Friday, August 26, 2011

Holy cows

“JESUS saves USC” was the headline of an Aug. 14, 2011 article that reported how gymnast Jesus Zaragosa won two gold medals and boosted the standing of the team fielded by the University of San Carlos (USC) in the 16th Milo Little Olympics.

That headline made me pause in my scanning, read and cheer: Hurrah, Jesus! Hurrah, USC!

And cheers to Sun.Star Cebu sports editor Mike T. Limpag for memorably capping reporter Marian C. Baring’s report.

It’s not only because a well-chosen “head” permits a first sip of the news to a distracted newspaper reader.

“Jesus saves”—that’s truth coming not from a bible-thumper but a tabloid editor. Sun.Star Cebu—all 11 X 17.5 inches of it—is technically classified as a tabloid.

According to a recently proposed ordinance, the Cebu Provincial Board wants to ban all tabloids in the cities and towns of Cebu for “contents (that) are luridly or vulgarly sensational”.

Naughty but accurate, Limpag’s play of words and associations is welcome after the turgid debates on art and religion, freedom of expression and censorship, tabloid journalism and morality these past weeks.

After artist Mideo Cruz was “crucified”—to quote Sun.Star Cebu columnist Melanie T. Lim—for his unorthodox use of religious images in the “Poleteismo” artworks, I wondered if the backlash would result in much pussyfooting and toadying among those we expect to shake us up.

Religion and sex: there are few to rival these for drawing us out of our isolation and involving us in messy, not altogether undesirable entanglements.

That, in the Age of Borderless Communication, such messages are often coursed through upstart “messengers”—artists and journalists—who wield skepticism, irreverence and irony to serve Expression and Truth—guarantees a head-on collision with other mediators guarding Convention and Truth.
Should we be held hostage by our messengers?

We have a choice. We can choose what to believe. Before believing, it is better to listen to all messengers and then select which to believe than to select first and then listen, a reflex tantamount to barricading oneself behind the ramparts of self-perpetuating biases.

What is the harm of giving free rein to all messengers, even those whose intelligence, morality and sanity one questions?

Sanity is subjective. When Ilocos Norte Rep. Imelda Romualdez Marcos was our first lady and the unofficial arbiter of “the good, the true and the beautiful,” writers, journalists and artists who attested to the salvaging of the so-called enemies of the state disappeared from the known world.

Who was sane then? Or insane?

Next to choice, the sweetest fruit of democracy is perspective. And the only one capable of creating this is the individual.

In the schools where I teach, we prize the individual. I don’t know if there is an artwork, an article or a literary creation that I admire that has been produced by a committee or, to use the It Word, from collaboration.

Given the visceral act of creating, even those of us who are tasked to teach and grade those who aspire to write and create are limited only to passing our personal judgment.

In a sense, we, too, are spectators and participants, engaging with and being engaged by a work but without the right and power to change, censor or ban a perspective and the individual behind this.

In the case of bad art—puerile or bigoted, insipid or offensive— only its human creator can destroy this.

Only Jesus—my God, not the gymnast—can strike down “insensitive” and “offensive” artists.

The rest of us should just walk away and get on with our life.
( 09173226131)

* First published in Sun.Star Cebu’s Aug. 21, 2011 issue of the “Matamata” Sunday column

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