The morning after

While we do have a historical archive of a generation’s resistance against the political cruelties of its time, no guarantee can be made that memories of fact survive generated self-interested memories of falsity.

Then there was the silence of the morning after.

An anxious silence, if one’s fogged memories serves right, sticking out on a Saturday morning besotted by September’s benevolent winds.

True enough, 50 years to the day is far too distant for getting memories right that filled one’s life on 23 September 1972. Peculiar and mundane details are irretrievably lost to time’s enigmatic manifolds.

Yet, one attempts, even forcibly, to remember. If only because memories of that day’s particular silence served notice of the coming bad days when the silence of the lambs, of timid journalists, of the cowards and scums was to be deafening.

But one knew that later.

It is hard for anyone living through an experience to immediately grasp future meanings. Whatever people say, events are made first and the ideas come later, implying one only had to live through a disastrous experience.

Living through once meant one freely chose comforting solaces and safeties of one’s familiar room, patiently waiting for whatever there was to know.

But, as one learned too later, it was a false freedom: The familiar room or home is a perfect narcotic for the apathy which arrives soon after things not understood come, but of which the powerful only knew too well when they ruthlessly sink their teeth into a society.

Nonetheless, the morning still chafed, its safe air poisoned by the familiar going suddenly absent.

On waking up, one obsessively fidgeted with the transistor radio, furious it now only gave out crackling static and not the music from a rock and roll station.

But it wasn’t only a generation’s defining music which went silent.

“Public space is the arena of democracy,” recently wrote activist Alex Zamalin. “When crisis strikes, you look out of the window to see what’s happening outside. That’s because whoever controls the streets often controls the narrative.”

Out into the streets days after 23 September, it was clear the politically aware young of one’s generation had lost control of the political narrative. The jackboot now had it.

But one already knew that right on the morning of the 23rd when a witness breathlessly told nervous 16-year-old students that armored vehicles and riot squads were outside the university gates; and of soldiers accosting men with long hair, gleefully snipping, or shaving off the long locks. The state was flexing its muscles.

With scissors or razor blades the state assaulted a generation who, in the apt words of Albert Camus, “believed in nothing and lived in rebellion when confronted by the absurd world that its elders were creating for it.”

Situating one’s interesting generation, it was undeniable one’s generation previously gained power on the streets.

But then the young all over the world did; with the Filipino youth acting in solidarity with the universal story of youth resistance, taking form in the energetic street theater against outworn political creeds and traditional moralities of societies which appeared then to one’s generation, and what it still is, monstrous hypocrisies.

Many September 23rd mornings later, those memories of resistance and its linked moral stances are now battlefields.

Not even the silence of the lambs, which had been finally broken and which fully exposed hidden politically-caused cruelties, could prevent the fighting.

Drawing attention now to political fault lines demarcated by one’s generation makes one realize reconciliation isn’t readily achievable, that it won’t be quickly achievable in this era of “selfie democracy.”

Thanks to an unchecked social media, today’s “selfie democracy” — an era where the digital device has become a political actor in its own right and is a major vehicle for civic expression and partisan influence — threatens erasure of the memories of an older generation.

While we do have a historical archive of a generation’s resistance against the political cruelties of its time, no guarantee can be made that memories of fact survive generated self-interested memories of falsity.

Yes, the powerful desire now to keep politically-caused cruelties hidden from public view.

Yet, once past atrocities and all its bloody details are obscured, it tragically abets future atrocities.

Preventing future atrocities is the reason why the trenchant shout “Never Again!” resonates ever so loudly on this day and the days to come. Silence is not on the cards anymore.

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