Zombies are better off than capitalists

I've always been drawn to zombie movies, since I first saw George Romero's the Dead movies and the numerous interpretations of the genre particularly that of Max Brooks (World War Z), Alex Garland (28 Days Later & 28 Weeks Later) and Robert Kirkman (The Walking Dead).

I find it interesting because it reveals a side of humanity that puts into question highest boast of civility and order amidst chaos. It makes us put ourselves in the shoes of the characters and ask the same question of 'what will I do given the same circumstances?'

Zombie movies function as a mirror to our collective values and pretenses on matter of survival and being human. It dares to put us in the middle of the tension between living to fight another day in an eternity of living dead; asking us whether it is actually us the survivors who are the real walking dead for we are no longer different from the zombies who are driven by the primal urge to press on living at the expense of others lives.

It is on this theme of the zombie movie genre that I find Yeon Sang-ho's Train to Busan a welcomed contribution to themes advanced by the zombie genre. I find it special because it saliently functions as a Marxist social commentary to the conventions of class relations, that is more relatable than George Romero's take on the idea in his movie Land of the Dead.

Choosing to see otherwise

In the midst of all the pageantries and tradition that comes with the yuletide season, we are often led to believe that Christmas is a time of joy and celebration with our loved ones.

It is.

But to one must remember that, such wasn't the case in 1st century CE in Roman Judea.

Once Jesus was born and after the shepherds, then the wise men have left, there was only the impulse to flee.

King Herod orders the execution of all young male children in the village of Bethlehem, so as to avoid the loss of his throne to a newborn "King of the Jews".

In an ironic twist of faith the so-called Savior flees with his parents to their salvation from the oppressive hands of the State.

The Christmas story would not be complete if we exclude the story of the innocents massacred by Herod1 as Jesus, Joseph and Mary made their way to Egypt –as refugees.

It's possible that we forget this story, because it doesn't fit in with the motif that we have been accustomed to because the State, the Church, the corporations, the establishment and the powers-that-be who benefit from the status quo chose to paint us an incomplete picture –one that is: safe. UnchallengingReactionary. 

Because for us to see otherwise would mean the turning of tables and the shifting of power.

The great irony of the Christmas drama is that Christ was born so that he could die. We try to romanticize it by saying that it was a mission --a part of a divine drama that will unfold, where Jesus dies for his ungrateful creation.

The space in between Jesus' birth and death presents us with narratives that challenges us to rise up and make a difference by proclaiming freedom for the oppressed2, turning the other cheek3 and loving our neighbor as our selves4–to bring hope.

How do we become hope incarnate in the midst of violence at a time when the poor suffer, when tenderness and life burned out of them5?

Should we be content in preaching heaven? In praying away our sufferings? Or should we take sides and declare that a better world is possible?

The gospel challenges us to struggle with the oppressed in realizing justice by refusing to treat evil as an acceptable part of a larger harmonious vision ---that is to live in constant anxiety with nothing but faith in the One who said that whatever we have done for the least has cosmic significance6.

1Matthew 2:16-18
2Luke 4:18
3Matthew 5:38-40
4Matthew 22:39
5A line I borrowed from Otto Rene Castillo's Apolitical Intellectuals

6Matthew 25:40

Cynical talk is cheap

Me and the organizations that I'm a part of do not join and are not supportive of token 'environmental awareness' activities like Earth Run.

I agree with the contradiction of the run’s intention and the outcome that followed. I’ve seen a lot of critical posts based on the picture above. A lot of them blasting hypocrisy and rightfully pointing out the failure. But I’m quite interested in how the case would be if the same standard put on the event stand with the personal ecological footprint of those who made the post.

I’m sure all would fall short and that everyone would be guilty of the same hypocrisy that the event organisers have been founded guilty of.

But having been involve in a number of advocacies. I’ve come to realise that  that hypocrisy is the gap between aspiration and action. Perhaps the alternative to hypocrisy isn’t moral purity (since no one manages that), but cynicism.(experience also has it that the cynical ones usually are the most apathetic at social engagement).

It’s not easy living green without going completely off the grid, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t do what we can – and accept that sometimes we’ll fail. The key is to be aware of our own contradictions and struggling to be better, while living in the constant tension of the vast space in between the now and not yet of our vision.

Sanctified violence

Does the traditional gender definitions of our Christian tradition have a role to play in perpetrating of this heinous act?

Since my time in the seminary I’ve always found incidents such as this one heartbreaking, especially when it happens in places where Christianity is the dominant world view adhered by its population. It seems that our faith born of altruistic love, has been perverted into a “who’s in and who’s out” of God’s love litmus test. Perhaps the use categories that imply inclusion and exclusion has a proximate correlation to sanctifying violence towards those who differ from dominant proscribed identities defined by our world view.

Just peace

Its always easy and popular to sound the battle cry for an all out war.

After all, its always easy to give in to our violent tendencies to destroy those that do not fit to the current system that benefits us at the cost of the life and dignity of others.

For the government war comes at the cost of re-allocating money that should have gone for social services like health, livelihoods and education, to that of financing people, technology and corporations to become more efficient at killing off its opponents, which in this case are the very people whose noble aspirations they claim to represent.

On the prospect of pursuing nonviolent resolutions to armed conflicts it is always wise that the government would pursue peace negotiations that are aimed at addressing the roots of rebellion. It is always best that it reigns over the military and chooses to go the extra mile to meet the demands of the oppressed who've taken up arms.

Since there wouldn't be any armed conflict if there wasn't any oppresive power relations that are further reinforced by the military's intervention to maintain a peace and order that preserves the status quo that does not benefit the interest of the many, who have been marginalized by the current system.
Perhaps the civillian government should exercise its power over the military by opening avenues for dialogue and negotiations with political factions that advance a narrative run contrary to theirs, and being able to humbly secede to progressive ideas that advances the common good.


Regardless of how one feels for the National Democratic (ND) movement, or how one feels about their apparent ‘silence’ in taking a more outright  and exploit anti-Duterte pronouncement in the past months before the collapse of the peace process between the National Democratic Front and the Government of the Republic of the Philippines.

One must stand in solidarity with their plight as the repercussions of the peace accord’s collapse means life and death for people and communities in the places that are at the forefront of the struggles. To the progressive non-ND’s it especially means that the ball is on their turf as to whether they’d take the higher road of choosing not to hold suspect, not ridicule and not impute blame on the ND’s organised forces once violence breaks out.

 The war on drugs, the war on liberation movements, the war on the poor and the war against those who chooses to believe and say otherwise to the narrative of the leaders who disguise their reactionary defense of the status quo as change is one and the same.

Hence the need for solidarity based on our shared humanity.

Beyond the dichotomy of animal/human rights

There is controversy over the film Oro, which narrates the gruesome massacre of four small-scale gold miners in Barangay Gata, CamarinesSur last March 22, 2014. It is a recounting of the incident of a group formed to stop illegal logging and mining activities, and which is connected to the provincial government, armed and pretending to be environmentalists, causing tension between people fighting for their livelihood while the other using the guise of 'environmental protection' to take over operations.

In the movie, we learn later that a dog was slaughtered on camera for a scene.

It sparked outrage. It ought to.

Our myopic sense of devaluing the life of both people and animals for our petty pursuit of gold, power and hedonistic satisfaction under a capitalist-consumer society commodifies human and non-human life.

The death of both human and non-human life is tragic. Environmental plunder that puts gold over people is unjust; in the same way killing dogs for the sake of artistic authenticty is equally wrong. The challenge is for all of us to recognize life's sanctity as something that transcends beyond the human specie.

Holy $#*%! A Christmas reflection

“Christmas reminds us that we are usually looking in the wrong place for hope.1” 

God’s humour and wisdom stands out in the Christmas narrative with his response to the question: Where is God? He is in the midst of nobodies accompanied by livestock in some back-alley stable reeking of camel dung and sewage.

Pleased as man with man to dwell Jesus, our Emmanuel2!

Cardboard justice

The enormity of the drug problem also correlated to complexity of the historical, social, cultural and most importantly economic conditions that created the problem in the Philippines. The rise of killings of 'supposed' drug suspects warrants the question:

  1. Does the scope of the drug problem warrant the decision of sanctioning death to whoever fits the stereotype of a pusher/user/trafficker? (Given that majority of the killings happen before arrests were made hence not providing sufficient space for forensic investigation, and judicial processing based on rule of evidence and due process.)
  2. Should we condone vigilantism and support actions that make another person as judge, jury and executioner without legal authority to do so?
  3. Have we exhausted other measures such as jobs and decent living conditions for all; properly funded rehabilitation centres, drug exchange schemes and support for all addicts, whether of legal or illegal drugs; resources to be provided for youth facilities?

A proportional response to the drug problem goes beyond intervening in the supply and demand chain of the drugs itself and definitely pointing guns based on anyone based on suspicion does 't make the mannace go away I think the current strategy of shoot now ask questions (if at all) later approach delivers little the change, reaps multifold body counts and a whole lot of collateral damage not only to those of mistaken identity but also to the spouse, parents, children, sibling and friends of those killed without the due process of law.

Beyond all that is the challenge to hold responsible the President for sanctifying killings as a necessary pre-requisite for his promise of 'change'.

Take sides

Luke's account of the Christmas narrative begins with Caesar Augustus' census and ends with the shepherds praise of the messiah, giving us insight into how the child Jesus enters history and turns our preconceived notions of power.

On one hand there is Ceasar Augustus, the Roman Emperor who at that time is believed to be god-incarnate ruling over the known world under Pax Romana. Conquering lands and exerting military might that they may be subjugated to the uneasy peace under the Empire. On the other are the shepherds: nomadic wanderers tending to livestock that heed the angelic proclamation of the messiah's arrival, who after coming into an encounter with the Christ-child return to their lot rejoicing.

Here we see the startling contrast of how God's gracious condescension breaks into history with his arrival at the height of the Empire's power, choosing to arrive through a human family of middle eastern peasants and the company of livestock with no one but shepherds to call as guests of honors in a marginal town in Roman Judea.

In that little town of Bethlehem we come face-to-face with a God who takes sides and favors the company of the poor and the lowly. Veiled in the fragility of an infant Jesus, the Immanuel reveals himself in a back-alley manger to an unwed teenage peasant couple, livestock and herdsmen. Brought forth in frail humanity, the king of kings and the lord of lords enters history with the message that true power lies in our willful relinquishing of it for the sake of the Other.

The story of Christmas bids us to take the side of the lowly and to be open and vulnerable for it is the vessel upon which we can encounter the divine and live up to Jesus' edict to care care for “the least of these”(Mt. 25:40), and come out of the ordeal as the shepherds glorifying and praising God for all the things we had heard and seen.