… The ability of government and humanitarian organizations to deliver aid to areas devastated by Yolanda is hampered by decades – if not generations – of economic underdevelopment brought about by a multitude of factors. It’s a wound that cuts to almost everything from literacy to education to employment to housing to disposable income to disaster preparedness. It’s a wound cut by the knives of political patronage, dependency, backward policy, and the perpetuation of top-down development that does little – if not nothing – for the poor.
These days, social media is a hotbed for criticisms against President Aquino for not doing enough. As President, he is not blameless. He should be at the forefront of the reforms in policy and redistributing resources in Eastern Visayas, in particular. But generations of underdevelopment and poverty can be pinned down not only to him, but to every President, Vice President, Senator, and Representative who has ignored the imperative to prepare the most vulnerable people in the country for the worst through a national plan and execution for sustainable development.
Category: social media
on facebook i expressed dismayed surprise at pol medina’s june 4 pugad baboy comic strip. nagulat ako that he singled out st. scho, accused the nuns of condoning lesbianism among students, even, of probably being lesbians themselves. i thought he went too far, i wondered what his experience of st. scho was — baka na-busted ng isang pretty kulasa who had a girlfriend? i was glad when @inquirerdotnet tweeted that “pending investigation” inquirer was “pulling out” pugad baboy.
but except for a very few fb friends who quietly “liked” my statuses, most internet peeps turned out to be big fans of pugad baboy and were screaming censorship! and demanding freedom of speech! for the artist, many saying it’s-true-naman, others insisting it’s-just-an-urban-legend, but mostly agreeing that st. scho and inquirer over-reacted.
fortunately u.p. prof. neil garcia, who’s into queer studies, saw fit to weigh in:
the simple truth is that the comic strip in question isn’t so much poking fun at an urban legend, as expressing the popular but rarely rigorously articulated understanding that all exclusive schools, whether for girls or for boys, are eminently liable to the ‘homo’ charge since, well, they really are ‘homo’ environments, after all…
the question, then, is: just how closely does ‘homosociality’–the same-sexual bonding, interest-sharing and identity building that the exclusive school system, as well as institutions like fraternities, sororities, seminaries, and exclusive gender-coded clubs, requires and promotes–come close to the homosexuality that so many in this country supposedly notionally tolerate (when formally interviewed or asked to answer a questionnaire) but are simply all too ready to lose sleep or go ballistic over, when the issue comes close to home or turns particularly personal (such as when it’s one’s own children or parents that are involved, or when it’s been ‘insinuated’ that one’s own beloved alma mater is a fertile breeding ground–a veritable ‘finishing school’–for lesbians or gays)…
in other words, what really differentiates homosociality from homosexuality, other than the fact that the latter is abominated while the former, in patriarchal societies, is amply privileged and encouraged–the better for male supremacy to continue across generations unimpeded, since this system of exchange keeps the power in the hands of men, and reduces women to mere commodities being passed from one group of men (fathers) to another (husbands)? indeed, faced with this touchy issue, we simply need to ask the question of what makes homosocial bonding essentially different from homosexual love, when both are all about the same-sexual investment of emotions and the same-sexual promotion of mutual interests…
the most logical answer is, of course, the following: unlike in homosociality, in homosexuality same-sexual affection presumably becomes expressed in genital terms. this answer seems clear and self-evident enough, but once we remember the fact that–as psychology all too eagerly tells us–sexuality is more about individual feelings and personal fantasies or imaginings than actual behavior, then the situation becomes fuzzy and distressing, once again. indeed, we need to realize that, because sexuality is about the ‘inner truth’ of individuals, there’s absolutely no way we can tell whether homosexuality is present (or not present) anywhere. this is another way of saying that there’s really no way we can screen it out of any environment (least of all homosocial ones), short of policing its inhabitants’ most intimate thoughts, affects, and dreams. hence, as far as sexuality is concerned, the body’s genital activity isn’t even the most crucial aspect. rather, it is the body’s desire that’s the real game-changer (and, as we know, desire, as the index of our subjective agency, is by definition practically impossible to legislate or control).
and so, the bottom line isn’t that schools must avoid discriminating against lesbians or gays (as minorities). rather, they need to recognize the truth that lesbianism or gayness is simply part and parcel of all human potentiality. it is precisely for this reason that schools have no right to demonize or thwart homosexuality in their students, in the same way that they have no right to demonize or thwart their students’ individual aptitudes, talents and ‘differences.’
finally, all this forces us to ask the frankly urgent and all too practical question of: so what if st. scho or any other exclusive school has lesbians or gays amongst its students or faculty? why should this affect its essential character as an (excellent) educational institution? why should any of this matter at all?
me: if parents of st. scho students were all as sophisticated as this in their thinking and perception, i’d say, and they’d say, indeed, so what if st. scho or any other exclusive school has lesbians among its students and faculty. but the reality is that most parents, who have just invested in their kids education in st. scho for a new schoolyear, are far from sophisticated in their thinking on sexual matters, and that comic strip could only be causing them undue anxieties about their daughters’ sexualities-in-the-making, and the really conservative ones would be wondering where to transfer their daughters next year, thinking that st. scho must be the worst since it was singled out in that comic strip.
and what about the effect on the girls themselves, all this talk about lesbians among them. the innocent ones will get curious, the knowing ones will feel affirmed, maybe before it’s time, before they’re ready. i grew up in st. scho, kindergarten ’55 to highschool ’66, and, yes, in high school i knew of a few relationships that were more intense than best-friendships, but it’s much like kate natividad tells in her charice piece:
…recalling my days as a high-school student in an all-girls’ school, I do recall some of my friends hooking up with self-proclaimed “tomboys”. Back then tomboys didn’t really come across as all that too convincing. For one thing, not too many of them had the resources or wherewithal to take on the full lifestyle and look. For another, many of them were just plain and simple confused. That’s easy for me to say as hindsight comes in handy in those cases. I know now that many of these high school tomboys now pretty much lead straight ladies’ lives. Those friends of mine who were the “girls” in these “relationships” remain the girls in their relationships with their husbands and boyfriends today.
the good news is, the artist has come around and apologized, he was testing inquirer‘s limits, he overstepped the bounds of good taste, he regrets naming st. scho, he regrets using the word “condone.” now all that’s left is for inquirer to share the results of its investigation: the strip had been rejected back in april when first submitted; why then was it archived rather than trashed? and why, how, did it get past the paper’s editors? whoever erred should be named and suspended, too, in fairness to medina. then st. scho just might be appeased.
We are told off: with freedom comes responsibility.
As though we didn’t know. As though we — the cyber-throng quick-witted enough to recognize bs thrown at us — don’t know, uhhhm, shit.
The reminder itself insults. It reminds us instead that the Philippines’ leaders think so very little of her citizens. Reminds us that this contempt for the populace is precisely the prevailing culture of its leadership—a culture that consumes cynical and idealist political, ecclessiastical, tradjorno leaders alike.
These authorities dismiss our outrage as hysteria. They know no better than to denigrate a remarkable show of smarts, wit, grace, inventiveness, and in fact wisdom, in the face of the grave threat to democratic space.
So they — and their mouth-pieces — talk down to us. Comporting themselves as though Medieval bishops speaking from on high, they deign teach us about democracy. About responsibility. Us! The citizenry that in the last quarter century has been consistently quicker than its leaders and its mainstream narrators in defining the possibilities and responsibilities of democracy.
Oh, and our own living-dead Medieval frailocracy have naturally joined the pious pantheon, none of whom have read Orwell’s “1984,” and perhaps for this reason have neither sense of irony nor foreboding. It took the netizens to point out the awful choice of date That Law came to pass.
But were it only illiteracy, perhaps our leaders deserve our patience. Trouble is, sheer illogic hobbles their attempts at Reason. They consign sundry critics on fb to the same criminal status as child porn traffickers and identity thieves, but this does not strike them as monstrous. They bandy Constitutional guarantees of the very freedom of expression they constrict. This does not seem to them oxymoronic. Or moronic.
Preposterously, they actually think netizens desire impunity—to libel freely, to shirk penalty—where the call from the netscape is for a deeply informed understanding of the radically interactive nature of digital media, with its built-in self-policing nature.
Self-policing systems are necessarily upheld by democracies (and feared and controlled by autocratic states, needless to say) because in allowing the individual citizen the same power as the big actors, at least for a minute or two, it does move societies in the direction of equality.
So it is now the citizenry, again, taking the high moral ground in this fracas. We first of all enjoin our leaders to get off their hoary paternalistic platforms, to breathe the envigorating air of that democratic space where Filipinos thrive on sharpened skills to spot and contest lies and manipulations.
Listen, then, oh grand leaders and inquisitors.
We have no use for the freedom to libel.
What’s at stake is the freedom to challenge the impunity of the powerful, as we go about our daily convivial, sometimes testy, and sure, often foolish chatter.
We have no desire to shirk responsibility, and because of this we trounce trolls quickly, quarrel with the reckless and fiendish on line, and think before we click.
What’s at stake is right of netizens to keep for ourselves the responsibility for maintaining healthy exchange in the ethereal and physical communities we live in. Not to surrender this responsibility to Big Brother.
We have no big urge to drag the unwilling into our newfangled netizenship that demands a savvy grasp of the technological enabling of democracy, and its dangers.
What’s at stake is an idea whose time is now: the separation of net and State apparatus. It is a separation built on the distinction between traditional media which historically has merged too often with State power; and the net, which proliferates imagined communities beyond the myriad imprisonments and impunities of the past.
What’s at stake is the fast-track education of our leaders, so they know how absurd and perilous it is to try to retrofit ancient repressive methods on people power revved up by 21st c tech. They have to step up and recognize the Filipino body politic as uniquely adept at discerning pivotal difference.
That body politic knows that the net diffuses centralized power. That traditional media consolidated power despite the best efforts of great journalists. That the net subverts gate keepers and power brokers. That traditional media yielded to these creatures. That the net has thus far disabled—where traditional media were often the precisely the media for—elite capture of resources, discussion, and the shaping of society.
What’s at stake is the progressively sophisticated use of a locally-formed computer literacy to advance a century old Philippine freedom agenda. Freedom from repressive overlords.