Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Breaking the Colonial-Cum-Victim-Cum-Cinderella Mentality

It could be a thousand blogs, a million essays, a billion books and myriad commentary--- how many times have we looked at the condition of the Filipino? It is not to say, we should stop. Introspection is good for the soul.

Take this honest look on "The Philippines as an Open Pussy Country" by Ang Kape Ni LaTtEX and {caffeine_sparks}. Sparks' take:

...Since our culture of colonial-cum-victim-cum-Cinderella mentality reinforces the material poverty of the majority and the two are locked in a vicious cycle, why not begin with improving our ideological self-image?

Since I have been away, I can mercifully tune out of the news of the country's permanent crisis. This time last year I remember being depressed by everything. In the media, among colleagues and friends, the only alternative to hopelessness was celebrity scandals. No wonder the likes of Kris and Ruffa have gained notoriety, prostituting their lives to the public so hungry for distraction from our culture of self-defeatism and self-flagellation.

As one equally bourgeois Italian once said - pessimism of the intellect, optimism of the will. In colloquial terms - Habang may buhay, may pag-asa. Better yet - Wasak na wasak na wasak...pero kaya pa. :)
indeed. why not improve our ideological self-image?

Every generation says that the one it sired had fallen into decadence. Likewise, every generation says that of itself.

Take for example the current issue with the local church. is it any wonder then, why the Catholic Church of our time has begun imposing once more, a dress code? After all, dressing the part can sometimes change a person's outlook, it can raise confidence or lower it or change how people see us.

Though, no offense to the Church, shouldn't we be welcoming people into the fold, rather than alienating them? On the one hand, if people find the rules to be offensive to them and the price of admittance to God's house too great, isn't it also in their God given right to find a place they'd like to belong to, or change the existing status quo from within the system?

While we're at the conservative side of things, Al Gore's recent book, "The Assault on Reason" starts off as an attack on the right-wing, zealot neo-conservatives that have taken control of America. Now, I've only gone through half the book, so far he is saying that these Conservatives are in it for Power for Power's sake.

what does the New York Times say about it?

This volume moves beyond its criticisms of the Bush administration to diagnose the ailing condition of America as a participatory democracy — low voter turnout, rampant voter cynicism, an often ill-informed electorate, political campaigns dominated by 30-second television ads, and an increasingly conglomerate-controlled media landscape — and it does so not with the calculated, sound-bite-conscious tone of many political-platform-type books, but with the sort of wonky ardor that made both the book and movie versions of “An Inconvenient Truth” so bluntly effective.
Anyway, the reason why I mentioned Al Gore's book was because of his observation during the first few chapters of his book. In it he talked about the power of television and how it can change people's minds. The mindlessness of television, the focus on the mundane like Paris Hilton or OJ Simpson or Anna Nicole Smith and their excessive coverage of those events, that quite frankly is not of the highest importance and is very damaging, mind numbing. He said that the discourse in America has been perverted and "spun" and that "reason"--- thinking things and settling an issue through sound judgement is no longer the driving force in America, rather ideology of the right is, as espoused by George W. Bush.

One reason why this is so, Al Gore said was because with television--- the medium is one way. They deliver the information and we, the people are merely recipients. there is no interaction, no adding of value from us. What little discussion (30 second sound byte) there is has become for the purpose of ratings, ergo: money, hence, he said the current condition of leadership in America: power for power's sake.

If you've seen Studio 60's pilot, the character Wes Mendell summed it up best, ranting about the state of television and society:
This show used to be cutting-edge political and social satire, but it's gotten lobotomized by a candy-assed broadcast network hell-bent on doing nothing that might challenge their audience. We were about to do a sketch you've seen already about five hundred times. Yeah, no one is going to confuse George Bush with George Clinton. We get it. We're all being lobotomized by this country's most influential industry! It's just thrown in the towel on any endeavor to do anything that doesn't include the courting of twelve-year-old boys. Not even the smart twelve-year-olds - the stupid ones! The idiots - of which there are plenty, thanks in no small measure to this network! So why don't you just change the channel? Turn off the TV. Do it right now. Go ahead.
Changing the channel a bit, Take this piece that talked about how Apple is creating a generation of iTards. This comes after six months of iPhone madness, and a weekend of people falling in line to shell out US$500 to US$600 to get the phone de jour. the blog speaks of the "decadence" of America's youth. Instead of talking and solving the problems of the day, like Iraq and many other issues of importance, the highest priority is a very expensive phone. Can you really blame the guy or for that matter the same could be said about iPhone fandom?

An Open Pussy Country, The Church, The Right-Wing NeoCons for power-for-power's sake, the Assault on Reason and the decadence of America's youth as seen by the Left-Wing all pointing and saying there is a "problem" with how things are in the world, specifically on their part of the world. Granted, most of it, some people might see as "yet another page mirroring America"--- i'm sure other parts of the world feel for their culture, a sense of loss, an emptiness, like they've lost something.

My point is--- Every generation says that the one it sired had fallen into decadence likewise, doesn't every generation say that of itself?

We talk about losing something. My 13-year old cousin in her infinite wisdom chided me yesterday over instant messaging, for lacking in "kamalayang panlipunan," for not knowing that melanie and ronald, noel and cynthia, whoever they are, are getting a divorce. In my "infinite wisdom" concluded: they must be in the same league as celebrity and soap de jour. This young lady from a well off family also happens to be very good at math and at the top of her class and if that is what interests the kids of today, is there something wrong about that? Perhaps, it is the new bourgeois.

In a condescending tone, I laughed that whole "kamalayang panlipunan" remark off. It still begs the question though: how is the love of most Filipinos in their soaps any different than say myself and millions of people all over the world following the whole the iPhone event, which quite frankly, I find is far more interesting than the politics or soaps driving the Filipino nation? Are they any different from other geeky thing like watching movies, or comic books and the like?

Are we losing something?

The Japanese swordsmaster, Miyamoto Musashi espoused a holistic approach in his road to mastery. He wrote of knowing the ways of life, to learn and be open to the knowledge and skills of people and their particular profession is a way for a person to know strategy and virtue, thus he gained mastery by also learning the art of tea drinking, laboring, writing and painting.

That said, going back to Sparks' point, which actually is a point many blogs and people in general have written on and touched upon and constantly lament: why not improve our ideological self-image? Is it as simple as changing our race's "Cinderella-half-glass-empty" world view to the "glass half-full"? In many ways, yes. In many ways, no. And how is that anyway related to Miyamoto Musashi's Way?

Sparks wrote of following celebrity and soap de jour, as a form of escapism. It can be likened to geeks like me ogling the iPhone or enjoying and loving the simple beauty of OS X and our Macs. For most people, that's all there is. The vicious cycle continues because there is no will to break it. People, don't chose to break the cycle. You may argue, they can't.

Can't they?

Speaking from a geek's point of view, let's take the iPhone. Without doubt is a well designed, engineered and manufactured product from its outer shell to how it is packed on the inside and how the software works. And if design is a signal of intension, this one device speaks of simplicity, of quality, of craftsmanship and the passion of people who created it and is actually a celebration of those traits. For us geeks--- the iPhone is a symbol of a perfection that we can still achieve, our version of art that we can aspire to and hope to surpass one day.

There really is nothing wrong with a bit of escapism every once in awhile. Neither is there with soap de jour. Neither with being conservative nor liberal. Certainly it is very difficult to change "people's tastes" like, if it is the new Bourgeoisie. Human behavior is very difficult to transform. Some people can be argued to have such terrible taste, but that's being subjective, isn't it?

Then again, would most people find it fascinating to read about Before Big Bang: Light Shed on "Previous Universe" or Egypt's "Lost Queen" may have been found or be interested in the whole Dinosaur Extinction Spurred Rise of Modern Mammals or the fate of the Dodo? how about the excellent video by the History Channel: Star Wars: The Legacy Revealed?

The problem begins when either the mundane or the serious is the only thing that they do know. Thus people drown in escapism or unable to translate that escapism into positive action. What follows is shallow reasoning, unable to see beyond their narrow vision of the world.

We forget the humor in it all.

Don't get me wrong, it works both ways for the snobs. This is where Miyamoto Musashi comes in. Simply put: you got to know the mundane and the serious. Problem is, a lot of people limit themselves to the mundane and some to only the serious.

How do you change people's perceptions? how do you inspire? how do you show people that there is a world far more than what we perceive is our limit? Well, they've got to be open to the idea of a world, bigger than they can see, right? to borrow sparks' words: "Why not improve our ideological self-image?"

Look at this homogeneous simple snapshot of life: Ang Kape Ni LaTtEX, bansang panaginip, cruizer, happyslip, MLQ3, Philippine Commentary, Placeholder, Philippines for Men, Philippine GPS Users, Ricky Carandang Reporting, the Four-Eyed Journal, {caffeine_sparks}, Writing on Air, wide ranging in their tone, style, tastes, not to mention, focus and they're all Filipino. That's a simple sample of diversity right there! Certainly not complete--- many more out there on the interwebby and they like many others in their own way, raised and continue to raise the bar of discussion and reason.

It is the great and profound gift of the Internet that allows for conservative ideas as much as liberal ones. Those ideas flow freely both ways, creating diversity and discussion. That's the most essential thing to raise the bar. Not only can we laugh at the mindless things we can find on the Internet or delve to the mundane, but we can also raise the bar of understanding and rationality or choose either the conservative or liberal route. Where else can we find such a rich diversity of ideas, beliefs, point of views, and focus?

that's not the real test, is it? if you're reading this you probably are part of the converted, as in converted to the wonders of the 'Net. The test is getting others to see this beauty. The test is getting them all online to taste the richness and profoundness and quiet simplicity of this gift and open them to a world beyond celebrities' scandalous lives.

The first point of this post is to state that every generation sees decadence in it and in the generation that it sired. We can reopen discourse, we can return to civility and reason and understanding and thus, raise the bar of expectation. the second point of this post is accepting ideas, even though we hate it in our guts. It means thinking out of the box. It means embracing the mundane to the serious in a holistic way and, that is how we break the vicious cycle of what {caffeine_sparks} called "our culture of colonial-cum-victim-cum-Cinderella mentality".


sparks said...

Hey Cocoy,

I've a follow-up to my previous post. :) Hopefully its not quite as depressing.