Ago 10, 2004

Sickness and health, richer and poorer
The metaphysical marriage of advertising and health

I looked for Truth the other day, and instinctively though maybe wrongly, I went for the libraries. I spent hours among the archives, devouring all I can of simulacra, qi, tadhana, hermeneutics, Julia sets, bell hooks, and fuero - anything that sounded fancy to me. I had this idea that Truth - if it, she, or he would be found - would appear casually beautiful.

I ended the day sullen and sore with the feeling that I understood nothing more than I did before I entered the labyrinthine letters of the archives. Maybe I had even less at the evening than I did at dawn. I turned my thoughts this way and that until I got evilly drunk on my own incapacity, my sense - no! - my reality of failure.

I got home; I didn't know how, I just did. There, I automatically pressed the remote control and was about to wonder which of us had control over the other when the tv flashed out its neon light at the end of my tunnel. I muted the set with an assertion of the thumb.

An advert came forth: a couple of pastel clothed young ones swaying their hair to and fro until I got drowsy, hypnotized, by the knowledge of the swaying and the deep ambiguity of which exactly swayed - the hair or the head? Until I found what I searched for. Truth! I'm way ahead of my time, all epiphanies and eurekas converged, sank centrifugally, irresistably into that moment! Truth!

Truth in advertising!

It's been there all along, my my how could I have missed it? How could anybody miss it? It should be there, I thought. In the commandment of truth in advertising, I should've discovered long ago that the high, invisible priests were actually advertising truth! I wanted to get my fill of it despite the clicking lamentations of my poorly fed gut. With an entirely snackless, lunchless day behind me, I suppressed the nether regions and decided instead to eat off the screen. I put on some volume to gorge on every word.

The truth about health, I gathered by a simple deductive operation, was that it can happen despite the poisons of softdrinks. Bodies buff and lying in the sun, toasted into the crispiest, prettiest hue possible, gorging in softdrinks. It didn't matter what they said the scientists from India found out. That list of true-blue toxins they listed and carefully quantified by their clever methods of reverse engineering and analysis, those are fabrications. As much a rumor as the 'fact' that a previous Philippine president of the leading softdrink company prohibited his children from drinking the very product he flooded us millions with. That's just plain oral tradition there, superstition. We will have our drink, our self-satisfaction complete with our burping, effaced psyches!

The truth about health, you see I must explain in pure professorial fashion, is not the oiled pizza or the half-cooked rice they always have to show on TV. Who'll blame the companies for smothering oil on the mozzarella to make it look 'really' shiny and tasty? So what if they don't cook the grain fully to make the image itself full? We already see the delicious smiles and wide-open eyes enrapt. We remain glad, smiling similarly sans the sight of actors spitting the oiled crusts and half-cooked rice after every take. We don't need to know that the camera reduces shine, makes the rice look less rich, and by itself - both screen and image - remains inescapably tasteless. If we wanted to find these things out, we'd put our tongues on the screen, see? We maintain respectable distance. Truth is, we're very comfortable with our objectivity. If we must have control, control must be remote. Truth therefore stays plain, simple, and lens-less. And it's fully comprehensible! Our pizzas taste good, our rice rich; if the Filipino needs to call in their food and the Philippines needs to import its main grain from the very countries it once taught the advanced science of planting rice, well? That must be progress.

Beauty is truth, truth is beauty, we now know full well. When they say all-natural, no preservatives, and 50% less fat through the best voices of our generation and the prettiest fonts we've grown capable of in our advanced hieroglyphics, why should we not believe? Why doubt and ask the nutritionists? What do they know? The cream of the crop - experts all - must already inhabit the spaces behind the screen. They have our good in mind, I realized.

I must profess, blessed as I am with the telling Vision, I'm bound to shout out: "Sickness! Sickness! That's evil we should rally against!"

One fights sickness with the leadership of experts, readers of our collective entrails, keepers of the secrets of prozac and placebo. When, offhand, some sarcastic, sanctimonious iconoclast whispers to your ear that the salbutamol they asked you to take has no more nor less curative power than glasses of water, don't pay her heed. She will lead you astray. Surely, if something that simple were true, your expert would've inscribed that on your reseta with the medical calligraphy. And if you read '1.5 liters 3x a day' you would believe that to be true without lowering your regard for the pharmaceutically enhanced doctor. You're medically represented. You're in good hands. If it were only some holy water you needed, then what use for experts? No! - truth is in advertising, advertising is in Truth. Take the pill. It's blasphemy that the price of the medicine goes to capital or to advertising or to fully-paid vacations abroad of endorsers and doctors.

No, don't break the old tablets yet! There's something there we don't see. It makes perfect sense!

Sickness, let me read it according to the word one of our most-loved senators, an expert on health to boot! In behalf of selling vitamin, he prohibits the rest of us from sickness: "Bawal Magkasakit." Such liberty, perfect emancipation! We are rid of sickness by being banned to have it! Sheer genius, completely on the level of the law-maker of old who had the profound insight to attempt to pass a bill against the coming of storms that ravage his beloved Batanes. Still, this truth at hand bears deep analysis so that the people would understand their responsibilities. We can't get sick. It's a crime to be so. It's evil! Thus, we must give birth to a clinic that won't heal but would discipline and punish. The times are hard, he speaks true. The sick should be stigmatized, quarantined because the burden of neglect lies on their shoulders. Ask not what health you can get from your government; ask what health you can give! No, ask not further what you've already given. Don't inquire about your sweat, tears, blood, coldly quantified as taxes that go desaparecido. Don't inquire about the generations of your strong, healthy youth, sent to the errands of the full. Why ask? Listen, instead, for it asks one more thing from you: "Thou shall not get sick." Imagine not what hells await if you indulge in the most unseemly act of being a weak person in a weak time and place.

I now know. That truth is they care. The truth is, I am loved. And damn I'm glad they show it!

Let me end by telling you about the silent night after the enlightenment. Illuminated as I was by the see-sawing of unmuted, immutable images, I noticed that - lo and behold! - my stomach growled no more. Intensely pacified! Joyfully, I went to bed and looked forward to the rapture of apocalyptic dreams.