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paris attacked

‘A horror’: French president vows ‘pitiless’ counterattack after terrorists kill 149 in Paris

Dozens are dead, the country’s borders are closed and the city of Paris has been flooded with soldiers after an “unprecedented” string of terrorist attacks struck the capital Friday night – the worst to hit France since the Second World War.

good for a laugh

unwitting court jesters of the world, filipinos are, the philippine government, even religious leaders, included.  we’re always good for a laugh or two, laglag bala being only the latest gaffe that has the world laughing in exasperation if not in pain, for us.  as for the looming summit, we won’t even need stand-up comics to entertain putin and obama atbp.   happily shutting down this third world economy so world leaders can safely party for their economic gains is already too tragic-comic for words anyway.  esp because the palace doesn’t get it.  joke’s on us.

writing in a “climate of fear”

Speech delivered by National Artist Nick Joaquin at the Philippine PEN Conference, July 1983.

Let me show you fear in a handful of dust—or rather of press releases.

A PEN (Poets, Playwrights, Essayists, Novelists) member took a handful of press releases to the newspaper offices. The press releases were about this conference we’re having today. But one look at the press releases and the editors froze. They had read the title of this conference.

Another look and the editors shuddered. They had read the list of speakers at this conference: names like professor Gonzales and Senator Diokno and Letty Magsanoc.

Needless to say, it was hard work distributing those press releases. They had generated fear in the offices of the principal newspapers of this country.

But why should such a fear be strongest and most prevalent among those who are, so to put it, on the side of the angels? Those on the opposite side, you would think, have more reasons to be afraid.

But it’s the oppositionists who display a most enjoyable recklessness. Ah, but even if they do not share that fear, they too must live in the climate of fear created by those who have to be oh so careful about what they write and what they publish.

Nervous is the word

This is the climate being created today by the press in the Philippines—not the press of the opposition but the conformist press. The conforming press is so powerful it should be fearless—and yet it doesn’t even sound comfortable.

Nervous would be the word for the principal newspapers today. They’re nervous about what they print and they’re nervous about what they don’t print. They’re nervous about what their columnists may say and they’re nervous about what their columnists don’t say.

And this general nervousness communicates itself to you when you try to visit any of the big newspaper offices: It’s like trying to break into an armed camp.

Now the so-called creative writer may ask what had he got to do with the conditions under which the newspaper writer must perform.

But if it’s the press that creates the cultural climate today, and that climate is one of fear, then even the creative writer, however independent he may think himself to be, is actually also suffering from the conditions that make the newspaper writer so nervous.

Neither safe nor free

The proposition that literature is automatically free, because written in the light of eternity, while journalism is necessarily enslaved to the concerns of the moment—that proposition is false. And even if not false, still indefensible.

No more than other republics can the Republic of Letters exist half-slave and half-free. While his brothers in journalism are in thrall, the creative writer is himself not whole, not safe and not free.

MH17, the horror, the unspeakable pain

this is somewhat late, news-wise, but it’s taken a while to wrap my head around it, even longer, to put feelings, thoughts, into words.

soon after malaysia airlines flight 17 was shot down july 17 in ukraine airspace allegedly by a russian surface-to-air missile, i couldn’t help wondering which was easier to bear, this, or the loss of malaysia airlines flight 370 last march 8, remains of which have yet to be found…

i know, i know, every death, esp of a loved one, is difficult to bear, but but but at least with mh370 one could take some comfort in slim hopes that they’re all still alive and whole, at best taken to some shangri-la?  but, yes, still, above all, the unexpected loss of loved ones, no goodbyes, not knowing what happened, and where, and why, adds to the pain and affords no closure…

in contrast, the mh17 crash site, thanks to cable tv, is there in all its horror for all the world to see.   this is what happens, this is what it looks like, when a plane full of people (298) is blasted from the sky, whether from ground or air:  the shattered plane and human fragments rain down, men women children broken burnt bodies and personal effects strewn over fields and backyards, left to the mercies of the elements and of scavengers, not to speak of war freaks.

five days later, july 22, dutch foreign minister hans timmermans addressed the u..n. security council as the 15 members, including russia, adopted an australia-led resolution demanding an international investigation of the downing of mh17.

 …To my dying day I will not understand that it took so much time for the rescue workers to be allowed to do their difficult jobs and that human remains should be used in a political game. And somebody here around the table talks about a political game – this is the political game that is being played, with human remains, and it is despicable. I hope the world will not have to witness this again, any time in the future.

Images of children’s toys being tossed around, luggage being opened and passports, including passports of children, being shown on television, they are turning our grief and mourning into anger of a whole nation. We demand unimpeded access to the terrain. We demand respectful treatment of the crash site. We demand dignity for the victims and the multitudes who mourn their loss.

the next day, the first 70 coffins arrived in the netherlands.  the saddest parade ever — never before had the world seen the like — coffin after coffin, hearse after hearse.  at least, at last, some order after horrible chaos.  but yes, mute silence in the face of the unspeakably painful.  coffins, hearses,  bearing not bodies but body parts, not who, but whose.

Families have been warned not all the remains may be recovered from the crash site in rebel-held territory. Other passengers may have been “vaporised” during the crash.

… No-one wants to detail how grim it truly is inside the temporary mortuary at Hilversum.

But Dutch police chief Gerard Bouman knows it’s heart-breaking work. “What we found in the body bags in Ukraine was indescribable,” he said.

“The contents were horrible. Hardened people whose work this is are finding it hard to process. Bits and pieces all mixed – big and small – were found in the bags.”

and the search goes on…