The day Kitkat’s last litter of kittens found their climbing legs meant a catastrophe of sorts for my books. She moved her four kittens to a corner near a bookshelf, where they broke their 24-hour napping and nursing to explore the vastness of our half-a-duplex unit.
One of the books dislodged by feline curiosity was a slim volume that slotted perfectly between the shelf and a sack of rice where it opened like an accordion of newsprint pages, which Mo, Mongha, Heart, and Q decided was a good repository for piss and poo.
So when I had to check again Julian Go’s “American Empire and the Politics of Meaning: Elite Political Cultures in the Philippines and Puerto Rico During U.S. Colonialism,” I found the fallen volume reeking unmistakably of kittens but fortunately spared their claws.
Cleaning off the worst of the kittens’ memorabilia, I wondered if Q and company had used their toilet break to browse through Go and left their tokens as proof of their opinions on: a) the U.S. colonizers, b) Filipino politicians at the cusp of their tutelage in the oldest profession of selling their nation for lucre and power, or c) the historian’s take on a contested past.
History is anything but objective and dead. I only have to scroll Facebook for five minutes to be bombarded by the War of Colors blooming among advocates for politicians making their bids for 2022.
Underneath what is dangerously veering to become a pissing contest of hues and tints are attempts at conversations on how the past relates to the present and the nebulous future everyone, no matter their color preference, has in their sights.
I went back to Walter Benjamin (fortunately, filed digitally), a thinker whose reflections before World War II have bearing on what seems to be trending, from Facebook to Twitter: “what really happened in the past.”
For Benjamin, the view of the ideal to be achieved in the future reduces the present to an “anteroom” where “one could wait for the emergence of the revolutionary situation with more or less equanimity.” Yet, one can also view “historical time” as “constituted... via the existential modes of memory, expectation and action.”
Agreeing with him that the present is an “interruption of history” or an “arrest of happening,” I see it as a grievous mistake to focus on current disagreements and throw away communication and relationships.
After the winners and losers are tallied in 2022, are we restarting life with people sharing our beliefs and biases? Unless culling takes place, the current motley company, human and feline, continues. The present is more than kindling for the future, beneath the piss and poo.