Faking it

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If you add to the truth, you take something away from it.—A Jewish Proverb

Local experiences of earthquake swarm in Bikol and the national events related to election made me rethink about the essence of truth and, therefore, of lie.

Long before these individuals came out to declare their candidacy, there were data about them. These were the perceived truths as regards these persons. These truths revolved around the past, the present and the future of the persons.

Where were they born? How were they raised? Where did they go for education? What have they done for public service to merit them the attention of the public? These questions and many more demand the truths and, let’s rub it in, nothing but the truth. No one is supposed to tell lies about one’s past as this set of information is verifiable.

Truth and lie are more contentious when they relate to the present life of the person. The fluidity of the present as time contiguous to the persona and character of the person allows manipulation and even distortion. Being in the present, the person running for office can improvise regarding the presentation of the self. In this situation, the public is not only forgiving but readily naïve. People are people, they would sigh.

How about the future? Is it impermeable? Were the future a performance area, it would be one setting rife for all kinds of lies and manipulations. For one, no one could dispute the future being promised by a candidate until it has come to the present, and from there, viewed in hindsight, as part of the past.

The verities of life as ranged over the time sequence of past, present and future can appear lucid at first. But a new field to communicate truths has been created online, in social media. It is a field that is naturally fluid.

Online, truths have become relative. Things depend on where you are viewing a statement. Context. Framework. How do we articulate contextualizing? How do we deconstruct words and phrases? By simply asking the question: Where are you coming from?

The other event that challenged the notion of what was correct, as in true and verifiable, happened to the Bicol region.

Having returned to the region to live in the city of Naga when the pandemic began, I, too, experienced on October 14, 2021, the beginning of earthquake swarm, quakes that lasted for four days (there are slight tremors even as I was writing this column). It is not that we had not experienced earthquakes but from 10 in the evening of that Thursday until the early morning of Friday, a series of earthquakes was not easy to take. It was abnormal, to say the least, and scary. Scientists would have explanations for earthquakes or a series of earthquakes. Faults, lineaments, etc. were all there online. We found them as soon as the Friday jolts happened. We began searching the Internet for information. We tried to make sense of the data. Epicenter some five kilometers from us! Then came the data on the depth of the quakes—some 4 or 5 kilometers from the ground.

We conjectured. Was the upward-downward movement caused by the shallow origin? Was the shallowness of the source of the tremors the reason for the eerie sound the quake produced?

Netizens were posting data and graphs via Facebook and tweeting their own idea of the earth disturbance. Everyone became seismologists. As there was no immediate active announcement from the local governments, an information gap was created at once. It was a huge fissure that needed to be filled—by anything, anything at all. Someone shared a page indicating a complex chart of arrows and lines. There were many facts being explained but what caught my attention (and I am sure of many) was the warning that bigger quakes were soon coming.

There seemed to be a rush to contribute to the conversation, itself going rabid online. Another site made it to the scene. It had more complex answers but it opened with a firm declaration: This is what is happening in your place. Who can counter that? It went on to attribute to these quakes solar flares and cosmic energy. It added LPA to the factors aggravating the faults. LPA—Low-pressure area. I can imagine the rains falling hard on the ground and softening the cracks and enlarging them. I stopped myself. This was not science, I told myself. No probabilities? This was too sure of things.

I read on. There were many grammatical lapses and errors in that web site. What do I tell the other netizens, check the grammar before accepting their facts?

I opted to contact friends who were in related disciplines: Volcanology, Geology, and Archaeology. They suggested that I better advise those within my circle of influence to wait for notices from the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology.

While I was near frantic in finding ways to mediate online discourses, the cosmic explanation was getting tractions. People, it seemed, had forgotten that earthquakes could not be predicted yet. Netizens were hitching their fears on facile starry explanations. In the meantime, of course, there was a faction declaring all this could be either punishment from God or one of his mighty tests. This was even more difficult to contest or explain away.

We are local news though, peripheral; the central government is not interested in us. It is obsessed with the national, with candidates now shooting truths and lies against each other. A fake diploma and a fake heroism of a father; the Golden Age of Martial Law; the report on infrastructures; the lack of statistics to show killings during an administration—these and more are circulating online. They are more viral than the present virus, more murderous, more earthshaking.    


E-mail: titovaliente@yahoo.com

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