Week 2: Blissful Ignorance (Unfinished)

PART ONE: SamuraiJat in Wonderland

It was a Sunday, and I found myself staring into nowhere, out of my window. My mind unable to comprehend the images laid out before me, as if my past and present had collided at this very point of time in my waking reality. Sunday…

A day for the family, and back home this meant everyone… cousins, aunts, uncles and grandparents. I started to look back at my humble beginning, living in a tiny two-room shanty beside the railroad in Tondo, Manila, with my whole extended family (I think there were 15-18 of us at the time). A time when we didn’t even have our own shower but shared a village water pump to clean ourselves – except when it rained… that sensational feeling of the ‘pitter patter’ on your dusty dried-out skin, washing away the stress and toils of your day along with your sweat. Oh, how I miss showering in the rain.

It’s crazy because looking back now I can only remember how happy I was… everything seemed so simple. It didn’t matter that we didn’t own a TV or even had proper electricity, I loved being outside running around with the neighbourhood children coming up with any type of game we could play. Although, I have to admit that at times, we would gather around the window of a family who owns a TV and watch the Chicago Bulls win games in the NBA whenever they played. Of course, we weren’t ever able to watch for long because the owner would turn around and scare us away. It was fun, running away with your cousins and friends (my best friends were my cousins since there were 7 of us) laughing. But Sunday…

Every morning on this day, we smarten up (as much as we could) and got ready to go to Church where we prayed and sung as a family, including those who weren’t of the same blood. It was a sense of unity within our community, which I adored. I always looked forward to it. When the clock ticked noon, the Church sang a final song, and out came the snacks and drinks for everyone to indulge in and provided time for strangers to get to know each other. Of course, as a young kid, I procured as much sugar as I could stomach, restlessly running around the street screaming in excitement about almost anything. Occasionally, when we could afford it we would all take a trip to a shopping mall… we couldn’t really afford much but there was a pleasure to be gained by the anticipation, or rather, the fabrication of a false reality of obtaining these American branded products. I remember always dreaming of buying a pair of Nike shoes, mainly the Jordan’s, and always hoping to live a life similar to those that I would see on TV those few occasions. Yes. The American dream. Yes. America the greatest. Back then, everyone continued to praise the American economy, almost obsessively, you couldn’t really get by a long conversation without hearing ‘America’. During those young school years I spent in the Philippine education system, we were told stories of our national heroes, one of which was Emilio Aguinaldo, who courageously fought off the 377-year Spanish rule over the Philippines. Although he did get some help from the American Navy. So, naturally, we always thanked America for everything.

I lived the simple life in Tondo, Manila, for years to come. My parents, which I never mentioned, worked abroad and sent money back home to help support the entirety of my family tree… so I never really saw them growing up, and my grandmother was the main one to take the mother role in my life, but whenever they were able to come and visit, I would get so excited! Hearing my mother tell stories of a life filled with more luxury than we had – again the anticipation was killing me! My brother and I were unable to live with them in Hong Kong, my sister was already there, simply because they couldn’t afford to support all of us here at the time. However the days soon came, first my older brother moved, then I joined a couple years later – Hong Kong was still under British colonial rule, so naturally, the ‘best’ country in the world there at the time was England. During their colonial rule they were able to establish one of the largest trading harbours in the world, and so was praised for bringing so much prosperity into the country turning Hong Kong into one of the strongest developed cities. Moving to this city surpassed all my expectations; the country was clean, huge skyscrapers, designer brands everywhere, and my bedroom were only shared with my brother, not 10+ others – we even had our own bathroom! Furthermore, we were able to afford walkmans and iPods. It even got to a point where my father bought a Ferarri Spider (which he sold after a week because he hated it). This was the dream of dreams! At this point in my life, I accepted and embraced the economy that the colonization brought into the country(ies), “Imagine America”, I told myself. Throughout my whole life I was told by everyone, and my educators, how great the Western colonies were, and so far I had not been disappointed a single bit. One day during dinner, my father asked:

“Have you kids ever heard of a country called Singapore?”

“Nope.”

“Well, if you can find it on this globe, I will buy you presents.”

So the three of us, huddled over our one globe, and desperately tried to find this so called ‘Singapore’… half an hour had passed and we continued to fail in our attempt to actualize the promise of a gift.

“Well, time is up… Here it is…”

“Huh?! Where?!”

“That tiny, tiny dot below the line of the equator…”

“WHAT?! That’s a country?! It’s just a dot…”

“Haha yep. Well… I got offered a promotion there, but I told them I’ll only move if my family agrees to move with me. What do you all think? You can have a few days to think about it if you want. It could be a new adventure.”

Looking back now, this was the move that changed my perception on everything. Even though we moved into an even larger house, one that had a garden, a 15m-20m private pool with a waterfall feature, Jacuzzi, and stood four stories tall. I thought I was overwhelmed before, but this was another level. I attended an international school, where they taught history in the most unbiased way, thus began my ongoing rage and sorrow which was only amplified by the natural insecurities of my teenage body at the time.

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PART TWO: Welcome to Our World, Insanity.

It seems as though the more you learn about the world and our society, the more disappointed you get. A never-ending hollow abyss that continuously fills your soul. Take for example:

Emilio Aguinaldo has freed the Philipines from Spanish reign, thanks to the American Navy… Freedom and independence at last. 

I was brought up to believe this. Looking back, it’s a little amusing as to how this sentence reflects the whole concept of the American dream and economy, or rather the western modernization of the world today. The Philippines was free, but only free from the Spanish reign, what they never told you as a kid was that the Philippines, in turn, became in debt to the American Navy thus technically under American reign. This resulted in the full Americanisation of the Philippines; Basketball, Baseball, Shopping Malls filled with American Shops, etc. It’s like replacing your breakfast with doughnuts… its a quick fix to your hunger problems, but you feel like s**t after. The Americans pretty much invaded the Philippines, only disguised as Freedom. I’m not saying it’s all bad, they did bring in technology, proper sanitation, medication and the concept of democracy – which also backfired because of the debt culture built by the Americans (the Philippines used to be one of the most powerful Asian economies in the world until the debt culture). The thing that I started to question during my teenage years was, why did people celebrate colonisation as if it was the greatest thing that has ever happened. It’s celebrating bloodlust, domination, rape, slavery and everything in between. I  remember friends inviting me over for a party during Thanksgiving (they were American friends). A party?! It is absolutely insane.

Freedom is colonisation? Freedom from war is that really freedom? All you do is place the power of one party to another. There is no freedom from anything that has seen blood. I mean even now, THE INTERNET! The platform where everyone is equal and everyone is free! WRONG! Everything is recorded, everything is monitored, everything is regulated. They give you this idea that you are free, but you’re not. Someone is always watching you. The internet, out shopping or going to the gym. Does freedom exist if you are always limited by law?

Before moving to Australia, I thought I had already acknowledged the whole truth behind colonisation. However, I was proven wrong. When I first met my very albino friend, Liam, he told me he was off Indigenous descent. I cracked up. But he was. It showed how even someone, who thought he was educated enough, was still ignorant to many influences that colonisation had.

When I first arrived I was aware that there were European settlers, but I didn’t know the degree and how recent the events took place. These settlers just landed her on some boats and imposed a new government system and one that discriminates against the original inhabitants of the land. Additionally, I specifically remember a bunch of drunk bogans yelling at me, ‘get out of our country yah f**ck’n Asian c*nt’, luckily I just found it a little amusing because, before the Europeans, the Asians actually migrated here. There are archaeological findings that indicate the trades between the Indonesian Islands and Indigenous people hundreds and hundreds of years ago. It’s like they just like to claim things that aren’t theirs.

The thing that triggers me most, is how Western colonisation has essentially killed Culture. Everywhere in the world. This makes me mad because, culture is what shows our individuality, although the world would be very different today (and I probably won’t be writing this blog for my university in Australia), and it shows how we connect to our environment and surrounding. We not only have almost killed the planet, but we have lost the memory of humanity. We have become a single culture; Chadstone Shopping mall, Vivo City (Singapore), Greenbelt Shopping Mall (Philippines) and The Bloc (LA) all have the exact same shops, selling the exact same clothing aiming to make the exact same thing, money. On top of which, if you walk down the street you will see multiple women who look exactly the same because they follow the same makeup model on Instagram.  Western Colonisation seems to want to control everything and seems to disregard anyone with alternative thinking, such as; Indigenous tribes, people with mental disorder, people who simply just think differently from them. They marginalise them through brute force, and often, are successful because these minority of cultures never had the desire to do so to them first. It almost shows cowardice through the amount of fear they have of the unknown.

 

Week 1: Igniting Delirium

A puff to blow the worries away. A sip of giggles to help waste the night away. Have another puff, then repeat. The night had started early; so we roll another, pop-off some caps and repeat.  As the air filled with smoke, I noticed my body and my mind finally feel at ease after the day’s toil. Oh, how I longed for this moment, each and every day.

Porter sat on the edge of the couch, twiddling his fingers, legs shaking and eyes swaying from side to side.

“Yo Porter. You alright?”

“I… um.. I think… I… I will… walk… I will walk home now.”

He stood up and walked straight out of the door.

“What was that about?”

I looked at Dennis, puzzled but nothing else was said after, nor did I think of anything more about it. The man just wanted to go home, albeit it was pretty early and the night had only just begun, Porter was always one for a heavy night out.

Waking up into this waking life, I existed once again nursing a drought in my head. I got out of my cradle, rolled one and stepped out into my balcony. Inhale… Exhale… Much better, although the sun was coming down. I always hated myself for doing this every weekend. But I just accepted it, this was me, my weekend-being. Inhale… Exhale… I stared at the horizon as dusk slowly blanketed the city.

~BRANGGGG BRANNNGGGG~

God. Who could it be? I just wanted to enjoy this before I do anything. Inhale. Exhale. Sigh…

“Hello-“

“Can you come over?! RIGHT NOW! I NEED HELP! It’s Porter!”

S**t! That sounded urgent. I sprinted to my room and grabbed any clothing that wasn’t my robe and headed straight down to Porter’s place. He didn’t live too far away. Upon my arrival, I jump the fence and notice the glass sliding door was slightly open, so I let myself in only to find myself unable to fathom the horror that laid before me. The white walls were covered in holes, and in one, a knife.

“He-Hello? Porter?! Tash?!”
[Tash is Porter’s sister who lived with him; she was the one who called]

No response. What the ***k was happening?! I was simply flummoxed. I scrambled around the house, trying to find any clues as to what was happening and where the two were. The place was a mess, the positive thing that I could only think of was that there was no sign of blood. Thank God. I soon decided to walk out to the street and tried to contact Tash. I rolled one. Inhale… Exhale… as I look down the street, phone cusping my ear, Tash was walking towards me. She got closer, wearing a face of despair but… at the same time she seemed calm. It only puzzled me more.

“Tash! What’s happening? Porter?”

“Porter just had a bit of an episode, so I just went anywhere to get away for a bit. If he’s not home, then he’s probably out somewhere as he usually does,” she continued, “sorry I called, it just gets a bit scary when he’s like this and I know you guys are close.”

A bit of an episode? As he usually does? So this has happened before? Or rather it happened more often than you’d like. Despite her being relatively calm, regarding the situation, I couldn’t help but congregate horrific scenarios in my head. Inhale… exhale… I took my phone out and called Porter. He sounded drunk, and not long after picking up he openly invited me to get drunk with him. I accepted his offer and met up with him at a bar in the city, although I had no intention to have a ‘jolly’ drink but to clear up what was happening and if he was okay. However, when I got there, I had the misfortune of being unable to confront him about the incident. I was uncomfortable, so as a young naive adult; one drink, two, three, four… then I lost count. I almost forgot everything until I felt a numbness in my nose and a lump in my throat, I felt brand new.

It turned out to be a great night out once again, this was why I always said that Porter was a wildcard. Sunrise came, and we were walking down the road towards his home. We sat down on his front porch, rolled one; inhale… exhale… passed it on, repeat. I looked up and was reminded why  I was out in the first place. A knife. I was staring at the knife, and as I did I felt Porter noticing me notice what happened.

“… Yeah… I get really nasty when my medication doesn’t arrive…”

He proceeded to tell me his story about absent parents who turned to feed him prescription medication at a very young age. For as long as he remembers, he’s been taking all sorts of medication for his ‘mental disabilities’ and is probably why he was able to tolerate consuming the number of substances that I would see him take. He seemed completely normal to me, but as what was evident, he mentioned that if he ever goes by without taking his medication, he gets fueled with rage. Ever since I’ve known him, I felt like he was a very decent person and completely competent. Although people had described him to be a bit of an oddball, I never thought of him in that way at all. But then again, I think every single person I meet is weird, never in a bad way, but that’s what makes everyone ‘normal’.

“Hey… I’m sorry I left so suddenly the other night. I just… Sometimes… I get a weird feeling and I can’t focus… I get these images in my head. It’s hard to describe.”

The events of that night have continued to mark a stain on my mind. I could only imagine what he was going through, but this was the door to a world that I knew existed but never really experienced in encountering.

As the days go by, and weeks past. I’d roll one, sometimes two after each day in order to relax and feel at ease. I started to notice my habits and addictions. Were any of them actually ever necessary? What would happen if I were to take one of them away? I know now that back then I was definitely an alcoholic, giving excuses like “I just party a lot”, numbing myself down with almost anything and completely dependent on other things to enable me to get to sleep or to wake up and work. In hindsight, I was only numbing myself cause I didn’t want to feel depressed. Moving to a new country, having no family, the death of one of your first friends as an independent young adult at university, a grandfather’s illness back home, and living a never ending cycle of waking up an d working then sleeping. This made me confront that person, that coward that I see every morning pissing in the toilet bowl. It’s time to stop, feel everything, embrace what the world has to offer. Cold turkey.

The final weekend had come, the weekend of a new beginning. I was going to get everything out of my system. Rolled one; inhale… exhale… take a swig… inhale exhale… repeat. Once everything is blurry, I numbed my face until I felt like a king. Then, lights out I passed out.

I woke up again, with a drought in my head. Nothingness. That was what filled my head. I got up and rolled one. Hold on. I wasn’t supposed to do this. So I  placed it back on the table and just sat on the balcony, watching people that walked passed below me. My leg started to shake, but I didn’t know why.

~BRANGGGG BRANNNGGGG~

“Hello?”

“Hey man, How are yah feelin’? Nick and I were thinking of heading your way and just chillin’. Maybe play some FIFA? You down?”

“Yeah man! Sure.”

I thought that maybe their presence could distract me from the restlessness that I was feeling. I was wrong.

I sat there on the floor, it was the second half of the game and I was winning by a goal. My mind sporadically escaping me, thinking of random thoughts. Triggered by the smallest words and motion. It was as if my body had a mind of its own, it wasn’t me who was winning the game because my mind felt completely separate from the rest. My legs started to shake once again, and my fingers moving on the analogue sticks reminded me of the twiddling that Porter had done that one time. What was happening to me?! Is this what Porter was feeling?

“Ooooof! That was close!”

I saw what happened, but it didn’t feel like I was actually involved with the game. Scenarios started flashing before my eyes. Reply to him, just pretend everything is fine.

“Hm. Yeah, that was.”

My heart started racing, my chest was tightening as if the constrictor of despair had grasped the whole of my body.

Scenario 1: Jump up and hurt someone. No! I would never do that.

Scenario 2: Scream! But what for?!

Scenario 3: Leave the room and take a nap. Yeah, maybe I was agitated because I was still tired.

Scenario 4: Go out and take a walk.

I couldn’t control anything. Not my body, nor my mind. I continued to lose my breath as my head started to hear bells.

“Aw damn! What?! How’d you score that goal?!”

I scored another goal. But this time I didn’t see or know what I did during the game. It was as if a roulette was spinning in my head, wildly spinning and spinning… and spinning… and spinning. It was out of control.

“I…”

Oh God! Please, don’t let it land on scenario 1. Please…

“… think… I’m… going… to…”

My breathing stopped, but my heart was still racing.

“… take a nap.”

I was able to take a deep breath, finally, so I stood up and left the room. The game wasn’t even over. My friends were confused. But I just left them to be puzzled. I grab the sheets of my bed and let the softness caress me as I stared into the ceiling. The white of the walls and ceiling turned red. I laid there, breathing heavily in rage for no reason. I waited until my friends left my apartment, and never mentioned what happened internally, I walked out to my balcony and stared at the horizon. So this is how he felt, every time he didn’t get his fix. It filled my heart with sorrow. I know that I put myself through this, it was my decision to numb myself and detach my emotions. I did this to myself and so, yes, I deserved to suffer this way. But I couldn’t get over the fact that Porter, a man as good as he was, has to suffer the pain of losing control over and over. A roulette of emotion and actions. A path chosen for him, not by him. My abusing behaviour was only for a couple of years, but his was almost his whole life. I can’t even say that I know exactly how he feels, but I had a taste of it. A taste that lingered for months until I replaced my habits with other more beneficial ones.

The world has come to point where you can take something to help ‘improve’ your state, be it; a simple cold or a way to change your mood. But it seems that in an ever growing population of ‘mentally ill’ and depression, far more people are turning straight to drugs may it be legal or illegal. I start to notice, that everyone do have their own addiction, everyone has a drug. Alcohol and drugs. Alcohol is a drug.

The strangest part of all of this is that even though more people are getting affected or more people are abusing substances, barely anyone is open about what is happening within themselves. Nor do they realise who they really are inside, always escaping the confines of our real world. Into a world of ecstasy and joy.

Is there a way to create a platform for understanding? Between those who are ‘ill’ and those who aren’t? I wonder… is there a medium to include all those suffering inside into the externalities of the real world? Maybe.