Critical Commentary III: Indigenous Filipino Theories

Colonizers have deeply rooted their identities within the countries they have taken over. At this point, various countries are amid the battle of retracing their identity and building their nation from there. However, each and every person must comprehend that this struggle by countries to build their own nation’s true identity does not simply mean despising and rejecting western thoughts or disciplines. This battle must involve truly understanding the nation’s identity and seeing the world through its perspective. In light of this need, theorists have relayed their knowledge by highlighting indigenization narratives in order to fully understand the world of the Filipinos. Indigenization narratives such as Sikolohiyang Pilipino, Pilipinolohiya, and Pantayong Pananaw truly reflect what it is to be Filipino as it takes into account the very ways of thinking and the embedded culture among Filipinos.

Sikolohiyang Pilipino is truly an effective way of understanding social phenomenon in the Philippine society due to the fact that it considers culture among the people. In fact, it is said that its main premises aim to deconstruct the Filipino mind’s way of thinking. In order to do that effectively, it is a good step to consider and include the cultural aspect in the process. Moreover, it also resurfaces the uniqueness of the Filipino identity in the process. For instance, the Filipino’s identity is very much seen as to how we understand the true meaning behind the context of ‘Bahala na’. To we Filipino, this phrase exhibits our determination and fearlessness as a way of competing no matter what the odd may be. Whereas in a western perspective, this may be understood in a much more negative sense of fatality. Filipinos also hold a different set of value systems. In class, the professor gave the example of how children of the west would have to ask permission to see their parents, whereas in the Philippine context, seeing your parents requires nothing because children are deemed as ‘Hindi Ibang Tao’. With these illustrations, there is a incredible distinction with how Filipinos think and this is what makes Sikolohiyang Pilipino a remarkable step in resurfacing the Filipino identity. Although, it must be noted that despite what Sikolohiyang Pilipino brings in order to understand the Filipino mind’s way of thinking, it should not immediately debunk the thought that western psychology can no longer be applied universally. One must consider the fact that many of the discoveries when it comes to how the human mind functions were actually discovered by individuals from all over the globe. Many of these individuals definitely used framework and methods which did not come from our country, however, there is truth to how they explain the different functions of the human mind.

Indigenization narratives such as Pilipinolohiya and Pantayong Pananaw also reveal a lot about the Filipino identity. In fact, Pilipinolohiya studies the world of the Filipinos together with their psychology and culture. This narrative views the Filipino world as a whole from the outside as it is studied and analyzed. Clearly, this narratives meshes very well with Sikolohiyang Pilipino as it aims to view the world through the lens of a Filipino by incorporating culture. In addition to this, the narrative Pantayong Pananaw creates an environment which intends to unite all Filipinos. It aims for a shared understanding that would hold on history and goal for the future. Despite the ideas brought about by these two narratives to fully understand the Philippine context and to build a united nation of Filipinos, there might be some challenges in the process due to the differing core ideas of the said narratives. Pilipinolohiya, although it studies the Filipino way of life with culture and psychology, it is still open to western theories and concepts as long as they are appropriate to fit the Filipino context. This poses a big difference with understanding Pantayong Pananaw because this narrative pushes to reject any ‘outsider’ ideas. The power of pantayo involves a discourse among Filipinos without including any outside participants’ perspectives. Given these, even if both narratives are pushing for the prevalence of a resurfaced Filipino identity, it’s going to be really difficult given that both exhibit different dispositions when it comes to ‘outside’ contributions.

Although the narrative for indigenization are not completely perfect, they are great contributions by theorists in order to highlight the Filipino’s true history, identity, and culture. Their ideas through these narratives establish some sort of frameworks that people from outside the country could comprehend and utilize in order to further understand the Filipino mind and social phenomenon in the Philippine context. As members of the academe, by fully understanding them, together with their flaws, we can continue to contribute to the ideas brought about by these narratives. To understand these narratives and to contribute to their improvement in the future exhibits our inclusion in the rigorous process, or should one say ‘battle’, in fighting for the value of the Filipino identity.

Critical Commentary II: Post-Colonial Theories

There is, indeed, no doubt that the identity of colonizers are deeply embedded within those countries under them. Colonization has pushed these countries to naturally lose their own identity in the process of capturing the ‘other’ identity as their own. With colonialism, various nations have established control over others in various areas such as religion, politics, economics, and other social aspects. This control does not only create a new identity for the overpowered countries, but it also molds the context of their inferiority as compared to their colonizers. Colonialism has, somewhat, brought the domination of others through inferiority contexts. Given that, now in the phase of post-colonialism, there have been a lot of instances of resisting whether in social, political, or economical manners. However, it is not enough to simply resist what a country can consider as ‘another’. Simple actions representing ‘the weapons of the weak’ is not significant enough to recognize and bring back a country’s true identity. This goes to show the importance of taking into account the insights brought by post-colonial theorists. These post-colonial theorists emphasize that it is important to actually be aware of what new character was instilled in the country in order to properly decolonize one’s nation, and this involves reviewing identity, representation, and history.

As discussed, decolonization does not simply involve the act of ‘resisting’. Decolonization (as stated in the second phase) involves recovering a nation’s pre-colonial identity. And from that project of recovery, the construction of a post-colonial identity is most best to follow. Frantz Fanon’s take on the decolonization process is significant in a sense that it tackled the significance of the academe’s awareness of the ideologies and beliefs being introduced to them are all brought by the colonizers. Fanon emphasizes that this is important because this will prevent future influential individuals from further reproducing the colonizers’ identity in the process of building the post-colonial identity. I believe that Fanon’s take on the matter emphasizes the value of knowing what is truly ours. He didn’t push for simple resistance. He made sense of the reality that one must take note of what’s being instilled upon them, but to recognize that as an ‘other’. Though I believe that a probably issue and struggle that could be pulled from Fanon’s take is that there could be difficulty in actually pinpointing aspects in our culture which is not truly ours. Through the countless years of practice, some norms and beliefs have developed to be natural and they might not be pinpointed as an other. Thus, it will carry on to the rebuilding process in the post-colonial phase.

Furthermore, in battling the prevalence of a colonizer’s identity in a nation and effectively advocating decolonization, it is also a must to recognize Edward Said’s concept on Orientalism. Basically, Orient is referred to as the representation of the West’s opposite. In a way, the concept of Orientalism deems the character of the Middle-East to be negative. With this, Said explains that these representations are necessary in order to reimpose the thought that western values and beliefs are essential to counter these so-called ‘negative’ characteristics. Now, it is important to take note of Said’s insights because colonies must not be blinded of the representations brought about by Orientalism. By understanding Orientalism, colonies are able to prevent the tendency of giving into accepting western culture in order to cure one’s nation from ‘negative’ traits. In fact, these negative traits are simple perceived through the lens of the west which means that the representation can be considered bias, and to an extent, untrue.

These post-colonial theorists have truly provided significant knowledge and insights that would aid colonies in the process of decolonization. Their ideas do not influence different nations to resists. But rather, their key concepts and notions allows countries to better understand certain situations in the post-colonial scene. By better understanding these phenomena, the decolonization process will be more effective because the people are aware of the reality that there is an identity which they must not include in their rebuilding process in post-colonialism. Furthermore, they are also informed of how western culture is trying to reimpose its domination by highlighting negative details from Middle-Eastern countries. Undergoing decolonization and successfully gaining back a nation’s ‘self-identity’ is really not a simple matter of resistance and independence. The proper analysis of various post-colonial theories shows us that understanding colonialism itself is essential to free nations from it.

Critical Commentary I: Western Critical Theories

In today’s world, countless western theories may be utilized in order to observe and analyze social phenomena. In addition, the knowledge brought about by various theorists also allow an individual to use their insights to make sense of personal experiences within the daily faced scenarios. To effectively understand these western theories, it is essential to retrace its roots from Karl Marx’s focus on contradicting capitalism. One of Marx significant points to argue for the potentiality of a social revolution is that workers would be ‘class conscious’. Despite this argumentative thought, however, the system of capitalism was able to continue in a way that would manage the social crises. As discussed, capitalism’s advancement has pushed workers to simply accept it. Moreover, it has manipulated the minds of the people influencing them to an ideology which would make them accept that radical change cannot be achieved. The different theories which emerged from these events provides the world with ideas and insights that can be used as universal concepts and frameworks in order to understand certain societal events.

Majority of the theories centered on the concept of “domination”. The different theorists exhibited knowledge on the aforementioned concept allowing an individual to view and comprehend its existence in society in different ways. For one, Gramsci and Lukacs highlighted the idea on ‘hegemony’ which explained gaining that consent from the oppressed is acquired through the deployment of ideology. To simply put it, one would be able to get another to surrender or follow by influencing his/her system of beliefs. In the context of capitalism, as cited by Lukacs, this was achieved through reification which meant eliminating social relations and ideas. Hence, creating some sort of stagnant phase within the workers. This idea of hegemony does not necessarily exist in just the labor market. It can be drawn up from any social relation that would involve power struggles. Understanding the ideas of Gramsci and Lukacs allows one to make sense of how institutions such as universities, organizations, media groups, and the like change the way people think in order to get them to, without further resistance, follow and throw in support. This thought immediately extends and connects to the ideas on culture commodification. Culture commodification involves entertainment and mass media as institutions which influence and manipulate the consciousness of the people. Naturally, this makes a lot of sense in modern society given that the way people who are exposed to a certain media focus would exhibit similarities in the way they express (dress, speak, etc). These theories don’t just allow us to understand a portion or circumstance in capitalism. It allows us to further understand the prevalence of domination in this world that can literally be brought to us by anyone or anything that would trigger our belief system.

Previously, the concept of domination has already been understood through ideological change brought about by culture commodification. Aside from this though, the social analysis on what ideological change and culture can achieve must also be perceived in the importance of narratives in society. As Lyotard explains, culture is the dynamic totality of narratives that circulate in a society and among its members. Basically, narratives are important to understand culture. And by understanding culture, one can properly analyze, and even influence, the social phenomena. In fact, as discussed in Political Theory sessions, a narrative approach to social and political theory emphasizes historicity and the cultural context of human beliefs and values. By primarily understanding the history and culture of a group of individuals, it actually allows one to properly approach the way to connect and influence them. Personally, I would agree to the essence and value of narratives because it emphasizes the importance of knowing and understanding background. An individual does not simply approach a certain person or situation without prior knowledge. As much as possible, there are already thoughts circulating the mind of an individual which allows him to select the very decision he/she will make. Understanding the history of a person places one in a better position to approach him/her. And so if there is an intention to dominate and/or execute power over another, understanding and knowing his/her background is something that must not be given prior value.

Although there are countless theories which provide a framework for domination, there are also theories which fight against oppression and marginalization. The discussions on feminism is one example which brought ideas that intend to liberate any form of discrimination. In the context of feminism, however, it is much more emphasized for sexuality issues. Nevertheless, it must be be realized by all that if gender issues could be perceived differently (and thus, liberating and empowering women), other issues and forms of discrimination can also be perceived through a different lens and understood from a different disposition. For instance, there were two ways in which women are perceived in the context of sexual intercourse. They are either dominated given that the action of sexual intercourse highly revolves around the idea of penetration where men are deemed to be in command. However, taking a different view, women should be empowered because men would be nothing without them. In fact, it is women whoa are capable of becoming pregnant, producing life. With these ideas, I believe the insights brought about by feminism brought more than just an opportunity to liberate and empower women. I believe feminism also emphasized the importance of perceiving things from different point of views. Feminism exhibited the value and essence of being able to witness power in various ways so as to understand the strength of power coming from different areas and individuals in society.

The Queer Theory and Women Empowerment

Just from the top of one’s head, a person would easily agree that people of today can be divided by men and women. However, after today’s session in Political Theory, it seems to be that gender identification in society is not a simple as what rest room signs/symbols exhibit. People have always pinned down necessary traits which men and women must respectively possess. Personally, I have developed this notion that women are, though not literally all, are generally calm and gentle. On the other hand, men would express strong personalities with some sort of aggressiveness. Despite all of these, what the Queer Theory suggests must actually be understood and acknowledged because gender-roles in society may not also include certain traits that come with it. Gender classification may simply be a difference in the human body structure but the rest could all be, as Queer Theorists put it, inherently fluid. For instance, there has been this idea that women could be more emotional than men. And so with this idea in mind, the so-called ‘straightness’ of a person is questioned with regard to his/her emotional behavior. But, one should always take note that a man who is aggressive and fierce in different aspects in life could also possess a deep and soft side. This possibility goes to show that there is, indeed, no fixed structure or concept of what it is to-be-man or to-be-woman.

Moving on from the Queer Theory, the discussion also excellently tackles women empowerment. The idea brought about my Post-Feminism is how the perspective on women should be changed in order to see their true strength as individuals in today’s society. Specifically, this is cited by the Do-Me-Feminism as they explain sexual intercourse to be a way of empowering women. For a long time, people have always held on to the thought that it is the man who is dominant in sex just because the concept of penetration favors them. People have often forgotten that despite that idea, without women, pleasure would not be governed. As one would come to think of it, women hold as much power as men in the process of sexual intercourse. Furthermore, extending this thought to the creation of life, men would be nothing without a woman who would carry the child. Indeed, the ideas brought about by Post-Feminism are remarkable because it no longer tries to fight or debate about why women are strong; it shows how women are truly strong and significant in our society. The insights of Post-Feminism simply diverts the human race into a better position in order to have a better perspective on witnessing that greatness within women.


The Dark Knight: Challenging Mainstream Ideas

Last June 9, 2016, a portion of our class discussion which was truly remarkable was how different forms of art, literature or media could be utilized in society to challenge, defy, and even debunk existing thoughts and ideas regarding various matters; personas, situations, issues, and the like.

As the discussion went on, various forms of art and media rushed through my mind allowing me to relate the context of the lesson to these masterpieces I’ve encountered in the past. One very good example which crossed my thoughts was how the creator of DC Comic’s Batman was able to defy different mainstream ideas and notions in the process of developing the story of the masked vigilante.

Batman, also known as “The Dark Knight”, is a fictional character from a superhero comic book created by artist Bob Kane and was later on developed by writer Bill Finger. Bruce Wayne, Batman’s true identity, is an eccentric billionaire who also happens to be an orphan. Just from that background, the character of Batman defies the idea that orphans are usually individuals who end up no where in life. As seen here, Bruce Wayne ends up as a billionaire. In addition, he does not end up as just the billionaire who dates models, eats in fancy restaurants, drives sports cars, and lives in a mansion. The eccentric billionaire appears at night to answer the city’s cry for help in the appearance of a bat by wearing a black armored suit equipped with a cape and a cowl. From these facts from the story of the dark knight, one can analyze and understand how usual thoughts and ideas were defied by this character’s persona. In fact, vigilantes are even perceived to be criminals who must never be exempted from the law. However, Batman’s success which is achieved by his unconventional ways of protecting his city somehow creates a new thought that there could be or should be exemptions during certain matters. At times, it would even seem like the State and its officials are the ones hindering superheroes from truly achieving their goals. 

The story of this silent guardian is just one example of the many works all over the globe that could be utilized to elude or challenge existing thoughts on certain phenomena. As a critical thinker, individuals must be encouraged to go beyond just appreciating these forms of art and to also dig deep into the ideas being conveyed. That way, this could allow new ideas to flourish and develop in society that could serve as potential ways in better understanding and making sense of realities in society.

The Concept of Enlightenment

Last June 7, 2016, our professor’s session on Political Theory tackled the contributions of the Frankfurt School in today’s world. During the discussion, it was emphasized that, in order to understand and fully get to know the Frankfurt School, one must be aware of the critical theory. The critical theory is a form of critique in society that would pave the process of setting one free from legal, social, and political restrictions. According to the aforementioned theory, this is something that can be achieved through the enlightenment of an individual. To simply put it, with greater knowledge and understanding, an individual would have a greater chance of detaching himself/herself from holding on to beliefs or norms that are imposed by influential institutions. At this point of the discussion, I would say that I completely agree with what the critical theory entails to explain and make sense of. In society, there is always a tendency for individuals to succumb to certain understandings on how the world works simply because of mainstream sets of beliefs which appear to serve as permanent explanation to things. In order to free one’s self from this particular phenomenon, there is no better way of doing so but being enlightened.

On another note, it must also be pondered upon that achieving enlightenment comes a long way and this would entail, of course, truly understanding how the world is. And this is where the clear issue of approaching natural and social sciences is. During our discussion, the best example utilized was the situation of a female being raped. If this case is approached in the way natural sciences are, then it would simply involve observing what is happening; the appearance of the male, the reactions of the woman, the duration of the event, and the like. This particular approach doesn’t necessarily take into account questions on why the event occurred, how should it be stopped, what pushes the male race to do such acts, and the like. Clearly, natural sciences limits the way people can understand how things work in the real world. Although, to an extent, there are certain phenomena which they can make sense out of, that capacity only reaches a certain extent. Understanding the social aspect of the universe must definitely board a different approach in which individual minds would be able to analyze, critique, and understand rather than just observe and take notes.

Analyzing and Understanding Personal Politics

With the various issues surrounding the Philippine society today, a Filipino citizen who engages himself/herself into the process of analyzing will definitely allow him/her to better recognize his/her personal politics. By gaining knowledge on different issues and, eventually, leaning toward a particular side also gives an individual the capacity to understand and be more conscious of his/her political ideology. With countless pressing issues on public policy, each and every citizen, now, has the opportunity to voice out his/her insights as dictated by their own political ideology. Nevertheless, personally, I would consider myself as one of the citizens who are not completely aware of their political ideology, whether conservative or liberal. This reality for me, and possibly other citizens as well, is very much understandable given that a person is not always pure rightist or leftist. A person may fall somewhere in between the spectrum of the two aforementioned sides.

I deemed myself as an individual who is not fully aware of his political ideology given that my choice of side and insights always vary depending on an issue. To put it simply, at times, I would lean more to the liberal choice on a particular issue, and possibly support the more conservative choice in another. For instance, when discussing the issue regarding same-sex marriage, I would be part of the individuals supporting its legalization. Personally, I do believe that the state must recognize the rights of all united couples, regardless of whether they are of the same sex or not. With the current recognition of heterosexual couples as the only ones qualified for marriage benefits promotes exclusivity and inequality. Thus, I believe that the legalization of same-sex marriage and the recognition of their rights as couples must be pushed in the Philippine society. On the other hand, when placed with the issue pertaining to child abortion, I would, now, lean on to a more conservative answer given that my personal take on the matter is to not allow it. The primary commandments in the Bible are clear that killing is a mortal sin. Thus, the termination of an innocent child’s life violates that commandment of the Lord. Life, itself, is a holy gift from God, and therefore, it cannot be something abused and taken merely as a policy of whether it can be aborted or not. Clearly, my insights reveal resistance to changing the traditional beliefs brought about by the Catholic religion. Given these two pressing issues as an example, it shows how I can fall between various areas in the spectrum of political ideology.

In the broad realm of a political society, one particular marginalized group that elicits my sympathy would be, for one, the members of the LGBT community. Although I am not an individual who perceives or treat them differently, I am still aware of the reality that the rest of the world is probably cruel to them. Primarily, a lot of individuals already see them differently by the mere idea that they live in contrast to their biological sexuality. People in society have a tendency to pin down certain ideas and actions to a specific gender. Thus, when an individual goes against these norms or usual flow in society, they are immediately noticed, and to an extent, judged. Furthermore, with their being of either gay or lesbian, a lot of society’s members tend to correlate this event with their personal capacities. As one may already notice, the reasoning of individuals who are completely homosexuals is flawed because they fail to recognize that these members of the LGBT community are humans too. Hence, they were never even supposed to be treated differently in the first place.

The second group which elicits my sympathy would be the ethnic minorities that could be found in different areas of the country. Many of these ethnic minorities are hindered from fully participating in state activities because they have been left out. These ethnic minorities continue their traditional and cultural ways while majority of the countries parts are continuously being influenced by the advancements from all over the globe. This circumstance causes them to be detached from being fully active together with the rest of the Filipino nation. With this, they are perceived differently by many as their cultural ways appear to be unusual to others. Other ethnic minorities are also victims of their location which also contributes to their detachment from society. Despite these circumstances, the Filipino nation must never forget that these ethnic minorities are equally part of the country we live in.

Furthermore, personal politics also considers the concept of power. This would mean that one should be conscious of those exercising power over them, as well as those individuals whom one exercises power on. Personally, I can only identify a few individuals who are exercising power over me. The first one would be my mother. She is the person who provides almost everything for me. She is also the very reason why I am able to enjoy countless privileges, one being my very education in one of the most prestigious universities in the whole country. Given that she is the one that provides for the whole family, she has the decision on giving us permission to use the different products, utilities, and the like that she pays for. Now, if she decides to prohibit me from certain privileges, it will be a big loss for me because I am not yet fully capable from supporting myself. This will cause my inability to execute certain actions because I will be left with no choice in that case. The context of her exercise of power over me may differ in the upcoming years as I complete my studies and, eventually, begin supporting myself and living independently.

Another set of individuals whom I believe exercises power over me would by my professors in the university. This set of individuals will be the ones responsible in aiding the students in accomplish every academic course. Thus, each student must follow their every demand of requirements in order to successfully complete a subject/course. Given that a student wants to pass the course, he/she cannot simply act in whatever way he/she thinks of. With the intent to complete the course, his/her actions will highly be influenced by the professors. Moreover, these professors are the ones who hold knowledge over the different subjects that must be taken by students. This idea gives them that power over the students because without them, attaining knowledge from the course will be impossible.

On the other hand, there are also those individuals whom a person can exercise power over. In this case, I would point out our household helpers as the clear examples. These people are, basically, hired to conduct their services for the benefit of the family in exchange for salary. That salary which they earn allows them to provide for their essentials. Given that I am the son of the person who provides for their salaries, I have the privilege of acquiring of their services. The usual household requests (that could come from me) is something which they will surely perform. Given that it is part of the conditions in order for them to be employed, it is something that they will not resist from because it is mainly part of their daily duties and responsibilities. The capacity of our family to employ and provide for their daily essentials clearly explains the exercise of power over them which they will not resist.