Getting physical: how to be safe in a dangerous world

Primitive man

As usual I was in a hurry. Holding a copy of Time magazine with my left hand, a gray duffel bag on my right shoulder, my right hand inside my pocket, I pressed myself inside a crowded elevator going down. Mirrors surrounded us, so it gave me an opportunity to look at people’s expressions without directly staring at them and scaring them with my gaze that always appears malicious. With my look, I can be mistaken for a serial killer: torn jeans, dirty shirt, unkempt hair, and an unknown demonic symbol tattooed on my right arm. After sometime of going to a gym, I’ve developed a built physique that completes the description of a stereotypical killer.

Living in Manila is only a matter of intimidating or being intimidated (my imbecilic logic at work this time). I cannot always speak my mind out loud in a crowd so I have to come up with ways to display my might and make use of available visual cues to signal that I am armed and ready to fight til death. By working out in a gym to attain a certain level of acceptable bulge, having a height of 180 cm (5’11”), and a fashion statement to complete a caricature of a villain in Pinoy action films during the 1980s, I’ve just crossed my name off the list of would-be victims of robbery, murder, and, least of all rape, on Manila’s dangerous street.


Odilon Redon “Primitive Man (Seated in Shadows)”

I cannot survive by being a wimpy intellectual. My thinking must go beyond the thought bubble of my intellect and theories for these will not protect me from the dangers that lurk in the dark alleys of this physical world.

Challenging my assailant on a debate will not be practicable if he has already lunged his knife into my aorta and sliced my larynx, not to mention seeing myself bleeding to death. By then the debate is certainly moot and academic. But developing a muscular legs will do me good if I am running after somebody who just snatched my mobile. Or running from somebody whose intent is to obliterate my face on the face of the world. Explaining to a pickpocket the alienation he is experiencing in a modern society and how to cope with it is futile if he has already emptied my pocket. But having a strong shoulder and a powerful jab will do me so much good to give the man good beatings he’ll forever remember.

Staring myself on the mirrors inside that elevator I saw a body poised to conquer anything that comes his way and capable of defeating anybody that dares to challenge him. That for me is something that transcends Gramsci, Foucault, or Descartes. That is worth more than all the theories and philosophies that explain man’s very existence. I can almost feel my power.

When man lives like an animal in a jungle, his humanity is emphasized. When he is confronted by the rawness of the world, he sees himself more attuned to what he really is – not an animal but definitely not God.

Primitive man3


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