Sprummer

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How beautifully I sit, my dear

under the blooming mimosa

and not worry about asthma.

To walk lightly in spring

and not choke on the breeze,

my dear.

Just like Alice across the mirror

I glide through the summer

smelling like roses, red,

revelling in this weather

until light-headed.

Now I sing in the streets

without a care, should they stare

I sing, I skip, I hop, I dance

the grief away.

What a lovely spring,

a magical summer

this year

when you are no more

my dear.

What a lovely spring,

what a magical summer

indeed.

What a lovely time,

in Madrid.

– Karessa Ramos

Hush, hush… no more!

A month ago, I saw the theater adaptation of the novel and the movie ‘La Voz Dormida’ (‘The Deadened Voice’, is the best translation I could come up with). It took me some time to write this post because the subject is very sensitive: the Spanish post-war. Here goes nothing…

Fresh wounds

The wounds are still fresh, and the topic still stirs very intense debates within the society. As an observer, it’s very exciting to see this kind of interaction among people who fight for what they believe is right, for what they believe is best for this country today, and tomorrow. I try to steer clear unless asked, of course. Because this is something not to be taken lightly.

The war impoverished the country in many ways than just materialistically. Everybody lost somebody, may it be due to death, which in turn could have been caused by the fighting, hunger or very poor health. Loss was also reflected in the shape of exile and emigration. So may Spaniards escaped to France and Latin America, mostly.

If I may be allowed an honest and perhaps irreverent opinion: although both fighting sides lost people and resrouces, this was part of the context of war. People were aware of what was going on, and those who were in the battlefields certainly didn’t make plans beyond three rifle shots. What happened after the war, though, was simply a poor and pathetic show of sickening power and misguided might.

The onus on the survivors was divided as such:

a) the winning side (the ‘Nationalists’) bore the responsibility of reconstructing the country under the mandate of Francisco Franco

b) the losing side (also called ‘Republicans’) bore the pain of restarting their lives in a country under the orders of Francisco Franco

Terror reigned. But not the kind of terror we see today, where the pinpointed terrorists are usually foreigners, or separatist groups. The kind of terror experienced during the Spanish post-war was created and perpetuated by the same government who had the privilege and the obligation to rebuild the country from a million crumbled pieces.

Fueled by the will to rid Spain of subversiveness, the dictator placed the nation under an iron fist- Franco established a dictatorial regime. Freedom was curbed, the national borders were shut down, progress was constrained. The country lived practically in isolation, while its neighbors enjoyed the new opportunities of the reconstruction era.

The victory of the Nationalists ended the battle-related hostilities, but the dictatorship opened fresh wounds for Spain to suffer.

Nowhere graves, throbbing scars

Without wishing to spoil anything, just allow me to say that the most haunting part was the mass graves of republican prisoners who were sentenced to death. The bodies were dumped on mass graves and until now, many families are still searching for their dead relatives.

Mourning is an essential part of the journey towards healing and finding closure. So how can this nation expect healing and closure when many of its people haven’t been able to mourn their dead yet?

I’ve heard exasperated sighs from those who are already tired of this topic, and only wish to move forward. As I understand their impatience and frustration, I’m at the same time happy for them because clearly, they were lucky enough not have to keep searching for the remains of a dead family. If these people are desperate and anxious to move on, can you imagine those who are still searching for the nowhere graves, with only throbbing scars to guide their way?

Silent no more

Obviously, the deadened voice refers to the repressed freedom of expression during the dictatorship- may it be in the form of speech, writing, art, music… if the content doesn’t comply with the established standards, people faced consequences.

At present, victims and families of victims are able to express themselves and fight for long-awaited justice. Songs are now sung, films are shot, stories are written and people talk. The dead may not rise from their lost graves to show us which way to go, but the awakened voices will make some of us turn our feet and walk with them, chant with them, heal with them.

 

A most beautiful love letter

Dear Nanay Sebya,

I found the most beautiful love letter turned into a song, and I thought of sending it to you. Through cyberspace, ether, ions… it doesn’t matter. It just wasn’t enough that I remember you and relive your memories each time I listen to it. This song expresses exactly how I feel each time I think of you: what I was told about you, the brief time I shared with you, even that which I imagined you to have been. God, how I miss you!

It’s originally in Spanish, so I took the liberty to translate it, not only for you, because I know you’ll understand it. But for your colleagues, your neighbors, your friends, or with whomever you’re around.

Thank you for your strength, your values, your principles, rooted deeply in us. We hope to do for our children at least half of what you’ve done for us. Thank you for preparing us for the future that you envisioned.

Until now, you still keep me grounded, to my roots. I wish I wrote this. I love you.

Down to my roots:
I’m still crossing rivers, hiking through jungles, loving the sun. Everyday I pluck thorns from deep in my heart. In the evenings, I still ignite dreams to purify each memory with sacred fumes.
When I write your name on the white sand with a blue background, when I look at the sky in the shape of a cruel, gray cloud, you come into sight. One afternoon, when I climb a high mountain, when I look at the past, you’ll know that I haven’t forgotten you.
I carry you in me, down to my  roots. And no matter how much I grow, you will remain here. Even if I hid behind the mountain, and found a field full of reeds, there would be no way that you, my moonshine, would ever leave.
I think of each time that I survived walking, and each second of doubt, each moment of not knowing, are crucial to weave this cloth I carry under my skin. This is how I protect you, here you are still, inside me.
I carry you in me, down to my roots. And no matter how much I grow, you will still be here. Even if I hid behind the mountain, and found a field full of reeds, there would be no way that you, my moonshine, would leave.

Votantes majos, políticos ejemm…

Últimamente me estoy sintiendo cada vez más acogida en Madrid. Quizás es porque, debido a mi trabajo actual, me veo obligada a someterme en una intensa inmersión cultural: desde el idioma, hasta el uso de ese idioma para la comunicación corporativa. El caso es que, gracias a esa “obligada” (re)educación, tengo la oportunidad de conocer más a los españoles. Y ¿sabéis qué? Pues que son majos. Mucho.

Hacen que un país bonito sea aún más encantador por su calidez, amabilidad, tolerancia y alegría. Todo esto ha facilitado nuestra adaptación a los cambios del año pasado (mudanza desde Francia, nuevo trabajo, guardería del niño, etc.) y está contribuyendo a formar a mi hijo para convertirse en un ciudadano cercano, optimista y, ¿por qué no?, divertido.

Quizás una de las características que más me ha gustado de los españoles es su capacidad para quitarle hierro al asunto, lo que viene a decir que no se toman las cosas demasiado en serio. Eso hace que haya casi siempre un ambiente agradable.

Y lo más importante: contrario al mito de que son vagos, están demostrando ser bastante trabajadores, sobre todo la generación más joven. Cierto es que en todos lados siempre está el típico caradura, o el que es simplemente holgazán. Pero por lo general, trabajan mucho, trabajan bien, y si trabajan en lo que les apasiona, los resultados son impresionantes (fíjate en Antonio Banderas, Ainoa Arteta, Pedro Duque ,Mireia Belmonte, o estos académicos, entre otros).

Entonces, ¿por qué España tiene los dirigentes políticos que tiene?

Lo pregunto porque actualmente, observo que frente a toda esa riqueza de capital humano, y la gran potencial de construir un fuerte capital social, ningún líder votado por la mayoría parece representar a un español medio.

Un sabio una vez dijo que el pueblo se merece los políticos que le dirige. Y eso me hizo pensar:

¿Será por querer quitar hierro al asunto que perdonan y “se olvidan” del pasado, lo que les hace votar otra vez más a los mismos corruptos y sinvergüenzas de siempre?

¿Será porque trabajan tanto con el fin de revitalizar la economía que eligen el “menos malo” de los candidatos?

¿Será verdad aquello que escuché una vez en una peli: “España nunca aprende de sus errores”?

Sea cual sea la razón, esta reflexión me hizo mirar hacia otros países.

También me animó a hablar con personas de diferentes nacionalidades.

Me tentó a leer, escuchar entrevistas, buscar opiniones…

¿Y?

Me di cuenta de que muy poca gente se siente realmente representada por los políticos que actualmente dirigen sus países.

Incluso en Filipinas, donde uno puede encontrar los más fervientes defensores del presidente, la mayoría de las personas no se sienten identificadas ni con su política, ni con su persona. (No es tan difícil ver el porqué)

¿Entonces?

No sé. De verdad que no sé.

No obstante, en una entrevista, el actor José Sacristán compartió que: “lo malo es que los políticos salen de nosotros, que somos quienes los votamos”. ¿Estaríamos proyectando lo peor de nosotros hacia las personas a quienes vamos a delegar la gestión del país? Y en el caso de ser verdad, ¿qué dirían los psicólogos de esto?

Da mucho que pensar.

Así que si encontráis la respuesta me escribís o me comentáis algo en Facebook. Quisiera hallar la explicación. Gracias.

Another uncomfortable truth

Ever since 2018 began, more articles than usual have been dedicated to Karl Marx. It shouldn’t be a wonder, since May 5th this year will be the 200th birthday celebration of the renowned mathematician/economist/philosopher/journalist. People’s opinions are divided, of course, from one extreme to another. And that’s just scratching the surface of his genius: he did not leave anybody indifferent, so even those who were against his scientifically-based analyses got themselves thinking.

Marx’s disciples are quick to defend, while his detractors are happily rubbing their palms in delight. Okay, that last one might be an exaggerated caricature… but kidding aside, his detractors must at least be smirking because evidently, the global community has not evolved into a socialist system (even though some countries are leaning  towards this tendency). Their enthusiasm is such, that they are willing to throw away a solid, logical framework explaining (and pointing out the weaknesses of) the capitalist system, just because his ‘prediction’ is not yet coming true.

Regardless of whether Marx (and Engels, and Co.) predicted or strongly wished for a global socialist system (socio-econo-politico), there was one thing that everybody’s overlooked: the fact that even before the invention of private property, human nature has always been frameworked by greed (need for survival?). This means that regardless of the prevailing system, as long as it risks falling into the hands of a human being, it will always be doomed to failure. So let us leave the socialist aspiration aside and discuss this topic with the least possible “noise”. Let us only refer to a global community. Bear with me, my point will come in 2 minutes (3, if you’re a slow reader).

Remember in history class? when our teachers would point out that in pre-historic times, everybody had a function in the community? Every member: man, woman, any child that has undergone his or her rite of passage, would contribute to everybody’s well-being. It might be as a hunter, a gatherer, a builder, a witch doctor, etc…

Do you remember when we were taught that back then, vulnerable groups such as children, old people, the sick and pregnant women were protected and prioritized during the distribution of food or resting area?

When private property was invented, people started to increasingly go berserk accumulating, using their talents and abilities for the purpose. It didn’t matter whether it be for their family’s security, or for the joy of it because it had become the standard for success. This way, the concept of “common good” started to be pushed back to satisfy individual interests, something still strongly rampant until now.

So, how can we currently aspire for a society (that doesn’t even have to be global) that protects the weak, when we are made to understand that doing so could go against our best interests?

This pursuit has crossed borders, spreading worldwide, inciting men to take ownership of lands (and other resources) not their own and making them resort to plunder, leading to oppression.

Historical events have eventually shaped the world as we know it, and have allowed for material accumulation be enough to end hunger, poverty, and guarantee education and free health for all- maybe threefolds, even. So if the global material requisite is already present, why the delay in evolving into a society concerned with the common good?

Becuase of us. People. The ones that make up a community. Competition had gotten us scared to the point of resisting wealth redistribution, and insecurity had convinced us to support leaders who will defend our current and comfortable status quo.

How can there be a global community (socialist or otherwise) when each time a revolution is won, its leaders seem to forget about the people whom they fought for?

Furthermore, it must be recognized that this material accumulation we are witnessing have been achieved at the price of great pain and injustice (slave-trading, economic protectionism, illegal occupation, etc). And no matter how far back we trace, its implications are still carried around genetically, socially and culturally by the exploited populations.

So again: how can there be a global, humanitarian community when people are hesitant to be united because there has not been/is not a sincere desire for closure for past hostilities? How can this closure be achieved in the first place, if aside from not owning any accountability, the offenders have not shown/do not show an earnest intent for restitution?

Why is this even important? for the simple reason that for a global community to function, people must be convinced to participate and commit to it, worldwide.

So if we can’t even count on people’s interest to advance the common good under “normal” conditions, within their immediate environment, how could we aim for the same after a great change such as a systemic shift on a global scale?

I guess Marx had too much faith in mankind: he really believed we would evolve to become these compassionate, critical and “learned” race, who would not tolerate inequality and social injustices. But the truth is that we are only replicating past mistakes. Worse, those mistakes haven’t really been solved in the first place, they were just well-hidden from the ever-insensitized public.

Did he consider ceteris paribus with regards to the society’s disengagement to a capitalist system? He clearly didn’t expect the rise of the numbed middle-class, lured into consumption, competition and accumulation. Numbed to the point of believing that they too, are rich and belong with the elite; sedated to being oblivious towards their surroundings, let alone their neighbor’s suffering.

In effect

Marx’s prediction is not yet coming true. But will it ever come true? Some people, in their own little ways are individually exerting an effort to break away from the current systemic order. Some countries seem to be keen to experiment with the idea of wealth redistribution as the base for progress. It just might work. Who knows?

 

Fragility, naïveté…

This post analyzes the motivation of the play Muñeca de Porcelana (China Doll). It might contain spoilers. You have been warned.

Last Saturday, I watched the Spanish adaptation of David Mamet’s “China Doll”. My friend and I kept guessing why the playwright chose that title, but even at the end, we weren’t able to wrap our heads around the idea.

About the play

Muñeca de Porcelana isn’t just another conspiracy theory-based story. It shows one side of a filthy, golden coin- the price of fame, fortune and power, if you wish. Accordingly, it invites the viewers to guess, assume, suspect and mistrust what’s being said right in front of their very noses.

As dialogues get more intense, thinking becomes the only possible option, because at that point, viewers realize that they have somehow become an accomplice of something horrible, and they need an explanation. So they start rubbing their neurons together, to see if a filament of some sort would light up.

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Image courtesy of: https://madridesteatro.com

The scene starts with a pompous display of wealth and power, where the big boss- entrusted into the hands of the sublime José Sacristán– barks at his loyal assistant because the latter was handing him the day’s newspaper, when he didn’t really ask for it in the first place. The role of the devoted secretary is strongly portrayed by Javier Godino, the perfect complement to the seniority and experience of his counterpart.

What motivated the play?

The piece clearly insinuates that power is concentrated among an elite few; where having money is not enough to get in the “club”.  Membership depends on the family tree and perhaps any ancient personal favor from one clan to another (I doubt if there was one member of that club whose ancestry couldn’t be traced to a Mayflower passenger). Very distinctly, it also shows that even in places that boast of being bastions of democracy, it is still the rich and the influential who hold the key to the machinery of the society.

Oh, but being rich and influential are but tickets to join the club. To remain in it is another hurdle. Exhaustive training is needed if one is to thrive, and a crafty mind with zero moral sense is crucial to triumph. And so that, according to Godino, is the origin of the title, “China doll”. It refers to the fragility of the triumphant based on the fact that he is nothing but a product; victorious, yet always and forever conditioned by the existence of incriminating evidence against him. A chess piece inside the board he is trying to conquer.

The way I see it, the play’s motivation is to open people’s eyes to that filthy side of the golden coin, as mentioned earlier. I’m not sure how society behaved when Mamet launched this opus, but in this generation, people only tend to look at the brightness of an item, not minding the dirty rag that polished it clean.

In an interview, Godino said he had an impression that viewers seem to evade what Mamet is trying to demonstrate, because it causes distress. He alluded to the naïveté to which spectators hold on, as a way to fight the awkwardness. (They’re just missing the point, then. But hey, their money, their choice.)

The ending, though, didn’t distress me. It was just as one would expect people to act given the situation and their current condition.

Et cetera…

At the end of the day, we’re all porcelain dolls: fragile in our naïveté. They don’t say “knowledge is power” for nothing.

Spring Fever II

Amidst the clamor, at the height

of confusion,

your stillness stood out.

Giving color to the season.

Now songs are sought,

poems get written,

laughters are echoed

by hearts

no longer hollow.

Only skies, and seas

and sapphires are blue.

The prevailing woe

is no more.

 

Wouldn’t it be nice, darling,

if I saw you in the corner?

– Karessa Ramos