While riding a bus from LRT Buendia to Boni MRT station, while the faceless crowds of people in Ayala Avenue were scampering on their way home or to wherever they are going, I felt that this sense of alienation I have been trying to ignore since I arrived here in Manila forced itself in my psyche again, but stronger and more overwhelming this time. And although I am not a fan of Joseph Conrad, I am reminded of a line in his short story An Outpost of Progress:
Few men realize that their life, the very essence of their character, their capabilities and their audacities, are only the expression of their belief in the safety of their surroundings. The courage, the composure, the confidence; the emotions and principles; every great and every significant thought belongs not to the individual but to the crowd: to the crowd that believes blindly in the irresistible force of its institutions and of its morals, in the power of its police and of its opinion. But the contact with pure unmitigated savagery, with primitive nature and primitive man, brings sudden and profound trouble into the heart. To the sentiment of being alone of one’s kind, to the clear perception of the loneliness of one’s thoughts, of one’s sensation – to the negation of the habitual, which is safe, there is added the affirmation of the unusual, which is dangerous; a suggestion of things vague, uncontrollable, and repulsive, whose discomposing intrusion excites the imagination and tries the civilized nerves of the foolish and the wise alike.
I feel, this time, like a man stripped of the security my society used to provide me. In a way, I feel I am trapped in a place where the rule is that of a primitive man’s.
When I look at it, I realized that for somebody outside, the image of me inside the bus staring aimlessly at the crowd outside is as alienating as any other images of the members of the crowd are also confronting while they walk in their stilleto or pointed-toe leather shoes on the cold concrete of Ayala Avenue, as they wait in line for the cab, as they ask themselves whether this reality is worth the other realities they have to give up.
For somebody who does not have a formal study on sociological theories, I may loosely use anomie as this feeling of normlessness and the seeming lack of order in the world surrounding me. The universe is indifferent toward man. And this evening, while inside that cramped bus, I especially felt this non-forgiving indifference. It is lamentable.