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Belmont Club

Anything I own

August 13th, 2009 - 2:22 am

Back in the day a German acquaintance of mine asked me to translate a phrase for him. The phrase was “bihag ng pagibig.” The question was asked as we were sitting at the Mega-Mall, a giant shopping center built across from the Asian Development Bank in Manila, where we had just finished delivering a report to a loan officer on a forestry project.  We had just gotten back from the field, and not having enough time to get our own proper clothes were forced to borrow a shirts and trousers from friends who lived in the Corinthian Gardens, which was right beside the Bank. The results were barely correct, though somewhat comical. All my German colleague could find was a long sleeved orange satin shirt which billowed out at the elbows and a pair of trousers about four inches too short. All I could find for my part, was a white shirt and a suit jacket about eight inches too long. Despite being described as resembling “a couple of refugees from a Hungarian bordello” our presentation was a success. In order to celebrate we went up to have a drink at the Mega-Mall.

“How does it happen,” he asked eyeing the parade of lissome ladies who wandered past, “that all these beautiful women are all escorted by losers. Cheap leeches. How do they hang on to women far better than they are, how?” I considered the question momentarily and answered: “easy, it’s the bihag ng pagibig phenomenon. “The what?” he asked me to explain. I said, “have you ever had a woman take you aside for advice and tell you that she can’t stand her boy friend? That he’s a good for nothing; takes her money; cheats on her; lies. Until finally you ask the obvious question: ‘why not leave him?’ only to get the answer: ‘but I still love him’. But I still love him.” I chuckled. I said, “that’s what bihag ng pag-ibig means. It means “the slave to love.” He turned the answer over in his mind for a while and finally he turned to me and asked, “can we play that game?” “Never,” I answered, “because we can’t take ourselves seriously. I mean, look at us. We look like a couple of clowns. And we’d hate ourselves for doing it, even if we could.”

Camille Paglia, writing in Salon, concludes that “I still love him” in an article describing the lies, deceit and imbecilities of Barack Obama’s health care program. And why does she think this, after listing out his catastrophic public policy? Well, because the President is so handsome and well spoken, that’s why.

Buyer’s remorse? Not me. At the North American summit in Guadalajara this week, President Obama resumed the role he is best at — representing the U.S. with dignity and authority abroad. This is why I, for one, voted for Obama and continue to support him. The damage done to U.S. prestige by the feckless, buffoonish George W. Bush will take years to repair. Obama has barely begun the crucial mission that he was elected to do. …

But who would have thought that the sober, deliberative Barack Obama would have nothing to propose but vague and slippery promises — or that he would so easily cede the leadership clout of the executive branch to a chaotic, rapacious, solipsistic Congress? House Speaker Nancy Pelosi … has clearly gone off the deep end with her bizarre rants about legitimate town-hall protests by American citizens. She is doing grievous damage to the party and should immediately step down. …

I just don’t get it. Why the insane rush to pass a bill, any bill, in three weeks? And why such an abject failure by the Obama administration to present the issues to the public in a rational, detailed, informational way? … As with the massive boondoggle of the stimulus package, which Obama foolishly let Congress turn into a pork rut … How is it possible that Democrats, through their own clumsiness and arrogance, have sabotaged healthcare reform yet again?

How is it possible? Why does it matter when whatever Obama does Camille Paglia can be counted upon to remain the bihag ng pagibig; the slave to love. The real power of the Left does not lie in its ability to out-argue the Conservatives but to out-friend them. When Pauline Kael said, “I live in a rather special world. I only know one person who voted for Nixon. Where they are I don’t know,” she was expressing a rather ordinary sentiment. The Left is a culture; it is a circle of friends. Bill Ayers knows that once a youth is brought into the Leftist orbit they eventually surround themselves with a society, culture and artistic preferences from which they can never escape.

Just as every Church on Sunday contains a considerable number of parishioners who think the preacher is spouting hogwash, its safe to say that in every Leftist meeting hall there are an equal percentage of people who are inwardly rolling their eyes at the speaker’s exhortations. But to arise and call out the speaker would be just as unthinkable as a Catholic parishioner rising from the pews to accuse the priest of arrant nonsense.  Many a Leftist and churchgoer stay seated not out of conviction, but out of the inability to walk away from a lifelong circle of friends, habits and modalities. It’s not just Hedda Nessbaum who stays and takes it. They all stay because “they still love you”.

The real secret to gaining on the Left isn’t to offer up a more cogent argument or to present more compelling facts. It’s to outfriend them; to open up a door that will make the undecideds out in the cold come in and feel loved. On the day conservatives sweep the Facebook groups they will sweep the world. Alas, all too many people want to be the bihag ng pag-ibig, and all too few can stomach what it takes to pull them in. Shane won’t do it, but Barack will. And as for those in the Left, it’s largely futile to imagine they will ever switch sides; ever walk out on their friends, theater groups, literary clubs, faculty bridge associations; ever walk out on their lives. Barack Obama will have to practically poison Camille Paglia before she will consent to abjure him, for to do so would be turn her back on too great a store of memory to easily relinquish.

Nobody else can ever know.
The part of me that can’t let go.

I would give anything i own.
Give up my life and my heart, my home.
I would give everything i own
Just to have you back again.


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