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Time for serious realism Written by Herman Tiu Laurel

Friday, July 13, 2012

Time for serious realism

Just as the nation felt the relief of lowered gas prices for a week or two, conditions in the Middle East just as quickly started raising crude oil prices anew, with the Philippines bracing for new oil price hikes this week. These fluctuations came at a time when Philippine “King of Comedy” Dolphy’s long drawn-out health battles and subsequent demise dominated the airwaves.  Despite the entertainment icon’s much-deserved accolades, I still wonder why a lot of coverage is being devoted to this when an entire national economy is dying because of unresolved problems in energy supply and price stabilization.

With mainstream media placing so much importance on the life and times of the screen and TV legend, I wonder: Are the hard times best assuaged by comedy instead of serious realism and problem-solving?
Indeed, comedy may lighten the burdens.  Comedy may even provide the needed distraction.  But the truth is, comedy can never solve our problems. And as reality persists, every moment of distraction only eats away at the opportunities to solve these problems.

I watched my share of John en Marsha as a kid; but as I had often preferred to play and do other things, our yayas were the ones left to watch it. I did wonder over the years how he had one woman after another. I later learned that as the masa spend a lot of money on comedic distractions, which Dolphy was a master of, such artists become so fabulously rich that their innate charisma is magnified to the hilt.  Thus, in Dolphy’s case, with his string of romances, he also sired quite a number of children, some of whom, unfortunately, turned to murder and arson for self-expression.

When I became oriented to economics as I am today, and contemplated on what such kind of comedy has really contributed to Philippine society, I found that the benefit accrues mainly to the elite. It’s not that they follow Dolphy’s work; but it’s rather due to the distraction of the masses from potential thoughts of dissatisfaction and rebellion.

When egged on for political candidacy Dolphy once joked, “No way. I might win, then what do I do?” So why is the country taking him so seriously when he has never taken himself half as seriously?

Some types of comedy require a lot brains, like stand-ups. Charlie Chaplin once said, “All I need to make a comedy is a park, a policeman and a pretty girl.” Although Chaplin had serious social and political commentary in his later features, with some saying the same for Dolphy’s John en Marsha or Home Along da Riles, it seemed to me that the latter dwelt more on self-deprecation and a come-what-may acceptance of the depressing lot faced by lower classed Filipinos, instead of making them think about its causes.

So how seriously should audiences take comedians? Saturday Night Live’s Dennis Miller said, “I’m a comedian, for God’s sake. Viewers shouldn’t trust me. And you know what? They’re hip enough to know they shouldn’t trust me.”

Sadly, comedy and entertainment are extolled to the extreme in profit-seeking societies because they are a business; and as Steve Martin says, “Comedy may be big business but it isn’t pretty.”

Exploitation in the entertainment industry is as bad as it is in the regular capitalist economy, though there are efforts by industry Samaritans like Erap to establish welfare projects such as the Movie Workers Welfare Fund (Mowelfund); still, it cannot be doubted that a greater number of support actors and cast retire into poverty while only a few live in the opulence of movie potentates.

Let me pick a quote again from another renowned entertainment icon, Sholem Aleichem, writer of Fiddler on the Roof: “Life is a dream for the wise, a game for the fool, a comedy for the rich, a tragedy for the poor.”

And life will always be this way if comedy and entertainment become the focus of Philippine society instead of, as I would prefer, watching the tragedy. As Aldous Huxley once said, “We participate in a tragedy; at a comedy we only look.”

It’s time to get serious and demand such headlines as “Government approves six months oil buffer stock” so that the country could tide over periods of manipulated high oil prices with stocks of low-priced oil; or “ERC (Energy Regulatory Commission) total revamp… Consumer protectionists appointed;” followed by “New ERC investigates sweetheart deals,” uncovering 900 percent overpricing in the tens of thousands of power transformers and substations a power company has been buying from its sister company all the past decades; or better yet, “ERC cuts Meralco (Manila Electric Co.) rates by 50 percent.”  Now, wouldn’t all these elicit euphoria and a genuine comedy in the sense of a “happy ending?”

None of these can ever happen if the nation is glued to comedy day in and day out, which, in a sense, even the shows of Willie Revillame are.  Only when the nation gets serious about its crisis and tragedy can it be galvanized into action.

If the progressive countries of today such as China, Singapore, Venezuela, et al. had spent their days indulging in comedy instead of revolution, they would certainly have ended up like the Philippines today.
Laughter is not the best medicine when you have cancer; it is radical intervention with all the means at one’s command. And in a country such as ours which is in the midst of a socio-political and economic cancer, even a healthy dose of comedy wouldn’t amount to much.

(Watch Destiny Cable GNN’s HTL edition of Talk News TV, Saturdays, 8:15 to 9 p.m., with replay at 11:15 p.m., this week on “Consumer Updates: Water and Power Scams;” visit http://newkatipunero.blogspot.com)

(May pahintulot mula ng muling paglimbag mula kay Ka Mentong)

SourceThe Daily Tribune

URL: http://www.tribune.net.ph/index.php/commentary/item/1469-time-for-serious-realism

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