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Everything is new again

Didn’t some song say, “endings are just beginnings?”

In 2010, I went through what my aunt called a ‘midlife crisis’–precipitated perhaps by my bout with clinical depression. I’m not sure which came first; it’s like the proverbial question about the chicken and the egg, I suppose. Many bad things happened then: I quit my job, quit almost all of my professional and personal relationships, and I almost killed myself, among others.

But the past year has been kind to me. I was able to go back to school and almost complete my Master’s degree in Public Health (just one itty-bitty course to go). I made amends to the people who were important to me for the way I behaved towards them when I was un-well (some bridges I left broken–they weren’t worth saving). And I made new friends in school and at work (something that I thought I had un-learned to do).

Career-wise, though, I felt adrift. I wasn’t sure I could just go back to my former work, because I felt my survival was life’s signal that I needed to make changes in that aspect of my life. My writing was the next obvious choice. So I pursued it. Circumstances seemed to validate my theory. My stories and poems got published again. In no time I found myself training under the country’s top screenwriter, in preparation for a writing job in the country’s top broadcasting company.

So I allowed myself to drift towards that direction, like a leaf on a stream. It felt like (because on hindsight, it really was) a fresh start. But I wasn’t the wide-eyed young man that I was more than 15 years ago. Not anymore. Though everything seemed new, nothing felt fresh. I was fortunate to be in a happy workplace but I didn’t feel happy. I enjoyed instant gratification, but I couldn’t stand doing something that in the long term will prove meaningless.

I have deep respect for those who can thrive in this milieu; but it’s not for me. It took me a while to figure it out but good thing I managed to extricate myself from it.

With the new month, came a new opportunity. To go back to ‘where I felt I really belonged’. Doing what I do best for my community. I’m just fortunate for being able to do all of these, traipsing around, finding a beat I could dance to, going off-tangents, before settling down. And then, everything is new once again.

wish me luck!

wish me luck!

Nothing important happened today

I try to avoid watching the news because I find it too depressing. The ratio between good and bad news being reported by broadcast media is seriously imbalanced, in favor of the bad. But like a passer-by who stumbled upon a road accident, I am often unable to resist the urge to watch the news on TV. I like information. I like to be informed, for better or worse.

word salad

word salad

As a discerning consumer of information, I take it from a wide range of sources to ‘expand and balance’ my perception and opinions. I have learned not to take things at face value right away. I have cultivated the habit of looking at the reasons and contexts at play behind events and incidents. I have come to understand that good and evil are not absolute but more likely relative states.

However, all of these learning can prove useless in the face of the fodder that’s being shoved down our throats by the media these days.

Since when are domestic squabbles national news? The warring couple might be both celebrities but why are their mundane affairs covered as if it were of national importance? Can’t talk your daughter out of a relationship with someone you don’t approve? Here’s the solution: hold a press conference and malign everyone except yourself for being such a terrible parent!

Until recently, I didn’t think that we have this culture of washing dirty linens in public. I thought this was confined to Americans, with their indignant glorification of victimization, as seen in some of their popular talk shows (Jerry Springer Show, Geraldo, Ricki Lake Show, etc). So when the format of TV5’s ‘Face-to-Face’ surfaced in another network’s shows, I came to the sad realization that as it turned out, we are also susceptible to this condition.

Our Muslim brothers are dying in Sabah. The means of counting our votes might have changed, but the candidates in this election have mostly remained the same. Suicide has claimed another young person, putting public education under scrutiny. The church continues to meddle in political affairs. The country’s so-called economic gains has not trickled down to sectors that matter.

“Nothing important happened today.” King George III, unaware that Americans had declared independence, wrote this in his diary on July 4, 1776. Communication  technology has changed dramatically since then. But with the quality of stories that our mass media has chosen to foist upon us, it becomes safer to say that, indeed, nothing important happened today.

Have you embraced your inner bigot today?

Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. described bigotry this way: “The mind of a bigot is like the pupil of the eye; the more light you pour upon it, the more it will contract.”

That sums up right away the way I feel for those who harbor prejudices against anyone or anything. A kind of resigned acceptance, even tolerance–the same things that they cannot find within themselves. I don’t try to change them; I just make sure that our paths cross as minimally as possible. However, there are times when this becomes difficult to do, especially when bigots find a platform to stand on and a channel to broadcast their bigotry to the rest of the world.

I was prepared to contain my reaction to Christine Babao’s parenting column article within a single tweet because I felt it deserved nothing more. Many have reacted to the article and there have been far more eloquent responses and reactions than mine would have been. One such reaction here, from a lesbian and another from a developmental psychologist provide insight based on critical and scientific thinking instead of pseudo-psychology and moralistic and polite shaming.

rainbow4bigots

However, just the other night, as I was having coffee with a close friend (who’s also gay), this topic found its way into our conversation wherein he told me that he wasn’t really bothered by Ms Babao’s pronouncements on parenting (possibly LGBT) children. Because he felt that, as a parent, she was entitled to think that way and to act according to what she thought was good for her own children. He had a point, I had to agree.

Therein, I thought, lies the deeper problem. Ms Babao’s comments are a reflection of parents’ lack of knowledge and understanding of human sexuality. The fact that she talked about looking for ‘early signs of homosexuality’ is a clear indicator that she and the so-called expert she quoted view homosexuality (and other variations of sexual preference) as a disease or a disorder of some sort. She also displayed a complete ignorance of the differences between sex and gender, which further affects her views on sexuality.

For someone who’s in the mass media, one might express surprise at her old-fashioned dated views on human sexuality. However, she’s not really alone in this. Ms Babao is not the first and she won’t be the last. I know for certain a number of female celebrities who are surrounded by gay men & women colleagues and friends who will find it inconceivable to accept should her son/ daughter grow up gay. When this hugely popular actress had a talk show, I remember cringing upon hearing her prejudices against gays, which she let slip discretely beneath her very nice and polite demeanor. And just last night, in a talent show, while judging a young male contestant who might’ve danced too gracefully (like a “girl”) so as to arouse doubts on the boy’s sexuality, its out-spoken female judge said that if it were one of her sons (who acted like that), she would probably die.

Bigotry is a tricky thing. Not many will admit to having prejudices but we all have it, in varying degrees. Like I said, my problem is when bigots find a platform to stand on and a channel to broadcast their bigotry to the world. Ms Babao tweeted some sort of apology that reeks of arrogance and self-righteousness. She even relayed the same kind of apology, presumably from the pseudo-psychologist that she substantially quoted in her article.

I thought, my God, has she really deluded herself on her so-called expertise on parenting? Having a child does not make one an expert on parenting; it’s like regarding yourself a mathematician after learning just to add and subtract. In these times, Ms Babao, parenting is already challenging as it is. So please don’t muddle the issue by imposing your prejudices on other concerned parents and disguising them thinly as your simplistic disclaimer. Good thing somebody gave an insightful response, here.

The television wields so much transformative power over the psyche of people. It has the great potential to broaden minds and mitigate the impact of bigotry and discrimination. Unfortunately, these potential and power are largely ignored by many of its practitioners, choosing instead to provide entertainment that panders to instead of uplifting the minds of viewers, to highlight opinions that espouse shallowness of thought instead of critical thinking and acting, and to emphasize ideas that deepen materialism and greed instead of equality and equity.

ADDENDUM:

I just finished watching Kapuso Mo, Jessica Soho’s segment on raising LGBT children and I would just like to congratulate the show for its factual and sensitive treatment of the issue. The two case studies were both presented without a touch of sensationalism that lesser shows would normally succumb to. The resource person spoke simply but effectively, unlike that Dr. Camille. It was touching and uplifting, even in its most tragic moments. Best quote of the segment: “Homosexuality is a normal variant of sexual preferences.” As it was just proven, there is hope after all for Philippine television on being an agent of change.