Category: writing

(short stories! prose! poetry! editorials!) narratives and abstract retellings of things for imaginations to count ✍️

Mob Play

Reading Time: 13 minutes

The culling begins with the comments section. On Christine Dacera’s death, the weaponization of social media, the sensationalism of false justice, and lessons we have yet to learn.

During the New Year, Christine Dacera’s coworker Rommel Galida woke up at 10AM. He found her deep asleep in their hotel room’s bathtub, passed out from a New Year’s Eve party they attended together with other friends the night prior. He put a blanket over her and returned to bed, waking up a few hours later to see her fully unconscious and turning blue.
Rushed to the hospital, Christine was quickly declared dead. Autopsy pending and investigation underway, the case reached mass attention as the eleven men with her were named suspects. Immediately, the Philippine National Police arrested three of them – including Rommel – charged of rape-slay (rape and homicide); the others still at large.
(The Philippines is the only country that uses the term rape-slay.)

“This is a fair warning. Surrender within seventy-two (72) hours or we will hunt you down using force if necessary.”
Philippine National Police Chief Gen. Debold Sinas

With her companion’s names lined up, the nation turned. The act of desecration is an easy one if given the backing. This case was perfect: it came with the new year with everyone at home and hyperfocused on the next public case that would become dinner table conversation, resurfaced the deeply-rooted misogyny and sexism often tabled, and Christine was so human. She was a graduate of the country’s most prestigious university, worked a dream job, died far too young, and like any other victim – was completely undeserving of her fate.

Denouncing these names and declaring them enemies of the nation, online civilians took to poor discourse about rape culture (the hashtag of choice for Christine was #ProtectDrunkGirls, which is problematic in its own right; if not this, then #NoMeansNo repetitions), shitty ad-filled clickfarms publicizing the same paragraph about Rommel Galida’s entire work history, and the passed Christine amassing over a hundred thousand Instagram followers.

Each article and hastily-written post shared over and over with “CTTO/credits to the owner”, her being memorialized alongside Facebook caption screenshots, reduced and condensed with each share.


In the Name of Justice

The Philippines is a nation swayed by men throwing money at us across variety shows, smoothtalkers and dramatics no different on the television than in make-believe radio courtrooms, and morning news filled with celebrity chatter.

Political partylist ACT-CIS also added onto the witchhunt, promising a Php100,000 bounty for any tips that people could share. ACT-CIS has historically been linked to the sensationalist broadcaster Raffy Tulfo. Here, little acts of kindness like returning lost wallets are praised, and family disputes turn into entertainment for the masses. Tulfo screams and curses at the poor in scenarios where there really is no suspect, only victims, mass entertainment more than any form of rationality.

What release broadcast media provides is immediacy. This is why Filipinos tag Tulfo onto cases, throw away arguments with “Isumbong mo yan kay Tulfo“, and place their notions of justice in the hands of a cursing celebrity with the power of trial by the public. No – in Tulfo’s world, public school teachers are perhaps given more scolding than failing policemen. What Tulfo demands is action in the present, providing ultimatums for whoever can’t present themselves in radio to millions of listening Filipinos. He still dangles the threat of charges and police intervention, results that could not have come from the people who go to him since of course, they are common folk who will not be listened to. To Tulfo it goes. Katiwalian, kassamaan, at kalokohan! They swear to fight against.
The same kind of immediacy is why Rodrigo Duterte has rose in popularity. Our country’s cycle of populism is too predictable as his vigilante-style, state-sponsored death squads soothe the most vulnerable into a feigned sense of safety –– until they themselves are the victims. The spectacles of Tulfo justice and Duterte’s wrath are no different from each other, really; yet, clueless, bored teenagers and workers claw at the first opportunity to become who they detest most. Social media becomes vehicle to enact our own kind of decree: humiliating and harassing the family of each victim, digging through their history and offering no sense of reprieve. We become our own arbiters of justice, often masked through anonymous accounts and the flood of rage.

Lessons from the Boston Bombing

In April 2013, 3 were killed and 264 more injured in a bomb blast close to the Boston Marathon finish line. Memorials sprung along the streets, exhibitions of running shoes marked with the names of the runners were stacked together before yellow trim, and the world cried in solidarity.
Three days after the bombing, the FBI released images of two suspects. Grieving and shock turned into vitriol, silent solidarity turned into a hunger for action and revenge. This becomes near-ritualistic after any mass disaster: seek the villain, latch on, and destroy them.

Brown University student Sunil Tripathy had gone missing a month prior to the bombing, pausing college due to a long history with depression. His family put together photos, callouts, and messages on a Help Us Find Sunil Tripathi page. At the same time, /r/findbostonbombers sprouted on Reddit, anonymous usernames plowing over missing person pages and public directories to take their own investigative path. With a seven rule spreadsheet embossed with “DO NOT POST PERSONAL INFORMATION” as the most important one. With thousands of ears pressed to Boston police scanners and any ounce of speculation, Sunil’s name was mistakenly tweeted out as Boston Bomber Suspect #2.

38034_L_Dzhokhar-Tsarnaev-Sunil-Tri
Left, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev –– the side-by-side comparison with the then-unnamed suspect caused a mass witchhunt against Tripathi

With the early revelation, social media became a victor. It had solved the case and identified the victim before any news outlet, emerging winner as the tug-of-war of media. Politician Greg Hughes, as primary Twitter spreader, lauded the swathe of anonymous detectives: “If Sunil Tripathi did indeed commit this #BostonBombing, Reddit has scored a significant, game-changing victory. Journalism students take note: tonight, the best reporting was crowdsourced, digital and done by bystanders. #Watertown.” More journalists retweeted the claims, further spreading the unverified accusation against a missing, suicidal student.

On April 23rd, Sunil’s body was found in Seekonk, near Providence Rhode Island. He had committed suicide.

Sunil was most visible case of misidentification and mob outrage, but far from the only one.

In the Name of Christine

The act of misdirected anger after mass disaster is not new. 9/11 brought the world over to an unprecedented war on terror and waves of casual, racist brutality. Chinese-Filipinos born and raised in the country are spit on, isolated, and refused services after the wake of the Coronavirus; casual posts articulate the issue of “Mainlanders” in encounters at milk tea shops and condominium elevators in a country that believes it’s impossible to be racist.

Social media platforms have given us this sickly addicting taste at control. The words that seep into the public hegemony of course, come cherrypicked to whatever fits the hivemind most. These platforms also allow the darkest sides of our inhumanity to rise: mild inaccuracies and mistakes, if you don’t have the appropriate amount of social capital to back you, are left as permanent marks. In cases like Tripathi’s, even unnecessary death sentences.

Christine is loved, but this act of love and grieving has implicated friends desperately defending themselves against new revelations: Christine’s death was ruled to be of a sudden aneurysm, lacerations and marks on her body as natural results from sex from days prior (the way people discuss her personal relationships are another issue). Information about the gathering she was attending actually being a gay party (many of whom in the community fear public outing), testimonies from her friends ignored in public discourse.

“Paano po naging rape? Bakla po ako. Never po ako nakipagtalik sa babae ever in my life.”
Translation. How did it become rape? I am gay. I never had sex with any woman ever in my life.

The Philippine National Police declared the case as solved while suspects were still missing, enumerating a loose four-element list before ending the post with #WeServeAndProtect. Here, they painted themselves as the people’s victor too, and an ally in a joint witchhunt.
Digging through the case, it’s fucking impossible to find any details of the investigation. Any other statement from the arrested victims is buried, or non-existent. Christine’s face, her friends’ faces, all the suspects names blur into one. Statements and ill-worded posts from random accounts dominate public discourse over news outlets and words from journalists, the spectacle crowning.

https://cnnphilippines.com/news/2021/1/5/christine-dacera-second-autopsy.html

When Micahel Foucalt recounts public execution, he notes that they were more than just a mere act of justice – they were a “manifestation of force.” Public theater is grotesque, hypnotizing, and promised assurance and trust in the state; it worked as a public deterrent. Bodies hung on pikes, left on nooses, shot and bagged in cardboard at the side of the road, left pooled in Quezon City suburbs––they are all one and the same. Our collectivism calls this as more than an issue against Christine’s family, far more than personal matters. We’ve incurred the wrath of a nation: a sin against the state, of the people, of something so close to home. When we hang bodies dry with words in a hyperdigital society, how close are we to manifesting this rage into physical death itself––disproportionately affecting the poor?

The same weaponization is precisely what propelled Duterte to his victory in 2016. It’s what silences dinner table conversations, machoisms of the father distancing themselves from their left-wing children. It’s what propelled us to a senatorial slate in the 2019 midterms fully consisting of Duterte’s allies, including a daughter of a dictator, the President’s personal aide, and men who have surrendered on counts of graft and fraud. We’re facing a mass punishing, given a false sense of power when the social media spectacle truly only serves those already in authority. In the case of Christine Dacera, the outing of Dacera’s friends to hastily write off a case and turn the people to the police’s debt.

Witness Exposed Police said "Mission Accomplished" to Daughter After  Shooting

Master Sergeant Jonel Nuezca, and the Saviorism of the Philippine National Police

December 20th, just a few days before Christmas. A video circulates of a young girl with her off-duty father in a heated argument with some unarmed neighbors. Sonya Gregorio and Frank Gregorio were setting up rudimentary noisemakers, custom around the ritualistic Filipino Christmas practices. Sonya, 55, hugs her son – nestled on her lap as she attempts to prevent him from further fighting with then-officer Nuezca––bystanders are wailing, unable to intervene and in fear for their lives. Nuezca’s daughter further antagonizes the mother and son, yelling “my father is a cop.” Her phone up, face in blind apathy. He threatens the elderly Sonya, then shoots her and her son in the head –– continuing even while they were bleeding out on the ground.

Before the video’s events, neighbor Alyssa Calosing reported that Nuezca had already been physically assaulting Frank, hence his mother sheltering him and holding him back. Right after the incident, Jonel and his daughter walked –– motionless. Videographer stunned, empty, completely number. You can hear Jonel Nuezca faintly speak, “mission accomplished,” as he walks away.

Jonel murdered two innocent, unarmed neighbors in broad daylight –– uncaring of the crowd of people around him. Alone, this was far from his first act of malfeasance; Jonel had been previously charged with two homicide cases, acts around his neglect of duty, and was cleared of two killings in 2016 in a buy-and-bust operation; in alignment with Duterte’s rise to presidency and militant crusade against addicts. Kill them all.

Over 7,000 people were killed in a six-month period at the start of Duterte’s drug war. The Philippines has the fourth-highest murder rate, adjusted for population. Isolated, we top the list.

While Duterte has denounced Jonel’s actions (of course, it was caught outright on tape), we remain desensitized to the onslaught of brutality, repression, and nauseating violence that has become commonplace in Philippine society. Instinct becomes to mob. Pathology is to seek justice. We circle around the idea of the death penalty since it’s the best way to measure death: living by centuries-old philosophies in the vein of Hammurabi now as we did in our imbalanced histories.
Misconduct still thrives. Like the discourse surfacing over rape culture in a patriarchal Philippines, we see trickles of blame shifting to victims (e.g. what clothes were you wearing?) that allow for larger violations––assault, rape, death. It takes pyramids about culture for a blinded nation to understand what the accumulation of fear can mean.

We idealize extreme cases where an individual can be implicated for the crimes of a larger society, forgetting that the larger picture of accountability looms and will simply allow for more slips and deaths to happen. That is, our sense of justice and hearts need to contain familiar stories, graphic videos, or an impending sense of that could be us for the common man to wish to act. Even when we do, we fail to detest the more productive part of the problem: the national phenomenons and systems that continue to let police bury murders under the rug and award themselves from it, the mob mentality against the Nuezca that can easily turn into death wishes to any sleight of hand. If he killed your mother, he deserves to die. It’s why the most Catholic, religiously devout country in Asia devote themselves to extremes––the abundance of suffering and poverty, the underpaid defending millionaires, the death penalty for the fellow poor––all as larger orchestrators of these systems go unscathed. The Filipino way is to kneel at the altar and thank god, while praying for justice in the most grotesque of ways.

Jonel Nuezca’s daughter has her name publicized. A Twitter search away and people have debunked her entire educational history, her Facebook friend’s list, and the death threats that follow her. At twelve, people have put up fake Facebook pages of her, imitating her real Facebook account (which isn’t hard to find), her personal profile picture at nineteen thousand shares––detailing wishes for her to die. They share collages of her and her family, explicitly recounting how they wish for her mom to be assaulted, editing her photos and putting together YouTube videos parodying her.
In the same breath, liberals who had advocated for the raise of the minimum age of criminal responsibility exhale in relief, knowing that it still currently stands at twelve. They rejoice that she is covered.

Just like how other cop families are utterly deplorable for attempting to step in and say that their fathers are an exception, Jonel Nuezca’s daughter is victim of a broken system. This is not the first time her father has killed, not the first time his office will kill, and far from the first time that his force will in an age where they are Duterte’s pawns and heroes.
As the Commission of Human Rights begs for people to take down photos and names of the young girl, people are unrelentless. The witchhunt is the act. They care less about the fate of the victims or the power that enables these injustices to come into action over and over. They are magnificent in their act of vilification, of mimicking their President, of taking hand in the act of implication. In the end, they wipe their bloodstained hands away and deem him an outsider, get praise for the “good ones” in an industry where there should absolutely be no errors, and know they’re at peace––until the next.

We become no different from the murderers. Our trials only fuel the subtle, manipulative evil that we fear. Impassion pleas to act only brutalize the way for the next.

Image

In the Philippines, collective memory is a weak, if not non-existent concept. We know this in many ways. We knew this when we marched to overthrow a dictator beginning February 22, 1986, then elected his daughter back into office three decades later. We know this because our justice runs on ads and broadcast dystopia that we allowed to fall with the death of ABS-CBN, and never question why petty thieves get worse sentences than politicians who steal millions from the country. We know this when Duterte is back in power, directly copying the tactics of a former dictator beginning with the assault, jailing, and killing of student journalists that fueled the insurrection. Christina Dacera’s death is now being used as a force to alienate the long-oppressed queer community in the country further, with no room for suspects to speak. They’re not even fucking doing any work on the investigation. The state is making themselves look good, faking autopsies and coaxing the masses to pull the trigger.

We forget the meaning of process. We want immediacy. We want blood, only. These desires are far from true justice. There are no winners.

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I remember Fabel Pineda, fifteen-years-old and putting her faith in the police after already being molested by two cops until she was gunned down on the way home from a police station. Her story is less sensational than the Christine Dacera case, more hushed. I remember Myca Ulpina. I grit my teeth at how my mind can only contain so many names, at how we must dig for the stories of Rodesa Imat or Salem Tenebroso –– left in kill lists with only their names and ages to go by. Most of all, I remember Paco Larrañaga.

Outrage is what wins. Not correction or justice. It’s a game of feelings, movements, and of appeals. I’m all for calling out a friend who may have fucked up if only to question that line of thought, only if you exert a continuous effort to ensure that the justice served is deliberate, meaningful, and scaleable. I grew up in an internet that saved me with the promise of equality in voice, yet now only see it as a place where we are all pawns.

Until each statement is retracted and conscious effort is done to further verified advise, we only legitimize the PNP’s attempt at cover-ups. We become complicit in their half-assed investigation, serving no one but themselves. Like unretractable defamation, deleting tweets and shares is nothing –– we need an intentional commitment to furthering the truth and severing ourselves from blind emotions that jeopardize not only the safety of Christine’s family and friends, but all future Filipinos who could be next. Correct our words. Trace your shares. Know and own every word. Resist the Philippine spectacle that has long-enabled the state to wrap its finger around us.

When I speak against the killer, who hears it? When I wish death upon somebody, who lives? When I forget, who is left to remember?


Further reading

For Homura Akemi: A Character Analysis

Reading Time: 14 minutes

A work-in-progress Homura Akemi character analysis I wrote for a Discord “waifu competition”. Current reading time: 64 minutes

When I was thirteen, my life kind of revolved around a growing feeling of helplessness furthered by a first misinterpreted Evangelion (plus other starter psychological anime) watch. From the teenager I was then, one of the most lasting watches was Puella Magi Madoka Magica. I didn’t know about my complicated feelings towards my gender or sexuality (this crisis would arrive in my late teens), finishing the show and its movies over three days.
Obvious Madoka Magica spoilers incoming––please watch the series and its movies if you haven’t yet. Twelve short 20-minute-or-so episodes.

It’s not the most groundbreaking dynamic, but the first time it’s presented to you sticks. It traces the familiar feeling of struggle against divinity and time––resilience and war against human mortality. As someone young and unknowingly queer, Madoka Magica was unwittingly the most important thing for me to have watched. I go back to the series every few years – a little older and hopefully wiser as well – and get blown away by all the little things.

The Homura Akemi Essay, Pt 1

FOR HOMURA, THE GOOGLE DOC
PUELLA MAGI MADOKA MAGICA ARE.NA
(MANDATORY) ACCOMPANYING HOMURA AKEMI SPOTIFY PLAYLIST

My friend’s Discord is in the midst of a perpetually-paused waifu competition where we hyperventilate over pixels and pull out paragraphs over characters with three collective minutes of screentime. Naturally, I’m inclined to defend Homura Akemi as one of the most complex, intriguing characters of all time.

Here’s my unfinished essay and some highlights.

Highlights

Summary of Madoka Magica and Rebellion

Puella Magi Madoka Magica, 12-episode Anime

  • Madoka encounters Kyubey (the cat thing) who offers young girls a wish in the exchange of them signing a contract to become a magical girl
  • Upper-year named Mami encourages Madoka and friend to accept contract, shows them her life
  • Homura enters as a loner cool girl who is distrustful of Mami and discourages them from accepting the contract
  • Madoka watches Mami die at the hands of witches, what magical girls are bound to battle — magical girl lives are filled with suffering, and they give up their souls to be able to battle these.  She is wary of kyubey now
  • Magical girls become witches when their soul despairs/when they die
  • These girls (age 13/14) battle purity and hope, make very selfless wishes
  • Madoka learns that Homura is a magical girl from a different timeline who has repeated the same month over 100 times to save Madoka and stop her from accepting the contract
  • Powerful witch appears, Homura dies/tries 3942934 times to stop the witch from destroying the city 
  • Madoka finally makes a wish and becomes a magical girl, her wish is to stop the creation of all witches in all eternity, past, present, and future
  • Existence is rewritten with Madoka’s sacrifice
  • A new reality is formed. Homura is the only one who remembers Madoka

Madoka Magica the Movie Part III: Rebellion

  • Takes place after the 12-episode show
  • Madoka is omnipresent god who made the sacrifice
  • Homura hates this – Madoka’s loss of her life, all the people she loves (not even homura herself but just her family and friends!) is not a happy end or ideal
  • Homura basically fucks up the demon cat who thrives off the despair of innocent young girls
  • Homura allows herself to be destroyed in this fight to rewrite the fucking universe and laws of hopelessness intrinsically embedded into living
  • Madoka tries to cleanse Homura of how she was cursed and help her transcend to a higher plane or some shit, but Homura traps Madoka — Homura reveals that her curse is fueled because of love, not despair
  • Homura removes Madoka’s divinity and godliness, freeing her
  • In the universe Madoka shaped free of suffering and witches, Homura creates a distinct space, enclosed from the larger universe and the majority of our world’s timelines where Madoka lives on as human, and is free — without Homura
  • Homura accepts that in this fragment of reality where Madoka is happiest — this one singular place, of all the timelines she has encountered and fought endlessly to build — she is bound to become Madoka’s enemy

The Laws of Thermodynamics

The Puella Magi Madoka Magica anime (note: it was developed as an animated show first, and has no source manga or anything else) utilizes a fictional interpretation of thermodynamics, particularly around entropy, as basis for its magic system. I go into it a bit here. Note that I am a CS major.

In 10100 years, every subatomic particle in the world will have been doomed to become ever-smaller, ever-hotter. All forms of matter in the universe will stray further apart from one another in our ever-expanding vastness that light will eventually be unable to travel from object to object; the subatomic composition of the universe will struggle under heat. It will first take humanity and the stars, it will bear no mercy for the sun or celestials, and even gravity will succumb to this expansion. Heating up higher and higher, these baryons will then evaporate––expanding into the near-infinity of everything in human history past, present, and future––until the universe remains solely of photons. Our cosmic fate is inevitable. Like every being bound to existence, the universe too is an exhausted one. She will run out of gravitational potential energy as the cosmic being of man comes increasingly relative: the atoms, the animals, our understanding, as the vastness and void increases. Our life will become shorter and shorter, until it is indistinct to us even today. For every infinity, there is a finite cosmic scale waning. The end of days will become a date on the calendar, each human experience incomprehensible in an already gradually neglectful universe, and man, fearful or not, will be subject to the reckoning of the universe.
The pain here is oblivion. Oblivion in consistency and constant, the regularity of temperature throughout our galaxy as we lose the minute irregularities from the Big Bang’s then-cooling and expanding universe. Isotropy to an extreme will no longer sustain life, it will bring us to a doom worse than suffering: consistency. All time, meaning, and interactions within become meaningless. Nothing interesting will ever happen again. The cataclysm of the universe is in the form of nothingness; not of dreariness or eternal war––it is in the suspension of time just a fraction of a degree above absolute zero.

With enough time in a single wave of these subatomic particles, the smallest inconsistency, the smallest iota of difference may mean the universe will come and be formed again. All of mankind is doomed to this polarity. It is unknown whether we have witnessed the beginning of our universe (time itself), or one universe in an infinite sequence.
Heat Death is one of four main, and countless other theories that dare seek out what the end of all things will be. 

The heat death of the universe aptly comes from the laws of thermodynamics. Simply: if the universe lasts for long enough, we will eventually approach a state where all energy is evenly distributed, and the notion and memory of us, the figures before, all that come after, and all that surround us will dematerialize.

  1. Energy cannot be created or destroyed in an isolated system.
  2. The entropy of any isolated system will always increase.

“Entropy” will be referenced consistently throughout Madoka Magica. In-universe, it’s described as the principle that energy output is always less than energy input, a fact that is presently causing the universe to slowly die out. It is randomness, unstoppable, and endlessly increasingly––and is by force of nature, one of the many reasons why we must die.

Take a piece of copper wire. Maybe 5″ of nice, straight, copper wire. Now bend it in half. You have increased the randomness of the universe. Try and straighten it back out. You can’t quite get it back to the same level of orderly straightness that it was before. You might even have made it worse (because before it had just the one bend, and now it probably has at least three from you fumbling to try and approximate straightness).

As measure of the available states of our system, the total entropy of any isolated system (herein, the universe) shall continuously increase until the equilibrium spoken of with the universe’s heat death is obtained. After that moment, entropy will stop increasing. In all our galaxies and stars, entropy will increase until the heat death; the state of no thermodynamic free energy, unable to sustain any act that increases entropy. All reactions chemical, mechanical, quantum will become impossibility. Nothing shall ever happen or be.

Take the dropping of a ball. The spontaneous events that emerge from it. The explosion of a reactor. The reactions between hydrogen in oxygen. All our actions are essentially due to energy: spreading out, dispersing; whether it is because of an increase in volume due to the action or a system influenced by heat. The dispersal of energy leads our molecules to possess more arrangements after than before. Energy of all forms shall spontaneously disperse if it is not hindered from doing so. You can understand this is many forms: in terms of potential and kinetic energy and the influence of human action, or perhaps how hydrogen and oxygen in closed chambers may be unchanged and stagnant for years and years and millennia until a spark of mere activation energy causes them to react, producing water molecules, and spreading out energy in the process.

Our simple, meaningless actions contribute to the universe’s ultimate oblivion. Whenever gas expands in any system, the entropy of the system increases. When we flick our fingers, take a step, and make the slightest gesture, we produce entropy. Our body is at constant odds and flux with the world around us: the body’s gestalt still nothing to the enormity of the world––yet the tap of a finger causes irreversible, permanent friction to the air, creating rifts in temperature, increasing entropy. No action thus can be done without the existence of entropy. The entropy contained in our galaxies will never decrease. Measured in smaller systems such as the flick of a hand, we can determine (or rather, observe) the changes in entropy within systems by measuring initial and terminal states–a finger static and stagnant on my screen, then its place a second later. The same observation can go for the universe: the unknowable beginning, and the inevitable end.

Another important thing to consider is how anthropocentric entropy is as a concept. It takes more energy for us to create a glass (in the process of heating sand to exorbitantly high temperatures of 1700 celsius, causing it to transform at the molecular level and turn into its molten form; glass objects today use countless molds and additional chemicals to change their finish) than to break it (me shattering a bottle by dropping it). 

Madoka Magica presupposes a universe where the worst fate for all beings is an eternity of nothingness–not human error, suffering, or misery nor the loss of happiness, joy, and serenity per se, simply the inability to go back and yearn for another infinity. 

We understand these are the universe’s ultimate fates. We can also look at what the end of humanity (and thus, of individual beings) may lead to: eternal flourishing, endless stagnation, or ultimate extinction. It is only in the case of extinction that we are truly doomed: with an inability to act, move, or do––with a frozen system with no more possibility or action behest. 

ENTROPY IN THE WORLD OF PUELLA MAGI MADOKA MAGICA

But why exactly is entropy so important in the world of Madoka Magica?

In the world of PMMM, magic is founded upon the fluctuation of emotion, unshackled from the laws of thermodynamics (“energy cannot be created or destroyed in an isolated system”). 

While everything in our universe is constant (i.e. all we produce, make, or do, are results of system changes in the matter that has existed since the beginning of time), feelings and emotion are the one things that are uniquely ours to instantiate. Our consciousness and emotions are not isolated systems (which the laws of thermodynamics must operate in.)

An isolated system is free from influence of external forces that may affect the system––it cannot exchange either energy or matter outside the boundaries of the system.

There are no truly isolated or closed systems in the world, only approximations. The universe itself, however, is considered an isolated system because the energy of the universe (all energy that exists) is constant––thereby fitting this definition.


Majority of the emotions we experience day to day are transient. It’s when our moods fluctuate to the primary emotions of anger, fear, pleasure, sadness, and disgust do they become significant. In Madoka Magica, emotions faced by young girls become central to its story.

PUELLA MAGI MADOKA MAGICA

“A girl is offered a wish in exchange for a commitment to battling witches, a group of magical beings whose souls have been tainted by darkness.”

Briefly––Puella Magi Madoka Magica (hereafter PMMM) opens with Madoka Kaname, a middle-schooler who meets a cat-like creature called Kyubey. Kyubey offers Madoka and Sayaka Miki the opportunity for any wish of theirs to be granted, in exchange for a contract. The contract binds them to become magical girls, dutied to fight creatures called “witches” that feed off misery. In the process of contracting with Kyubey, he provides magical girls Soul Gems now placed on their body: a source for their powers and gear, enabling them to transform into their magical girl form to fight off witches.

The gift of the soul gem is one that is also the spell of doom. The gem birthed from contracts with these messengers of magic serve as proof of one’s magical girlhood, and become the source of her magical power. Whenever magical girls use abilities, the soul gem becomes “intanted”, her soul gem darkening and weakening. In-series, the only way to rid the soul gem of its taint is to use a grief seed, a witch’s egg that appears upon its defeat that appears after witches are defeated. 

When used on soul gems, grief seeds deplete the grief out of soul gems, cleansing it and purifying it to its original form (though it is warned that absorbing too much grief can revive witches).

TIMELINE ONE: HUMAN HOMURA

On March 16th, the fourteen-year-old Homura Akemi is released from the hospital after being bedridden for half a year. Madoka Kaname meets Mami, contracts with Kyubey while wishing to save a stray cat that gets hit by a car two days after Homura wakes up in the hospital and leaves. Madoka becomes a magic girl on March 1

March 25th, Homura finally transfers to school and meets Madoka. She shows Homura around, is aware of her health condition, and brings her to the nurse when she needs to take her medication. Almost immediately, Madoka asks if she can call her Homura-chan.
They stop in the hallway, she calls her name wonderful, and Homura blushes. 

Walking across a bridge and contemplating her first day of school, Homura suddenly finds herself in the labyrinth of the witch Izabel. Right before she’s attacked by the Witch’s minions called “familiars”, she encounters Madoka Kaname and Mami Tamoe fending the familiars off, Kyuubey explaining briefly that they’re “magical girls who fight witches”, and she heads to Mami’s house for tea where Madoka explains that she had just contracted with Kyubey the weak before. They tell Homura to not tell anyone in class. “The more witches we defeat, the more people we save,” Madoka explains.

The girls are happy, cheerful, and carefree middle schoolers. Their lives are relatively normal despite their magical girl duties. 

An evil, near-unstoppable witch called Walpurgisnacht is approaching. We jump to Mami’s death in this timeline, Homura still as a human, non-contracted observer who is assured by Madoka that as a magical girl, she’s the only one left who can face Walpurgisnacht and must protect everyone. “No one would ever blame you,” Homura explains, in case of the end of the world. 

Known to her as she jumped into battle, Madoka is unable to defeat Walpurgisnacht and dies as Homura cries over her crumbled, bloodied body. (We get closer shots of her palms in Episode 10, where the slashes and scars over them are likened to the crucifixion of Jesus Christ.) 

“But this time, instead of her protecting me, I want to become strong enough to protect her!”

HOMURA’S WISH
SETTING THE FOUNDATION FOR HER PRESENCE IN THE SERIES

“Your wish has prevailed over entropy,” Kyubey grants. Homura first becomes a magical girl, gaining her status and traveling back in time to her first waking in the hospital. Her wish has manifested in the form of her gaining her limited time control powers (hence “your wish has prevailed over entropy”––the reversal of time in itself is a rift against what Kyuubey is aiming for––Homura’s very existence as a magical girl subsists on her ability to reject the laws of the universe, and subvert the exploitation of incubators on her.

Homura becomes Madoka’s protector. Homura becomes protector to not only Madoka, unbeknownst to her, she becomes savior to the rest of the girls in the series as well.

In every timeline, she returns to the hospital: a symbol of her frailty, weakness, and illness that she never succumbs to nor seems to return to again.

In every timeline thereafter, one of the first things Homura does after waking up in the hospital is to save the cat outside the hospital, Amy.

From this initial sequence of events, Homura travels about a hundred more timelines to save her friend and the universe.

Contracting with Kyubey and the Incubators

In twelve episodes, we explore Kyubey (officially dubbed in plot summaries as one of many “messengers of magic”) conspiring to manipulate five school girls by offering them one wish, binding them the irreparable duty and weight of human darkness. Witches, evil creatures that are born from curses, cause havoc in the waking human world, and are “responsible for murder and suicide” plague and follow these girls. Unbeknownst to these fourteen-year-olds who have barely experienced life, the contracts exploit them for their humanity.

The range of emotion that young human girls face, specifically in their growth stage developing sex characteristics (age 14–18), generate inordinate amounts of energy. However, Kyubey’s alien species (“incubators”––hence kyubey) is incapable of emotion. The potentiality of young human girls was discovered after Kyubey’s hyperdeveloped species scoured the entirety of our Universe to find the species with the most emotional potential. It is of Kyubey’s desire to harvest the energy from young girls’ emotions to “stockpile” energy to prevent against the inevitable heat death of the universe, postponing maximum energy with Magic’s potential to create new ones. 

To harvest this energy and prevent the destruction of the Universe, Kyubey recruits magical girls to defend the earth from witches. But, the goal of Kyubey and the rest of the incubators is withheld from these girls––it is not to contract magical girls, but to create the Witches that they are binded to fight––their final form. Towards the end of the Madoka Magica series, it is revealed that Witches, once the main antagonist (that always appear in beautiful, twisted labyrinths in a fucking strange, gorgeous collage style) are the actual “grown” and elder forms of magical girls.

Thus is the cyclic doom that magical girls are doomed to. When it is revealed to the Madoka cast that their fate is to end up as witches, they realize that they are doomed to fight and kill themselves and each other. Their soul gem taints in the battle against beings that were once young, human girls just like them––and from these tainted gems, witches will erupt. Negative feelings such as despair and misery catalyze the tainting of the Soul Gem, and the mere act of existence under the contract means that magical girls will continue losing powers, needing grief seeds––even if they attempt to stand back against the fate they’re doomed to fall into. Grief also is accumulated in everyday acts, that is, the mere act of surviving and living will poison the Soul Gem, even if magical girls refuse to fight.

 “Do you even know how the food comes to sit on your table?
Do you ever feel bad for cattle?
Do you feel any guilt or remorse for the livestock you consume?”

Kyubey compares the relationship between their species and that of humanity’s as like human and cattle. A “reasonable and mutually prosperous relationship”, Kyubey claims. We have not given livestock a choice; theoretically, they get the benefits of being fed, protected, and taken care of, until they are doomed to their fate of consumption. Yet we live with them side-by-side. Humanity of course, has a higher degree of sentience. 

Novelist Jonathan Safran Foer asks, “If we were to one day encounter a form of life more powerful and intelligent than our own, and it regarded us as we regard fish, what would be our argument against being eaten?”

In the PMMM universe, humanity is essentially faced with this evil, magical-bearing, emotionless race thriving off the emotional manipulation of young girls. We’re plagued with the same debate that follows us in our day-to-day ethics of consuming meat and livestock; despite every fundamental difference (e.g. the incubators do not feel emotions and cannot grasp the enormity of human pain, especially on young girls; animals cannot feel with the same complexity that humans do), we still bind each other to the same terrible fates. This cruelty is negligible in the Madoka Magica universe, and serves as a core line of reasoning for Kyubey to challenge the girls and their sorrows, presenting himself not as a villainous being–but a bearer of truth and justice at the expense of the few. 

Kyubey is almost a disgustingly outright parody of the Cartesian thought: “I think, therefore I am”; humans know everything of the self and its mysteries, but we cannot know of anything certain that is beyond our own selves. That is, reason is supremacy. 

Even if we were to discount the fact that Kyubey and the incubators scoured the entire Universe to discover that magical girls were the most delightful sources of emotion and pain, it does seem like their innate reason is inarguable: the end of the universe is bad. They must know that this is the ultimate fate of the universe, and their species must have long survived before the existence of humanity and will existence long after the fact––we are not a mere speck in the timeline of the incubators, moreso that of the universe in and of itself. But unadulterated reason does not equal godhood in a narrative that revolves around the strength of human emotion, and how human emotion is stronger than deities, gods, and the laws of the world itself. In a universe where human emotion is Magic, can reason truly trump feelings? Can the reason that Kyubey so desperately try to exploit over and over again until a mere hundred loops fucks him up (100 loops = about 26 years, so think about other fates where magical girls could have overcome the incubator race and used magic to enslave and reverse the relationship between a supposedly hyperadvanced species). Emotion itself is unstoppable. We will forever be pondering it, and it does seem like the lack of grasp that the incubators have over human turbulence will lead to their downfall. Humans are irrational creatures, after all.

Like the miraculous chance of being born unto the universe and the tableau of the universe itself, we’re doomed to a fate. Is it a blessing that we’ve gotten to live this far in the first place?

TL;DR

Instruments: Racism

Reading Time: 9 minutes
https://twitter.com/rantsss9/status/1322360854440943616


I fell in love with the internet when I discovered that everything was essentially under everyone’s control. Wikipedia, assignment go-to until it became a sleighted source. Over the past few years, I’ve racked up a thousand Wikipedia edits: not major article changes, no special permissions, no work on authoring new articles (aside from contributing to Tagalizing articles to Wikipediang Tagalog; which generally repurposes existing articles).

A selection of my Wikipedia Userboxes

Wikipedia is one of the last bastions of the internet for socially acceptable pseudointellectualism. One of my favorite forms this takes place in is when grown adults address themselves in hyperspecific stamps called “Userboxes” on their Userpages (Wikipedia’s version of profile pages), usually to address their editing quirks. Think debates over usage of the Oxford comma, who can speak more languages, infinitive usage, nativity, and 2000s-esque criticism of to/too/two usage. My page is free of complaints for now; Userpages, like articles, are editable by any user. Instead, it’s customized with boxes that encapsulate my being at 20 and look my Myspace page at 12: typing fast, obscure British academiasphere, and Death Grips. It is one of my favorite places on the internet.

Another Yale alumni’s userbox, obscured for anonymity and because I feel like this is very embarrassing.

My work has normally taken shape in subtle formatting and spelling fixes across Wikipedia’s WikiProject Women in Music, in random Philippine-centric pages (including removing the righthand-man of an authoritarian dictator on my high school’s ‘Notable Alumni’ page with friends), and Talk page discourse (the war on categorizing Aphex Twin as Intelligent dance music––I’m twenty and not ancient, so my verdict is no). Initially, I was going to go over the history of my descent into Wikipedia until I found myself marching in some camisado.


October 30th (about 12 hours behind, October 29th Eastern Time), a mostly-irrelevant Filipino band named MYMP streamed a Hallow’s Eve show on Facebook to over 50,000 viewers with the main vocalist, Chin Alcantara outfitted in blackface (he tried to dress up as Jimi Hendrix). 

As is natural with any controversy, people were eager to know who MYMP was at all.

A screenshot of MYMP’s Google Search results spiking around October 31st

Naturally, such acts need to be placed on Wikipedia for posterity. And naturally, the offender’s PR team will come in to save face, usually spawning what is known as a Wikipedia edit war.


Edit wars occur when Wikipedia contributors in disagreement over page content repeatedly override one another’s contribution. On any page’s View history, reversion is as easy as hitting Undo. While most articles are openly editable, more contentious or vandalism-prone articles are usually given a level of Protection.

A three-revert rule, shorthanded as 3RR, (WP:3RR) is informally placed within editing etiquette: “an editor must not perform more than three reverts on the work of other editors, in whole or in part, whether involving the same or different material, on a single page within a 24-hour period.” Exemptions include self-reversions, vandalism, or cleaning up violations of clear policies.


Because I am freshly twenty, I have not lost the virtue of pettiness. MYMP was consistently unapologetic and firm in not only their racist costume, but other dismissive and 

Looking into other article conventions, I wrote a new “Blackface controversy” section beneath their hefty 1,800 word biography. Another editor, Davelo15 filled in the rest of the controversy’s details.A few other Wikipedians added to it, fixing up grammar errors. This was fresh, about thirty minutes after the Facebook live video had ended. Our only source and footnote (notably, also the only linked source on the article then) was technically invalid––we had to leave it as so until media outlets picked up on the controversy. 

At about 16:09, October 30th, an anonymous user by the IP 152.32.102.75 started making edits.


152.32.102.75, a brief history

According to generic IP address lookups, 152.32.102.75 is located in Quezon City, Philippines––the same city that MYMP comes from. Wikipedia generally warns for unregistered users designed by IPs to make an account so that they can track edits easier in wariness of dynamic IPs shared by multiple users, but something interesting was that this IP was static; meaning that it was unlikely to changed and likely held by the same individual/household.


User Contributions from 152.32.102.75

User talk: 152.32.102.75



Clicking into their Userpage, we can see that this is far from their first dive into Wikipedia.

In November 26, 2019 on the Doppler Effect, they changed a random pronoun referring to Doppler to a friend’s name.

On the same day, Cosmic microwave background was given a little change to “Planet namic”.

Forward to July 3rd on National Telecommunications Commission (Philippines), an explicitly state-ordered shutdown in the pandemic changed to reflect expiry instead of continued government attack, and removed a completely valid reference from an official government website.


This went back and forth for a few times; random section blanking towards the controversy topic without any explanation. Wikipedia automatically applies a “section blanking” tag to edits that remove entire sections on this page; it became easier and easier to spot this IP as people roared.

Of course, other vandalism highlights popped up through the night, quickly reverted by me or other editors. I was not at all a neutral editor, but outright vandalism would ruin the work we put in –– the page would be at risk of complete rollback from a more powerful user. There were some politics in play.

Users with Rollback rights can revert edits back on a page, ignoring conflicts. Quicker than Undoing edits, rollbacks don’t require the user to look at the revision list/diff or save of edits––useful in quick and fast-moving pages.

Instruments: Racism; added in by my friend that I berated after laughing, promise

A rewritten version of the controversy, using less than ideal language.


The more I looked into the page after working to copy-paste our collaborative section back, the more I would be bothered by the undisturbed amount of “fluff” across the article. It was clear that the MYMP page also functioned as the artist’s self-biography (WP:FAMOUS), listing no sources and being littered with calls for citation, irrelevant junctures and asides, and negatively-written stories of past band members departing. I chunked out about 1,000 characters of fluff in my first go and slowly started whittling the page down even further: deleting irrelevant paragraphs, condensing sentences, and following the Wikipedian manner of due weight and neutrality (WP:DUE). When weight is measured by relevance and presentation in reliable sources and not by Wikipedia editors or the general public, it was easy to justify the fluff removal since the biography was largely sourceless.

Removing random notes about playing at an Indonesian Music Festival…

…removing awkward grammar and narrative-like descriptions of band members leaving…

…and a strange list distinguishing between Major/Minor Hits, all cover songs––as I was confident that MYMP was not responsible for The Bangles’ Eternal Flame and that song was certainly not just a “Minor Hit”; this is what happens with cover bands, I guess…

Every time 152.32.102.75  would delete a section, I would quickly undo their edit. We had far surpassed the 3RR, except I sprinkled in each of this anonymous user/PR manager’s edits with a culling of their content until nothing remained. News articles started going up about the incident, quickly picking up on the social outrage and media buzz––helping us capture some worthy references. To ensure that content on retrieval is stored and saved as-is, we used the editorial practice of archiving news articles to ensure that they would be retrievable at any time, at the state of capture.

Timely, since a more seasoned Wikipedian stepped in earlier in the revision history to outline that Facebook isn’t a “good enough source”.


Each careful edit would be incised carelessly by the anonymous user with the same IP address. Sometimes, they would take material down in minutes. Towards the end, they began getting a bit sloppy––missing chunks of text to delete, leaving behind haphazard paragraphs and changing the name of the section to gibberish.

The unregistered account had nothing to add but “deleted a racial content that was added”, over and over and over.

Soon, their Talk page was filled with warnings directly citing edit wars and the dangers of shared IP addresses. 

At the end of the night, a seven-year-old Wikipedia administrator ended the mini-war over a hundred edits and 25 repeated rollbacks.

User:Scottywong protected MYMP providing reason as “Persistent vandalism”, now only letting users with autoconfirmed or confirmed access unto the page. This was all hastily done with the template {{pp-vandalism}}.

Registered accounts are given autoconfirmation if they’re more than 4 days old and have made at least 10 valid changes.

Interestingly, a previous user without permissions attempted to apply protections to the page as well using {{pp-protected}} templates, to no avail. This was reverted by a bot (User:MusikBotII, operated by MusikAnimal running to fix pages, likely watching the Recent Changes section). 

Wikipedia is built around/with the principle that anyone can edit it, and it therefore aims to have as many of its pages as possible open for public editing so that anyone can add material and correct errors. However, in some particular circumstances, because of a specifically identified likelihood of damage resulting if editing is left open, some individual pages may need to be subject to technical restrictions (often only temporary but sometimes indefinitely) on who is permitted to modify them. The placing of such restrictions on pages is called protection.

Protection can be applied to or removed from pages only by Wikipedia’s administrators, although any user may request protection. Protection can be indefinite or expire after a specified time period. WP:PP

This silent war made no use of the Talk page, and was a mildly unjust campaign undoing years of fluff that have been left on a musical page classified as a “low-importance biography”. MYMP’s racist actions are immortalized, at least for now, their PR agent/intern/superfan silenced, and their article rid of fluff, and risen to administrative notice from the minute-apart edit warring. I was definitely no neutral party either as I conversed with editor friends with untraceable connections over Discord, encouraging them to make their first edits (hence xxpunkgothxx and Instruments: racism) as they discovered how easy it was to contribute and shift the narrative (it was primarily us, the Filipino-American 6’11” Davelo15, and meddling moderators here and there). 

I’m left to wonder––how many more pages are blatant autobiographies? In lesser-explored regions of Wikipedia like in English-Filipino articles, how much misinformation and faux-neutrality is left? How many people witness unfairness on Wikipedia but are intimidated by the rules that slip by? Why must it be the last edit that declares history?

(But I now know that everyone really looks to Wikipedia at the moment of catastrophe.)