Saturday, March 9, 2013

Power Failure

Nobody’s above or beneath you, here we work hand and in hand and not under a hierarchy. Your position is not one of power, but of responsibility. We merely have different responsibilities.

That’s how it is in our theatre group, Open Space, where the bottom line has always been the artwork and how best to communicate that to our audiences. All efforts are focused on delivering that story in the best possible way we can – directors, designers, stage managers, technicians, crew and cast, we all recognize and respect our respective positions and recognize that how we perform our responsibilities affect the way our colleagues perform theirs.

A stage hand must know why he’s there, what his responsibilities are, and perform them with as much passion, commitment and dedication as the actor on centerstage. A hand prop or costume in the right place at the right time enables the actor to perform his responsibilities well, in the same way that a responsible actor who comes to rehearsals and performances on time, commit themselves to the role they’re playing and respects the work that the others in a production do helps the stage hand to be able to set that hand prop or costume in the right place at the right time. Once that stage hand or actor see their position as power to make or break a show, the whole thing falls apart. In theatre, we know we depend on each other.

Our people have been enslaved for centuries – by colonizers for hundreds of years, and by each other since becoming a free nation. The Spaniards recognized their power to conquer this nation and enslave a people whom they believed were beneath them, inferior to them. They came, they saw and they conquered these islands, and they only recognized the power of their position, and abused it for more than three hundred years. The Americans, while trumpeting the concept Manifest Destiny, that it is their responsibility to teach these economically, militarily, culturally and intellectually inferior little brown people to govern themselves, did exactly as our previous colonizers did – abuse the power they had to serve their own interests. The Japanese came under the pretence of freeing us from Western domination and influence, and ended up doing the same as first two.

And since July, 1946, the leaders of this country fared no better than the colonizers. They too began regarding their fellowmen as subjects, powerless individuals they can enslave, a nation, province, a city, a barangay, even neighborhood homeowners’ association they can abuse. What good is it if the slaves of today become the tyrants of tomorrow? Rizal asked more than a century ago, and that’s exactly what’s become of our people. Slaves of yesterday, tyrants of today.

It’s about the policeman who has stopped recognizing his responsibility to keep a community safe and only see his position as an opportunity to extort money from the people; or the barangay captain, the councilor, the mayor or congressman who take advantage of their respective offices to enrich themselves at the expense of the welfare of the man on the street. And unless tomorrow's policeman, security guard, businessman or mayor has the heart to break the vicious cycle, we will all remain slaves.

It’s not about power, it’s about responsibility. Until we realize that, all of us will always be slaves.

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