The call not to remain silent or speak up is the most powerful lie that sustains the very logic of the current system that oppresses us. It is a counter-productive call which forces us to join the fray of the already noisy public sphere thereby rendering us all deaf to hear one another. It’s a dangerous injunction that amplifies one’s echo chamber.
The truth is that we are already bombarded by a lot of talks, texts, conversations and debates as mediated by social network technologies which render the proverbial “Others” silent (or interpassive).
It is unprecedented in human history that everyone is speaking simultaneously in different screens/media and we are all consuming them all at the same real time. This kind of distracted or noisy public sphere makes us frenetic subjects who live in our newsfeeds to consume the daily serving of the hip and fun political spectacles of the day happily served to us by those in power. This ultimately allows the unprecedented proliferation of fake news and propagandas, and the downgrading of public discourse. It creates a distinct impression that we are “in control” or that we are “resisting” when in truth and in fact, we are being controlled by the powers-that-be. Case in point, the ludicrous issue of the Manila Bay white sand project and the political spectacles it generates.
The issue started from a legitimate critique of the propriety of a beautification project at the time when government has been borrowing left and right to fund its Covid-19 war chest which according to latest data already amounts to $8.96-billion for external debts alone. But it quickly transmogrifies into a kind of political spectacle, particularly a meme game, that distracts us by way of entertainment (enjoyment) from the real and most essential political problems that need vigilance from the public. Worse, it gives another springboard to the jesters and influencers of the government and some elements of the opposition to make this issue as yet another episode of the DDS vs Dilawan political rivaly that only aims to rev up and consolidate their political support base in time for 2022 election.
In fact, political operators are precisely always on the look out if not actively creating this kind of news item in order to remind their former support base of their 2016 election victory or defeat with all the obscene fun and zest that accompanies it. It is not their goal to forge dialogue with one another or find real solutions to our present political conundrums that cause this unprecedented division in our society. They only want to speak with their audience who are needed to be continuously engaged in order to deliver their expected votes in the next election. They only want us to continue to speak and participate in this endless political circus that always culminates in an election— perhaps the grandest political show in a democracy. And then a new circus company will emerge to entertain us and satisfy our need for shallow political participation even in the guise of pseudo-resistance against the system and the cycle repeats itself. This is the plague of our current political dispensation and all of us are complicit in perpetuating it as frenetic subjects. In short, we are all clowns performing our own little clowneries in this circus we call politics.
Better to do nothing than to engage in localized acts whose ultimate function is to make the system run more smoothly. The threat today is not passivity, but pseudo-activity, the urge to “be active”, to “participate”, to mask the Nothingness of what goes on. People intervene all the time, “doing something”; academics participate in meaningless “debates,” etc.; but the truly difficult thing is to step back, to withdraw from it all.“
– Slavoj zizek
Frenetic subjects are also what Hegel in Phenomenology of Spirit identified as “Beautiful Souls.” The “Beautiful Soul” incessantly laments the cruel conditions of the world whose victim it is, which prevent the realization of its good intentions. What it overlooks is the way its own complaints contribute to the preservation of these unfortunate “conditions”- that is, the way the beautiful soul is itself an accomplice in the disorder of the world it bemoans (from For They Know Not What They Do, Enjoyment as Political Factor, 2008)
For simple political observers and those serious at resisting the excesses of the government, it behooves us to ask ourselves, when should we draw the line between having fun on one hand, and active and serious resistance on the other? How can we police ourselves from falling into this political trap by staying silent on certain insignificant issues and being vocal on others? Is clout-chasing on the guise of resistance true resistance? How can we reach out with the proverbial Others (or the Dilawan and the DDS) in order to strike true dialogue with them? How can we transcend the DDS vs Dilawan rivalry?
Sadly, the issue about the Manila Bay white sand project has already been highjacked by various political operators and their influencers, and is already a lost cause for the resistance movement especially on the eyes of ordinary Filipino public who have no patience to look at the facts beyond the visual. Hence, the sooner we move on from this distraction, the better we can demand and exact accountabilities from the government!