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In literature and in real life, words and actions are interpreted as “acts” because they convey not only a message (content) but also expressions: protest, outrage, anger, love, happiness and so forth. Presumptive President-Elect Rodrigo Roa Duterte’s win over Poe, Roxas and Binay was a vote against blatantly elitist politics. It was an expression of protest and rebellion against an existing neoliberal system that repeatedly failed to deliver relief to the masses.

 

A vote for the unknown

 

To the middle classes and landowning classes, a vote for Duterte was not a “vote for change” but rather, a vote for the unknown. Digong did not have the feel or aura of Erap Estrada, which made him all the more threatening.  Erap Estrada had the aura of someone who was predictable. Digong on the other hand, included in his political discourse the possibility of reaching out to the Moro rebels and the New People’s Army. Jose Maria Sison, a senior consultant and founder of the CPP-NPA, was Digong’s professor at the Lyceum. As of this writing, Sison had already recommended the imprisonment of outgoing President Noynoy Aquino. Beyond his crass jokes and seeming carelessness in how he handled himself in public, little else is known about the local Davao politico. When Digong visited the Makati Business Club, he confused and worried most of his audience. He was described as “unsure” of what he wanted to do in his term. In a TV interview, a member of the MBC stated “maybe he wanted socialism, to reduce the gap between the rich and the poor? But people have to understand, it’s never free. Socialist countries have a very deep tax base.”

 

Let’s stop there because nothing could be less interesting than the campaign period. The campaign period, both real and in social media, was the product of calculated moves. The spectacle was manufactured and synthetic. A puppet show for the masses. A song and dance number to make you remember their names. Now that the election is about to reach its conclusion, it’s best to ask ourselves: did we commit a mistake in voting for Digong?

 

Oligarch vs. oligarch

 

If we were to examine the path that led to Digong’s victory and how he was embraced by the masses, we can easily see a vote for Digong was a protest vote against the neoliberal agenda. It was a vote against our continued dependence on the United States, the diluted efforts of the government to respond to basic needs of the people and it was also a vote against the oligarchic Aquinos. The point of contention here is the increase in support for BBM (Marcos). Was it amnesia that caused Filipinos to WANT a Marcos back in Malacanan Palace? It’s easy to fall back to a routine blame game where millennials are the target. However, voters come from all segments of society and abroad, older migrant workers voted for BBM. It should be understood in this context that a vote for Bongbong was a vote AGAINST the Aquinos. We have fallen into the trap of fighting the battle on behalf of another oligarchic family. Since Bongbong’s campaign focused on the act of forgetting, it was assimilated easily, because the act of forgetting the horrors of Martial Law was easier for the masses to accept than the act of remembering, which renewed the horrors for everyone. The binary of hope versus fear came into play. The genuine discourse of Martial Law was set aside in favor of the fantasy discourse of Bongbong, which followed the conventional design of promising everything to the masses.

 

Fantasy and myth-making

 

Digong’s win represented the utopian dreams of the Filipinos. We are already seeing how his presence is changing people’s behavior on a micro scale. People are attempting to discipline themselves and they are showcasing the idea of “change begins in the self.” Why? Because they are reproducing the fantasy in real life. The viral meme of the bus driver who said he can’t park just anywhere because “Digong might get angry” is proof of the reproducibility of the Digong discourse. The figure of Digong is being assimilated and reinvented so that it would matter to everyone, which is an interesting development because this hasn’t been the case for the past few presidencies. “Tatay Digong” as many would call him on social media, struck more than a handful of chords when he first appeared on national television as a messiah of sorts. Of course, he is not a messiah. He is a local politico, an ordinary man. What is bringing him right now to the peak of power in this land is the democratic will of the Filipinos.

 

And so we wait, with bated breath, how this small act against the neoliberal agenda will far against the external powers and structures that have controlled us since the Americans first took interest in our fair land.

Ang Mga Bagong Monumento

August 4, 2009

            Ang isa sa mga pekulyar na katangian ng mga monumento ay ang kawalan ng kasaysayan. Ang mga rebulto at iba pang mga monumento ng nasyon ay kailangang mawalan ng kasaysayan upang maging monumento. Sa ganitong paraan, maaari silang itayo sa isang lugar bilang dekorasyon; isang paalala na may particular na mga tao na nabuhay noon. Ganito rin ang nangyari sa mga popular na laman ng kasaysayan tulad ng Gomburza, Rizal, Bonifacio, etc. Nakikilala ang mga mukha at kung minsa’y nakikiliti ang imahinasyon. Ngunit sa huli ay ang mga monumento ay itinayo bilang isang paraan ng pagkalimot sa nakaraan.

 

            Sa Alemanya, mayroong isang malaking hukay sa isang eskinita roon. Isang malaking hukay lamang, upang ipaalala ang ilang mga pangyayari noong Holocaust. Sa kawalan, may kasaysayan. Mas maigi pa sana ang ganitong mga monumento. Masalimuot at nakakahiya mang isipin ang mga pangyayaring ipinaaalala ay may tunay na kuneksyon ito buhay ng nasyon, at ang mga taong nakapaloob rito.

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            Ganito rin pag may mga sikat na taong pumapanaw. Nang buhay pa sila’y kaliwa’t kanan na batikos ang inaabot o kaya ay hindi naman sila talaga mahalaga pagdating sa mga politika. Ngunit pag sila’y biglang wala na, daig pa ang mga santo. Walang dapat magtaka sa ganitong uri ng “pagmomonumento”; kailangan tanggalin ang kasaysayan para mabuo ang rebultong walang katangian kundi maging isang simbolo. Kailangan patagin ang identidad, upang maging bahagi na ng kultural na nasyonalismo ng namumunong uri. Kailangang pabanguhin ang pangalan at ang imahe, upang ang dumi at dugo ng mga nakaraang taon ay mahugasan sa imahinasyon ng marami. Kailangan grandiyoso at hindi-makakalimutan ang pagbuo ng bagong monumento; sapagkat pagkatapos nito ay magkakaroon na rin ng dahilan para sa taunang paggunita. Dadaan ang mga taon at ang rebulto ay makakalimutan na; pero may mga papalit rito. Tulad ng mga batang nagpa-anod ng mga bangkang papel sa ilog na marungis, may mga tao sa kasaysayan ng lipunang Pilipino na magiging bahagi ng politikal na adyenda sa ngayon. Ngunit kapag naubos na ang init at ang monumento ay wala nang matatag na kuneksyon sa mga tao ay babaling ang atensyon sa pagbuo muli ng mga panibagong simbolo ng kagitingan.

            Sapagkat sa ganitong paraan lamang mananatiling buhay ang mitolohiya ng estado at ang fiyudal na sistema sa lipunang Pilipino.

Teaching Theory pt. 1

June 24, 2009

Teaching Theory

How can theory be taught? The purpose of this exposition/critique is not espouse a singular method of teaching critical theory (in the social sciences/ arts/ humanities) but to examine the visible strains of thought that emanates from most of these disciplines. With the exemption of the life sciences and some exclusivist schools from the social sciences, the sociology of culture, literature, art, etc. can be better understood with the most basic intellectual traditions available for consumption on the level of the academia. In the Philippines, the problem is not comprehension (is there comprehension?) but the mode of teaching. While erstwhile academics in the west like Homi Bhaba and Gayatri Spivak have acknowledged the so-called emancipating role of critical theory (I’m not sure if we’re talking about the specific constellation of concepts) in thought and practice, academics in the Philippines have yet to arrive at the point where theory can readily be used and appropriated for the purpose of critical pedagogy, and not just teaching. A distinction has to be made here; in the context of so-called traditional “modern” teaching in the Philippines, a neo-Aristotlean and colonial model of teaching is employed. If one were to fondly remember the concise description of Freire in his work on the Pedagogy of the Oppressed, we would come to realize that the Philippines is not only a repressed and oppressed country ideologically and economically, but the Philippines is also suffering from a retrograde educational system espoused by equally retrograde institutions using antiquated methods that are unable and would never be usable for the purpose of examining and criticizing the current world order.

World order seems to be too big a word; the apologists of the formalist, neo-Aristotlean and therefore neocolonial methods of teaching would say that a blank page would need inscription. But how can a page be blank if the person has already enrolled himself with money borne from hard labour? For the upper classes in the modern, neocolonial Philippine society, the blankness stems not from the lack of reading materials but from the generic avoidance of such. The rich, due to their material wealth, no longer needs to be emancipated because they already have their comfortable niches in the present economic order. But this cannot be said for the millions of the other Filipinos in the country. From this point alone we can see the large contradiction or gap between the interest of the educational institutions (privately owned or state-owned, it does not matter) and 95% of the population of the country. From an objective point of view, only two ways out can be seen: either you reform the institutions (it is not in their interest to be altered!) or destroy them. Or, as the popular song goes, they should be killed softly with a song. And the song is critical theory. Or rather, critical theory is but one note- a melodic spark that would hopefully encourage an intellectual conflagration to burn off the wicked weeds of the educational system. If Nietzschean politics is fascist, then it’s time to do an uberman and destroy the aristocratic educational system that serves education a la carte, with a hefty price tag for soured goods.

Reading, unlearning and the rejection of colonial ideological principles

There should be a clarification, a direct clarification regarding the role of reading in a person’s life. Reading is not merely pleasure (if it were, let’s go back to the Florentine merchant era where a few families were the only ones who had access to art) but rather, a tool to free yourself. The presupposition that it is a tool for liberation also presupposes that there is something to be freed from. And as we have made mention earlier, the thing that must be purged is the old neocolonial model of teaching which is parading itself repeatedly in classrooms across the country. The first step in the destruction of the old neocolonial model of teaching is the recognition that the very commodities used by the educational system are repressive (stupid) and obsolete. Even the teaching of language, which is still being done in such a horrendous manner is so damaging that children who already have a rich Filipino vocabulary end up understanding less of the language than before they came into the classroom. The teachers themselves must recognize that what they mentors had taught them are not the best methods for teaching. It doesn’t matter that you used old textbooks written by Americans or Britons. The point here is that whatever they’ve learned from the colleges of Education around the country are not sufficient to instruct, not at all. Which accounts for the fact that many students, after graduating from primary school and high school, don’t remember jack about what they’ve been wasting their time on the past 10 years of their life. It is an unjust social contract between the institution and the agents.

There is no need for senseless self-pity here. Since the problem has already been recognized, the next step is in order. After the recognition that the faulty model is in place, the second most important step is the unlearning, which may be the most difficult step of all. Learning is one thing; if it means imitation like parrots. Unlearning means letting go of all your cherished beliefs and that can drive a person mad, especially if after the unlearning there is absolutely nothing to replace what has been unlearned. This perhaps is the reason why extremely religious individuals find it difficult to cope after the historicity of religion has been revealed and examined closely; there’s nothing to replace the lost belief. Since education also forms a large part of a person’s habitus or socialization, there is also a need to question the ideologies operating alongside the teaching methods. For example, the simple belief that males are good at numbers while women are good in language is a destructive belief, because it necessitates favoring one group of persons over another for the mere purpose of living out some belief. Instead, what should replace such a belief is a goal; that both males and females be adequately capable of numbers and language to produce a well-rounded person competent in the two different skill groups. Specialization can only be useful if a person is indeed already knowledgeable of the larger groups of knowledge. But if you trap a person to believing that he or she can be good in only one particular set of skills, then that person would probably end up pursuing only that group of skills for the simple reason that it was what she or he had been made to believe by the teacher.

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