8 Philosophers That Inspired
Ex-Battalion’s “Hayaan Mo Sila”
By Kel Fabie
Since November, the airwaves have been inundated with a very catchy melody that sounds a whole lot like Justin Bieber’s “You’re The One,” and it’s none other than Ex-Battalion’s ditty about not playing the game women want men of their ilk to play, “Hayaan Mo Sila.” With a video viewed 2.4 million times (but deserving at least a billion more), this song has captured the much-coveted jeepney market, and marks the next level of jeje rap, seeing as it’s hard to dispute how invariably catchy the song really is.
Hindi mo kayang kalimutan na lang iyang video na iyan
Having said that, while it may heavily sample “I’m The One,” Ex-Battalion’s monster hit is far more than just a pale imitation of an American song. Borrowing from some of the greatest minds across history, the very lyrics of “Hayaan Mo Sila” is filled with so much depth and pathos that you might be genuinely surprised to discover that like “The Matrix,” this song is a send-up to some of the greatest philosophers to have ever lived, and perhaps even an economist or two, seeing as the title itself, “Hayaan Mo Sila,” is an allusion to Adam Smith’s core economic principle of laissez-faire, “let it be” quite literally, which is, at its ideal state, an economic system in which transactions between private parties are completely free from government intervention. Yes: “Hayaan Mo Sila” is a treatise on the neo-capitalistic global society we live in and a harsh critique of the conditions that have led to its less than ideal realities, such as sweatshops and oligopolies dominating the capitalistic arena in a post-imperial age.
Their allegiance to Adam Smith’s school of thinking probably explains why they most likely didn’t pay royalties for sampling “I’m The One,” but I digress.
That the title itself is an homage to one of the most influential economic theories of all time should come as no surprise: Ex-Battalion is simply a fount of deep, existential truths, as this list shows:
Epicurus – Hedonism In Moderation
Epicurus was the founder of Epicureanism, made popular during the Hellenistic period. His goal was to find the happy life, but not purely in pleasures of the body as most extreme hedonists generally believe, but happiness through tranquility and moderation. For him, it is not so much pleasure, but the absence of pain and fear that brings about a happy, tranquil life.
The Lyrics: Hayaan mo sila/ Sige-sige, maglibang/ Wag kang magpakahibang/ Dapat ay itawa lang
In these lyrics, we see Epicurus in action. Yes, we should amuse ourselves, but we should also do it in moderation, lest we lose ourselves. If anything is too heavy, simply laugh it off! Achieve balance by finding the mean between extremes, and through it, peace of mind and happiness comes.
John Stuart Mill – Utilitarianism
For John Stuart Mill, one must maximize happiness to as many sentient beings as possible, because only in maximizing hedons (happiness) and minimizing dolors (suffering) for as many people as possible can we find a reliable way of conducting ourselves, for only these two things have any true intrinsic value as Mill’s predecessor, Jeremy Bentham once said.
But this ran deeper than just pleasures and comforts, for Mill was specifically looking for not just quantity, but quality of happiness and welfare in his work, and the realization that being a “dissatisfied human” is better than being a “satisfied pig” makes for an important distinction.
The Lyrics: Sabi ko naman sa’yo, lahat yan nagloloko/ Pagkatapos kang pakinabangan biglang lalayo
That the lyrics express this as far from ideal means that selfish, fleeting pleasures aimed mainly at the self (a bastardized form of egoism, if you will) is actually undesirable. Here, the great poet Bosx1ne posits that the idea that once a person is used up for whatever benefit they had to offer, they become inherently useless (thus, “pagkatapos kang pakinabangan, biglang lalayo”), is very wrong and very dehumanizing. True utilitarianism would seek to find happiness both for the woman and the man in this situation, and everyone around them, instead of seeking it out just for one party.
David Hume – The Is-Ought Problem
David Hume, a great thinker in the 1700’s, was perhaps best known for his seminal work, “A Treatise of Human Nature,” where he tackled the issue of the “is-ought problem,” as he noted that most ethical claims are made about what things ought to be on the basis of what currently is. As such, this dilemma contributes to people believing things like “gay people do not deserve the right to marry,” because that is what is the norm, and they wish for it to conform with how things ought to be.
The Lyrics: Hindi kita sa dina-down, down, down, ‘tol pumili ka kase/ Karamihan kasi now kung makuha, madali
While it is descriptive that we are with someone right now and we are happy, it should not be prescriptive to be with someone just to find happiness.
Here, Jnske emphasizes one of Hume’s greatest lessons: that while we think that because we’re together with someone we love, we ought to be together forever is the wrong thinking. That if anything, the fact is, what we get now is easy, so it is likewise logical to expect that it will also be easy to dispose of. This is an idea that should comfort us, instead of getting us down, down, down, because the choice is ultimately ours.
Socrates – Knowing That One Does Not Know
Socrates is often known as one of the greatest Greek philosophers, but little else is known about him, compared to his students, Plato and Aristotle. That being said, one of his most popular, albeit likely apocryphal declarations that the only thing he knows is that he knows nothing, and it is in this admission that he is not wise that he raises himself up inadvertently to the level of being wise, for he knows that he does not know.
However, a caveat: you need to know you do not know. Ignorance is bliss, but it doesn’t make one wise.
The Lyrics: Alam ko na alam mong libre maging tanga/ Pero ang masama ‘dun balak mong araw-arawin pa
For one to accomplish the Socratic paradox, one must actively know that they do not know. King Badger, in these lines, is arresting his friend’s fall into folly, because he is clearly oblivious to his own ignorance.
Jean-Paul Sartre – Existence is Prior to Essence
Jean-Paul Sartre is known as the father of Existentialism, the belief that humans define their own meaning in life, emphasizing individuality, freedom, and choice. Sartre famously declared that “man is condemned to be free,” and that “existence is prior to essence,” the first indicating that he has a responsibility to himself, and the second denoting that his essence is determined by the very choices he makes, more than the labels other people ascribe to him.
The Lyrics: Gagamitin lang nila ang ‘yong pagiging sikat/ Sabi ko sayo diba, ‘di lahat ay tapat? Na mga bitches, na tanging riches/ Wag ilahat ng pagkatao mo at feelings from the beginning, hindi sapat!/ Who you ka na pag gusto, napasakamay
Again, we see here what the lyrical genius Brandon is hinting at: that one’s fame, one’s riches don’t define that person. They are far more than that, as they are the sum of all the choices they have made, and so much more. For anyone to just define a human person by their bank account is folly, and a grave mistake, because one’s personhood runs far deeper than that.
Confucius – The Golden Rule
Confucius is perhaps the greatest Eastern philosopher that we know of, and it shows. Often known for exemplifying the Golden Mean, from him is also taken the Golden Rule, which we also associate with Christian thinking: do not do unto others what you do not want others to do unto you.
The Lyrics: ‘Di ba sabi ko sayo wag nang uulit?/ Ang kulit mo ring kaibigan ka/ Ilang beses na ang puso mo’y napunit/ Nagagalit pag sinasabihan ka
Bullet-D shows wisdom beyond his years by following the Golden Rule to its logical conclusion: he does unto others what he wants others to do unto him, and in this case, that is to dispense sane, good, logical advice to a friend, even if that friend would resent it from time to time.
Rene Descartes – Desire is an Agitation of the Soul
There’s no escaping Rene Descartes, quite simply. From the Cartesian plane to “cogito ergo sum,” his ideas have permeated all of modern thinking. Still, one of his lesser-known works, “Passions of the Soul,” tackles the very notion of desire, and how it is an agitation of the soul.
The Lyrics: Huwag kang magpakahibang huwag mong gawing mundo/ Yung alam mo na tao lang alam mo yan kaya/ Huwag mo nang lokohin ang sarili mo hayaan mo sila na maglaway kakatingin sayo/ Hanggang sa silang lahat naman ang maghabol sayo/ ‘Pag nagawa mo yan ay tsaka nako bibilib sayo
Flow-G expertly navigates the human condition of desire, and seeks to turn it around on its ear. That instead of desiring for someone, be desired instead. In doing so, it won’t be you who gets agitated, but them, giving them a taste of their own medicine, and making them understand how it feels to be “agit na agit.”
Jean Baudrillard – Simulacra and Simulation
What most people probably remember Jean Baudrillard for, more than anything else, would be his work, “Simulacra and Simulation,” which seeks to explain the relationships between symbols, reality, and society. All is composed with references, with no referents – a hyperreality. This is where we stand today – symbols with no inherent value.
The Lyrics: De-de-de there’s so many bitches in the club/ There’s so many sexy babies, ba’t hindi ka maghanap?
The brilliant Skusta Clee turns his attention to a pressing question that he makes, but also hints at one he doesn’t. First, he asks his friend to look at all the “bitches in the club,” and why not look for someone among all of them. The unspoken question is, what exactly are “bitches in the club?” Do they mean anything? Or is the only meaning, really, in our relationship to the symbol of the “bitches,” rather than merely what “bitches” have come to signify? Thus, even in just these lyrics, Skusta Clee is already questioning the very concept of misogyny, and whether or not misogyny exists merely with the word “bitches,” when that word may very well convey far more beyond just the offensive, obvious meaning, especially if one is “naghahanap” with regards to said “bitches.”
Now, knowing all of this, perhaps the next time someone decides to tell you that they’re so sick of Jeje Rap, you could point them to this 8List, and educate them that there’s far more to Ex-Battalion than meets the eye – they are philosophical and lyrical geniuses for a new age. But even if, after dropping this knowledge on them, they’re still hating, you know what?
Hayaan mo sila.
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