Sunday, October 31, 2004

Ayn Rand could be wrong, or is she?

"Who is John Galt?" This is the famous opening of the novel, "Atlas Shrugged" by Ayn Rand which became famous in the country during the 70's. This is about the disappearance of intellectuals, artists, industrialists and innovators thereby putting production at a stand still. In the story, the question "Who is John Galt?" became a byword for things or people unexplainably missing although the owner of the name was not known. As the story unfolds, we see the protagonist try to unravel the mystery of the question. it turns out that John Galt is a man who is no longer contented with how the world is turning out to be. He observed that people are becoming lazy as they become dependent on the very limited producers there are, who in turn, do nothing about it. Thus, he decided to "stop the motor of the world" by luring all these innovators and industrialists by setting up an ideal world of his own where only producers can live.

Ayn Rand is a philosopher who used literature as her venue to propagate her philosophy she calls "Objectivism". She is not the only philosopher who did that. If I recall correctly, French novelist, playwright, existentialist philosopher, and literary critic Jean Paul Sartre and lover and collaborator Simone de Beauvoir, author of
The Second Sex, among others, also used literature as a base for their teachings.

In a nutshell, Objectivism is based on Aristotle's equation that A is A. Hence, in Rand's point of view, there are no gray areas. A lie is a lie. White lies don't exist. In the same manner does she question the validity of religion and ultimately, the existence of God. In her frame of mind, alruism is a no-no for it breeds dependence. In her book, The virute of selfishness, she defines selfishness as different from our common usage of the word, but rather, a "self-respecting, self-supporting human being who neither sacrifices others to himself nor sacrifices himself to others." In this book, she teaches us that self-sacrifice does not exist. She defines self-sacrifice as the giving up of a higher value in favor of a lower value. Given this definition, self-sacrifice is non-existent since all of man's actions are dictated by what he seems to be the higher value.

I better stop there. I am not a philosopher! As a matter of fact, I flunked Philosophy because I was ill-advised. I took it during my very first year in college because a friend who was "breaking me in", a third year student, was taking it. I never knew about pre-requisites. And don't ask me why the university where I studied, which will remain unnamed, allowed it. (In fairness, the professor did question it, but my gallant friend argued, "Why not? We will never know if he's prepared or not until the course card is given, right? Some friend, huh?) That and Political Science II. Guess who was also in it. And yes, Samantha, I was not an A student. Well, at least, I took it as a challenge later and tried learning Philosophy on my own. My understanding might seem derailed or even demented but at least, I have a framework to live by :-)

Anyway, I think Rand committed a mistake. She denied the fact that people are different. That some are blessed with intellect some are not. Most importantly, in our context, some are born rich, and some are born poor. In our present world, that spells a lot of difference. It's all a matter of opportunity. The haves will have more opportunity than the have-nots. The former study in good schools, the latter hardly go to one. And if they do, the education they receive may not be up to par. The former have access on the most recent trends in technology, the latter don't. The former have more books to read, the latter don't. The former is concerned on learning, the latter is more concerned about survival. In this scenario, t is only in real altruism, not the kind that propagates dependence, that will even the score.

But is she totally wrong then? In fairness, let me first paraphrase Dr. Emerita Quito who said that there is no philosophy that is so right that we must take it in its entirety or a philosophy that is so wrong we should throw it altogether. To study Rand, we must understand the spatio-temporal aspect of her circumstances.

Ayn Rand was born Alissa Zinovievna Rosenbaum and educated in Russia and moved to the United States in 1926 thereafter moving to Hollywood to begin a career as a screenwriter. That says it all, doesn't it? She experienced the Bolshevik revolution of 1917. She experienced the shift from autocracy to communism. In her move to the States, she lived a life from "each according to his need" to "each according to his ability". Working in Hollywood, a very capitlalistic place with a very capitalistic industry and making it big, what conclusion do you think one can have?

However, that is no longer the point. The correct question to ask is can she be relevant to us, Filipinos? Can we espouse her teachings? I would answer in the affirmative. Yes, when I see poor people in the slums drinking early in the morning instead of trying to earn a living. Yes, when I see children of poor families turning to pick pockets or mendicants begging for a dime. Yes, when it is now apparent that the order of the day in media is mediocrity and "xeroxed" art. Yes when the biggest tv networks are competing for soap operas so that the average person can stayed glued on the boob tube, thinking that being the underdog is noble. Yes, when I see rich kids wasting their parent's money by playing hookey and not studying their lessons. Yes when I see young boys and girls doing nothing but daydream of becoming a hot rock star of an actor or actress. Yes, when I see people standing in a long queue to purchase a lotto ticket for "easy street" instead of making everything possible to make himself/herself better. Yes, when i couldn't walk late at night without worrying to be mugged by someone who has given up the fight to survive squarely. Yes, when the people are governed by a defeatist attitude that everything is lost.

Ah, this is such a complicated world. And philosophy is too complicated I don't know why I even bothered.

Saturday, October 23, 2004

rambling on

I spent my entire elementary life some hundred years ago. in a catholic school run by nuns in Caloocan City. As part of our morning routine then was the prayer, singing of the National Anthem while the Philippine flag is raised, and the reciting of the Panatang Makabayan. Except for the placing of the right hand on the left chest which was incorporated sometime after the February revolution, nothing much has changed to this date. This is exactly the same routine we have every morning from Monday to Friday in schools.

It took me all of thirty years to contemplate on what this practice is all about and if it does what it is supposed to do -- to inculcate in the minds of every young mind what it is to be a Christian and a true Filipino so that we can take pride on who we are. From among the three, the national anthem and panatang makabayan seems to be the more inutile. The last phrase in the National Anthem says, Ang mamatay ng dahil sa'yo! "to die for your glory!" alluding to our heroes who sacrificed their lives so that we can live happily and freely. This alone should have been sufficient to inflame our passion for patriotism, inspire and move us to tears if only for the sheer intensity of the emotion evoked by the song. And yet, this is not the case.

Looking at the young minds in my care today, I see myself thirty years ago when I was a teen-ager myself. Unaffected by the words, more inclined to hum the tune, recite the sing-song pattern of a beautiful poem (I'm talking about the old version) wondering what those deep tagalog words were, rather than taking these to heart. Sometimes amused, a lot of times bored. The morning routine seems to have turned into nothing but just that - a routine. And just like it had been to me as a youngster, the morning routine is nothing but a perfunctory exercise that must be done just because it has to be done. Something that has to be egested by the system like uhm, yes, excrement. It is actually meaningless to these teen-agers. What do you expect? They're young, carefree and on top of the world. But should this be so? Should we wait for another thirty years before they experience the same enlightenment? Is this an unending cycle? What brought this about?

We are not a very fortunate race. We have been occupied by at least three oppressors who raped our resources, robbed us of an indigenous culture that could have grown by itself, prospered in a unique system of governance that would have been suited for our situation and temperament and gained the fruits of our intellect. As it is now, our resources have long been depleted, and in return are given the spoils of developed countries at a very high price. We have a deranged culture that borrows heavily from the west, giving us the monicker "brown apes" by our supposed "idols". We have caused our economy to plunge even lower than rock bottom as a result of corruption and mismanagement and seen the rise of brain drain to staggering heights in number much higher than the first wave that occurred during the 60's.

How does one expect the young to be proud of who they are under these circumstances? When even their parents are wont to buy all the whitening products in the market and coloring their hair blonde just so they can have a Caucasian look? Spend thousands of money for a liposuction just so they can have that whistle-bait figure of Angelina Jolie? Never mind the flat nose, the shortness of their legs, and the thickness of their lips. Our demented concept of beauty is absurd for what we see as beautiful is something we are not. How can we become creative and establish our own when we ourselves deem our own products as inferior just like we see ourselves?

Take a look at our television game shows. These are nothing but sorry adaptations of foreign game shows if not the actual one to which we have paid a huge amount of money for its franchise. Last Sunday, my children were watching some sort of a local version of the American idol where there are, surprise surprise, three judges. Andrew E, the girl from the disbanded "Kulay" band and another guy whom I have just seen for the first time. A local wrapper rapper was onstage and my God, did he try to sound as if he was an afro-american! Seems like he had mastered phrases which he kept on repeatin' and repeatin'... phrases, like, uhm you know what I'm sayin' dawg? It was a good thing the judges had some sense to point out that they couldn't understand a word he said during the routine and took him out. My contention is, why try to be someone you're not? This seemingly gibberish talk is a dialect for a certain group to which you don't belong. Do you think you can infiltrate this kind of sub-culture? No way, dude! Get real! Okay, so rap is becoming international, but can you at least do it in tagalog? Somehow, you could've incorporated your own that way!

Our music is going nowhere. If only we were able to appreciate our own, we might have developed a more progressive music culture. Unlike the samba that saw the popularity of Brazilians Jobim, Gilberto and Getz, or reggae which catapulted Bob Marley and Jamaica to fame, Filipino music never infiltrated the American market. Why, because of the ease by which we assimilate to any culture. While this is a good thing, still, we don't get to promote who we are and what we can offer in a huge way. Local bands would copy a song, note for note. And what's more, the singer would try to mimic the voice and manner of speech of the singer. As JKX would say, ayayayay!

Even the art scene should not be spared. I have long lamented the fact that when children draw cartoons, they would do anime characters. Why? Simply because they don't have any alternative. It has been a long dream of mine to create a full length cartoons with a team of creative talents, working with them from pre to post production. Maybe Biag ni Lam Ang for starters. But as I am a poor man, that will remain to be a dream for yet a very long time. Maybe someone out there could pick the idea. I don't care. As long as we start creating our own.

This entry is getting to be so long and boring, I wonder if you have reached this point. If you did, thank you for bearing with me. Maybe you can share your comments. I'd love to hear it. At any rate, how can we expect the young to understand the urgency of having a better tomorrow? How do we imbibe in them pride of who we are as a people? Certainly, it will take more than the singing and the reciting of the national song and pledge but it should be a start. So, boys and girls, sing loud and take pride that you are a Filipino. If not, who else will do that for you? You cannot cover your identity by make-up or any law made by man. You will always be who you are.

Wednesday, October 20, 2004

Happy Birthday, Sassy!

Today is a special day of someone who I think possesses the qualities of being a very fine lady. She's a prolific writer who can discuss anything under the sun, a witty debater you wouldn't want to be sitting across you in a debate for her pen lashes out with biting fire, a fine chef whose culinary taste is impeccable whose expertise is comparable to Bourdain, Emeril and Floyd combined. An excellent mother who sacrificed a very bright law career so that she can see her children grow up, I suppose, she's an ideal wife to her husband as well. She's all wit, brains and beauty (from the pictures I have seen of her) personified. Truly, my idol, she's the moving spirit behind, her baby, to which many Filipino bloggers subscribe to. I wish her happy birthday today. I raise my glass of cabernet to you, Ms. Sassy. May your pen be possessed by the muses so that you can inspire us with your wisdom, mesmerize us with your charm and share with us your expertise for a very long time. Happy Birthday!

Sunday, October 17, 2004

Darker days! Cause and Effect?

First, I'd like to thank whoever were responsible for voting my blog as pinoyblog of the week and the person who did the wonderful write-up that accompanied it. Thanks, too, to Doc Emer who congratulated me first and from whom I learned about it and the succeeding congratulations I got from my friends. Now, on to blogging.

Side by side in today's Opinion page of the SIM are two alarming stories on the plight of education in the country. In some ways, it can be viewed as the cause and the aftermath. Isagani Cruz in his article The pathetic record of our public schools has reason to be appalled by the report that from among the high school seniors who took the National Achievement Test, only 13% got a score of 75% and above. Now that is appalling for our generation seems to be failing to do our share in securing not only a bright future but our sheer existence in this planet as a people who can govern ourselves.

The editorials' column,Flaws on the other hand gives us that part of the reason can be attributed to none other than the DepEd itself. Textbooks used in public schools contain glaring errors. Sassy had enumerated some of these glaring errors here.

While the article does not leave the blame alone on the DepEd, I would put most of the blame on the department. Just like in my school where a committee is formed to review the textbooks that we require our students to buy, I would assume there is such a thing in the department. For after all, it is accountable to the entire learning population in the public schools. They were tasked to safeguard the quality of the educational system and much to my regret, they failed miserably. I don't know how true this is but I have heard that the department is one, of if not the most corrupt department in the country today. Allegedly, publishers have their agents queued for long hours in the Department just to get their books approved. And they stash huge amounts just so they get the approval. And why not? If approved, they will be assured of millions of sales. Well, unconfirmed but it may be true. With the quality of the books used, and the glaring errors that surfaced to date, one might wonder how these books passed the screening, rigid or not.

Of course, teachers should be held accountable as well. Even if there were errors in the books, a good teacher could have spotted it right away and should have made the correction when passing the information to their students. True, but the problem here is, will the students believe the teacher right away? For after all, the book says otherwise. Remember, these students do not have access to many resources than their counterparts in the private schools. And worse, will they have time to check out the sources? While a part of them are more concerned about helping the family eke an additional income,a bigger percentage of them are probably daydreaming about how rich they would have been if they could be like their idols on tv. Something Cruz attributes to the deteriorating quality of our students. Who are these idols on tv? Screaming faggots, singers, actors and actresses cum politicians. Too bad, education could have bridged the gap between the haves and have nots. But with this development, the gap becomes farther and farther away. Truly, the future remains bleak.

If we had been Dianne Reeve's point of reference, she would not have been singing "Better Days" but "Darker Days" instead.

Thursday, October 14, 2004

Calling something a rose, does not a rose make

A rose by any other name would smell as sweet So true. But what happens if we alter some of the key points in that Shakespeare statement? If we call a sampaguita a rose, does it become a rose or will it smell as sweet as a rose? Definitely not, right? It will have its own character. This is what's happening to the latest addition in the Inquirer.

The bloggers community is one in saying that the Inquirer's Talking Points, a spin-off of Sassy's and
Yuga's interview for pinoyblogs, is not actually what a blog is. In fairness, Inquirer did say it is "like" a blog. Well, to me, that meant, it operates like a blog. But does it?

What the Inquirer does have is far from being what they say it is. At best, it is no different from their letters to the editor. The only difference is that here, they give a specific topic which the readers can comment on. Well, they had been commenting before, right?

A blog is a no holds barred, personal journal of an individual which he/she may open to the blogging community for comments. As this is the case, any issue is fair game and leaves to the commenters whether they agree with the opinions of the blogger or not. Nevertheless, the original opinion is the blogger's own. Besides, corollary to blogging is the learning of computer jargon and programming like html's, linking up, etc.

At any rate, if we are to believe Andrew Sullivan when he said that blogging is a "collective mind and a corrective one" it is so because of the openness of the medium in terms of self-expression. Something not found in the Inquirer's plan. If for only that, I would say they're wrong in assuming they're creating a blog. And 'tis true,oh, so true!"

Monday, October 04, 2004

I'm ecstatic!

Allow me to brag a bit. My daughter, Kim, a Sophomore student, is very good in memorizing lines. I discovered this when my poet friend, Arlene Lawson came for a visit from Canada. As poart of her itinerary I prepared during her stay was a visit with the family. I asked my children to prepare a short program. (From that time on, my children refuses to sing in front of me, I wonder why but I overheard my youngest son, Coby, saying "Hala ka, papakantahin ka ni Papa" ) My eldest, Kraiganne, sang an Astrud Gilberto song, entitled. "A Certain Sadness", my son, Mickey played Antonio Molina's "Hatinggabi" on the violin and to her surprise, Kim recited one of her recent poems. Totally unexpected, that made Arlene cry with joy and hugged Kim tightly.
Now I can talk about it. Kim prepared a speech as part of the requirements in her Filipino class. At first, she wanted me to write it for her but I said no. Told her to write it herself, and if need be, will try to correct it. As this was to be delivered in her class, and she wanted to get a high grade, I changed the tone of the speech and make it suit her personality. You see, although she's very friendly and amiable, she can be bitchy at times. That's what I banked on. Being "mataray" is so natural for her, so I adjusted the tone of the speech to that kind of personality. Taught her the proper inflections and gestures that go with the piece and voila, during presentation to her class, she got a perfect score. Not bad, eh? Well, because she did well in her class, she was one of the representatives for the Talumpatian that happened this morning. Guess what? She won second place! Her hard work paid off. Allow me to put the speech she delivered to posterity by putting it here. With your indulgence, here it is.

Wikang Filipino, susi nga kaya ng kapayapaan at pagkakaisa? Sa aking palagay, ang Filipino ay susi nga ng kapayapaan at pagkakaisa. Bakit? Kasi importante ang wika para makamtan mo ang kapayapaan. Kung walang wika, paano magkakaintindihan ang mga tao? Kung hindi nagkakaintindihan ang mga tao, paano tayo magkakaisa? Kung hindi tayo nagkakaisa, paano tayo magkaroon ng kapayapaan?

Mabuti na lang at may mga taong nagpahalaga ng pagkakaroon ng sariling wika. Si Manuel L. Quezon ang nagsabing Tagalog ang ating wikang pambansa. Magpasalamat tayo sa kanya kasi kundi dahil sa kanya, patuloy tayong magiging alipin ng ibang bansa.

Si Jose Rizal na siyang nagsulat ng tulang "sa aking mga kabata" ay nagsabing "ang hindi magmahal sa sarili nyang wika, ay higit pa sa hayop at malansang isda".Ano nga ba ang ibig sabihin nito? iyon ay walang iba kundi,kung hindi ka marunong magmahal sa sarili mong wika,parang ikinakahiya mo ang iyong sarili. Tama bang ikahiya mo ang iyong sarili? Higit ka pa daw sa hayop at malansang isda kasi ang mga ito ay walang pakialam sa buhay at walang ibang ginawa kundi ang manginain lamang ng manginain. Ngayon, kung ikaw ay isang Filipino na hindi marunong magmahal sa kung ano at sino ka, hindi ba parang ikinahiya mo rin ang iyong sarili?

Paano tayo magkakaintindihan kung iba-iba ang wikang ginagamit natin? Marami ngang marunong mag ingles,pero ang lahat ba ay marunong? Bakit ba kasi hindi na lang magsalita ng sarili nating wika? Bakit kailangan pang gumaya sa iba? Oo nga’t magandang mag-aral ng ibang wika pero para mas mahalin mo ito kesa sa sarili mo? Hindi siguro. Yung iba ay naiintindihan ko kung hindi sila mahusay mag tagalog dahil lumaki sila sa ibang bansa. Pero kung dito ka rin lang lumaki,aba, dapat lang na mahusay kang magtagalog di ba? Nakakainis pa yung iba, "trying hard" talaga. Meron pang nalalaman na "lets make tusok-tusok to the fishball." Yung iba naman, kalimitan nilang sabihin ang "Im sorry I have to go na, my car is making potpot na e." Bakit? Ano ba’ng akala nila? Na pag mas magaling silang mag ingles kesa magtagalog e ang cool na nila? Hindi no!

Inuulit ko,hindi ko sinasabing huwag na tayong magsalita ng ibang wika. Ang sinasabi ko lang ay mahalin natin ang sariling atin nang umangat naman ang ating pagkakakilia sa ating sarili. Kung tayo mismoay ikinahihiya ang ating sarili paano pa tayo igagalang ng ibang tao? Kung meron lang sanang iisang wika ang bansa,hindi sana nagkaiba-iba ang pagtitinginan.natin sa isa’t isa. Ngunit dahil hindi ito ang nangyari, hindi lang nagkaiba-iba ang ating pananw sa buhay,pati na rin ang ating kultura at mga adhikain. Ito lang naman ang nilalayon sanang makamtan ni Quezon, ang magkaroon ng pagkakaisa ng adhikain,pananaw sa buhay at kulturang tunay na Filipino. Magandang umaga sa inyong lahat at maraming salamat po.