The politics of staring

Ralph Waldo Emerson said it no more succinctly than this, we cannot see things that stare us in the face until the hour comes that the mind is ripened.

Many people hallucinate and hear voices when no one is there. Society call them mad, out of their minds, demented, or a little loose in there (saying the word ‘loose’ while raising their hands above their heads and gesturing that two irritating Vs and checking if somebody else is listening). They are shut up in rooms where they stare at the walls all day. The other kind, the more villainous of sort  are called writers and they do pretty much the same thing, write their rants and rambles the entire time while they stare at their own wall of emptiness all day.

Spoliarium by Juan Luna. Photo taken by Randy Solis.

After work, and if I still have time left, I would spend it ensconced in front of my computer trying to decipher, by looking at the blinking cursor, which I hope it may, in all its humbleness, tell me the secret of the universe.

In my many attempts to unravel this secret, this cursor might have already revealed it to me a long time ago, only that I failed to stare at it as intently and did not recognize what should have been completely obvious. I missed it. Or because of my whining while writing, it decided to slip from my sight and decided never to manifest itself to me, ever.

The author before the painting Spoliarium by Juan Luna. Photo taken by Randy Solis.

But I am not the over-determined kind. I am not beholden to anything or anyone, even to the noble quest of knowing the secret of the universe. I guess it is because of this over-determinism why some people go mad. The wall stares at them and they thought it’s God. They stare back, and from that moment on they irretrievably fall in to a spiraling abyss other people call madness where no one will escape unscathed.

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The village idiots

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This is a story of a far away land in an undisclosed location in the middle of northern Philippines where Filipino politics had not yet reached and where people’s lives had not succumbed as yet to the idiocy of politics.

In this community of ten thousand, everyone lived like  idiots. When somebody made a mistake, they laughed at it throughout the day until they got exhausted that would prompt them to sleep soundly in the night. None of the people in this far away land had ever seen any human settlement other than their village. Some attempted to venture and seek, out of that human desire for adventure, other parts of the world, but they ended in vain. Either they died along the way or they never returned to tell the story of how it was to live outside the community. No one from the outside ever reached the village and documented the unique way of life the people of this unknown place had. Not until just recently.

The people in this village lived in complete peace and happiness. Being idiots, although it sometimes caused them to start planting rice during the climax of summer heat, which ended up, of course, to massive crop failure, or to feed their pigs and other farm animals with banana leaves, which of course made the animals bloated and sickly, they seldom experienced hardship because any problems caused by their stupidity was viewed as another opportunity for merry-making and an entire afternoon of laughing spree.


The community had no established form of formal government or any kind of hierarchy based on power. However, this did not mean that their society was free from any form of stratification. There was, in fact. The more dimwitted a member was, the higher was his place in the society’s social echelon.

But being the most idiotic of the idiots was not an elected post as it is in mainstream Philippine society today. In this community, whose name was already forgotten, it is determined by the level of idiocy one has committed. The grander was the act, the more far-reaching the effect, the more stupid it looked, the higher was the member’s position in the society’s caste.

And so they continued to live at peace with each other. Each member felt secured by the fact that as long as they remained idiots nothing would harm them, and that being an idiot would keep them from harming themselves, as well as other idiot members of the community.

They were occasionally plagued with pestilence, famine, and disease; but nature had been good to them, generally. This continued for several centuries. Until one day.

It was an ordinary day; somebody’s house was burning because instead of cleaning the house using water and detergent, one housewife, lured by the addictive, pungent odor of paint thinner, poured some on the bamboo slats she was trying to clean. Accidentally, the burning wood she was using to cook rice fell on the bamboo slat and started the fire. The fire consumed her hut in half an hour. She was teary-eyed, laughing at the ashen remain of her house. The village people gathered around her and asked her to buy them tuba, a local alcoholic beverage, to which she replied that all the monies she tucked between her bamboo walls burned with the house. Everyone burst out laughing. Because of this, she was elevated to the third rank idiot position.

During that day, from nowhere, according to some accounts it was from the sky, a newspaper appeared right in the middle of the remains of the burned hut. It was a newspaper published in Manila. The people got curious and started reading the paper.

Although they were dumb, they were not illiterate. They read in that paper that the right reaction whenever they see a burning house was to cry and to blame the owner of the house for negligence, or the fire department for the very slow response, or the government for not strictly implementing building codes. They stoned the careless housewife to death, a punishment she deserved according to the village code of conduct.

They found out that their village leaders must be duly-elected leader and not selected based of the level of idiocy.

In the agriculture and farm section of the newspaper, they discovered that banana leaves are the worst things to feed to their animals.

And so a village-wide riot occurred. Reading in the newspaper that war is a natural consequence of misunderstanding, the men then took their farm implements and whacked the heads of the first person they saw. The women, opting for a less violent means, called on the village witch to cast a spell to other women whom they think are shrewder than anyone of them. The village witch had a busy day that day. It was also her last day to see the daylight.

For after that, the village vanished and nothing was heard about what happened to them.

Last week, however, archeologist from the National Museum discovered skeletons of pigs in northern Philippines. And according to the tests they conducted on the remains of the pigs, the stomach of the animal, which miraculously remained intact, contain bananaine, an enzyme found only in banana leaves which confirmed the story that sometime in the distant past, a village of idiots existed whose members were believed to have fed their pigs with banana leaves.

The Village Idiots: a short story

This is a story of a far away land in an undisclosed location in the middle of northern Philippines where Filipino politics had not yet reached and where people’s lives had not succumbed as yet to the idiocy of politics.

In this community of ten thousand, everyone lived like an idiot. When somebody made a mistake, they would laugh at it throughout the day until they got exhausted and would prompt them to sleep soundly in the night. None of the people in this far away land had ever seen any human settlement other than their village. Some attempted to venture and seek, out of that human desire for adventure, other parts of the world, but they ended in vain. Either they died along the way or they never returned to tell the story of how it was to live outside the community. No one from the outside ever reached the village and documented the unique way of life the people of this unknown place had. Not until just recently.

The people of this village lived in complete peace and happiness. Being idiots, although it sometimes caused them to start planting rice during the climax of summer heat, which ended up, of course, to massive crop failure, or to feed their pigs and other farm animals with banana leaves, which of course made the animals bloated and sickly, they seldom experienced hardship because any problems cause by their stupidity was viewed as another opportunity for them to have merry-making and an entire afternoon of laughing spree.

The community had no established form of formal government, or any kind of hierarchy based on power. However, this did not mean that their society was free from any form of stratification. There was, in fact. The more dimwitted a member was, the higher was his place in the society’s echelon. But being the most idiotic of the idiots was not an elected post as it is in mainstream Philippine society today. In this community, whose name was already forgotten, it is determined by the level of idiocy one has committed. The grander was the task, the more far-reaching the effect, the more stupid it looked, the higher was the member’s position in the society’s caste.

And so they continued to live at peace with each other. Each member felt secured with the fact that as long as they remained idiots nothing would harm them, and that being an idiot would keep them from harming themselves as well as other idiot members of the community.

They were occasionally plagued with pestilence, famine, and disease but nature had been good to them, generally. This continued for several centuries. Until one day.

It was an ordinary day; somebody’s house was burning because instead of cleaning the house using water and detergent, one housewife, lured by the addicting pungent odor of paint thinner, poured some on the bamboo slats she was trying to clean. Accidentally, the burning wood she was using to cook rice fell on the bamboo slat and started the fire. The fire consumed her hut in half an hour. She was teary-eyed, laughing at the ashen remain of her house. The village people gathered around her and asked her to buy them tuba, a local alcoholic beverage, to which she replied that all the monies she tucked between her bamboo walls burned with the house. Everyone burst laughing. Because of this, she was elevated to the third rank idiot position.

During that day, from nowhere, according to some accounts it was from the sky, a newspaper appeared right in the middle of the remains of the burned hut. It was a newspaper published in Manila. The people got curious and started reading the paper.

Although they were dumb, they were not illiterate. They found out that the right reaction whenever they see a burning house is to cry and to blame the owner of the house for negligence, or the fire department for the very slow response, or the government for not strictly implementing building codes. They stoned the careless housewife to death, a punishment she deserved according to the village code of conduct.

They found out that their village leaders must be duly-elected leader and not selected based of the level of idiocy.

In the agriculture and farm section of the newspaper, they discovered that banana leaves are the worst things to feed to their animals.

And so a village-wide riot occurred. Reading in the newspaper that war is a natural consequence of misunderstanding, the men took their farm implements and whacked the heads of the first person they saw. The women, opting for a less violent means, called on the village witch to cast a spell to other women whom they think are shrewder than anyone of them. The village witch had a busy day that day. It was also her last day to see daylight.

For after that, the village vanished and nothing was heard about what happened to them.

Last week, however, archeologist from the National Museum discovered skeletons of pigs in northern Philippines. And according to the tests they conducted on the remains of the pigs, the stomach of the animal, which miraculously remained intact, contain bananaine, an enzyme found only in banana leaves which confirmed the story that sometime in the distant past, a village of idiots existed whose members were believed to have fed their pigs with banana leaves.