Lost in language

By: Reyshimar Arguelles

IT IS no question that language plays a crucial role in building societies. Obviously, we cannot have a civilization to speak of without a predetermined system for the transference of knowledge, skills, traditions, and all other elements that compose a society.

Language transforms and informs the way we live and the way we perceive what is currently happening around us. It creates as much as it destroys and enables us to innovate and progress as a species. But it is also liberating, which means to say it develops within us an awareness of current social situations that language itself has helped mold. It is this back-and-forth process that has complicated democratic life. We are all part of such a  process where there is always a need to challenge ideas and protect those values we hold dear – including those values that qualify as bad.

No one has the right to monopolize the area of free speech since doing so leads us into accepting a single perspective and cripples our aspirations for progress. Dissent is an element of a healthy society and it realizes the transformative nature of language. It has to, since we are undergoing a continuous transformation where we test out different ideas and discard those that are inimical to collective interests.

The State, of course, reserves a platform for informing the public about the policies that carry out its main agenda. But what is always hidden underneath the rhetoric it churns out lie the interests it has to protect. Numerous elections in the past have convinced us of the illicit marriage between politics and business which has never detached itself from Philippine society. And yet, we find ourselves coming back into accepting this as part of a deathless reality where we are encouraged to trust the “wisdom” of our leaders and treat them as though they were deities that reward us with blessings if we trust them enough.

It is all wishful thinking that is unproductive, regressive, and highly dangerous. It is also something that needs to be criticized if we indeed value freedom and prevent those who control our institutions from having free rein in protecting what is valuable to them. It is only clear the current and past administrations have fallen far from achieving their respective visions for the country. It is only natural, then, for dissent to fill the government in on what is missing and what needs to be changed if it is really determined to build a workable utopia.

Of course, there is no such thing as utopia or we would be surrendering what little freedoms we have just to feed a twisted fantasy. Any thought of utopia capitulates in the presence of a language that aims to uncover the falsity and the contradictions that have built such a utopia in the first place. President Duterte’s promises to resolve those issues that are closest to the heart of every Filipino – that is, crime, corruption, and the need to make Metro Manila less of a death trap to commuters – resonated with a public that is fed up with promises that previous administration’s could not even keep.

Duterte’s campaign during the 2016 elections was effective enough on account of its mastery of a language that positions him as the only alternative to politicians who ostensibly hide their biases under the guise of being protectors of the common tao.

Three years in and things have barely changed, only that we are treated to rants that do nothing but serve as sensational news fodder. And yet, administration supporters are adamant in their belief that Duterte is the very definition of perfection, despite of course the issues that are hounding this ceaseless War on Drugs and the supposed cleanliness of public service.

Whether the Skimmers’ cheering performance was in poor taste or not, it only proves that no one has an exclusive right to joke about death and destruction. The harassment against the students was somewhat expected, but it only attempts to make the language of dissent an exclusive right of the Duterte administration.

If that happens, then where are we really going from here?