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Wednesday, 10 December 2008

The Clash: Marquis De Sade and Bram Stoker

The Marquis De Sade’s Philosophy in the Bedroom and Bram Stoker’s Dracula both chronicle battles in the war between Christianity and Neo-paganism, but each one takes an opposite side. While Sade’s dialogue proposes that the pleasure of the individual is of paramount importance, Stoker’s novel advocates love and faith as the greatest of life’s virtues. Both men use allegory and moral satire to assault one another’s ideologies and convert readers to their worldview. In Philosophy, Sade’s spokesman, Dolmance, is the romantic hero whose ultimate triumph comes at the end when he recruits Eugenie and destroys the hypocrite Christian, Madame De Mistival. In Dracula, the Sade-like character is the vampire count himself, who is exorcised from the earthly realm by Christian heroes after failing to seduce the virtuous Mina.

In the final years of the nineteenth century, Bram Stoker found himself faced with a society that was in the process of abandoning the traditional values of faith and chastity and replacing them with values akin to Sade’s – existentialism and the cult of individualism. Though many modern critics believe that the values of Victorian England were oppressive to a fault, Stoker feared that their disappearance would cause society to degenerate to the level of chaos and cruelty previewed in the literature of the Divine Marquis. While a mere Gothic romance on the surface, Stoker’s novel Dracula is actually a searing social critique of the relaxation of sexual mores.

Stoker attacks the values of Sadism by going right to the source. His title character, Dracula, is the ultimate Sadist. Often compared to Vlad the Impaler, Dracula is just as much a reflection of Dolmance, the hero of Sade’s Philosophy in the Bedroom. Just as Virgil uses Aeneas to condemn Odysseus, Stoker uses Dracula to condemn Sade. Of course, before one can understand the satire fully, one must understand what it was in Sade’s Philosophy that Stoker was mocking.

Sade begins his Philosophy by calling upon all libertines to place themselves first – above the demands of family, society, and God: “It is only by sacrificing everything to the senses’ pleasure that this individual, who never asked to be cast onto this universe of woe, that this poor creature who goes under the name of Man, may be able to sow a smattering of roses atop the thorny path of life” (Sade 185).

Sade continues in this vein throughout the entire work, advocating self-fulfillment even at the expense of others. Unlike many modern existentialists, he carries his views to their logical end, advocating a society where morality is the only crime and where only the strong survive. Still, the basics of the doctrine appeal to the existential pain of all humanity by espousing romantic notions of freedom and self-empowerment. Consequently, much of Sade’s reasoning regarding religion and sexuality gained a measure of popular acceptance over time. This bothered Stoker, because he felt that accepting the attractive elements of Sade’s philosophy was not possible without being forced to embrace the ugly as well.

Rejecting the fundamental egoism of Sade’s philosophy, Stoker takes the opposite moral position in Dracula. His heroes are the very models of Christian goodness; they feel love for one another, they do not give in to their animal passions, and they subordinate their desires to their responsibilities in the name of God and social order. Vampirism, on the other hand, “is only an extreme version of the evil of the body against which Christians have been told to fight for almost 2,000 years,” (Weissman 74).

Throughout Dracula, Stoker sets up a series of parallels between his novel and Sade’s dialogue. The corruption of Eugenie is retold from a Christian perspective in the seduction of Lucy. Though the seduction is seen as a positive thing in Sade, it is an abomination in Dracula. The philosophy of infanticide extolled by Dolmance in Sade is vilified in Stoker. Also, Stoker refuses to see sexual wantonness as a form of liberation. Instead, he sees it as a prison, and portrays it as such.

The most obvious parallel between the two works is the one between Dracula and Dolmance. The only noticeable difference between the two noblemen is that Dracula is literally what Dolmance humorously claimed to be – one of Satan’s foot soldiers. Otherwise, the similarities are uncanny. Dracula and Dolmance are both pale aristocrats with aquiline noses, pure white teeth, and cruel features (Sade 192), (Stoker 26-27).

They are as alike in philosophy as they are in demeanor. As selfish as Dolmance, Dracula fled from his command during combat and allowed his army to be slaughtered at the hands of the Turks. The act was cowardly, irresponsible, and criminal, but Dolmance would have approved of it for it kept Dracula alive. The suffering and deaths of hundreds of others is irrelevant.

Had he met Dracula, Dolmance would surely have been envious of Dracula’s animalistic nature. Time and again in Sade’s Philosophy, Dolmance criticizes humans for trying to strip themselves of the cruel, animal side of their existence. He uses nature to debunk the ideals of love and family that Christians claimed to hold. “Familial love is allusory,” says Dolmance. “Do animals know these things? No surely not” (Sade 353).

While renowned Dracula critic Leonard Wolf did not believe Stoker was writing a formal treatise against Darwinism, he did point out that the character Dracula is “really a kind of Darwinian superman; he’s an animal. Stoker probably was disturbed on some level by the Darwinian scientific currents of the time…. I think Stoker’s Dracula is very hung up on science” (Wolf 28)

The two sadists agree that animals are higher forms of life, only Dracula can participate in it more fully than Dolmance. To the vampire, the howling of the wolves is akin to the music of the spheres. “Listen to them, the children of the night. What music they make.” Dracula can not only understand the languages of animals, but also communicate with them and order them as a commander would an army. In addition, the Count has the ability to transform himself into the “baser animals” including rats, owls, bats, moths, foxes, and wolves. In fact, his connection to the animal world is so close that it is unclear if he is man or animal. When Mina catches a glimpse of him at a distance in the moonlight, she can not tell if he is man or beast (Stoker 78). At another point, Jonathan Harker, observes Dracula crawling headfirst down the castle wall, moving “just as a lizard moves along a wall” (Stoker 38).

To the sadist, the dark side of nature – death, fornication, and pitiless aggression – is beautiful and the bright side of nature – childbirth, kinship, the forming of communities – is disgusting. Neither Sade nor Dracula approves of motherhood. Both saw the essence of motherhood as loathsome and unnatural.

Critic Phyllis A. Roth recognized this antagonism towards the mother figure and was repelled by it as one of the many examples of the book’s alleged misogyny. She said, “In accepting the notion of identification with the aggressor in Dracula, as I believe we must, what we accept is the reader’s identification with the aggressor’s victimization of women. Dracula’s desire is for the destruction of Lucy and Mina and what this means is obvious when we recall that his attacks on the two closest of friends seem incredibly coincidental on the narrative level. Only on the deeper level is there no coincidence at all: the level on which one recognizes that Lucy and Mina are essentially the same figure: the mother” (Roth 62).

The anti-mother attitude makes sense as both Dracula and Sade walk in darkness and despair. The very act of a woman giving birth is an unselfish act of hope that adds another human to civilization. The sadist’s only consolation in the face of such tragedy is to target the newborn as either fodder or as a potential initiate, and the only way to get to the children is through their protective mothers.

This is the real motivation behind Sade’s attack on motherhood in Philosophy in the Bedroom. His reasoning that women are biologically superfluous to the process of reproduction is absurd, but one that must be made to justify his dismissal of them (Sade 206). As scatterbrained as some of his leaps of logic often are, there is a thematic unity to his ranting that holds up better once his prejudices against the forces of the establishment at least appear to be grounded in sound reasoning.

Naturally, the Virgin Mary is the most hated figure of all in Sade’s bedroom. She is a mother and a Virgin and a symbol of the morally oppressive Catholic Church. Sade rightly identifies her as a threat to all he holds dear and refers to her as “the repellent and shameless Mary” (Sade 299).

Dracula, too, hates Mary, and every other woman who ever looked to her example either as a virgin or a mother. As protection against Dracula, the Protestant Jonathan Harker is asked to carry a rosary – the Catholic symbol of the Virgin Mary. The Romanian who gives him the rosary says “Wear this for your mother’s sake” and it later proves to be effective protection against Dracula. It is yet another example in Stoker’s masterpiece of the symbol of the mother figure – or of her ideal, the Virgin Mary – pitting herself against vampirism and winning.

Vampire and philosopher alike take pride in the slaughter of children. According to Madame De Saint-Ange, “a pretty girl should concern herself with fucking, never engendering” (Sade 201). She adds, “dread not infanticide. The crime is imaginary” (Sade 249). Dolmance agrees, claiming that it is “charming” to cheat propagation of its rights and “to contradict what fools call the laws of Nature” (Sade 229). To the sadist, there is no moral difference between killing a child before or after birth since humans can destroy whatever they create.

Though readers of Philosophy never get to see infanticide practiced by its proponents, readers of Dracula are shown sadists in action kidnapping and killing small children. It is Stoker’s way of making one think twice before converting to Dolmance’s worldview. Early in the novel, Dracula feeds a baby to his three brides at his castle (Stoker 43). Later on, Lucy Westenra, his new convert from the world of Christianity, begins her career as a vampire by drinking the blood of little boys. In a scene reminiscent to the climax of Sade’s dialogue, the baby’s mother comes to the castle to try to rescue her baby from the count’s clutches, only to be torn apart by a pack of wolves under his command (Stoker 48). Before she dies, she yells to Dracula, “Monster! Give me my child!” just as De Mistival warned Eugenie, “You are amid monsters here!” (Sade 355)

Dolmance claims that all men have the right to rape (Sade 318), and Dracula does just that whenever he feeds on a woman’s blood because vampire attacks are violent and sexual violations of the victim. But the vampire attack is more than that. It is the ultimate blasphemy – an inversion of Communion. While Christians in a state of grace move closer to God while drinking Christ’s body and blood, the vampire rapes and corrupts his victims, infusing them with sadistic desires and turning Communion into cannibalism. When it comes to blasphemy, vampires are artists, making Dolmance’s misuse of the Lord’s name look like child’s play.

As Madame De Saint-Ange speaks aloud her plans to initiate Eugenie into a life of sadism, her words sound no different than those a vampire would use before creating another of its kind. She speaks of “immoralities’ poison, circulating in this young spirit together with the venom I shall inject, will in the shortest possible time wither and still all the seeds of virtue that, but for us, might germinate there” (Sade 191).

According to Leonard Wolf, readers often do not pity the victims of vampire attacks because those victims no longer exist as individual humans but as “the living pieces of the Host”. He describes the attacks as a form of “`spiritual pornography,’ where we get these horrible things happening that thrill us in the foreground, where it’s merely a blood exchange, but they thrill us profoundly in our spiritual center when what we see is that it’s a corruption of the soul, an exchange of disasters that are deeply rooted in our relationships not just to family but in our relationship to God” (Wolf 26).

While Wolf made these statements in connection to Anne Rice’s vampire novels, readers may react in just as primal a manner when reading Dracula, though Stoker would not have wanted his audience to side with the vampires, only to understand what makes the creatures so attractive to their victims.

Interested not only in the symbolic meaning of the vampire attack but the literary tradition from which it sprang, critic Carrol L. Fry rightfully claims that Lucy’s fall from grace mirrors the fall of virtuous women of popular fiction from Richardson to Hardy:

“In dozens of novels of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, this pure woman is pursued by a ‘rake,’ a seducer who has designs on her virtue. The melodrama is based on the reader’s suspense regarding whether or not he will succeed. Those women who have lost their virtue become ‘fallen women,’ outcasts doomed to death or secluded repentence. In Dracula, there are two ‘pure women,’ Lucy Westenra and Mina Harker, the former of whom actually does ‘fall.’ The role of ‘rake’ is played by Count Dracula, and vampirism becomes surrogate sexual intercourse. The women who receive the vampire’s bite become ‘fallen women’” (Fry 35).

Although such spiritual poisoning is figurative in Eugenie’s case, it takes place literally in Lucy Westenra’s as she is corrupted by venom injected into her by Dracula.

Before she met Dracula, Lucy was a kindly innocent. She was so beautiful that she received three proposals of marriage in one day. She had a kind heart, so she felt sorry for the men she had to turn down – you see, they were all three gentlemanly and handsome. Mourning for the spurned, Lucy wrote to Mina: “Why can’t they let a girl marry three men, or as many as want her, and save all this trouble? But this is heresy, and I must not say it” (Stoker 57).

Lucy’s problem was that she could see only the moral code and not the reason for it. Had she examined what marriage was in its ideal form she would have realized that no more than two people could be joined as Lawrentian soul mates. Any more than two and it is no longer marriage but prostitution.

The same suggestion of one woman pleasing many men is also made in Philosophy, but with the romantic veneer stripped away to reveal the true ugliness underneath: “Are not the services a young girl renders in consenting to produce the happiness of all who apply to her infinitely more important than those which, isolating herself, she performs for her husband? Woman’s destiny is to be wanton, like the bitch, the she-wolf; she must belong to all who claim her” (Sade 219).

Lucy’s love of the three men is part of the lure that drags her into the world of sadism. She is gradually corrupted by Dracula and becomes the very she-wolf that Sade was talking about. The following passage is told from the perspective of Dr. Seward, one of Lucy’s former suitors, who confronts her as she is about to feed on the blood of a small child:

“When Lucy – I call the thing that was before us Lucy because it bore her shape – saw us, she drew back with an angry snarl, such as a cat gives when taken unawares; then her eyes ranged over us. Lucy’s eyes in form and color; but Lucy’s eyes unclean and full of hell-fire, instead of the pure, gentle orbs we knew … [They] blazed with unholy light, and [her] face became wreathed with a voluptuous smile. Oh, God, how it made me shudder to see it! With a careless motion, she flung to the ground, callous as a devil, the child that up to now she had clutched strenuously to her breast, growling over it as a dog growls over a bone” (Stoker 157-158).

It is plain to see how Sade’s supposedly elevating philosophy has literally dragged the virtuous Lucy down to an ugly, animalistic level. She is compared twice to enraged animals – a snarling cat and a growling dog. Fallen far from God, she is an “unholy” “thing,” much like “a devil.” More sexually free than before, she is repeatedly called “wanton” throughout the book and the word “voluptuous” is attached as firmly to her as it is to the other female vampires. She is also called “cold-blooded” and “callous” and she, like the other vampires, has virtually no love in her.

As sexy as the women vampires are, Stoker drives home time and again the point that they are whores who feel lost without true love. For Sade, love is a curse, but Stoker makes a valiant effort to prove how horrible a fate it is for a woman to have her purity and compassion stripped from her. In Dracula, it is a true tragedy that vampires confuse hate with love (Stoker 41, 43, 49 and 125).

As stated before, Saint-Ange believed firmly in the potency of the vampire venom, guaranteeing victims to be “straightaway damned” (Sade 191). This is not entirely true in Dracula, as Mina is injected with the venom, tastes the pleasures of the dark side and rejects them. In fact, at the very end of the book, Mina chooses motherhood and a faithful marriage to Jonathan over the licentious, hateful life Dracula had offered her. In this manner, Mina is the exact opposite of Eugenie. While Mina would rather die than convert to Dracula’s unholy religion, Eugenie would “sooner suffer death than perform a good act!” (Sade 217).

The hero of Dracula, Professor Van Helsing, is both a scientist and a Christian, demonstrating Stoker’s belief that science and religion should work together. Van Helsing, unlike his contemporary scientists, equates faith with open-mindedness (Stoker 173) and criticizes science for wanting “to explain all; and if explain it not, then [say] there is nothing to explain” (Stoker 143).

At the point in the novel when the forces of good reach their time of greatest trial, Van Helsing advises his comrades to emulate Mina’s courage and fortitude: “She is one of God’s women, fashioned by His own hand to show us men and other women that there is a heaven we can enter, and that its light can be here on earth. So true, so sweet, so noble, so little an egoist – and that, let me tell you, is much in this age, so skeptical and selfish” (Stoker 142).

Stoker saw the foundations of the Catholic Church cracking under the strain of attacks from Darwinists and political revolutionaries, and launched an appropriate counter-attack, for one of the worst tragedies in the book happens before the ruins of a church (Stoker 78). One of the most poignant symbols in the book, the ruined church suggests that Lucy could have been saved from destruction had the church and all it stood for remained intact.

Even though vampirism fills Stoker’s heroes with revulsion, they constantly fight against the temptation to give in to hatred. Mina and Van Helsing both know that self-righteousness is the quickest path to becoming exactly as cruel as the creatures they hunted, so they constantly urged their hot-blooded male companions to “strike in God’s name” against the vampires (Stoker 160). In the end, their virtuous generosity is paid off, as they are able to liberate the vampires’ tortured souls. All the vampire women, and even Dracula himself, are liberated from their sadistic lives and sent to the forgiving arms of God in Heaven (Stoker 260).

Dolmance and Eugenie are not as kind to Madame De Mistival as Mina and Van Helsing are to Dracula. No one would argue that Madame De Mistival finds any form of salvation in being stitched together and given syphilis so that she could have no more children (Sade 363). While Dracula is released from his cursed existence, Madame De Mistival is made a prisoner of her own body.

Sade, who believes that no human being is capable of being divinely good, ferociously mocks this kind of piety. This is why he portrays Madame De Mistival as a hypocrite and a fool – she stands by her Christian beliefs while she herself is incapable of living up to the standards of behavior she has set for the world to follow. Her very presence is a disruption to the sanctuary that the bedroom provides. To restore Dolmance’s proper sadistic control to the bedchamber, she had to be destroyed.

While all vampires – both human, like Dolmance, and supernatural, like Dracula – use pleasure to corrupt the innocent, what they fear most is to be corrupted themselves. Love is the one thing that can truly destroy a vampire. Dolmance says as much himself, referring to love as a disease that can destroy. “Ties of love, may you never know them. Fuck. Divert yourselves, that’s the essential thing – be quick to fly from love” (Sade 285).

The same principle holds true in Dracula. When love takes hold of Renfield, he gives up on his own dreams of immortality and selflessly tries to protect Mina from Dracula. Once Renfield makes this conversion, Dracula has no choice but to kill him. The love that unites the ranks of Christians divides and conquers sadists.

While Dracula’s women serve as little more than whores, they too find themselves starved for true affection. “You yourself never loved; you never love!” the blonde vampire cried defiantly to Dracula, to which he replied, in a soft whisper: -- `Yes, I too can love; you yourselves can tell it from the past’’’ (Stoker 43). As Dracula admits this, he casts his eyes on Jonathan Harker, suggesting an attraction for the young lawyer. As if to defeat his own feelings of affection, he promises Harker to the women, eager to kill what he loves to wipe the scourge of affection from his mind. If Madame De Mistival is ultimately a sham in Sade’s eyes, than surely the sadists/vampires are just as phony to Stoker, for they sometimes feel the effects of the very love they deny exists.

Sade was so convinced of the persuasiveness of his attack on morality that he advocated its use as a handbook for the young. Dracula could be just as effective as such a handbook, because its defense of conventional morality is just as poignant as its attack on sadism. It is ironic that, throughout the 20th century at least, conservative parents have objected to horror stories on moral grounds, not realizing that virtually all such tales bear positive Christian messages. Only since the 1970s with the sexual revolution and Anne Rice have the nature of vampire stories changed, depicting sadists as romantic heroes.

And yet, even today, many vampires are still portrayed in movies and on television as Bram Stoker intended – as dangerous and animalistic satires of the Marquis De Sade himself.



Sources:

de Sade, Marquis Donatien-Alphonse-Francois. Justine, Philosophy in the
Bedroom, and Other
Writings
. New York: Grove Press, 1990. 177-371.


Fry, Carrol L. “Fictional Conventions and Sexuality in Dracula.” Dracula:
The Vampire and the Critics, Ed. Margaret L. Carter. Michigan: UMI Research Press, 1988. 35-38.


Roth, Phyllis A. “Suddenly Sexual Women in Bram Stoker’s Dracula.”
Dracula: The Vampire and the
Critics
, Ed. Margaret L. Carter. Michigan: UMI Research Press, 1988. 57-69.


Stoker, Bram. Dracula: Illustrated by Greg Hildebrandt. New Jersey: The Unicorn Publishing
house,
1985.

Weissman, Judith. “Women and Vampires: Dracula as a Victorian Novel.”
Dracula: The Vampire
and the Critics
, Ed. Margaret L. Carter. Michigan: UMI Research Press, 1988. 69-78.


Wolf, Leonard, and David J. Skal. “Beyond Dracula: New Age Evil.’’ Imagi-Movies Winter 1994:

24-30, 35-36, 40-41, 61.

Thursday, 4 December 2008

Tatlong Retorika ng Pagkamakata

I. ‘Pagka’t May Dalang Halihaw ang Tula

Hindi humihingi ng paumanhin ang panulaan.

Hindi nagpapasintabi, manapa’y nag-aalay.

Di lamang ng kulay,

lumilikha ito ng buhay

na karanasan ng masa sa entabladong lupa,

‘pagka’t may dalang halihaw ang tula.

Di lamang kiliti.

Salaysay nito ang dalamhati

ng mga ginang at ginoong di-nakakabigkas ng tula.

Kaya’t hindi mahika ang hatid ng makata.

Di lamang pagkamangha.

Usal nito ang pagkaunawa

ng mga ale at mama sa hamon ng pagbabanyuhay.

Dahil kung kagigiliwan lamang ang tula’y anong saysay?

Dili’t palamuti,

diwata sa guni-guni

ng matatakuting paslit na busog sa paksiw na ayungin,

o ng obrerong mas pabigat sa tiyan ang nilupak na saging.

Di tulad ng espasol,

hatid nito’y hangin

sa sikmura; kundiman pagtakap ng bibig sa kawalang-lasa.

‘Pagka’t may hatid na halihaw ang tula.

Di lamang sa diwa,

bagkus ay sa praktika.

II. Kapag Tumula ang Masa

Kapag tumula ang masa

agapan mo ang kanilang talinhaga.

Di bale na muna ang sukat

ngunit wag lilibsan ang tugmang maliligat.

Kagiliwan mo ang romansa,

laruin ang dulas ng awit at prosa,

halukayin ang lalim;

may kahulugan pati ang kanilang tighim.

Dahil kapag tumula ang masa

bumabalong ang mga talata.

Kaya’t aagapan mo ang kanilang balintunaan,

rurok at imortalidad ng karanasan;

pagsasatao ng mga walang kaluluwa,

pagbibinyag, debate, pati litanya.

Punan mo ang mga pagitan ng linya

at wag kang pagagapi sa aliterasyon ng dila.

Kapag tumula ang masa,

damhin ang gaspang ng kanilang hininga,

dahil kapag tumula ang masa,

di sila naka-Barong Tagalog

at walang lawrel sa tuktok.

Kaya’t higit na mahalaga ang retina,

pang-amoy, pandama at duda.

Dahil kapag tumula ang masa

marani’y hindi sila nagsasalita.

III. Ang Mapahiya at Magyabang

Sino ba ang hindi mapapahiya

kung pagtaasan ka ng kilay at pagkibitan ng balikat

ng kapwa mo makata?

Dahil ang tula mo ay kapos sa saliw,

aliw,

aliw-iw

at di nagmamaliw

na pagkabaliw sa teknika.

Sino ba ang hindi magyayabang

kung pagtaasan ka ng kamao at matapik sa balikat

ng pinaglilingkuran mong magsasaka?

dahil ang tula mo ay apaw sa awit,

galit,

at dalit

ng naghihimagsik

na katuturan ng praktika.

Saturday, 29 November 2008

Search: Children in RP's poorest 20 percent receive less education

Children in the poorest 20 percent in the Philippines receive five years less education than children from the wealthiest families, according to a latest report of the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).

The UNESCO Education for All Global Monitoring Report said the children in the poorest 20 percent in the country are among the millions of children around the world who are denied opportunities to go to school, condemning them to a life of poverty.

UNESCO blamed governments and international aid donors for not taking on the task of reducing global inequalities in education.

The report warned that a "wide gulf" in educational opportunity separating rich and poor countries seriously threatens global efforts aimed at achieving the internationally agreed target of universal primary education by 2015.

"A combination of political indifference, weak domestic policies and the failure of aid donors to act on commitments is to blame for the failure developing countries are facing in educating their young," the report said.

The report noted that one in three children in developing countries, or around 193 million in total, reaches primary school age with impaired brain development and educational prospects due to malnutrition.

Some 75 million children, including almost one-third of sub-Saharan children of primary school age, are not in school, compared to over a third of children in rich countries completing university, the report said.

Children in the poorest 20 percent of countries, such as Ethiopia, Mali and Niger, are three times less likely to be in primary school as children from the wealthiest 20 percent.

In Peru and the Philippines, children in the poorest 20 percent receive five years less education than children from the wealthiest families.

Komento

for the past decades, millions have died, for what? for ideas. it's not about territory nor religion nor race, it's about another nonsense b***s***. but it's all we've got, the distorted will to power, that keeps us alive.

- Fifi (a friend and ex-classmate from UP- Baguio now a Political Science- Philosophy student from University of Toronto) shared with me what her Professor in Political Science 320 commented about the present day politics!


Thursday, 27 November 2008

Positive and Negative Democracy


By Christopher Ryan Maboloc
Philippine Daily Inquirer

Posted date: November 24, 2008


MANILA, Philippines - The power of democracy to effect change in the wellbeing of people depends on what people do in their lives.

Democracy can be theoretically construed and empirically practiced as “positive” or “negative.” The emphasis on people’s positive capabilities, for instance “the role of freedom concerning the ... different kinds of rights, opportunities, and entitlements,” can be seen as instrumental to national development. The above includes economic opportunities, education, health, transparency in government and protective security in terms of safety nets (i.e., farm subsidies during food or economic crises) as necessary to make democracy work. These rights can be considered as “positive entitlements” which empower people.

In arguing for people’s democratic rights, Amrtya Sen emphasizes the argument that no famine has ever occurred under a democratic regime. The reason for this is that any famine is unthinkable if the government provides enough provisions to farmers in terms of farm inputs. A government that is in solidarity with the farmers can immediately address any need for food basically because open discussion, transparency and participation will ensure food stability. People, if free, will be morally empowered to voice their concerns and press their government for action. This requires, however, the “capability” to “speak out,” and the “positive empowerment” to argue for one’s rights. Sen notes that “the people have to be seen, in this perspective, as being actively involved—given the opportunity—in shaping their own destiny, and not just as passive recipients of the fruits of cunning development programs.” Positive democracy means people are real contributors to human wellbeing and not “passive recipients” of doles and grants. For example, Sen argues, famines are not natural calamities but human disasters, and he theorizes that “famines are policy failures,” and not a real shortage of food. The same holds true for the country’s rice crisis. Neglect of agriculture is simply a failure of governance. The exercise of our negative rights, in this regard, is crucial. However, it does not guarantee the protection from nor does it prevent the real possibility of such a crisis never happening again.

Transparency laws, from the point of view of positive democracy, are useless if people are not knowledgeable about the mechanisms which ensure transparent government transactions. Any government can easily abuse its people if people are bereft of the tools or knowledge which will secure their welfare. A hungry man, for example, will simply say that he has no time to think about corruption in government nor will he reflect about the “character” and “qualifications” of the person he will vote for during elections. It can also be said that “anti-corruption drives” and the “right of suffrage” are only seen in a negative way as an exercise of one’s negative freedom, and not as positive opportunities to really empower one’s self in public. Positive democracy, in this sense, entails the active participation of people, of “people power” in a very positive way because it results in real change.

On the other hand, people also show their “critical” and “reactive” attitude against a regime. It can also be argued that the importance of democracy lies in the fact that it secures and protects the political freedoms of people. Negative freedom implies freedom from oppression. Simply put, it is the “right to protest.” We can explain this by pointing out that democracy puts “pressure” on government leaders to be responsive to the needs of the people because the people hold them accountable for their welfare.

The Philippines is a flawed democracy. It is flawed because it does not have a functioning government. The reason for this is that its political culture is weak. This weakness is something that I see in the inconsistent image of a corrupt politician who endorses an anti-corruption book. Protests can effect some changes in the public lives of people, but unless people become real contributors to their wellbeing, change is but a dream, “difficult” and “impossible.”

For instance, libraries are almost non-existent in many public schools. This should not mean that a student mustn’t read books. For a student to really learn, he or she has to find these books somewhere. It will not be enough to wait for the results of mass actions denouncing the government’s neglect of education. A student needs to realize that the life he or she has to live is something that is “fully” and “truly” his or her own responsibility. Opportunities don’t just come. These are things that we create.

In conclusion, my analysis is that responsible citizens, guided by their “duty of civility,” will work to ensure that development becomes the priority of their national and local leaders. The streets can be the battleground. But beyond such and in a very positive way, the academe, research institutions and private corporations can contribute to advance the welfare of people more than the parliament of the streets. People Power 1986 is a classic case of negative democracy. After two decades, it has become apparent that the event has not translated into a “highly industrialized” Philippines. Of course, negative democracy makes people vigilant even in intense economic situations. People value their political freedoms. But people can also resign themselves to the fact that their kind of government is perpetually corrupt. Negative democracy does not necessarily empower them to seek real wellbeing, and thus, negative democracy may not place us on the road to human development.

People should realize, as Mahbub Ul Haq suggested, that they are the “real wealth of the nation.” This means that development is not the mere “by-product” but is in itself the reflection of the “kind of people” a country has. People have to be truly responsible for and take part in the commitment to achieve human development. Of course, we deserve a better government. But on the other hand, to demand such from our leaders, right now, may not be enough.

Christopher Ryan Maboloc is chair of the Philosophy Division at the Ateneo de Davao University.

THIRD WORLD

  • "The concept connotes poverty, structural imbalance, socio-economic injustice, and lack or insufficient access to basic needs but looking deeper, the term can also refer to the effect of the rise of the very few in power- politically, culturally, and economically, rendering the rest of the population unable to take their just share of that power." (L. Angeles)
  • "Underdeveloped and overdependent nations" (A. Bruselas)
  • "A label which distinguishes the poor and marginalized countries from that of advanced and industrialized nations" (M. Caranto)
  • "Pertains to developing countries that are heavily dependent on foreign capital and information technology for their economic growth" (L. Dela Cruz)
  • "An economic category comprised of underdeveloped nations from Asia, Latin America, and Africa" (A. Duquiatan)
  • "Collectively described to be less developed, heavily exploited, underrepresented and is observed to experience poor access to economic, political, cultural and social opportunities" (Y. Fernandez)
  • "Consists of poor and developing countries that are often dependent to other countries for their development" (F. Francisco)
  • "A term used to describe an underdeveloped nation which can't go along with the fast-paced globalization" (C. Gamao)
  • "Struggling to achieve development in the social, cultural, political, and economic aspects" (K. Honrade)
  • "Countries whose rich resources are being exploited by transnational corporations"
    (K. Mayoca)
  • "The most exploited world where labor force is abundant but salary/benefit is low"
    (C. Lopez)
  • "Refers to former colonies that lack substantial capital to further its growth and development hence its continued dependence to developed countries" (J. Meneses)
  • "Pertains to countries with less available opportunities for development than those in the first world" (P. Rosales)
  • "Regarded as the Global South struggling to industrialize by following the steps of the Global North" (K. Villanueva)

Thursday, 20 November 2008

Sipi: Liberalismo

“Liberals claim to want to give a hearing to other views, but then are shocked and offended to discover that there are other views.”


— William F. Buckley, Jr.

Definition of Terms

CORRUPTION

it is the distribution of wealth of the many to the few.

Conrado De Quiros

Wednesday, 19 November 2008

The Seven Curses of the Stolen, Not A Strong Republic According to FSGO (Former Senior Government Officials)

  1. The curse of a country unable to feed its own people, due to gross neglect of agriculture and rural development.
  2. The curse of worsening poverty and increasing disparity between rich and poor, due to economic mismanagement that ignores the needs of the many to serve the interests of the few.
  3. The curse of deteriorating basic social services essential to the survival and welfare of the people, due to callous disregard of the public good.
  4. The curse of a national government gripped by a metastatic cancer of corruption.
  5. The curse of wanton abuse of presidential prerogatives.
  6. The curse of an illegitimate president.
  7. The curse which combines the malignant effects of the first six curses. This is the curse of a nation robbed of its dignity, unity, and future.”

Tuesday, 11 November 2008

What is Your Message to the Filipino Youth during this Trying Times?

  • "Make yourself aware of what is happening to our country. Organize yourselves to defend your rights as young people and volunteer your services to to help others. Ensure young people participate in the 2010 elections to choose the most worthy leader who will inspire the country to greatness."
    - Dr. Jaime Galvez-Tan, UP medicine professor and former DOH Secretary

  • "Keep the faith. Tomorrow is a new day."
    - Atty. Ismael Khan, former SC spokesperson

  • "Dream big! Hope! Oneness!"
    -Prof. Erle Frayne Argonza, sociologist and development scientist

  • "Work within the framework of genuine sustainable development that embodies responsible governance, sound and viable economy, social cohesion and environmental integrity. Each of this pillars must benefit essentially the marginalized, including women, children, indigenous peoples, and the impoverished. Be vigilant and active in safeguarding the environment, respect for human rights, good governance and socio-economic justice."
    -Prof. Natividad Lacdan, UP ecology professor

  • "Find an ecological paradigm that transcends good and evil, discover their own mutya (spark of divinity and genious within), develop it to the level of execellence and nobility, and offer their highest for the evolution of human consciousness and accompany this with working for concrete measures and projects for cultural and social development and for society's transformation that begins with self, sense of community and nation, and sense of kapwa and mutya in everything while reconnecting with own roots and ancient wisdom in expressing ourselves creatively, always learning new things of being, doing and understanding."
    -Prof. Grace Odal-Devora, UP Philippine arts professor

  • "Be aware of national issues and find vehicles to become involved."
    -Francis Lim, Executive Director of Makati Business Club

  • "As an old saying goes, don't let your academics get in the way of your education."
    -Prof. Danilo Arao, UP journalism professor

  • "Makilahok, kumilos para sa tunay na pagbabago sa pamahalaan - nasyunal at lokal -
    at sa ating mga sarili."
    -former Senator Wigberto Tañada, lead convenor of Fair Trade Alliance

Thursday, 6 November 2008

Political Realities in America

  • The Democrats increased their control in Congress but did not achieve the filibuster-proof majority of 60 Senate seats. Notably, Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky survived a close race.
  • The so-called Blue Dog Democrats in the House will likely try to keep some sanity on spending, and will work with their Republican colleagues to that end.
  • A common refrain in Republican circles is that the party lost ground because they "abandoned conservative principles." True or not, they'll be much less likely to accede to increased Federal spending with a Democrat in the White House.
  • Obama is presumably smart enough to understand the majority of Americans really are centrists, which may seem self-evident but often gets lost in the "Red State-Blue State" clash that's dominated political discussions in recent years.
taken from the online article Will-Obama-Govern-from-the-Center-or-the-Far-Left?

Monday, 3 November 2008

Philippines: Quote and Unquote

  • There is wisdom in a modified old adage that says "waste is what inordinate haste makes."
  • The wounds of War have not been totally healed by six years of imposed autonomy (ARMM).
  • The country should not harbor any illusions about its current economic performance because poverty is still pervasive.
  • Strategists both from opposition and the administration have been trying to outgun each other.
  • In Philippine Politics, Backstabbing, name calling and skirmishes (like kids) are commonplace.
  • Tactical compromises may be necessary to achieve short- term victories.
  • There is a need to balance the concept of National sovereignty with the requirements of national security.
  • Filipinos are becoming less upbeat about the economy.
  • The War in Mindanao is deeply rooted in history.
  • A weak state can not strategically respond to challenge.
  • A Presidency that will remain inward looking will have difficulty managing security issues.
  • A war environment is not conducive to the crafting of creative solutions.
  • It will never suffice to assess the President as just a bundle of traits, inherited or learned.
  • A rise of leader is a society's response to the needs of time
  • In any large and complex society, Democracy can only be representative and not direct.
  • Political Party-Hopping is another endemic practice to Philippine Politics.
  • Legislation that fashioned in the same chambers that have housed generations of politicians can not- with the symbolic bang of the gavel- eradicate the ills of the electoral system.

Tuesday, 21 October 2008

Top Ten Prospect Books

List of books I want to have or to read before sem break ends! wala nga lang datung! hehe..

1. GEOPOLITICS OF EMOTION: HOW CULTURES OF FEAR, HUMILIATION AND HOPE ARE RESHAPING THE WORLD
Dominique Moisi

2. NONVIOLENCE
Mark Kurlansky

3. THE NEW ASIAN HEMISPHERE: THE IRRESISTABLE SHIFT OF GLOBAL POWER TO THE EAST
Kishore Mahbubani

4. PRESENT CONCERNS
C.S. Lewis


5. THE FOUR LOVES
CS Lewis

6. OF MAN (GREAT IDEAS)
Thomas Hobbes

Friday, 17 October 2008

UP did not participate in THES-QS university rankings


http://www.up.edu.ph/features.php?i=93



In the 2008 university rankings recently released by the Times Higher Education Supplement (THES) and Quacquarelli Symonds (QS), only the University of the Philippines and the Ateneo de Manila University (among Philippine universities) made it to the top 400. UP rose from 398 in 2007 to 276 this year; Ateneo rose from 401-500 to 254. De La Salle was ranked 415th and UST was ranked 470th.

According to UP Vice President for Public Affairs Cristina Pantoja Hidalgo, UP President Emerlinda R. Roman did not receive any invitation to participate in the survey this year or any questionnaire to answer. What President Roman received was an email message from QS Asia Quacquarelli Symonds’ Regional Director (Asia Pacific), Mandy Mok, informing her that UP had “gone up in the rankings.”

Since UP had not been invited to participate in the survey and had not provided any data, UP officials do not know where and how the figures were obtained on which the ranking was based.

Hidalgo revealed that the message also contained this statement: “In view of the good news, would you like to consider signing up the following at a very attractive package price?” The “package price,” which includes a banner on topuniversities.com, a full page full color ad in Top Universities Guide 2009, and a booth at Top Universities Fair 2009, amounts to $48,930.

“UP can hardly be expected to spend more than 2 million pesos on publicity for itself involving a survey conducted by an organization that refuses to divulge where it obtains its data,” Hidalgo said.

In 2007, UP was invited to participate in the survey, but when THES-QS refused to explain where it obtained the data used to determine UP’s rank in the 2006 survey (where UP was ranked No. 299), university officials decided not to accept the invitation to participate in the 2007 survey. Moreover, the university was given barely a week to respond to the questionnaire.

UP wrote THES-QS in July 2007, informing them of this decision, and again in September 2007, requesting the organization to respect UP’s decision. In response, research assistant Saad Shabir wrote back saying that if it did not receive the information it would be “forced to use last year’s data or some form of average.”

These rankings are supposedly meant to serve as “the definitive guide to universities around the world which truly excel.” In evaluating institutions it computes half of the index based on its reputation as perceived by academics (peer review 40%) and global employers (recruiter review 10%). Since it does not specify who are surveyed or what questions are asked, the methodology is problematic.

An earlier statement, released by UP in August this year, and carried by several national dailies, said: “Even peers require standardized input data to review. But according to the International Ranking Systems for Universities and Institutions: A Critical Appraisal, published by BioMed Central, the Times simply asks 190,000 ‘experts’ to list what they regard as the top 30 universities in their field of expertise without providing input data on any performance indicators (http://www.biomedcentral.com/1741-7015/5/30). Moreover, the survey response rate among selected experts was found to be below 1%. In other words, on the basis of possible selection biases alone, the validity of the measurement is shaky.”

According to the statement, the other half of the index is based on such indicators as student-to faculty ratio, the number of foreign faculty and students in the university, and the number of academic works by university researchers that have been cited internationally. “Data for these indicators, however, typically depend on the information that participating institutions submit. An institution’s index may be easily distorted if it fails to submit data for the pertinent indicators, or if it chooses not to participate.”

As Dr. Leticia Peñano-Ho said in an article carried by the UP Forum last year: “The crux of the matter is to identify the indices that can approximate the different landscapes of universities. There might be a need to relate these indicators to the unversities’ mission statements. UP’s constituents can identify their own indicators and decide on their desirability, relevance and reliability. These criteria should, as an added value, provide international comparisons."

Tuesday, 14 October 2008

Nation Building In Some Parts Of Asia: Learn From Our Neighbors

  • My basic principle in nation building is to unite the majority and minority race in Singapore, to impart to them common values, and to make them committed to share good and bad times together.
- Lee Kuan Yew, in an interview with Takuhito Tsuruta,
25 November, 1981
  • 1. Nation before community and society above self.; 2. Family as the basic unit of society.; 3. Regard and community support for the individual.; 4. Consensus instead of contention.; 5. Racial and religious harmony.
-the "Shared Values" of the Singaporeans
  • Bhinneka Tunggal Ika (unity in diversity)
- Indonesian strong nationhood motto
  • Fukoku Kyohei (a rich country and a strong army)
- Japanese Nationhood Slogan


Monday, 13 October 2008

Filipino Diaspora In A Proposition

"Diaspora" does not consist in the fact of leaving Home, but in having the factuality available to representation as such- we come to "know" diaspora only as it is psychically identified in a narrative form that discloses the various ideological investments.

1st thesis: Phenomenon of Filipino Dismembership

Given that the Philippine habitat has never cohered as genuinely independent nation-national autonomy continues to escape the nation- people in a colonial setup- Filipinos are dispersed from family or kinship webs in villages, towns, or provincial regions first, and loosely from an inchoate, even "refeudalized," nation-state, This dispersal is primarily due to economic coercion and disenfranchisement under the retrogressive regime of comprador-bureaucratic (not welfare-state) capitalism; migration is seen as freedom to seek one's fortune, experience the pleasure of adventure, libidinal games of resistance, and other illusions of transcendence. So the origin to which one returns is not properly a nation-state but a village, a quasi-primordial community, kinship network, or even a ritual family/clan.

2nd thesis: What are the myths enabling a cathexis of the homeland?

They derive from assorted childhood memories and folklore together with customary practices surrounding municipal and religious celebrations; at best, there may be signs of a residual affective tie to a national heroes like Rizal, Bonifacio, and latter-day celebrities like singers, movie stars, athletes, and so on. Indigenous food, dances, and music can be acquired as commodities whose presence temporarily heals the trauma of removal; family reunification can resolve the psychic damage of loss of status or alienation. In short, rootedness in autochthonous habitat does not exert a commanding sway, experienced only a nostalgic mood. Meanwhile, language, religion, kinship, the aura of family rituals, and common experiences in school or workplace function invariably as the organic bonds of community. Such bonds demarcate the boundaries of the imagination but also release energies and affects the mutate into actions-as performed by Garcia's characters- serving ultimately national-popularity emancipatory projects.

3rd thesis: Unification in Alienation

Alienation in the host country is what unites Filipinos, shared history of colonial and racial subordination, marginalization, and struggles for cultural survival through hybrid forms of resistance and political rebellion. This is what may replace the none existent nation/homeland, absent the liberation of the Filipino nation-state.

4th thesis: Return due to Economic Security

Some Filipinos in their old age may desire eventual only when they are economically secure. In general, Filipinos will not return to the site of misery and oppression- to poverty, exploitation, humiliated status, despair, hunger, and lack of dignity. Of course, some are forcibly returned: damaged, deported, or dead. But OFWs would rather move their kin and parents to their lace of employment, preferably in countries where family reunification is allowed, as in the United States, Italy, Canada, and so on. Or even in places of suffering and humiliation, provided there is some hope or illusion of future improvement.
Utopian longings can mislead but also reconfigure and redirect wayward adventures.

5th thesis: Nationalist Struggle

Ongoing support for nationalist struggles at home is sporadic and intermittent during times of retrenchment and revitalized apartheid. Do we see any mass protests and collective indignation in the United States at the Visiting Forces Agreement, for example, and the recent invasion (ca. 1998-2000) of the country by several US Marines in joint US-Philippines military exercises? Especially after September 11 and the Arroyo sycophancy to the Bush regime, the Philippines- considered by the US government as the harbor of homegrown ''terrorists"
like the Abu Sayyaf- is plausible to be transformed in to the next "killing field" after Afghanistan.

6th thesis: Filipino Collective Identity

In this time of quandary, the Filipino collective identity is in crisis and in stage of formation and elaboration. The Filipino diasporic consciousness is an odd species, a singular genre: it is not obsessed with a physical return to roots or to land where common sacrifices are remembered and celebrated. It is tied more to a symbolic homeland indexed by kinship or particular traditions and communal practices that it tries to transplant abroad in diverse localities. So, in he moment of Babylonian captivity, dwelling in "Egypt" or its moment of building public spheres of solidarity to sustain identities outside the national time/space "in order to live inside, with a difference" may be the most viable route (or root) of Filipinos in motion- the collectivity in transit, although this is, given the ineluctability of differences becoming contradictions, subject to the revolutionary transformations emerging in the Philippine countryside and cities. It is susceptible also to other radical change s in the geopolitical rivalry of metropolitan powers based on nation-states. There is indeed deferral,postponement, or waiting- but history moves on in the battlefields of Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao where a people's war rooted in a durable revolutionary traditions rages on. This should not allow the Filipino Diaspora and its progeny to slumber in the consumerist paradises of LA, NY, Chicago, or Seattle, Dubai and so on. It will certainly disturb of those benefiting from the labor of OFWs who experience the repetition-compulsion of globalized trade and endure the recursive traumas of displacement and dispossession.

notes on the book: BALIKBAYANG SINTA by E. San Juan

Sunday, 5 October 2008

Random Thoughts:

  • Janina San Miguel withdraw her title as the Philippines 2008 Miss World Representative.
  • Opportunity from 'Melamine' Scare- http://www.inquirer.net/vdo/player.php?vid=1679
  • The perfect way to promote Philippine tourism: Survivor Philippines was held in Thailand!
  • The best way to help and feed the refugees in Mindanao due to the war between the Moros and Government forces is through a 40 tons of biscuits!
  • Filipino-made gadgets: myphone, myscreen and now.. mybook. support them, buy them. The said Filipino-made gadgets are manufactured by Solid Group Inc.
  • Afraid of tainted milk from China? try CARABA- milk from carabaos!

Saturday, 4 October 2008

Questions for the Future of UP by: Washington Sycip

PRESIDENT Emerlinda Roman, members of the faculty and friends of U.P.

Not being a graduate of the leading educational institution of the country, I am deeply honored that you have invited me to be one of the speakers in your celebration of a hundred years of service to the nation.

In today’s talk I intend to raise a number of very frank questions. since you receive more government funds than any other educational institution in the country, I, as a taxpayer, may claim the right to do so.

I hope you will not consider this as an abuse of the gracious invitation extended me by President Roman.

1. Going over the book “The University of the Philippines — A University for Filipinos” which was published as U.P. celebrated its diamond jubilee twenty five years ago, one cannot miss the introduction that says “…a U.P. degree holder is generally believed to be more capable than most college graduates, as well as imbued with a sense of purpose…with minds capable of new ideas and perceptions and passionate commitment to the social good.”

If U.P. has accurately claimed that during the past 62 years, after we left the U.S. umbrella, U.P. graduates have occupied the presidential chair for 46 years, then I may ask you “why are we in such a mess?”

Over fifty years ago, we were told that with our advantages of being a christian nation and a democracy, we will be, next to Japan, the leading nation in East Asia. Today we find ourselves in a steadily declining position regardless of what measure we go by: poverty index, per capita spending on education, crime rate, corruption ranking, peace and order, rural health, the list goes on.

Unfortunately, we have even found ourselves, in spite of our large population, with the lamentable distinction of being the only major Southeast Asian nation that did not win any medal at the recently concluded Olympic games.

Can we blame the religion Spain brought to our shores five centuries ago for our limitations or the U.S. for the failure of our democracy? Shouldn’t our decades of freedom be long enough for us to correct any inherited disadvantages?

With all the talented people we have, why have we not been able to produce a Lee Kwan Yew, who in one generation brought his people in Singapore to income levels of the U.S. or Germany?

Or a K. T. Li of Taiwan, a physics graduate of Cambridge, who introduced the computer to every age group in Taiwan so that this small country has become the largest exporter of computers and components?

Or a Mahathir of Malaysia who greatly improved infrastructure and increased income levels of all citizens in a mixed society of Malays, Chinese and Indians?

Or a General Park of South Korea whose tough and disciplined administration industrialized a country where the large firms successfully competed with the companies of its former colonial master?

Or a Deng Hsiao Ping who released the energy of his people to achieve in 25 years the greatest reduction of poverty in world history?

We did have the promise of a Ramon Magsaysay who as secretary of defense greatly improved peace and order but whose unfortunate early death 50 years ago prevented him from carrying out a program to improve the lives of the bottom group of our people.

Then we had Rafael Salas, a brilliant graduate of U.P. in 1969, fresh from managing the transformation of chronic shortage into an astounding Philippine rice sufficiency breakthrough, Salas accepted a United Nations offer to head a fledgling fund. He believed at the U.N. there would be a possibility of making a contribution to solving what he thought was becoming one of the world’s major problems — population. He thought that the same strategies employed in the rice sufficiency program, would work in a sophisticated international environment as they did in tradition-bound Philippine rural communities. In fact he was proven right. Alex Marshall of the United Nations Population Fund writes:

“The consensus which Salas built is more than an act of diplomacy. It is the solid evidence of the recognition worldwide of the importance of population in development programmes. It has helped to change the policies of governments; it has helped to change the lives of millions of people. It has set men and women free to make choices for themselves, and helped secure the future of children yet unborn. They and all of us stand in his debt.”

But Filipinos have surmised that Rafael left the Philippines because his integrity and competence could not survive in a climate of government corruption.

Will U.P. be able to produce other leaders like Salas and can they succeed in the Philippine political soil?

In 1983, thirty years after he had graduated from this University, and at that time an under secretary general at the United Nations, he returned here to receive an honorary doctor of laws degree from his alma mater. As Salas thanked the University for the honor conferred on him, he also took leave by asking the question:

“What can the scholars of this University do to solve the problems of the Philippines when it will be a country of 70 million people”?

His widow, Carmelita R. Salas, the highly respected Philippine ambassador to the Czech Republic, speaking at the World Population Day forum in Manila this last July, pointed to this very same concern. Today, she said, the Philippines is a country of 89 million, and in 2030 will be close to 140 million. Again, Rafael would have asked the scholars of this University the same question today.

I ask: what would be their answer?

Post Edsa I, in February of 1987, when freedom in the Philippines had been won with what the world would know as “people power,” Salas was keynote speaker at the district meeting of Rotary Clubs in Manila. In a speech that one Rotarian referred to as the best SONA he had ever heard, Rafael spoke on “managing the aftermath.” Let me read to you part of what he said:

“But this freedom cannot be fully exercised unless there is order. Governments are instituted to insure peace, stability and continuity; to enable the citizens to plan their future and insure the survival and growth of their children. The resumption of hostilities with the NPA and the constant threat of rebellion in Mindanao and a very high incidence of crime are pointers of the lack of order I speak of. Insecurity stifles productivity. No long-term investment and high productivity can be encouraged when businessmen feel uncertain and insecure. The administration has exerted a sincere effort to resolve these problems. But time presses. Order must prevail. A free society cannot be mobilized for development unless there is a feeling of safety and confidence in the future.”

The same speech would have been relevant post Edsa II.

How prophetic and unfortunate that things have not changed the past 20 years!

But “why” we must ask ourselves.

Let us begin by focusing on education.

We tend to unfairly blame every current administration for our problems. But can’t we see that the steady decline of educational standards is the cumulative effect of the neglect of many administrations and the unwillingness to adopt long term solutions to problems that cannot be solved by a ribbon cutting event!

The success or failure of any organization depends upon its policies and efforts on developing its human resources. For a nation to adopt short term policies on education is national suicide! doesn’t the solution of peace and order problems depend upon relatively equal educational opportunities for the rich and poor, for the Christians and Moslems?

2. We as a nation are proud to have a University older than Harvard. Proud that U.P. celebrates the success of a hundred years. We are proud of Ateneo, La Salle and many other Catholic universities where men and women of upper income groups are educated.

We praise these institutions of learning but as a nation we seem to accept the scandalously high national dropout rates of students in basic education. The figures are worse in Moslem areas and in poor communities.

In many towns and villages, Synergeia, led by Nene Guevara, and working with mayors and community leaders who want change, has improved literacy rates. But much, much greater national efforts are needed.

As the recipient of the largest of government education funds, shouldn’t U.P. endeavor to enlist its many successful and wealthy alumni in a campaign to return to their alma mater the benefits they have received from the school and thus enable more funds to be diverted from U.P. and allocated to basic education?

Should the students from upper income groups not be asked to pay for the full cost of education? When upper income families send their children abroad, they do pay “full tuition.” Should they not be asked to do the same in their own country?

Has U.P. studied how neighboring countries have dropped poverty levels?

The Asian Development Bank just released a report pointing out that the Philippines and India, who claim to be democracies, lag behind East Asian countries in reducing poverty. China and Vietnam, both authoritarian states, are the two countries that have rapidly reduced poverty. Are there lessons to be learned here?

Why have Singapore and Thailand developed hospitals for “medical tourism” while we send our excellent doctors and nurses to developed countries? Should we not advocate some system where destination countries compensate us for training these professionals?

Are inward remittances of poor overseas workers with divided families offsetting outward remittances of upper income Filipinos, educated in subsidized schools like U.P., and setting up households abroad?

You can, of course, tell me that the world is flat and young people should be free to move anywhere. yes — our young men and women should go abroad — it widens their horizon and gives them the skills to better serve their country. But we should strive to keep their hearts Filipino and with a resolve that they will return to serve in their country’s development. and government policy should work with them to use its limited resources to reduce poverty and improve the lives of all citizens.

Is U.P. doing its part to help government adopt long term educational measures to ensure this?

3. We all agree on the need of national unity. Can we point to the politics of fraternities as the root of the excessive time spent on national politics? Or is the lack of unity a basic disadvantage of an island nation?

Is the sluggish pace of economic development the result of blind acceptance of western thinking that political freedom or democracy comes ahead of economic freedom? Doesn’t democracy assume that there must be the “rule of law” which implies an independent judiciary with well trained and well paid honest lawyers? Where judges may be poorly paid and subject to political pressures is it possible to have an independent judiciary let alone a working democracy?

U.P. has produced excellent lawyers and many of the bar topnotchers that are managing the large law firms — but are they leaders in reforming the judicial system?

4. U.P. and Asia

How close is U.P. to recognizing that the Philippines is part of Asia and that China, India and Japan will be exerting more influence on our future than the U.S. and Europe?

Is the faculty of U.P.’s School of Asian Studies deeply knowledgeable about the culture and the political thinking of our neighbors and are they proficient in other Asian languages?

Even Japan, very closely allied to the U.S., does not have the government or economic structure of the Western world. The party in power has not changed for over 50 years and its corporate structure and behavior are very different from Western firms.

With the Toyota donation, you will at least have the physical structure for the School of Asian Studies. But the faculty is even more important than the building.

Does our being the only Catholic country in Asia, with an extremely conservative church leadership, seen only in Poland and Malta, hamper our capacity to understand our Asian neighbors? What is the role of U.P. as the only well known Philippine university that is not Catholic?

With a 6-percent Moslem minority and our dependence on imported energy, does U.P. have a faculty that is knowledgeable in the history and culture of the Middle East and fluent in Arabic languages?

To follow U.S. policy, which will have to favor Israel, can only spell disaster for the Philippines.

Has U.P. studied what measures should be taken to narrow the education gap between Christians and Moslems?

5. U.P. Campus

About 10 days ago I was present at the ceremonies when Toyota, responding to the efforts of George Ty, agreed to donate the very attractive P100 million building to U.P. Its architect, Jose Danilo Silvestre, dean of the College of Architecture, assured me that he and other alumni like Mr. Palafox, noted urban designer, would be willing to donate their time and expertise to landscape the present campus.

Maintenance of a “new” campus can be assigned to building occupants or fraternities, or student organizations. Maybe you can collect parking fees from cars parked in the campus. Talented Filipino artists and sculptors can then be encouraged to display their work in the campus!

Does U.P. have a development plan for its large campus?

6. U.P. and Tourism

Our 3,000,000 arrivals a year are way behind our neighbors’ 10 to 12 million visitors. Tourism benefits all the people in the countryside. Our people are known to be the most hospitable and friendly. We are ahead of our neighbors in English, the first language of tourism.

When I visited Bohol last year I was told the influx of German tourists to the attractive island is due to the 200 Germans who have happily settled there with their Filipina wives.

The hospitality industry will be the growth area of the country. Will your different schools play a major role in assisting Secretary Durano achieve his targets?

7. U.P. and Agriculture

I have met many Thais who are graduates of the prestigious Los Baños agricultural school. But I wonder why the Thais, who usually bring back a Filipina wife, have made Thai agriculture much more productive and efficient than what we have been able to do here.

Let us take notice of the dole success story. As dean of the Business School, Cesar Virata had strongly advocated cooperation with Los Baños. Through his efforts, Dole established their very successful and productive agri-business operations in Mindanao.

With the Catholic Church’s campaign against a sound government population policy, which in turn hampers the country’s capacity for addressing its population growth rate, perhaps U.P.’s contribution to increasing rice production, can prevent a recurrence of the problem that we had this year!

I was on the board of a Malaysian palm oil company that was diversifying into bamboo, they told me the bamboo experts were in Los Baños. Yet we import bamboo shoots from China!

Since agriculture is still the most important part of our economy, shouldn’t U.P. then, in cooperation with successful farmers, put particular focus on the study and implementation of efficient food production to bring food costs down?

8. Alumni Relations

A new university has the disadvantage of not having a successful alumni group that you can tap for funds.

U.P. has the advantage of celebrating a centennial with very distinguished and wealthy graduates in practically every field of activity. But has your dependence on government funds resulted in a neglect of your alumni? How many buildings, laboratories, auditoriums, professorial chairs have been donated by your many prosperous alumni?

Many of the facilities at the Philippine General Hospital needs improvement. Yet this was the training ground of many doctors from U.P. One very socially responsible U.P. medical school graduate in the U.S., who is planning to retire here, told me he was shocked when some of his classmates here were bragging about how little taxes they were paying in spite of their luxurious houses, cars and trips abroad!

Are your alumni aware that they can legally reduce taxes by donating to U.P.? Maybe yearly seminars to update your graduates on the latest developments in their profession can encourage them to give an annual amount to U.P.

I have no doubt that a well organized and aggressive alumni relations office will yield large dividends for U.P. and the nation.

9. Faculty

The greatness of a university is always measured by its faculty. Faculty that will inspire not merely instruct. mentors that will encourage learning and the use of this knowledge towards nation building.

A nation’s progress is also determined by what it does to develop its human resources.

I read the report of your National College of Public Administration and Governance and was very impressed with the qualifications of the faculty and lecturers. Aside from seminars, publications and workshops, won’t it be wonderful if they can implement the many changes they are advocating, in basic education, in the civil service, in local government and in the fight against corruption?

My contacts with your faculty are mainly from your excellent School of Economics and the Business School and, of course, with Cynthia Bautista who has given invaluable help to the Magsaysay Foundation in focusing on its plans for the next 50 years.

Is this standard of excellence I see also found in the other departments?

Can U.P. encourage its bright faculty to publish objective position papers on national issues that will stop the endless and confusing debates that are in full page ads in the daily newspapers?

Considering the contribution U.P. can make in our nation’s future, should this university not have a “think tank” with experts from its different schools, possibly also working with non U.P. graduates, to study where the nation is today, its negatives and positives, and how it could move forward in the next 25 and 50 years?

Hopefully, our many bright people will unite behind this program to reduce poverty and put the Philippines again in a respectable position in Asia.

Maybe some of the questions I have raised may be expecting too much from an educational institution, with limited funds, to solve all of our national problems.

But it is the price of leadership. the brightest young men and women come to your campus and for these young minds, you must endeavor to attract and retain the best faculty in every school.

It is my profound hope that against all challenges, this great University, with an inspired administration, a strong faculty and an alumni conscious of its responsibility to the nation, can, together with the Secretary of Education, take the lead in the implementation of major reforms in our public schools, without which poverty reduction will be difficult. And without which, equal opportunity for all its citizens to benefit from economic growth will not be attainable.

With the present financial difficulties facing the developed world, optimists are in short supply. But can we hope that we could follow the path of Ireland, also a very strong Catholic country, that was able to convince the political parties to adopt a common economic program which resulted in the return of the young talented people that had migrated to the United States and United Kingdom? Can the very competent and disciplined economists of U.P. lead in such an effort?

Only then can a united, peaceful and prosperous nation become a reality!

U.P. alumni closely identify the Oblation with their alma mater. But how many of them really know that when the sculptor Tolentino created this figure of a young man whose arms are outstretched in a gesture of sacrifice to his country and humanity, the artist also placed at its feet a cluster of “katakalanta” leaves, a plant that rapidly multiplies to symbolize, as Tolentino tells us the “undying stream of heroism in the Filipino race.”

As this University celebrates its hundredth anniversary I ask a final question: can we expect from U.P.’s leadership this heroism the country begs for?
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Delivered September 3, 2008 in the NISMED Auditorium, UP Diliman.
Dr. Washington Sycip is founder of the accounting and management firm SGV, as well as the Asian Institute of Management. He is a recipient of the Ramon Magsaysay Award for International Understanding. He holds a BS Commerce degree from the University of Santo Tomas, graduating summa cum laude. He also holds two Masters of Science degrees, one from UST, and the other from Columbia University, New York, in the United States. He also holds a Doctor of Laws, honoris causa, from the Unversity of the Philippines.