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Writing on Air by Jim Paredes


Archive for May 13th, 2007


What child is this? 18

Posted on May 13, 2007 by jimparedes

HUMMING IN MY UNIVERSE
PHILIPPINE STAR
May 13, 2007
Jim Paredes

Carl Jung, the eminent writer on the subconscious, says that every person harbors within himself certain ‘archetypes’—or primal characters that have existed throughout the history of mankind and we have all inherited. And he claims that all these archetypes of the past are embedded in mankind’s collective memory.

As examples, we carry within us the archetype of a ‘prostitute’ (which takes over us every time we decide what we will do for money), and the ‘saboteur’ (the one who warns us of our own recklessness). There are also the ‘hero’,’ teacher’, ‘child’, and others that dwell in us. There are millions of archetypes, actually, and each one of us is a jumble of characters waiting in line to express ourselves though our personalities and actions. And in time, they will.

This theory supposedly explains why we change, and what makes us suddenly behave in a contradictory manner, or the opposite of how we know ourselves. This is a really fascinating concept which other writers have explored in depth. Among them is Caroline Myss who wrote about this in her book ‘Sacred Contracts’.

The concept is intriguing as it is for experts to write voluminous books and articles about it. Allow me not only to throw in my two cents worth but to bring the idea a step further, at the risk of being reckless and superficial.

One of the things that intrigues me is this: Is it possible that, like individuals, countries, nations, races and peoples are also subject to archetypal influences and thus carry and act out the patterns attributable to certain archetypes at different times in their history? In other words, if nations were people, what would they be?

It is easy to imagine that Germany’s archetype is the strict disciplinarian obsessed with order. Take a look at its BMWs, Beethoven, Wagner, etc. During WWII, for example, wasn’t Germany acting this out in a perversely obsessive-compulsive manner? Wasn’t this evident in the way the Nazis wanted to rid the world of ‘imperfection’ (Jews) and establish the perfect Aryan race? Hitler had the death machine humming efficiently, just like the trains which were running on time. There was definitely ‘law and order’ and great efficiency.

Let’s look at America. What archetype is it acting out? Take a look at its politics and movies. Hollywood and the political establishments’ projection of America is often that of an aggressive, young and vibrant teenager with a lot of spunk, recklessness, chutzpah — a know-it-all with no distant past to learn from and temper itself. America is the source of rock and roll, the atom bomb and the Vietnam and Iraq fiascos. It can be both charming and destructive, and ‘vandalizing’ (like a teenager) of other cultures as well.

Japan. Didn’t Japan during WWII come on as the steely, disciplined warrior-samurai archetype complete with hara-kiri and kamikaze in its repertoire of heroic expressions?

I know I am speaking loosely and in very broad strokes. But you must admit it’s an exciting subject for speculation.

What archetypes dominate or rule the Philippines today? What can we observe from the way we behave as a people?

Don’t we tend to excuse our foibles and say that we are still a young country to explain why we are in the mess we are in? From all indications, we seem to be ruled by the ‘child’ archetype who refuses to look at things in an adult manner. Consider the following:

– We love to party—fiestas, salo-salo, barkada, ‘gimmick’, the longest Christmas holidays in the world, etc. We have A LOT of holidays in this country.

– We have very short memories. We are not great fans of history and we never seem to learn from it. We elect the same mistakes over and over again.

– We have an even shorter attention span. We do not hear of our government looking 20 years ahead. Even when other nations plan for the next 50 to 100 years, we don’t seem to go beyond the ‘5-year plan’. We like things ad hoc. Bahala na si Batman.

– We go merrily along seemingly unconcerned about our serious problems. In every survey the past few years, we always see ourselves as ‘the happiest people in Asia’ despite the hole we are sinking in.

– Our favorite religious icon is the Santo Nino — the depiction of Jesus as a child. We like a lovable, cute God—a representation not unlike ‘Hello Kitty’ or Barbie that we like to dress up. Our God of choice is a combination of a cute child star (with curly locks and white skin) and the Promil baby — intelligent and, at a young age, could preach at the temple.

– We love entertainment, Little Miss Philippines, telenovelas about young love, fantaseryes, etc. that are mostly about the young.

If all of the above are true, what kind of child is the Filipino? Is it the archetypal force that characterizes us as ‘the golden child’, the ‘meek and quiet child’ or the ‘spoiled brat’? Are there other archetypes to choose from?

Consider the following:

– A lot of Filipino children grow up these days with only one parent because many of their dads or moms are working outside the country. In one college class I spoke to a few years ago, 47% of the entire class had only one parent at home.

Could we then be the ‘orphan child’?

What about the ‘abused child’?

– We seem to project on our mass media, children in ‘adult’ roles or situations. Our telenovelas like to depict children who cry a lot because they are saddled with the problems of the family and the world. In singing contests, it is not unusual to hear kids sing ‘My Way’, or ‘The Greatest Performance Of My Life’ or ‘She Bangs’. And there is the phenomenon of very young kids gyrating like the Sex Bomb dancers and the like projecting an overt sexuality fit only for adults!

Our politicians know only too well how child-like we are. They therefore give us entertainment in place of governance. And as if to exploit the ‘orphan’ in us, they like to project themselves as ‘Ama ng bayan’ (Erap and Marcos), Ina ng bayan (Imelda) and other parent figures.

My own interpretation in archetypal terms of Erap’s fall from grace and GMA’s ascension to power goes something like this:

Nagwala si tatay. Napasama sa masamang barkada at bisyo kaya si Ate ang naatasan mag-alaga sa atin.

Why not Nanay? She can’t. She’s in the Middle East, or London, or America making money as an OFW.

Writers have described life in the Philippines as ‘magic realism’, the same way Gabriel Garcia Marquez’ sees life in Latin America. The child in us lives in a mythic, magical world where we expect a handsome prince to save us at the last minute, or that things will get better with the wave of a magic wand, without any need for us to change.

I have news for us: Things will not change, not until the party wears out and a more responsible archetype takes over who will want to clean up the mess we’ve made.

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