Over lunch, an officemate commented that this is just like Rwanda, upon which I disagreed, because the motivation, if you can call it that, behind the inhuman massacre that took place in Maguindanao bears greater resemblance to the terrorism that swept through Uganda in the 70s and is still part of the status quo in Zimbabwe. That said, we know that politicide is nothing new. But that’s no cause to shrug it off or make lighthearted cracks about what recently happened in Maguindanao.

We’re having an early Christmas sale at the office, and yesterday I made a mistake while tallying someone’s receipt. Anyway, guy goes: “You should be working for the Ampatuan local government.” or something like that. Something really stupid that compared my shitty math skills with an act of terror committed by a local government unit under threat from the opposition. But it was meant as a lighthearted jab that also testified to “knowledge” of current events. Fun, right? But of course it’s not okay, even as a joke between friends.

Aside from stating the obvious, that you should not joke about it because of the expense on human life, the inhumanity, and the impunity behind the act, joking about it creates excuses for its existence. It’s not as good as allowing brutality on this scale to happen, but it’s getting there. It’s along that range of acceptance and resignation. You’re fine with it, now let’s move on and write it into the script of some sitcom.

I once had a former officemate forward me a joke that began with
BABAE: TULONG! TULONG!
RAPIST: Di ko kailangan ng tulong, kaya ko ‘tong mag-isa!
BABAE: Ah talaga? WAG NA! WAG NA!

I texted back with, “Haha rape is funny.” She answered with an invite to her wedding. A grown woman forwarded me a rape joke, did not get what was wrong with that picture and wanted me to show my face at her wedding later that week. What kind of world do we live in where we can add laugh tracks to rape sequences, shrug off impunity, and go about with our daily lives as long as nothing’s happening to us. I mean, what’s the big deal about rape? What’s the big deal about murder? It happens everyday anyway, it could happen to anyone.

The question is how far from us does brutality have to occur before we can recognize what one person’s murder has to do with the rest of society. How far and how often before it all breaks under the weight of the repercussions of ignorance and insensitivity. Africa was far enough for you to feel like politicide has nothing to do with you. How about Ilocos? Is Ilocos far enough? Serbia was far enough to remove yourself from the brutal realities of genocide. But even then, these were events that would never find themselves written into monologues of late night talk show hosts.

A lot has been written on the “Filipino spirit” and on our so-called capacity to grin and bear things, to smile through even the toughest hurdles. What’s so great about that, especially in cases where smiling doesn’t solve anything.

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