Just as I am certain that beauty is beneficial to people, I believe that igliness has the power to do actual, appreciable harm. For the past month here in my Philippine barangay, I was subjected to an outrageous ordeal: a festival. Despending on the location or the time of years, a festival of one sort or another is going on perpetually somewhere in the Philippines, in honor of the Savior, a saint, a municipality, and even a barangay.
The festival I took part in was in my barangay, essentially amounting to two days of feasting, drinking, cock-fighting, card-playing, and singing karaoke. And a "disco" was provided for the three weekends prior to the festival, in which a DJ played, for twelve hours through the night, the most unimaginably hideous noise that has ever been mistaken for music, at an unequalized volume that must have caused at least temporary hearing loss for everyone within earshot, which, despite the jungle's miraculous soundproofing powers, extended to several hundred yards.
The provincials here are no different from hicks everywhere else - unsophisticated folk with unsophisticated tastes. There is little for them to do but scrape by. The young people know that if they can't manage to find some way out of here they will quickly slide into a routine of child-bearing that will last them the rest of their youth. By the time they are thirty, it will be gone.
The "disco" was situated outdoors on a basketball court in the midst of tightly-spaced houses. Its wall-sized speakers pounded out the indistinguishable songs, rattling my windows from forty yards away, despite the highway and a cinder-block shack standing between us.
I went over to drink laughably overpriced beer and dance a little, but the noise was overwhelming, and the only thing left to do was return to my house and spend the rest of the night pushing my rubber earplugs, which were designed to muffle the firing of army howitzers, ever deeper into my skull.
I come from a fat country, so I grumble at things I never had to tolerate at home. In the States all I had to do was call the cops and complain about the noise, for all the good that that would do. There is a "disturbing the peace" law here that I read about, but it applies to more serious disturbances such as riots. There was nothing I could do about it. It was their country, and everyone else was enjoying themselves. I must admit that I lack the capacity that these people have for simple joy. When there is so much cause for tears, they always find excuses for laughter.
But they survive on so little - so little money, so little beauty. The worst of it for me was the extreme ugliness of the music. There was not even the consolation of the Panamanian merengue, the Puerto Rican salsa, or the Brazilian samba. All I heard until 4am (and I was awake the entire time) was the virtually interchangeable disco music heard in rave clubs all over the world.
Putting on the finest headphones in christendom and blasting Beethoven would've been useless, since the noise from across the highway would've penetrated through Beethoven's sublime notes. A 120-piece symphony orchestra is defenseless against the decibels of just one of those massive speakers.
For once, I felt sorry for the feral dogs in the barangay, whose hearing is so much more sensitive than humans'. There is a man who lives near me called Ambo. He's a deaf-mute. I see him wandering past my house, lost because his diability deprives him of a normal life. But after having to listen to that sickening racket for eight nights, I actually envied him.