A tribute to a theorist of freedom

I was asked to give a tribute to Ka Edel Garcellano who was a personal hero to many, a great teacher, and an important, if not the most important literary critic of our time. (The latter’s description is not mine, but I wish I had said it).
Despite the privilege of having sat in his class in literary criticism sometime in the late 90s, I do not know Ka Edel ‘personally.’ Truth be told, I don’t feel comfortable being asked to give a tribute.
I believe the privilege belongs to those whom he had personally influenced over time, over many years of shared memories and friendship that were too personal to let go. They are the ones who are in mourning right now. Our turn in this process of grieving is to protect the sole interest of their time and space to mourn, having at least shared with them a common knowledge and experience of who Ka Edel was to us. There’s a kind of radical humanism that this grieving process exhibits of which we all partake in any way we can.
But it’s also a fait accompli that Ka Edel was a public figure, however limited his ‘public’ was.
I believe I belong to that ‘public’ though certainly not within the fold of the mainstream progressive that has brought attention to his works, his unique style, his exemplary grasp of theory, and a kind of existential eagerness to confront power.
I am saying there’s a kind of intersectional portrayal of Ka Edel’s works among his readers. That’s the fate of any literary production, considering the partisanship of any written text across the differential spectrum of individual and group subjects that are overdetermined by classes.
But like it or lump it, Ka Edel is also part of a matrix of capital flows in which literature can function as a line of escape, but is always blocked by the machinic perseverance of capital against any attempt to compose a new world, a new plane of consistency.
Needless to say, his progressive writings constitute what I may describe as an errant causality in a dominant flow of capital. But this is not to demote his productions to the irremediable destiny of Kafkaesquean reality from which there is no escape – quite the contrary.
Revolutions are measured according to how they incite capital to become more ingenious in its approach to freedom. That is how revolutions are won – to force the enemy to rationalize its own gospel of freedom. And at the exteriority of its own theory, the neoliberal enemy is caught in its own net. The enemy doesn’t have a concept of freedom or autonomy independent of the overarching necessity of its desire to sacrifice freedom, even its own freedom, to the universal rule of containment, the sovereign axiom of capital. For this, we could hear Ka Edel dismiss the enemy’s gospel in his poem ‘Shipwrecked Sailors’:

‘Only the gospel will/

allow a certain freedom/

to be laid squarely on the table/

& invoke what is non-sensical.’

This is how I approach Ka Edel as an exceptional theorist of freedom.
And as a way to conclude this brief tribute, I believe Ka Edel’s literary representation is only right to promote a certain privilege over its class enemy – the privilege of the oppressed to speak. It is in this sense that Ka Edel’s literary representation approaches the maxim of speaking truth to power, and that this ‘truth’ will always be partisan. As he engaged Vladimir Nabokov in ‘Terminable Recall,’ whose voice will tell the truth’?
Thank you, Ka Edel.
NB: For some reasons, my laptop broke down during quarantine. When I was asked to give a tribute by the chief organizer of the Edel Gacellano Study Group, Jesus ‘Led’ Villafuerte, who is a good friend of mine, I begged him that I convey instead a written tribute. I couldn’t record a video as I am technically unable to. I was surprised to find out he was serious in extracting a video, so at one point he asked another good friend, Jayson Jimenez (who is in Tazmania, Australia) to read the written message and record it on video. Thank you Jayson for the voice-over. (Oyter it is!). In the interest of making my real contribution to their efforts, I decided to post the original message here (using the one technology that never left my hands)

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