Confronting the Real

We all believe in at least one metanarrative.

Some believe in the metanarrative of the Self and the glorification of its whims; some believe in the metanarrative of Marxism and its utopian objective. Some believe in the metanarrative of God; some believe in the metanarrative of the non-existence of the latter. Ironically, some believe in the metanarrative of the metanarrative. These things co-exist in a rather sonorous relationship transcending cultures, even space and time.

However, Jean Braudillard argues of the continuous fading of the Real, with it being engulfed by the reign of signs and its most powerful weapon which is the media. Can we ever find the Real again, or will we be forever trapped in our own sea of illusion?

I attended a walk out last July 23, 2010 (which is in fact my third) and participated in another idealistic, youth-led mass action against tuition and other fees increase in UP. Being some sort of an activist, I deem these kinds of actions not as actions that can really create history by itself but as an attempt to materialize my own principles (which I believe others share).

On embarking the streets, the UP students, with me of course, faced a multitude of strange faces and reactions. As expected, a student rally would not be faced by friendly cheers. And I believe, at that very instance, the UP students and mass leaders faced the Real. With their own metanarratives face to face with the beliefs of whole Baguio people, their optimistic goal of change appeared as a farce that is continued because of mere performativity. Personally, this realization bothered me deeply–can the symbol of mass student mobilizations be ever taken as the mass leaders intend it to be understand, or will they merely resonate in the vastness of the desert of the Real?

The fragmented nature of postmodern society, according to Lyottard is something worth celebrating, for it liberates the individuals from the imposing metanarratives that others try to impose on them. However, as in the case of the July 23 walkout in UP Baguio, I don’t believe that the silenced voices of the victims in a post-colonial country will ever be worth celebrating. The uncertainty in the domain of the Real and the uncertainty in the domain of the postmodern are different—the former is the true, inevitable flow of things, while the latter is purely an illusion that fragments the society into objects of fragmentation and individual isolation.

Hence, in order to try looking for the Real (which is the nostalgic dream of Jameson, Zizek and other more radical theorists), one must first learn how to evade the symbolism, or at least, the maximum symbolism in which walk outs, rallies and other ‘traditional’ forms of protest usually fall to trap into. In confronting the Real, one must recognize its Real-ness and try to illuminate its existence with optimistic, nostalgic and inevitably radical actions.

Once we realize the exhilarating process of symbolization engulfing us only when it is too late, there will be no more time to regain our humanity.


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