the case in self-deception.

As Ken Taylor, co-creator of the site Philosophy Talk, have noted, “But in the case of self-deception the deceiving party and the deceived party are one and the same.  That’s what makes it so puzzling.” In this particular case of the word war between the hard core supporters of de Lima and Duterte, in this case of self-deception, are same banana. Taylor is right in concluding that philosophically speaking, self-deception borders on the paradoxical.

Of course, you may likewise argue that this little reflection is laced with confirmation bias, or to some point, self-deception…