the quasi-plagiarist: an introduction

Generally, people are disgusted with plagiarism—which is why Cherie Gil is so famous for this little scene in a film called Bituing Walang Ningning (A Star Without Shine). Even after more than two decades now, the snippet is still being replayed on TV, winning over younger fans whose primary influences include Naruto, Miley Cyrus, Justin Bieber, Bob Ong, and Dr. Hayden Kho.

Each time Cherie Gil splashes her goblet of wine against Sharon Cuneta’s face, we reaffirm our commitment to originality. Ah yes, we feel bad for Sharon for a split second, but only for a split-second, and then we double-back and rally our forces behind the more formidable character. It isn’t Sharon’s meek silence and submissiveness that startles us. It is Cherie Gil’s aggressive defense of her originality. She’s not flattered that someone is copying her—she demands that no one should copy her.

I think it’s all because we fiercely defend what we possess—including our own identities. Capitalist society teaches us that we each need to have our own territories to avoid going bonkers: I am me, you are you. This is mine, this is yours. Understood? If someone tries to steal someone else’s stuff, we are trained to remember our pre-historic animal tendencies and bare our fangs.

I remember Aeon Flux, a friend in grade school who went on to become class valedictorian. He was 12 then. And he was already a plagiarist. At that time, Milo commercials on TV are a hit: Great things start from small beginnings. In Aeon Flux’s case, I would not dare disagree. Not that he is now behind bars for plagiarizing someone obscenely famous. But through the years, as he butchered other people’s work and reconstructed them as his own, he has perfected his style and strategy that virtually no one but the very keen would have a stinking clue.

Aeon Flux is one of two types of plagiarists: the kind who truly writes well but is lazy and unimaginative.

On the other hand, the other type is altogether a different story. This is someone who has a very specific standard of good writing. This one knows what works and sticks to it. He believes there is only one single way of writing certain ideas. When he comes across, say, an exquisite line in a poem, he recognizes the beauty, the wisdom in the words, that he would realize it is what he had always wanted to say and he himself would not have written it another way. And so he, uh, plagiarizes.

I have never copied someone, but if I would, I’d be perhaps “Plagiarist Species Number Two.” Maybe because I truly love writing, and passion does not always come with skill. There had been uncounted times when a poem, a story, an essay would overwhelm me so completely, that only my bloated ego got in the way of any plagiaristic tendencies I might have.

I have been blogging for many years now and have been lucky to read (and meet) other bloggers who are exponentially better, wiser, and funnier than I could ever become. I am taking on this ambitious project as my way of a lame tribute to these buggers who never fail to make me feel insecure, competitive, and, ultimately, inspired, not to become a “second-rate, trying hard copycat,” but to find other ways to write whatever it is that we all ever wanted to write about.

I start by translating Manech’s Ilahas into English in this post at my other blog. Read it here.

*photo is from “Tour Eiffel,” a short film in the collection “Je T’aime Paris”


27 thoughts on “the quasi-plagiarist: an introduction

  1. I love the concept! Plus I can finally understand what Ilahas means. hahaPlus these days, everyone borrows from everyone else. when you read something that's so good, you go doh! why didn't i think of that, chances are, you won't. lol

  2. "Capitalist society teaches us that we each need to have our own territories to avoid going bonkers[.]"i agree with deleuze that capitalism fundamentally effects deterritorializing. it is the machinic field that precedes capitalism that encodes and territorializes everything "to avoid going bonkers", which is why every traditionalist (in the capitalist machine) announces that capitalism = for originality, =P

  3. @Nyl: Ikaw ang susunod na bigaten!@Maria Kriska: Nobody ever tells me that. So thank you. LOL.@Rah: Thanks for dropping by. :)@Lance: I always thought capitalistic endeavors presume the concept of possessions, that the production of wealth is anchored on the idea of ownership and territory.@James: Thanks. (Though I'm not sure if a comparison to a Youngblood essay constitutes a compliment. LOL.)@Glentot: I cannot ever copy you. But you just might be surprised one of these days. You never know how desperate I can sometimes be.@Andy: Thank you!

  4. at least according to marx and deleuze, it precedes it. capitalism creates surplus value through differentials between "ownership" and "non-ownership" and "territory" and "non-territory"… so, in that sense, it is a necessary component, but the concept of possession and territoriality is something that precedes capitalism… it is the essence of the despotic state with a tyrannical monotheos at the apex of its machinic processes….

  5. I am jealous of writers like you, your comprehension and extensive vocabularies, and your capabilities of making writing seem easy and flowing. Ugh, I'm filled with envy. 😡 Hehe. Just maybe, I have unconsciously plagiarized someone's words. Or, maybe, whenever I agree with a writer's ideas and thoughts, I express them in my own words :P. That wouldn't be paraphrasing, now would it? HahaI think it's the campy feel of that line and scene that makes it pretty iconic even today. You're worth nothing in a capitalist society, if you have no private land, if you work for someone else's corporation. No sympathies and care for the working class. And everything now seems to be owned by someone else. What is the world coming to (not to mention our Youtube/Facebook/pseudo-bisexual generation)!?

  6. we are just so territorial people, i guess. but i like your project, ang cool! i like the way you explained #2, very true. it is like hearing a song and going "crap, i could have written that!" oh well, but that is just a thought, haha.

  7. @Lance: I am sure there would be other interpretations of territory and ownership. Mine is that they are very capitalist concepts.@Carl: Thanks! I hope your muse has returned.@Raft3r: Classic meanness will outlive everyone. :D@Ahmer: Sorry naman. Kayo kasi ay, ano, inseparable. Hehe.@Prinsesamusang: Thank you. I hope I can pull it off. Plagiarists Number Two are intensely in tune to what inspires them, I think.@YJ: Hindi plagiarism yun, prend. Wikiquote ka ng mga bloggers. :D@Captain Runner: How? LOL.

  8. awesome blogger you are. and awesome are the bloggers that you cross with.and yeah, ilahas is my favorite tagalog post ever by a blogger. and the translation is just as beautiful and faithful as the original.

  9. maybe it is a semantic issue because it isn't an interpretative one. capitalism didn't invent private property or territoriality — as feudal societies around the world have had both. yet, both have been necessary conditions for the development of capitalism — although not exclusively necessary for the extraction of surplus value in all cases. for example, the plundering of the great oceans, of which are universally recognized as not owned by anyone and not the territory of anyone, have been a huge boon to transnational capital flows and the massive extraction of surplus value. because differentiation is needed for capitalism to extract surplus value, however, we have all sorts of international ad hoc commissions and task forces that try to "territorialize" various aspects or spaces of the great ocean — for periods of time and then, they return to their deterritorialized state so that capitalism can come up with more efficient territorializations to further exact more capital. (look at the so called cap-and-trade carbon regulation schemes being bandied about. capitalism will even territorialize and monetize abstract ideas like net carbon output.)

  10. Lance, I didn't say capitalism invented the ideas of territory and ownership. That would be giving capitalist thought too much credit.What I meant is that, in the capitalist scheme, these concepts are interpreted as core and vital to the existence and persistence of the ruling classes.Your example of "un-territories," such as the ocean, is interesting. I also believe that in a profit-driven world, the trick is not simply to recognize existing ownerships and territories. If the ruling classes are to remain in power by the production of wealth, they have to be creative. They must plunder resources that are held traditionally as owned by no one.I am also interested in what you said about international organizations, like, I don't know, Greenpeace maybe. From what I understand, you mean that they are only a necessary phase in the capitalist scheme. I would have to agree with that.But to tie up with my original intention in this post, I simply wanted to say how our attitude towards plagiarism may be construed as a manifestation of how fiercely important it is for many of us to own a discrete identity that no one must copy. I happen to believe that this is because our identities are crucial to our own value in a world where common skills are dirt-cheap.

  11. Reich, contrary to your belief, it's never easy for me to write anything. My writing process is complicated and involves a lot of shuttling back and forth between computer and pen and paper. (Farck. I know I should have taken the compliment and pretended that I realy just sweat words. LOL.)Yas, thank you. I am truly lucky to have met a lot of bloggers that I have come to respect, admire, and ultimately offend by doing translations of their already awesome blog entries. :DNyl, this is a blog post about Cherie Gil. And between Sharon Cuneta and Cherie Gil, no one wants to be Sharon. LOL.

  12. yes, back to plagiarism, what i was trying unsuccessfully to agree with you in was that the deployment of various "intellectual property" discursive regimes is more reflective of the state of mind of the individual deploying such frameworks since no one can own creativity. transnational agriceutical companies like monsanto attempting to patent and copyright the genetic code of living organisms shows the absurdity of this in the material world while the outrageous profitability of "standing up for artists" media conglomerates reap points to the absurdity in the intangible world. this is why your project is so exciting.

  13. Who can ever forget A Star Without Shine? The water splashing scene is one of the most, if not, the most, indelible scene in Philippine cinema. "You're nothing, but a second rate, trying hard, copy cat." Cherie Gil is fierce. FIERCE.

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