The Farce in Our Stars

By: Reyshimar Arguelles

FILIPINO humor has always had a way with infusing politics in anything that remotely talks about politicians. For instance, any serious news story involving crocodiles or snakes courts the attention of keyboard warriors with a damning tendency to draw parallels between reptiles and the noble members of Congress.

Who couldn’t resist the urge to put a convicted senator in the same species as Lolong or suggest turning the House of Representatives into a pig sty but one that reeks of imported perfume? Only a Filipino can be so creative in coming up with such comparisons no matter how bland political jokes have become over the years.

There is significance in using humor as a scalpel. It deals with the undeniable fact that the Philippines is suffering from several different cancers altogether. We’re supposed to cut through the skin in a bid to remove them. But using humor to malign politicians can only give temporal satisfaction. It only pokes the tumor instead of slicing it clean off. And yet we feel we’re doing a great service for the nation if we keep on repeating even the most unfunny tropes such as Gadon’s “bobo” catchphrase or the notorious “Jonel” meme.

Of course, there’s a reason behind the low-brow humor Filipinos bring to serious political discussion. It stems directly from a deep-seated frustration with a system that doesn’t take itself seriously and is only concerned with self-preservation rather than creating a more sensible society for everybody. If that were really the case, then it should be right to treat those in power with absolute disrespect and cynicism. We could finally rid ourselves of the vapid practice of using repackaging novelty songs into campaign jingles that are just vomit-inducing.

Camus once wrote, “The only way to deal with an unfree world is to become so absolutely free that your very existence is an act of rebellion.” To a Filipino suffering from hunger pangs at least, the best way to treat those in power is to strip them to the bone and pull them to a level they will never escape from. While we can never free ourselves from the wretchedness of our political culture, we can at least find comfort in treating our leaders like the slugs that they are. We can, because we have to, and because they’re asking for it. Philippine politics is just rich with absurd comedy material that it’s almost impossible to pass up an opportunity to issue the most damning insults.

The only recent instance I can think of is the squabble between the Binay siblings vying for the mayoralty of Makati City, the bailiwick of their father former VP and now part-time UFC referee Jejomar Binay. The brick batting that happened during a Church-sponsored forum was inconsequential to an outsider who couldn’t care less about Makati politics. But what’s so strikingly hilarious about this whole thing is the way these yahoos treat governance. To them, it’s nothing more than a platform for ego-tripping. The voters, themselves, are also playing along, choosing to focus on the emotional aspect of the rivalry rather than the actual content of their platforms. Come to think of it, do we really care about platforms more than the people who ride them?

The lousiest personalities who have the gall to call themselves public servants pander to the basest of emotions. Being made to choose between drama and an authentic platform of governance, it’s obvious that they’ll fight over who gets to have the biggest heart for service, through petty rivalries that don’t mean much to their constituents.

It’s all an ego fest when we let these numbskulls have their way. It makes for great entertainment, to say the least. It’s all fun and farce until we get to the issues that should have none of it: our territorial waters; the ensuing problem of illegal drugs and the haphazard way the government is handling it; the ever widening income gap; and corruption that continues to be rampant.

But if it helps to cope with these problems, then poking fun at the dismal state we’re in seems like the best thing we can do at the moment. Laughter isn’t exactly the best medicine, but what are we going to do in the face of all this hopelessness?