Fear and the War vs. Terrorism

Posted: September 14, 2008 in All and Sundry, Musings, Random Observations
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A few years ago, I watched a documentary by Michael Moore, which basically examines and explores how media shapes how we look at the world in the light September 11 and the growing pervasive discourse on the war against terrorism. Moore’s main point, implied or otherwise, as far as I can recall, was that Americans were living in “fear” of an “unknown” enemy. And this FEAR of the unknown enemy, these “terrorists,” is perversely cultivated by media as media reports on events that are also shaped, and more often than not, orchestrated by various interest groups who all are in the quest for power—the power to rule the minds and hearts of the masses.

It is a never-ending battle. This battle for the minds and hearts is a war media always finds itself in the center of; often wielding its power on gullible audiences and/.or media consumers like me, who however we proclaim NOT to be media dupes, are caught unawares by the strength of media’s message.

Yet years after watching Michael Moore’s documentary, this is what I know: the fear of the unknown enemy sits on your tongue like a really horrible aftertaste. And if you are unlucky enough, it becomes real, as real as a fungus growing gradually into a sore. And you no longer question if it is real or not because you can feel the pain. You can taste the fear of it growing bigger into a full-blown infection.

The reports of two consecutives bombings in the Digos bus terminal that injured many and took away innocent lives are real. Very recent, very real, and most of all, very near.

I have always looked at the bus rides to Digos, a city located 45-minutes away from Davao, a welcome treat. Because at the end of those trips I knew that I’d be having another restful weekend at my best friend Douglas’ home. I never feared bus trips to Digos before. Not until now, when I realized that even the idea of boarding into a bus bound for Digos would leave me anxious and breathless with paranoia, fearing for my life.

For the past five years of living in Davao City, I have traveled alone around Mindanao in countless bus rides, perhaps even more than the average Davaoeno has ever done. And in most of those trips, I have honestly never felt any fear of dying. Terror was non-existent, and my human security was never in question.

These days, I find myself questioning my security. I have grown steadily fearful of my life, my friends and loved-ones, precisely because I have felt the “reality” or “real-ness” (if there’s such a word) of this fear—this fear of being bombed to smithereens by an unknown enemy.

Last Friday, I was finally compelled to go on another bus ride to Digos City. And while on my way there, I couldn’t help but be overly watchful and observant of the things that happened along the way. I found myself trying to stay wide awake, often silently berating myself when I doze off. Surprisingly, the sight of soldier no longer makes my heart beat uncomfortably. Instead, I felt relief.

Once while I was looking out the window, staring at the night sky, and silently wishing the bus won’t stop in the dark roadside, I chided myself that I have unknowingly placed myself in an unwanted and unexpected position. After 9/11, after the 2000 all out war in Mindanao, after watching Michael Moore’s documentary, after discussions with war experts, after reading parts of Negri and Hardt’s book, after listening to almost everybody and everyone, I have always since sworn that I will never be as gullible as to believe in the “reality” of this “specter of terrorism,” this unknown enemy.  “I am better than that,” I told myself. I will never be a victim of this constructed fear.

But I was wrong.

In me, that battle has been won. Media and the powers-that-be have succeeded in taking over my heart and mind. Of that I am certain and that, I can also problematize endlessly, discuss discursively, comment, rationalize and so on. And yet if I am told right now that I can shape the message in another way I can, this is what I’ll ask back: “First thing’s first, can I even turn my back on those bombings and shrug, and say, that was media telling me what to think and feel?” Can I shrug off the idea that anytime and anywhere a bomb can explode?  Can I honestly even say that I feel safe here, where I am right now?

My honest answer is no. I am scared. And perhaps, I can finally say, I have a right to be. (Whether that’s a construction or not).

The correct question then would be: How did I arrive here?

*next entry will be on economics vs. fear

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