Monday, October 26, 2015

Homeland

It was last Tuesday when my roommate wondered if I've seen an episode of or knew of Homeland, and quickly replied, "I've read it's good." Good reviews, crazy, and mildly racist and inappropriate, at least based on a video I saw in BuzzFeed. But gripping, that was what I was to discover as an understatement about this series. Let's just say it gave Netflix-chill a whole new meaning for me. I was glued from that Tuesday night, from the pilot till yesterday, to its squeaky-clean Season 3 ending. 

Initially, I was biased against it. I felt this was a perfect example of Chomsky's "manufacturing consent," a means for the "military-industry complex" in priming (I learned from Nobel-laureate in economics, and psychologist, Daniel Kahneman's book Thinking, Fast and Slow) the American public (the main audience) on national security issues, erosion (or evolution, for better or for worse) of civil liberties guaranteed by the constitution, primarily privacy and habeas corpus, the rule of law, and lawful procedures by agencies. In other words, I thought this was propaganda, that it is still, as it is not a romantic story, a story that is artistically new and one which brings forward the art of the medium, rather it is a collection of events sourced from facts ingeniously meshed together with an overemphasis on human relations and personas, and jazz, seriously good. 

Before I began my critical examination of this series, and subsequently falling in love with it, I saw the film The Experimenter, 88% in Rotten Tomatoes, starring Winona Ryder, and Peter Saarsgard. This film re-taught me the "agentic state" of Stanley Milgram, the social psychologist whose 1961 experiment in Yale is the subject of the film. Today, he is the 46th most-cited psychologist of the 20th century, based on a survey published in 2002 by the Review of General Psychology

What is the "agentic state?" "People allow others to direct their actions, and then pass off the responsibility for the consequences to the person giving the orders. In other words, they act as agents for another person’s will." That's how simplypsychology.org defines it. Now, how is all this related to my initial subliminal hostility to Homeland? Claire Danes, Damien Lewis, Mandy Patinkin, the other cast members, the producers, the networks, the people behind the scenes who made this addictive series possible, are indirectly agents of propaganda by the military hawks in Washington. That is the major implication of the works I've cited here, if one thinks about it. 

I love the show now, but it doesn't change its nature, and what it serves, entertainment, and priming. Priming the public of what agents like Carrie go through in order to keep people safe. It is priming us of the bureaucratic infighting, and warfare, present in these organizations. That complexity, and its reverberations, precedes its real nature, goals, and ideals. Perhaps by seeing this revelatory material, we can understand what they go through, and therefore, judge them in a more sophisticated manner. It's an inquiry, not a damnation, of American intelligence actions. And I love it.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Shiva for Dick, the chemist Nobel laureate 'left to die because he had no money' in Manila

When I was still in Manila, busy with my blogs, my paintings, my jobs, I did my best to get in touch with the nearest Nobel laureate I could find. Why? I wanted to meet a Nobel laureate. I was dying to meet one, even just to gawk at a Nobel laureate. I imagined it as an experience similar to that of a devotee visiting shrines of saints or places where miracles have happened. But aren't celebrities saints nowadays? At least that was what Nietzsche thought. We venerate them, we follow in their footsteps, we ask for their guidance, we emulate them, or is it just me? 

The Philippines hasn't produced a single Nobel laureate, the last person that was considered for one, for the Peace Prize, the former president and mother of the current president, Corazon Aquino, didn't get it because she wasn't so peaceful after all, thanks to her human rights record. But maybe I'm setting the bar to high here, after all, Henry Kissinger, and Barack Obama, won the Peace Prize. Napalm and drones, fascism and deportations, merit Nobel prizes, apparently. But to be fair to the Nobel committee, how could they have known? Tradition begets convenience.

So, there I was, at that moment of time, doing things to find a way to interview interesting people for this blog. When I discovered that within my habitat, in the bantustan-y, segregated, post-colonial, chaotic, gated-community-ridden, class-conscious, inconvenient Blackhole of Manila, a Nobel laureate, by the name of Richard Heck, who relocated to Manila with his wife, the surely amazing, Soccoro Nardo (what a beautiful name, but their marriage was prettier), as soon as possible I looked for a way to get in touch with them. For a meet and greet, for a chat, for an interview, for a friendship (LOL) for an autograph/selfie, for an ego-boost to my investigative powers. 


After people from newspapers ignored my request, (if I could obtain the contact information of Mr. Heck, whom they interviewed from that moment in time when they simultaneously found out that a Nobel-laureate have chosen the Philippines, a backward Third World country, to be his retirement home, it was national news as it begged the question, what have we done to deserve him? Symptomatic of a low-self esteem and propaganda from the neo-colonial elite, to seek his validation for the Filipino people's identity, to make sure he loved the country, to perpetuate national myths, to put words in his mouth). I scoured the Yellow Pages, all I got out of it was a mild irritation on my some of my fingers from the dust of the ignored and unused books, some hang-ups, and "wrong number." I though my next step was to write to some of the journalists, and if necessary to their editors, or perhaps, to the Bureau of Immigration to find something out which was highly plausible since certain subclasses of visas required publication of the applicant's information, in theory, in case a local objected, obviously absurd.

And then, after many weeks passed, weeks of happenings, of cinemas, of books, of gossiping, of volunteering, working, eating out, traffic, pollution, mild attention deficit, procrastinating, laziness, lethargy, I shelved the idea of interviewing him, I relented, I told myself, soon, soon, I know I will, well duh, I must, no doubt, I will, shall, and it will and shall happen. But then things unfolded in my life, the hyperactivity of the death threats, the demands of my bookshelves (yelling stop this devastating Tsundoku), the demands of my work, personal, and social, life, overrode my desire to meet him as soon as possible. All of a sudden everything was different. All of a sudden, I had to flee, my priorities had to change quickly, so needless to painfully point out, it didn't happen. And it would have been dormant in my memory if not for this horrific news, that a Nobel-laureate, who not so long ago, was hagiographically propagandized to satisfy elite-masses tensions, died in a private hospital in Manila, for a reason not so unfamiliar to the masses in the Philippines, for not having money. The implications are there, think abut it. Funny enough, the New York Times didn't mention this critical piece of fact. Why?