Send in the clowns

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By Arnold Alamon

Wrapped in Grey

Friday, August 15, 2014


ISN’T it rich?

On the day that the Butcher was captured, a beloved clown who spread laughter all around hanged himself. One moment you are thanking the gods of Karma for finally ending the lucky streak of someone who brought so much despair and misery to others and there was seemingly a sudden order in this world. And yet almost in the same breathe, you are confronted by the senselessness of it all with the death by suicide of the comedian who had been somewhat the cinematic representation of joie de vivre.

Should one celebrate the arrest of this man now reduced into a raggedy frail doll and clearly afraid of his own shadow? It must have already been a prison being chased around by the ghosts of one’s notorious doing. And with his capture, the State has offered him relief from his demons. Now they herald him as their communist-busting hero, safe in their protective hold against those who seek justice.

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Don’t you love farce?

A man who sees the presidency as his birthright is set to defang the judiciary and mangle the Constitution for an unprecedented bid for a second term in the name of his so-called bosses – the same bosses he had placed in constant crisis for the past years in a regime of jobless growth, unfettered privatization, and incompetent handling of natural disasters. He has been at the helm of a disastrous national journey driven by the unbridled inertia of his insistence on a system of political patronage judiciously blocked by the Supreme Court. Everything is set to come crashing down.

Wait, it has happened already. In an event that was foretelling of where we are headed under his leadership, a dilapidated MRT train full of commuters overshoots the tracks, and careens down Edsa. His appointed kabarkada who once headed the MRT management apparently got the multi-million peso contract for the trains’ maintenance in a blatant conflict of interest breach. Once again, the public good has been sacrificed for corruption resulting in disastrous consequences for his bosses.

Isn’t it queer? The man who provided laughter and comic relief for many of us couldn’t save himself from his own sadness? It is indeed true. Only those who have been at the precipice of despair find the wherewithal to look back and mock life. That has been his comic arsenal, after all, it has been revealed. The imperative for his lightning speed wit and changing comic personas that dazzled all of us has been this personal struggle to run away from sadness.

There is this perceptible split-second glint in the comic’s eye right before he launches his routine. I used to think it was the spark of brilliance set to fire away in an explosion of comic genius much like how a runner sets himself on the starting line. He was a runner alright. However, that glint is now revealed to be a deep bottomless fear that he wanted to escape through laughter.

And he can go on and on, finding new angles to mock situations in seconds. What is riveting about watching this guy at work is that he doesn’t seem to want to stop. Now we understand why. When the lights are dimmed and the audience scatter, there he was left alone and exhausted from that constant impulse to escape. Until he didn’t want to run anymore and stop himself by tying a belt to his neck.

Sorry, my dear.

The death of a comic in these morbid circumstances reveals to us the flimsy infrastructure that support our collective sanity. Comedy has been our refuge from the drudgery of everyday living, the craziness of events, the meaninglessness of life in general. To laugh about things has been a reliable recourse that allowed us to plod on. Comics are the cheerleaders of our lives, witty life coaches come to think of it, exhorting us to go on. But when the jester grew tired of it all, we are immobilized and forced to confront these existential realities we all try to escape.

There can only be sadness on these days, a kind of deep wistful sadness over the recognition of the madness and fragility of life itself. What is maddening is that there are butchers and megalomaniacs among us bereft of any inkling of humanity. And yet there are beautiful beings like the comic who reflect the struggle and suffering of all our tortured souls.

Where are the clowns? Send in the clowns.

***

(Arnold P. Alamon is an Assistant Professor IV, Sociology Department, Mindanao State University-Iligan Institute of Technology.)

Published in the Sun.Star Cagayan de Oro newspaper on August 15, 2014.

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