WAYWARD AND FANCIFUL. Word Wars. By Gail Ilagan

(The lone samurai part may not be accurate, but please don’t set me straight. I have very few illusions left, and this one I’d like to keep.)

The lone samurai walked through my landscape this weekend.

I finally had the opportunity to sit down and read the book that had been gathering dust on my desk for a couple of weeks now. It had been the hardest thing for me to resist sampling the contents, but I made myself wait until I had the time to devour the volume in its entirety. This author writes of things that demand one’s full attention. There is only one way to read Jojo Abinales. You give him your full attention or none at all.

To say that Jojo’s latest book is a delight would be an understatement. Aptly titled The Joys of Dislocation, it got me cackling so much I could have dislocated my jawbone.

History in remarkable bits and pieces. Social commentaries written with a dog-with-a-bone passion and in a style so sharp, it cuts. Incisive geopolitical analyses that peel away layers of doubletalk. Policy advocacy that heckles and renders the opposition limping away mortally wounded. And even as Jojo tries for charming self-deprecation, he only manages to come across as an arrogantly daring wielder of words who suspiciously seems to know more than what he’s telling.

I have never chuckled so much at such inimitably provocative word warring disguised as the audacious view from the margins. Argumentation is Jojo’s second name, and he who is out of the box thinks out of the box. Jojo takes his distance and uses it to accurately calibrate his sights, coming down so very hard on errant toes wherever they may be.

Anvil’s publication of a decade of this itinerant’s ruminations signals increased interest in the view through Mindanaoan’s eyes. It represents a triumph for what Jojo had long been arguing: that ideas coming from this direction have inherent worth that deserves more than just token representation. And maybe it may even prove to have commercial value.

I say coming from this direction, and never mind whether Jojo is physically here or not. Like my manufactured lone samurai, he may not be here yet he always is. For the man whose mind knows who he is, mental boundaries defy the facts one can establish from a map.

Of course, it’s political. For the activists of Jojo’s generation – at least for those who did not stay to see the curtains come down – it always is political. Despite having moved in time and across physical space, Jojo has retained that core of him when he was happiest, agitating for word wars and afflicting the comfortable as well as the disinterested.

Every now and then, he reprises his happiness by churning out the excitement of discovering esoteric details like the undisguised racism in Buencamino’s 1902 policy paper on Mindanao Muslims. Or he takes immense pleasure in knocking down saint pretenders off their pedestals. He spouts fire and brimstone in consigning Marcos’ putrid remains to rot with the indignity it deserves. He heckles those who admonish him for opening his mouth by opening it all the wider. This is barricade behavior at its finest.

While the barricades of his youth had long been torn down, in his soul Jojo had never left the barricades. The lone samurai rides where the barricades of today are set up, his lethal sword raring to tear down the offending obstructions that stand in the way of reconciling the various parts of his imagined community. Those he’s got lined up in his sights must feel like being plagued by an Orwellian nightmare for he’s not here, and yet he is.

(Wayward and Fanciful is Gail Ilagan's column for MindaViews, the opinion section of MindaNews. Ilagan teaches Social Justice, Family Sociology, Theories of Socialization and Psychology at the Ateneo de Davao University where she is also the associate editor of Tambara. You may send comments to gail@mindanews.com. "Send at the risk of a reply," she says).
 

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