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Jul 07

Weekend readings

Current – http://blogs.inquirer.net/current/2007/07/07/weekend-readings-1/
By Manuel L. Quezon III on July 7, 2007 2:43 PM

 

Two articles make for thought-provoking reading this weekend. The first is Michael Tan’s Tisoy Kasi!, a romp through history, language, how we currently see ourselves and how we can see ourselves not only in a better, but more realistic light:

The historian Benedict Anderson writes about how Filipinos seem to have gone through a lobotomy, a removal of a part of the brain responsible for memory. The amnesia is selective of course; we leave out bits and pieces of our colonial history, and practically all of our precolonial past. Most Filipinos know little about the precolonial era. In part, this is because of colonialism, both Spanish and American, and the way the precolonial period was depicted as a kind of Dark Age, of ignorant pagan natives running around naked. With the nationalist period of the 1970s, the pendulum swung to the other end as we romanticized the precolonial period in our search for The Authentic Filipino. It is important, certainly, to go back to our precolonial period, but not to look for a pure Filipino culture. In the first place, the “Filipino” did not come into existence until the 19th century, and initially, it was a term reserved for Spaniards born in the Philippines. Later, it was expropriated by Rizal and other ilustrados, the illuminated bourgeoisie, who could see a Filipino as a loyal subject of Spain. The roots of what we call Filipino culture today do date back to the precolonial period, and there is still much to do here around archaeology, anthropology, and linguistics to reconstruct that period. But what we have so far is already fascinating, including the way it reflects how our cultures were constantly being hybridized during that time… …We need to avoid two extremes: One is to continue wallowing in a colonial mentality that sees only Western influences as good. The other is to attempt to look for a pure precolonial past. All cultures are hybrids and it can be fascinating unraveling all the sources and processes involved in this hybridization. Once we recognize that we are all mestizo, the product of more than one culture, we might better appreciate ourselves — and humanity.

The second is Breaking the Colonial-Cum-Victim-Cum-Cinderella Mentality, by Big Mango:

It is the great and profound gift of the Internet that allows for conservative ideas as much as liberal ones. Those ideas flow freely both ways, creating diversity and discussion. That’s the most essential thing to raise the bar. Not only can we laugh at the mindless things we can find on the Internet or delve to the mundane, but we can also raise the bar of understanding and rationality or choose either the conservative or liberal route. Where else can we find such a rich diversity of ideas, beliefs, point of views, and focus? that’s not the real test, is it? if you’re reading this you probably are part of the converted, as in converted to the wonders of the ‘Net. The test is getting others to see this beauty. The test is getting them all online to taste the richness and profoundness and quiet simplicity of this gift and open them to a world beyond celebrities’ scandalous lives. The first point of this post is to state that every generation sees decadence in it and in the generation that it sired. We can reopen discourse, we can return to civility and reason and understanding and thus, raise the bar of expectation. the second point of this post is accepting ideas, even though we hate it in our guts. It means thinking out of the box. It means embracing the mundane to the serious in a holistic way and, that is how we break the vicious cycle of what {caffeine_sparks} called “our culture of colonial-cum-victim-cum-Cinderella mentality”.

Both articles happily remind me of something my father wrote on national identity way back in 1996:

Just what our culture consists of, I am not competent to say. I can say, however, that it is extremely complex. It is that very complexity which often leads Occidentals to classify us either as Occidentals with brown skins or Orientals with a very superficial Western veneer. It is that same complexity which leads some Asians to say that we are not Asian at all, although Indians, Chinese, Japanese, Indonesians, Nepalese, Syrians, etc. do not deny it of each other, much as they differ among themselves. It is that same complexity which bewilders us and drives us to attempt a total identification with West or East (in the sense in which Asians sometimes exclude us from it), an attempt impossible in one case, meaningless in the other. It is the same complexity from which some try to escape by taking refuge in an imaginative reconstruction, more or less accurate as the case may be, of Philippine culture at the time of Magellan’s arrival, setting up that culture as the only true Philippine culture and de-Filipinizing all subsequent generations, including our own. In my opinion this attitude is untenable. It separates the pre-Spanish from subsequent cultural developments, considering the former as wholly indigenous—they were not, in the narrow sense of the word—and the latter as spurious. The attitude gives too much credit to the ability of Spanish and American culture to supplant our previous culture and replace it with something different; the attitude also gives no credit whatsoever to our ancestors for any capacity to transform and assimilate foreign influences, giving them a distinctively Filipino character. One who holds such a view turns his back to the most significant and most remarkable—I would say most admirable—fact about our culture and ourselves: that complexity has not prevented unity, nor unity led to monotonous uniformity. Instead of our being proud of our unique cultural achievement—it is our achievement, not the Spaniards’ or the Americans’—we are ashamed of ourselves, see only the faults and dangers of our culture and see them magnified out of all proportion.

Two articles make for thought-provoking reading this weekend.The first is Michael Tan’s Tisoy Kasi!, a romp through history, language, how we currently see ourselves and how we can see ourselves not only in a better, but more realistic light:The historian Benedict Anderson writes about how Filipinos seem to have gone through a lobotomy, a removal of a part of the brain responsible for memory….  It is that very complexity which often leads Occidentals to classify us either as Occidentals with brown skins or Orientals with a very superficial Western veneer. It is that same complexity which leads some Asians to say that we are not Asian at all, although Indians, Chinese, Japanese, Indonesians, Nepalese, Syrians, etc. do not deny it of each other, much as they differ among themselves. It is that same complexity which bewilders us and drives us to attempt a total identification with West or East (in the sense in which Asians sometimes exclude us from it), an attempt impossible in one case, meaningless in the other. It is the same complexity from which some try to escape by taking refuge in an imaginative reconstruction, more or less accurate as the case may be, of Philippine culture at the time of Magellan’s arrival, setting up that culture as the only true Philippine culture and de-Filipinizing all subsequent generations, including our own. In my opinion this attitude is untenable….  The attitude gives too much credit to the ability of Spanish and American culture to supplant our previous culture and replace it with something different; the attitude also gives no credit whatsoever to our ancestors for any capacity to transform and assimilate foreign influences, giving them a distinctively Filipino character. One who holds such a view turns his back to the most significant and most remarkable—I would say most admirable—fact about our culture and ourselves: that complexity has not prevented unity, nor unity led to monotonous uniformity.

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