Monday, December 26, 2005

Oblation Run 2005

I was in campus on Oblation Run day a couple of weeks back, and no, not because I wanted to see nekkid young men parade their shortcomings. I was there to check out the tiangge stalls they set up around the academic oval. The Oblation Run is an annual ritual which was started in 1977 by the Alpha Phi Omega fraternity to promote the stage play "Hubad na Bayani" (Naked Hero). Because it was hugely popular, the fraternity has since held the event yearly to the delight of both young men and women from UP and the neighboring schools.

I'd seen the run twice in my undergrad days, and on one particular day while I was having an exam, the streakers actually passed by our room thrice. So, yeah, I had my fill. I was sorely disappointed though.

This year was different because a couple of nekkid women stole the limelight from the men. They held a yellow poster saying "Equal Rights For Women." Some speculate that they weren't actually Filipinas but had the skin tone of East Asians. Who knows?

This photo was e-mailed to my boyfriend. Nice boobs. :)

Sunday, December 25, 2005

Christmas Begging

If Christmas in rich Christian countries is an excuse for unabashed consumerism, in poor Christian countries, it's an excuse for unabashed begging.

On the way home yesterday, a Barangay tanod in his camouflage pants stood guard in front of our gate, a well-creased envelope in hand. Upon spotting our approach he quickly rushed over and knocked on my car window. "Namamasko po. Para lang sa mga tanod." He didn't even have the courtesy to let us get out of the car first. I'd never met him or seen him actually do his job, but what the heck, he expects me to shell out cash to fund their holiday drinking binge nonetheless. Such is the story of the holiday season in Manila. Christmas brings out the beggar in some of us.

As soon as the air is cool and malls start playing Christmas songs, little (and big) boys and girls begin their nightly noise-making. Don't get me wrong, when I was a kid, I went carolling too. But it was all done in fun. My best neighborhood friends in tow, we would wander as far as our parents would allow to serenade houses with our best renditions of Western and Filipino carols. If we made a few bucks, so much the better. But carolling was an adventure. It was an excuse to wander out at night and see brightly-lit houses. It was never about making money.

These days, for kids, and probably because their parents told them, it's all about milking as much moolah as possible from your kapitbahay. If you give a gaggle of kids a few coins, you can expect them to come back again in a few minutes. An original band of four would break in two's or even come separately, to get some more money.

When I was younger, I don't remember kids carolling on the streets. Now they play patintero with cars, sing a few off-key notes, and all to make a few bucks. Their faces, when they sing Joy to the World, hold absolutely no joy. Their faces aren't even expectant, just blank. As if they were merely going through the motions. In recent years, more and more kids seem to do this. There are city ordinances banning such a practice, but parents don't seem to care when they allow their kids to put themselves in harm's way. What the heck, its all in keeping with the logic of siring as many kids as possible to make you money right?

Making themselves as conspicuously visible as possible, Aetas and other indigenous Filipinos also flock to Manila this season. They usually camp out in the Camachile area near the North Express way tollgate. They would set camp on the islands near the Balintawak cloverleaf for a couple of weeks or more. What for, I have no clue. Maybe they're waiting for manna to fall from heaven. Some wander as far as the South Triangle area. Yesterday we saw some sitting on a sidewalk near Timog. They just sat there, waiting. For guilty middle class folks to take pity on them? Perhaps. A few appropriately dressed "taong-grasa" began sleeping next to our rice store about 2 weeks ago. We didn't have the heart to shoo them away. They obviously waited for soft-hearted customers to give them cash or some rice.

Today, Christmas morning, there are kids wandering the streets to howl "Namamasko po!" at each house. I asked my boyfriend if such a practice was done in Nueva Ecija, where he and his family usually spent their Christmas. He said no. So I wonder where and when this practice of Christmas begging began. Maybe it's a symptom of a worsening social condition. Maybe people these days are more liable to "eat their pride" than eat dust. They're more likely to shame themselves to make ends meet. They're more likely to forgo honor than starve. But why is there a sense of entitlement, like Christmas owes them? And why is poverty always an excuse?

On the Origins of Third World Revolutions

An excerpt of John Foran's new book Taking Power: On the Origins of Third World Revolutions

Introduction

The twentieth century, as much as any before it, must be judged an age of revolutions. The locus of these revolutions, with the important exceptions of Russia in 1917 and the startling events in Eastern Europe in 1989, has been firmly rooted in the Third World, on the continents of Latin America, Asia, and Africa. The record of these revolutions is highly mixed: almost all have started as popular movements which generated wide hope and optimism both internally and internationally, yet have ended at some later point in time, in economic crisis, political repression, or social failure.

The present study is one not of tragic ends, however, but of hopeful origins. It seeks to extend previous work by myself and others on the causes of successful social revolutions to a consideration of why so few revolutions have earned the label “social” revolutions, while so many have fallen short of the sorts of deep economic, political, and social change that could justify this claim.

This book will survey the causes of a wide variety of Third World revolutions, from cases of successful outcomes (measured in terms of taking and holding state power long enough to engage in a project of social transformation) to their close relations among the anti-colonial social revolutions, comparing and contrasting these with cases that have resulted in short-lived success followed by abrupt reversal, attempted revolutions, political revolutions, and the absence of revolutionary attempts where we might otherwise have expected them to occur.

This work is still unfinished. I have sacrificed some of the depth I initially wanted to bring to it to gain the breadth of scope to test a theory. As Jeff Goodwin noted at the start of his book on comparative revolutions, “There is . . . no ‘new’ historical data in the pages that follow.” Or as Theda Skocpol has put it: “Some books present fresh evidence; other works make arguments that urge the reader to see old problems in a new light. This work is decidedly of the latter sort.” I share the aspirations of both of my predecessors in these pages. I imagine that the results will not satisfy many of the historians of the cases touched on here, whose work nevertheless has provided most of the evidence on which I have drawn. Rather, my aim is sociological: to discern distinctive analytic patterns among these revolutionary upsurges, and my hope is to convince readers that there are recurring causal combinations in the historical record. The factors to be tested derive from a multi-faceted theoretical model of the origins of Third World social revolutions that I have been elaborating for the past fifteen (!) years, to which we may now turn.

Perspectives

1 Theorizing revolutions

. . . there are real difficulties in grouping revolutions or, for that matter, any major historical phenomena.

Barrington Moore, Jr.

. . . successful revolutions always have been, and always will be, unique.

Alberto Flores Galindo

Revolutions powerfully shaped the twentieth-century world we have left, and promise to continue to do so on into the new millennium. The revolutionary events of the past generation in both the Third World from Iran and Nicaragua in 1979 to China and Eastern Europe in 1989 and Chiapas today, pose again old puzzles for social theory even as they herald the new situation of a post-cold war world. Alexis de Tocqueville’s dual observation on the French revolution rings just as true for any of these more contemporary upheavals: “never was any such event, stemming from factors far back in the past, so inevitable yet so completely unforeseen.” Virtually all of these social movements took analysts by surprise, and send us back to our theories to detect those distant factors that, in some sense, caused them.

The present study aims to shed new light on a set of transformational struggles that may be clustered under the rubric of “Third World revolutions.” Part Two looks closely at successes in Mexico between 1910 and 1920, China in the 1940s, Cuba in the late 1950s and Iran and Nicaragua at the end of the 1970s, as well as their close relations, the thorough-going anti-colonial revolutions in Algeria in the 1950s, and Vietnam, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, and Angola, all in the 1970s, and at shorter-lived revolutions such as Guatemala under Arévalo and Arbenz from 1944 to 1954, Iran’s oil nationalization period of the early 1950s, Bolivia’s experience from 1952 to the early 1960s, Allende’s Chile between 1970 and 1973, Michael Manley’s democratic socialism in Jamaica in the 1970s, and Maurice Bishop’s New Jewel Movement in Grenada from 1979 to 1983. By “success,” I mean coming to power and holding it long enough to initiate a process of deep structural transformation; I am not here passing judgment on the long and somewhat disappointing history of such bold experiments in change, important as such a balance sheet would be.

The third part of the book investigates a wide ranging set of contrasting cases, starting with the reversal of the seven short-lived revolutions above, the attempts at revolution between 1975 and the present in Argentina, El Salvador, Guatemala, Peru, the Philippines, China, Algeria, and Chiapas, and moving to a set of political revolutions: China in 1911, Haiti and the Philippines in 1986, and Zaire and South Africa in the 1990s.

The central question we will ask of each is what were the causes of the events? What sets of economic, political, and cultural factors were at work, and in what combinations? What role was played by external factors in each case, what role by internal forces? In the end, we shall seek to discern deep patterns across cases, thereby taking up the challenge posed by Barrington Moore, Jr. and Alberto Flores Galindo, who feel that revolutions are so unique that finding a pattern among them is difficult, if not impossible.

The puzzle at the heart of this book is: Why are social revolutions such rare events? And why have so few succeeded and so many failed? The present chapter will lay the basis for the answers suggested by the subsequent case studies in two ways – by briefly introducing the history of theorizing about social revolutions, and by proposing an original model of the origins of Third World revolutions to use as a guide for comparative-historical investigation.

Defining revolution

The study of revolution is marked by fundamental theoretical and political controversy, beginning with the definition of the term itself. An influential definition of what he calls the “great revolutions” was offered by political scientist Samuel Huntington some four decades ago:

rapid, fundamental, and violent domestic change in the dominant values and myths of a society, in its political institutions, social structure, leadership, and governmental activity and policies. Revolutions are thus to be distinguished from insurrections, rebellions, revolts, coups and wars of independence.

This points to the numerous dimensions of social transformation that revolutions unleash, but substitutes violence for the seizure of state power and/or mass participation. A better definition of social revolution has been provided by sociologist Theda Skocpol, who takes up some of Huntington’s criteria while moving fruitfully beyond them:

Social revolutions are rapid, basic transformations of a society’s state and class structures; and they are accompanied and in part carried through by class-based revolts from below . . .

What is unique to social revolution is that basic changes in social structure and in political structure occur together in a mutually reinforcing fashion. And these changes occur through intense sociopolitical conflicts in which class struggles play a key role.

This definition, which I shall adopt in full as my own, represents an advance in linking political and social changes and in identifying the importance of large-scale participation. In this we find an echo of Trotsky’s famous formulation: “The most indubitable feature of a revolution is the direct interference of the masses in historic events . . . The history of a revolution is for us first of all a history of the forcible entrance of the masses into the realm of rulership over their own destiny.” The salience of these three factors – political change, structural transformation, and mass participation – allows us to dissociate revolution from violence per se and to explore the revolutionary potential of such strongly reformist democratic movements as those of Juan José Arévalo and Jacobo Arbenz in Guatemala, Michael Manley in Jamaica, and Salvador Allende in Chile, each of whom aimed at serious transformation of their society.

Skocpol’s definition has the drawback of not telling us how much political and social transformation is required to qualify a case as a social revolution; nor does it define “rapid”; nor, finally, does it stipulate how long a revolutionary government must remain in power to constitute a “successful” case. These are judgments for which observers will have different answers. My sustained case studies of “success” include Mexico, where the most radical forces were defeated; Nicaragua, in which power was held only eleven years; and Iran, where socio-economic change may not have been fundamental. Only Cuba and China now seem entirely uncontroversial on this list. I acknowledge these difficulties, and will attempt to defend my decisions at the appropriate points. The definition does have the great merit, however, of throwing into relief what the successful cases have in common with each other, and how they vary from other sets of cases. Anti-colonial revolutions, I will argue, are closest in kind to the five principal cases of success, both in meeting Skocpol’s three criteria, and in the patterning of causality. In fact, they differ mainly in that the government overthrown is not an indigenous one but a foreign one. Reversed revolutions are cases where revolutionaries came to power – sometimes by non-violent means – but failed to hold it long enough to fulfill Skocpol’s requirement of basic transformation. In my view they represent significant cases of incipient revolutionary transformation; taking them seriously, as cases of both success and failure, is a novel feature of the present study.

These sets of successful cases by our criteria can be clearly contrasted with such types as attempted social revolutions where revolutionaries never came to power at all, but where the movements were prepared to carry out the deep social transformation in question (obviously, such judgments are based on historical counter-factualizing); and political revolutions, which possess a mass character and alter the outlines of the state, but fail to make deep changes in social structure. In this way one can see Iran as a social revolution, and the Philippines as a political one, or Chile as a social revolution, however short-lived, versus South Africa as an enduring, but only political revolution. I exclude from this analysis movements which lacked mass participation even where significant social transformation arguably occurred, as in the “movement” which toppled Haile Selassie in Ethiopia in 1974, the Afghan revolution of 1978, or the horrific events in Khmer Rouge Cambodia in the 1970s, while including the events in Grenada in 1979 also carried out by a small group, for the society itself was much smaller and embraced the change in power with immediate enthusiasm. These are important distinctions, if difficult judgments, to make, possible only if we take Skocpol’s very useful definitional work seriously. This allows us to focus on the conjunction of human agency and structural change, to isolate the causes of those events where people, in large numbers, came together to remake society. I do not pretend to cover the entire universe of relevant cases here, although I have tackled a good part of that universe.

Historical perspectives on revolutions

This study is about the origins of such events. Social science models of the causes of revolutions date back to the 1920s and 1930s. Comparative historians such as L. P. Edwards in The Natural History of Revolution (1927), Crane Brinton in The Anatomy of Revolution (1938), and G. S. Pettee in The Process of Revolution (1938) engaged in a search for common patterns among such major revolutions as the French, American, English, and Russian cases. According to Jack Goldstone, the findings of this first-generation “Natural History of Revolution” school included:

1. Prior to revolutions, intellectuals cease to support the regime.
2. Prior to revolutions, the state undertakes reforms.
3. Outbreaks have more to do with a state crisis than active opposition.
4. After taking power, conflicts arise within the revolutionary coalition.
5. The first group to seize power is moderate reformers.
6. The revolution then radicalizes because moderates fail to go far enough.
7. The radicals then bring about organizational and ideological changes, taking extreme measures to deal with problems and secure power.
8. Radicals impose coercive order (“the terror”) to implement their program in the midst of social dislocation.
9. Military leaders such as Cromwell, Washington, Napoleon, and Trotsky often emerge.
10. “Eventually things settle down and pragmatic moderates regain power.”

The critique commonly aimed at these pioneers of theory is that they merely describe the process of revolution, they do not explain why revolutions occur. With respect to more recent Third World social revolutions, it must be noted that many other considerations enter into their causation that were not available to these pre-World War 2 theorists of revolutions among the great world powers, as we shall see. And yet, as description, this list is not at all bad, as some of our case studies – Iran, for example – bear out.

A second generation of somewhat disparate American social scientists in the 1960s tried to explain why and when revolutions arise, using either social psychological or structural-functional approaches to collective behavior, which Rod Aya refers to generically (and dismissively) as the “volcanic model” of revolution. Ted Robert Gurr and James Davies developed theories of political violence based on aggregate psychological states, notably relative deprivation. Davies proposed a “J-curve” – “a period of growing prosperity that raises people’s expectations for a better life, followed by a sharp economic downturn that dashes those recently raised expectations” – as a recipe for revolt. Within the then popular modernization paradigm derived from Parsonian structural-functionalism, Neil Smelser and Chalmers Johnson looked for imbalances in the subsystems of a society which disoriented people and made them more prone to embrace radical ideologies. Smelser, in his Theory of Collective Behavior (1962) provides a prescient set of factors including structural conduciveness, strain, new beliefs, precipitants, mobilization, and social control. The critique that is generally advanced of all of these approaches hinges on the difficulty of observing and measuring aggregate psychological states and societal disequilibrium, and the corresponding danger of sliding into tautology – a difficulty and danger for all who would theorize revolutions. As Davies himself remarked of Chalmers Johnson: “If one tells an automobile mechanic that the car’s engine is dysfunctional, it is just about as clear and true as when one says it about an old society.” It is also true that these models have a hard time explaining why revolutions have been so rare (as the types of change initiating the pattern have been widespread), and there is here no mechanism to explain the outcomes of revolution (as the earlier Natural History school did). Goldstone tasks them further with being too “purposive,” i.e. seeking to explain revolutions in terms of the rise of oppositional actors in society. However, in my view this emphasis, along with the attendant concern for the values, beliefs, and ideologies of those involved, is a strength of these otherwise not too convincing theories, and in its way compares favorably with the more one-sidedly structural theories that would constitute the third generation.

Beginning in the 1960s and increasingly in the 1970s, a series of structural macro-sociologies of revolution were elaborated, identifying actors and themes ranging from the state, dominant elites, and armies to international pressures and peasant mobilization as the keys to understanding social revolution. An obvious influential precursor was Karl Marx, who stressed the role played by class struggles as structured by the mode of production (unequal social relations based upon a particular labor process) found in societies undergoing economic transition. De Tocqueville, too, in a more ad hoc fashion, noted the importance of the state and elites, village autonomy, and ideology in bringing about the French revolution. Structural theories of revolution in contemporary social science were pioneered in 1966 by Barrington Moore Jr.’s path-breaking comparative study, Social Origins of Dictatorship and Democracy. Moore identified the vulnerable moment as that of the transition to capitalist agriculture and the changing relations among peasants, the state (usually a monarchy), landlords, and a nascent bourgeoisie in this period. Variations in the relative strength of these social groups produced peasant revolution in China, democracy in France, England, and the United States, and fascism in Japan and Germany. He argued that successful commercialization of agriculture undercuts peasant revolution, that peasants must possess certain solidarity structures to rebel, and that they need allies to make a revolution. Eric Wolf’s 1969 survey of six “peasant wars” (by which he really means “revolutions in an agrarian society”) confirms the utility of much of Moore’s schema with a look at Third World cases. Though he insists that each revolution has unique historical determinants, patterns do emerge – the commercialization of agriculture threatens peasants’ access to land, middle peasants are best placed to rebel, allies must be found among the urban classes, and armed force is necessary to seize the state. Jeffery Paige’s 1975 book on Third World peasant movements specifies that revolution occurs only where landed classes depend on the land itself (not capital, machinery, and technology) for their income and peasants are amenable to organization in their capacity as sharecroppers or migrant laborers. Of these three theorists, Paige is the most single-minded in focusing on the peasantry at the expense of urban sectors, the state, and almost all else.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

On Global Food Fights

"Free trade is destroying the lives of rice and corn growers. People in my village earn just $20 a month and use traditional methods ... How can they compete with rich international businesses?"

--Tri-Heru Wardoya, a Sumatran farmer

The Sacred Become Profane

Until 2001, virtually all goods and services crossing national borders dance to the tune set by the world's single governing body of trade relations. That is, all, except for food.

There has always been a tacit agreement among the shapers of the Post-World War II era to leave Agriculture out of "free" trade. Each nation can set tariffs and provide subsidies for local
farmers in order to protect not only the domestic agriculture sector but as a matter of national security. After all, hunger kills just as as guns and ammos do.

In 1994, when the the World Trade Organization (which I fondly call Whores That Offer) was established to enforce trade agreements on goods, services, (including finance) and intellectual property, the need to regulate trade in food products was recognized. The Agreement on Agriculture or AoA was included, although largely set aside. Until 2001, in what has been called the "Doha Round" of WTO talks.

For the first time in the last 60 years, the previously untouched, but perenially controversial trade in Agriculture has captured the world's attention in ways talks on banking secrecy or copyright infringement never had. After all, who cares anything about financial matters or enforcement of intellectual property rights but those whose profit margins are threatened? But WE, all of us, need to eat to survive. More importantly, 2/3 of the world's nations depend heavily on income derived from agriculture export.

Funny enough (or, if you've a serious disposition, absolutely tragic), even those whose agriculture sectors are dwarfed by income from other sources are surprisingly the main opponents in trade talks.

Battle of the Titans

The United States and the European Union are the two largest food exporters in the world, their farmers among the richest.

Considering the not significant income derived from food trade (as compared to manufactured exports or services), one wonders why in heavens they bother to point fingers at each other as to whom is the greater Food Bully.

In a time where "Free Trade" is as sacred as the Koran and Holy Bible, these two are the greatest violators of their own trade principles.

Europe's Common Agricultural Policy (CAP)

The CAP played a significant role in forging the European Community after the devastation of the Second World War. The introduction of agriculture in the common economic policy was a necessary step to integrate the economies of the member states. It was also seen as an integrating mechanism and social welfare policy for farmers who were most susceptible to fascist tendencies during the war period.

In the last half a century the CAP protected a progressively shrinking number of pampered farmers from external competition by erecting tariffs. Small land-owners eking away a living were pressured to give way to technologically advanced farming industries.

While many Europeans themselves see the unfair advantage given to these companies as well as the tax burden they themselves must shoulder, CAP remains essential to keeping the peace in an "Enlarged" EU. The 15 new members from Central and Eastern Europe are primarily agriculture producers and they expect their own farmers to receive subsidies and protection as their Western counteparts. For these reasons and for many more I have absolutely no desire to explain in excruciatingly technical detail, the CAP is never going away.

The perenially overblown CAP budget will continue to burst the European Commission's belt at the seams. The Commission allocates roughly 40 billion Euros which will actually increase to 50 billion in eight years (EU Commission CAP Mid-term Review 2003).

Despite the EU's claims to the contrary, and despite internal calls for reform, CAP remains a thorn on European taxpayers' side and an incontrovertible fortress designed to keep Third World produce at bay.

The US Farm Bill

On the other side of the Atlantic, the Farm Security and Rural Investment Act of 2002 (Farm Bill) has been criticized by the EU as an even more "trade-distorting" (meaning in violation of the Doha principle of abolishing subsidies). One mechanism of the new Farm Bill is the Market Access Promotion Program which allocates $200 million to expand markets overseas. It has been suggested that it was no coincidence that George W. Bush, a Republican, whose traditional electoral bastions have been the agriculture-producing states in the Heartland, had promised this bill to US farmers during his campaign.

The US Farm Bill minces no words in its policy agenda, at least until its expiry on 2008. Trade expansion is critical. Markets outside of the country must be found.

Most growth in food demand will be in developing countries, where populations are also seen to increase. Prospective importing countries (in order) are China, India, Indonesia, Mexico, Pakistan, Russia, Thailand, Philippines, Korea, Turkey and Egypt. The EU and the Cairns Group, a bargaining body of Third World countries and of which the Philippines is a member, have been identified as the US’ main competitors. The trade agenda for the 21st century: continue liberalization of trade in agriculture, enhance competitiveness, ensure proper tools and an maintain an ambitious global marketing strategy.

The Food Fight Could Turn Ugly

What is clear among economists, NGOs and academics is that the AoA divides winners and losers among industrialized and developing countries.

It is said that should “complete” liberalization and removal of tariffs, domestic support and export subsidies take place, these will trigger an increase in agricultural commodity prices in the world market, making farming more profitable for all.

This will seem a miracle, however, since the trend in the last few decades has seen the drop of almost all agricultural goods. It takes more and more bananas to buy those Nokia units. One must plant more and more coffee to purchase non-fat caramel macchiattos.

The “projected” rise in prices should induce countries to better improve their output for export. Certainly the Philippines, whose agricultural goods only comprise 6% of total exports but employs 40% of our labor, might be enjoined to reform domestic policies in order to offensively; take advantage of these forecasts and defensively; shelter our own rural producers and laborers and domestic consumers.

Some are doubtful however that the should the AoA come in full effect, any substantial rise in prices will actually occur. Some are even doubtful that AoA compliance will actually reduce domestic subsidies of both US and EU.

Complete liberalization of trade in agriculture will also mean that those who are the clear dominant producers will have an advantage over countries like the Philippines in a free-for-all competition for markets world-wide.

No doubt, both the US and EU will continue to balance domestic farm interests and their commitments to the WTO, placating the thousands of protesters (including those that strip and jump into icy cold seas) with jargon-filled and booby-trapped compromises.

The implications seem rather daunting and from the Philippine point of view, the room for maneuver seems miniscule. Meanwhile our government officials, pun intended, are still "sleeping in the kangkungan."

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Competing Views on the Problem of Iraq

In the past few months the US occupation of an Iraq in "transition" has become increasingly unpopular. The voices urging the Bush administration to finally eliminate Saddam and his "weapons of mass destruction" have now changed their tune to pull out. The question is not if, but when this will happen.

After doing their best to "secure" the Middle East and wipe out terrorists, the US is keen on cutting their losses and getting out before things get truly ugly. In the meanwhile, Iraq is closer to civil war than stability.

Iraq’s instability stems from the massive political, social, cultural and economic reordering being undertaken at the moment. It’s doubly problematic in that this reordering is ensconced in a multitude of interests at the domestic and international levels. It touches on national politics, on regional politics and on superpower whims. Increasingly it is even made into a matter (or, depending on one’s ideological proclivity, a “problem”) of culture. From the view of political economists it is a source of the world economy’s instability of oil production and the consequent sky-rocketing of fuel prices impacting on each and every human being on the planet. Increasingly, it may be seen that Iraq’s struggle is also the world’s struggle.

View Number One might very well argue that the 2003 invasion of Iraq and the toppling of the Saddam Hussein regime was crucial in the revitalized “policing” power of the lone superpower. The uncertainties of the post-Cold War era seemed to have suddenly been replaced by the intractable US engagement in world security soon after its domestic territory was breached by sowers of terror in September 11, 2001. While scholars of View Number Two persuasion were busy dreaming of a world were there is no longer a monopoly of power, that fateful day seemed to have demonstrated the need for a hegemon to maintain stability. This awesome power was abundantly demonstrated in the US’ single-minded bypassing of the UN Security Council mandate despite objectives from many quarters. Multilateralism seemed to have failed in view of the superpower’s national interest.

Indeed Iraq’s stability, sovereignty, its very statehood seemed to have been sacrificed in the altar of US hegemony, the US need to rid the world of internationally-organized terrorism and once again show its supremacy.

View Number Three would claim that Iraq was not sacrificed on the altar of the might US State, but on the altar of the mighty American capitalist class. They would view the Bush administration as captive of the American oil industry’s interests in securing access to the world’s second largest holder of oil reserves. The war in Iraq could also have serviced the business interest o the US military-industrial complex. Indeed, upon closer inspection of key personnel in the Bush administration, including Bush himself, once cannot help but entertain these ideas. The US invasion of Iraq not only brought profits to Bush’s capitalist cronies but also brought legitimacy to his government and presidency plagued by accusations of election fraud and ineptness.

The issue of transplanting a liberal democracy on Iraqi soil is as problematic an issue as the ones we’ve mentioned so far. Democracy today has been pretty much equated to the liberal democratic model posed by a few select Western countries. Democracy (i.e. liberal democracy) today is widely seen as a common good, a universal value that all of the world’s nation-stats must aspire to achieve. Indeed the process of democratization itself has in the past few decades engendered a sizeable number of literature, attested to by the success of certain authors writing about democracy and the multitude of journals worldwide.

So, already in contention is whether there is indeed a universally apt kind of democracy that can fit the needs of any State. Is this kind of liberal democracy, the kind the United States has attempted to instill in many parts of e world, including the Philippines, the right model for Iraq? It is testament to the American hegemonic power (in the Gramscian sense) that it has managed to impose its own definition of democracy on the concept of Democracy itself. At the core, liberal democracy is the right to representation, the assurance of free and regular elections as well as civil and political rights. Many scholars argue that liberal democracy does not ensure economic and social rights.

So with the contentious concept of democracy itself, we turn to the question of Iraq’s prospects of “operating within a democratic system.” What are the prospects of Iraq’s successful transition to democracy?

Before US intervention Iraq has been an authoritarian regime for the last two decades. It also has its share of social divisions by way of Sunni and Shi’ite rivalry as well as the Kurdish minority. By way of social solidarity, democratization by representation may very well exacerbate social divisions. The US as the intervening external power as been accused of taking advantage of this fissure in order to further its own interests.

In terms of economic development, Iraq plays the role of key owner of a vital economic resource; petroleum. It has been incorporated into the world economy as a primary supplier of this strategic resource. State ownership of oil resources will certainly make state officialdom a lucrative endeavor. In this particular setting it is difficult to see State-sponsored development where there is little need for the State to distribute economic gains to the rest of the population. Or indeed, where the State does not need monetary contribution (by way of taxes) for the government machinery to function. An elite-controlled and driven “democratically-elected” Iraqi government does not bode well for making the state truly responsive to its constituents.

While there are the domestic issues of class alliances and divisions, the consolidation of power of the political and economic elites, the prospects for the formation of a vibrant civil society, the assurance and protection of civic and political rights of individuals, the nascent Iraqi state must also somehow address the external issues of continued US intervention, the role it plays in the conflicts of the Middle East region, the role it plays in world oil politics on top of safeguarding its very own existence.

From the looks of it, Iraq has a very long way to go before it can be consolidated as a State fashioned in the image of the US and a longer way still for it to be truly democratic.

Friday, December 09, 2005

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Ang Pagdadalaga ng Pelikulang Pilipino

Tulad ng mumunting bulaklak na nagpupumilit umusbong sa dagat ng basura at dumi, ang kwento ng Pagdadalaga ni Maximo Oliveros ay pinagpunyagiang ibahagi ng dalawang manlilikha ng pelikula sa kabila ng kakulangan ng pondo, ng karanasan at ng kawalang lingap ng industriya ng pelikulang Pilipino. May mangilan-ngilan, tulad ng Cinemalaya, na nagbibigay buhay sa patay na nga ay naghihingalo pa.

Ang angking talino ng mga manlilikhang ito'y 'di maikubli ng malabong rehistro ng digital camera sa telon o ang pangit na tunog. Kung minsa'y 'di mawari ang dialog, ang bawat kuha naman, ang bawat imahe ay nangungusap na rin. Basurang lumulutang sa ilog, ang mga talulot ng orchid, ang kutitap ng krismas lights, ang lasenggong nagpupumilit tumugtog ng kanyang obra sa sira at sintonadong piano.

Tulad ni Maxi na lugmok sa kahirapan, na pinalilibutan ng tila'y gabundok na mga balakid, ang pelikulang Pilipino ay pilit na muling bumabangon at lumalago. Suportahan natin ang ating dalaginding 'di dahil tayo'y obligado o kinukunsesya kundi dahil siya'y tunay na magaling.

Ito'y kwento ni Maxi, kwento natin, kwento ng pelikulang Pilipino. Maghandang humalakhak, magngitngit, maawa, tumangis. Maghandang mamangha. Manood kayo.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Never Say Never

I pride myself in (almost never) jumping on bandwagons. The whole Japanimé mania completely flew over my head growing up. The only pc games I've ever really played are Final Fantasy VII because I was good in it and The Sims because its fun building and decorating houses and playing god. I've never been interested in playing any online game. I refused to watch Titanic because billions of people all over the world had seen it. I've never wanted to play badminton because everyone else does. I caught one episode of Meteor Garden and didn't really like it. I've never been a fan of any Chino/Koreanovela.

But in the past few weeks I've seen two Korean movies My Little Bride and April Snow and I am hooked. Ugh. And for reasons I know have entirely to do with the lead actors Kim Rae Won and Bae Yong Jun. Asian men were never ever attractive to me. Fair skin and almond-shaped eyes are a no-no. But these two have bucked my trend. With millions of women all over Asia swooning over them, I am human after all in that I am not immune. Shoot me now.

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Breaking up with my Brother's Ex-Girlfriend

Sight unseen, I hate her immediately. She with the cloyingly strong perfume (as in masangsang), she with the artificially high-pitched laugh, she with the nubile body and huge breasts (according to my cousin). Her smell, which trailed all the way down to the garage from my brother's room, is enough to let me know that she is a ne'er-do-well piece of slut. And I will never, never like her.

I miss my brother's Ex. She was good for him.

Since Jane and my brother's relationship started going down the tubes (for good this time), I was always on her side; telling her to leave my asshole of a sibling. She needs someone who'll treat her better. She deserves someone older, more mature, more emotionally stable, more giving, more responsible, more generous, more everything. After two years and a half, she'll be old and gray before my brother grows some sense and some spine.

And now there is this new slut leaving her malodorous perfume all over my house. She who has no courtesy to show her face to me or my Mom even when she has the gall to "sleep over."

Ah, I miss Jane. I wish her back.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Battle of the Sexes

The preliminary investigations of the Subic rape case has begun. I'm sure lawyers from either side of the legal fence are well aware that this is not a mere legal proceeding but one fraught with Philippine-American politics, and more importantly, sexual politics.

The 22-year old victims' lead counsel, Katrina Legarda, was a no-show. Maybe it's her tactic. Let the crusty ol' boys stew in their pants. I suppose she wants to save her energies for the main event. In her stead, she sends 5 young, attractive lawyers (one of whom was a former beauty queen), all clad in black suits. Seated across them are 10 aged male veterans clad in off-white barongs.

The images on TV last night set the precedent for the upcoming legal battle. It is to be a battle of the weak versus the strong, of the young versus the established, of men versus women. Let the games begin.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

New ATM Syndicate

Blogger fritz warns against yet another creative way criminals steal your money.

Ginagawa kasi nila eh nilalagyan nila ng ruler na may pandikit sa isang side yung loob ng cash dispenser. Akala ng nagwi-withdraw walang lumabas na pera. Actually mahaharang yan ng ruler sa loob. Hihigupin ng machine yung cash dahil akala nito hindi nakuha ng account holder yung pera pagkatapos ng ilang seconds. Pero may ilang matitira dyan, didikit sa ruler. Pag lumabas kayo agad eh may papasok nyan sa machine tas susungkitin yung ruler sa loob na may iilang nakadikit na pera. Mainit po ngayon ang nakawan sa ATM lalo na’t magpapasko.
Read more here.

A Letter Against Corporate Tyranny

Anton M. Bonifacio writes:

Dear Members of the Blogging Community:

Online free speech is in danger.

We are a group of parents who formed the Parents Enabling Parents (PEP) Coalition and set up a website which included a Bloggers Forum section to enable parents and other interested members of the blogging community to post online their personal sentiments/opinions/views related to the Pacific Plans Inc. planholders fiasco.

Last October 25, 2005, we were sued for libel by Malayan Insurance Company -- part of the Yuchengco Group of Companies, one of the largest conglomerates in the country -- and the Yuchengco family (in particular, Amb. Alfonso Yuchengco and Helen Yuchengco-Dee) primarily because of the opinions that were found in a sympathetic blog (pacificnoplan.blogspot.com), Yahoo! Groups (no2pep2010@yahoogroups.com) and our own Bloggers Forum section in our website (www.pepcoalition.com). The pacificnoplan.blogspot and no2pep2010@yahoogroups.com are not owned nor managed by the PEP Coalition.. The only forum we, as a coalition, provide is in the pepcoaliion.com website.

It's a classic case of David and Goliath. The Internet was the last resort of the planholders to voice their concerns and yet, the use of this medium is now being used against them. The Complaint-Affidavit, a copy of which is attached here, was received by a PEP Coalition member through ordinary mail last November 8.

We are just a group of parents struggling together to enjoin a giant corporation to honor their contractual obligations to us when we bought our education plans for our children. We can barely scrounge for the money to pay for the tuition fees of our children which should have been paid by PPI, much less have the money to pay for airtime and newspaper ads to air our plight. The only recourse we have to keep in touch with one another and express our concerns is through the internet, the cheapest medium of communication.

For providing an avenue for planholders and others to express their views, sentiments and opinions on this fiasco, we are now being sued!

Whatever will be the outcome of this suit can set a precedent for media, which has also begun to use blogs as an alternative medium of journalism, and for all of us in the blogging community. Please blog about this matter in your respective fora.

Alone, we are but another hyperlink on the Internet; but together, we can be heard.

Thanks.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

The Exorcism of Caffeine Sparks

The events unfolding on the screen were eerily familiar. Emily Rose was on her bed when her bedsheets were slowly pulled off from her and her gradual demonic possession began.

I was 17 or 18 when something similar happened to me. I was fast asleep on my bed, in the sanctuary of my own room when the sensation of my sheets being pulled down woke me up. I've always been a light sleeper, given that I'm not unduly tired, and so I awoke with a start. Blind in the darkness, my body was frozen for what must've been a few seconds that seemed to last forever.

My brain was processing what had just happened while my body was locked immobile. What to do, what do? The lights. A few interminable seconds of forcing my muscles to work. Hit the lights! A surge of energy propelled my body up and my hand blindly searched for the switch a few feet above my bed. I looked around my bed, my empty room. No one. Nothing. A surge of fear threatened to engulf me and I debated what to do. It was tempting to sit still, in shock and inexplicable horror. But I chose otherwise. At the top of my voice, for what must've been a few minutes, I screamed all the expletives I knew. "Putang ina mo, sige subukan mong lumapit. Sige subukan mo!" Over and over and over. It was silly, and my voice was echoing in an empty room but at the time it seemed the logical thing to do. Nothing happened, and I sat still for 20 or 30 minutes staring at my TV, the light, my closet, the walls. Nothing.

How I could have fallen back to sleep, I don't know. And for the next month or so, I'd chosen to sleep in my parents' room. Even then I'd woken a dozen times or so to the sensation of cold climbing up my legs. I'd forgotten how I mustered the courage to move back into my own room after that. Prayers, crosses, holy water and the rosary I suppose. I haven't been able to sleep with no light on since then.

I've always been "sensitive," prone to hearing things since I was a child. But getting older has its benefits because as one gains knowledge then everything has a rational explanation. I might've jerked unknowlingly and the motion of my legs could've shoved my sheets. The consequent cold visiting me at night may have been the product of my own mind. Lots of rational explanations. My UP education has since taught me to view the Church and its teachings with suspicion. Religion is a construct, created to control human behavior with a series of complex rules. God is relative and so the devil must be too. If I hear or feel some things at times my mind immediately shuts them out. I've exorcised those kinds demons, and these days, I am only left with entirely human ones.

Edited to add:

God, the devil, or the innermost recesses of my brain must have a really sick sense of humor. As if to make a point I got a grand total of an hour's worth of sleep last night.

After having written this article, I decided not to chance it so I slept in my brother's room (thankfully he was out carousing) right across my mom's. At about 12 midnight, after not even so much as a wink, I transferred to my mom's bed. She woke, blinked at me, but said nothing. She said nothing even after I'd shifted for what must've been a few dozen times trying to sleep.

But I couldn't. Images in the movie, and my own experiences kept haunting me. I found I couldn't catch my breath at times. 12:30, 1:00, 1:30. The clock kept ticking. At around 2:15, half asleep and half awake, I smelled something burning. To know the significance of this, you've got to watch the movie. Anyway, to make sure I hadn't finally succumbed to my own personal hysteria, I woke my mom. I asked her if she smelled something burning. Thankfully, she did too. We looked around to check but the odor was coming from outside the window, so we went back to bed.

At this point, I expected the bed to start swallowing me or experience the same paroxysms as Emily Rose. As 3:00 (again you had to have seen the movie) slowly creeped, I turned on my side, away from the clock. After what I judged was 30 minutes, I looked back at the clock and saw it didn't freeze at 3:00. Thank God. The Devil didn't come get me. I finally fell asleep at 4:30 and woke at 5:30 with my drool on the pillow.

Slate Columnist Slams New York Times Columnist Over Rappeurs

David Brooks, Playa Hater
The New York Times columnist grapples with "gangsta rap."

By Jody Rosen

David Brooks, the New York Times columnist and author who brought us Bobos, Patio Man, and other armchair sociological formulations, is at it again. In today's column, Brooks takes his shtick overseas and into the realm of pop music with a denunciation of "French gangsta rap." Citing the prevalence of hip-hop culture among "the rioters"—"poor young Muslim men" from Parisian banlieues and other French slums—Brooks goes on to to spin a theory of global gangsta rap hegemony.

Read more here.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Niques Ta Mère (Fuck Yo' Mutha)

France seems to be coming apart at the seams, fueled by the frustration of the young. For the first time in the last 3 weeks, the riots, which have largely been in peripheries of big cities, has now breached the invisible walls of a major city; Lyon. With non-caucasian young people coordinating their attacks through their sites-web and blogs, there is no doubt that the resentment is felt throughout the nation.

The feeling of helplessness and anger is well-expressed in French Hip-hop. Popular among the urban youth, Rap Français is the second largest market of the genre second only to the United States. There are now over a thousand hip-hop artists across the hexagon.

French Hip-hop has been around since the 80s to become the most popular genre of music among the disaffected youth today. The ten-year old album of rap pioneers Suprème NTM "Paris sous les bombes" is characteristic of the rhymes young people have been rapping for over two decades. Similar to American hip-hop in the early days, these songs witness the social conditions of the French banlieu. They speak of repression, oppression, racism and violence. Written a decade ago, Paris sous les bombes looks to have captured the sentiments of today.

Because my knowledge of French street slang is limited, please forgive any errors in the translations:

Suprème NTM: Paris sous les bombes - Paris under fire (1995)

Il fut une époque à graver dans les annales
Comme les temps forts du Hip Hop sur Paname
S'était alors abreuvé de sensations fortes
Au-delà de toutes descriptions
Quand cela te porte
Paris sous les bombes
C'était Paris sous les bombes
Le mieux c'était d'y être
Pour mesurer l'hécatombe
Une multitude d'impacts
Paris allait prendre une réelle claque
Un beau matin à son réveil
Par une excentricité qui l'amusait la veille
C'était l'épopée graffiti qui imposait son règne
Paris était recouvert avant qu'on ne comprenne

Refrain
Paris sous les bombes
C'était Paris sous les bombes

Où sont mes bombes, où sont mes bombes
Avec lesquelles j'exerçais dans l'ombre
Quand nos nuits étaient longues
Et de plus en plus fécondes
Ouais ! On était stimulés par la pénombre
Prêts pour lâcher les bombes
Prêts pour la couleur en trombe
Certains étaient là pour exprimer un cri
D'autres comme moi, juste par appétit
Tout fonce-dé, chaque soir Paris nous était livré
Sans condition, c'était à prendre ou à laisser
Quel est le gamin, à l'âge que j'avais
Qui n'aurait pas envié l'étendue que couvrait
Nos aires de jeux à l'époque
Quand il fallait qu'on se frotte aussi avec les keufs
Mais ce sont d'autres histoires en bloc
Je crois pouvoir dire qu'on a oeuvré pour le Hip Hop
Désolé si de nos jours, y'en a encore que cela choque

It was a time to be remembered in history
Like the times of Hip Hop on the Panama (I don't understand the context)
Were engulfed with sentiments strong
Beyond all description
When it carries you away
Paris under fire
It was Paris under fire
Better be there
To witness the hecatomb (large-scale slaughter - Yeah, I never knew that was an English word)
A multitude of impacts
Paris was going to snap
A beautiful morning awaken
By a novelty enjoyed the night before
It was the age of graffiti which imposed its reign
Paris was engulfed beyond all comprehension

Where are my bombs, where are the bombs
I played with in the shadows
When our nights were long
And increasingly fertile/productive
Yeah! One was stimulated by the half-light
Ready to release the bombs
Ready for the splash of color
Some were there to utter a cry
Others like me, just plain curiosity
All dark-skinned men (?), each evening Paris was delivered to us
Without condition, take it or leave it
What kid of my age
Would not have envied the expanse
Of our playgrounds at the time
When it was necessary to run into cops
But there are other stories in the block
I think I may say that we worked for Hip Hop
Sorry if these days, there are still things that shock


Resentment of the State and its arm, the police, is pronounced in many songs.

Police (J'appuie sur la gâchette - Pulling the trigger, 1993)

Police : vos papiers, contrôle d’identité
Formule devenue classique à laquelle tu dois t'habituer
Seulement dans les quartiers
Les condes de l'abus de pouvoir ont trop abusé
Aussi sachez que l'air est chargé d’électricité,
Alors pas de respect, pas de pitié escomptée
Vous aurez des regrets car
Jamais par la répression vous n'obtiendrez la paix,
La paix de l'âme, le respect de l'homme.
Mais cette notion d'humanité n'existe plus quand ils passent l'uniforme,
Préférant au fond la forme, peur du hors norme.
Plus encore si dans leur manuel ta couleur n'est pas conforme
Véritable gang organisé, hiérarchisé.
Protégé sous la tutelle des hautes autorités.
Port d'arme autorisé, malgré les bavures énoncées
Comment peut-on prétendre l'État, quand on est soi même
En état d'ébriété avancée ? Souvent mentalement retardé
Le portrait type, le prototype du pauvre type,
Voilà pourquoi dans l'excès de zèle, ils excellent.
Voilà pourquoi les insultes fusent quand passent les hirondelles.
Pour notre part ce ne sera pas "Fuck The Police",
Mais un spécial NIQUES TA MÈRE de la mère patrie du vice.

Police: "your papers, identity check"
A procedure to which one must be accustomed
Only in the 'hoods
Cops' abuse of power, much too misused
Know that the air is charged with electricity,
No respect, No pity
You will regret, for,
Never by repression will you obtain peace,
The peace of the heart, the respect of man.
But this concept of humanity does not exist any more when they wear the uniform,
Choosing the norm, fear of diversity
More so if in their handbook your color is not in conformity
A true organized, gang of hierarchy.
Protected under the supervision of high authorities.
Carrying authorized weapons, despite stated blunders
How can one claim the State, when one is oneself, even
In a state of inebriation? Often mentally retarded
The picture of the guy, the prototype of the poor guy,
For this reason in overzealousness, they excel.
For this reason the insults fuse when the swallows pass (This is an idiomatic expression whose meaning I forget).
For our part it will not be “Fuck The Police”,
But a special FUCK YO' MUTHA from the motherland of vice.

The outlet that is hip-hop is no longer enough as pent-up frustrations seek different and more virulent avenues. What was simmering underneath the cauldron of racial segregation and dated notions of identity and nationality has now literally exploded in the face of La République.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Molested at the Salon?

It was in the way he stroked my hair, the way he let the backs of his fingers caress my neck, my ears, my chin. The excessive stroking seemed unnecessary. Snip, snip. I have a decent gaydar and "George" didn't even register a ping. Sure, he looked the part, with a bright orange mane streaked with gold flecks. He even spoke the part, with the customary "kulot" in his voice. But no ping, not even a slight one. Snip, snip.

I went to the salon yesterday to get a haircut. I haven't had on in ages. Two, three years? With my curly hair, it didn't really matter if all the strands were of even length so I cut it myself. But yesterday I thought, I really need a new do. And so I got done. By George.

I once told a friend I knew he desired men way before he did. A few years later and voila! He found out he liked men indeed. And so my gaydar is fairly accurate. Whenever I meet someone of the opposite sex, there is always...something there. Pheromones? Something to indicate if this man is straight or not. But George definitely had something going. It was in the way he moved, the way his fingers looked when he wielded his scissors. Snip, snip. Even his eyes, though appropriately glued only on my mane, gave away...something.

That haircut took about an hour, after which I concluded "George" isn't gay at all. I'd heard of straight men pretending to be gay to work in a salon to dress women's hair. It probably gave them more credibility, otherwise they'd work in a barber shop. No licentious caressing of women's faces then.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Paris in Flames

The national police chief, Michel Gaudin, said unrest had spread to some 300 cities and towns around France, with more than 4,700 vehicles destroyed and 1,200 people taken at least temporarily into custody since October 27.
For the past 12 nights or so, the"banlieus" of Paris are burning with social unrest of the marginalized. What started as a riot in the suburb of Clichy-sous-Bois has now spread to other peripheries of the City of Lights as well as the banlieus of Dijon, Rouen and Marseilles all the way to the south.

The accidental deaths of two black youths while hiding from the police has opened a can of worms the French prefer to ignore but continues to fester anyway. Racial discrimination, police brutality, lack of equal opportunities, neglect. The birthplace of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights hasn't been so solicitous of its own migrant population.

While "suburbs" in the United States evoke images of white picket-fences and meticulously manicured lawns, the banlieu is the French version of the "ghetto" or "the projects" in the US. These are government housing to segregate France's immigrant, blue-collar workers from the big cities. Funny how I remember a former French professor who said the buildings of Salcedo Village in Makati remind him of them.

Perhaps one of the biggest misconception of France and the French is their strong sense of "nationhood." Second only to Americans, the French are expert in selling their culture as one of impeccable taste and class. Haute couture. Haute cuisine. French culture, it is said, is homogenous. Article 2 of the 1958 constitution proclaims it to be so:

[State Form and Symbols]
(1) France is an indivisible, secular, democratic, and social Republic. It ensures the equality of all citizens before the law, without distinction as to origin, race, or religion. It respects all beliefs.


Ensuring the "equality of all citizens" also forbids any statistical data on ethnicity and religion. All French are alike in their Frenchness. No special distinction, therefore, is given to ethnic minorities.

In truth, post-war France is multi-cultural. They have their Spanish maids, their Arab janitors, their Asian cooks, their African criminals and of course, their Polish beggars. As of 2004, France has a population of 62.4 million. The CIA factbook estimates a 5-10% Muslim minority, which means 3-6 million Muslims of Algerian, Moroccan and West African descent. Whites are of various West and Eastern European origins.

As of September 2005, there are 2.6 million unemployed or 9.8% of the labor sector.

In an explosion of civil unrest reminiscent of the May 1968 insurrection where millions of students and workers went on strike, this looks to be another turning point in France's long history of dramatic social changes.

Sunday, November 06, 2005

ABS-CBN does a COMELEC

ABS-CBN claims to count each and every vote sent by Pinoy Big Brother fanatics. They even go so far as have a count-down timer to encourage people to send in last-minute votes.

Last night cutie (and a bit retarded?) Sam Milby was voted out, garnering only 46.2& verus Jason's 53.8%. It's far from a blow-out wouldn't you think?

So how was it that ABS-CBN knew to fly in Sam's mother all the way from Ohio the night before Eviction Night? Fuckers.

Friday, November 04, 2005

Times Are Hard...So Ebay


I have said once before that Ebaying is dangerous to your health. I find that it seriously has some addictive effects. First, there is a peculiar kind of pleasure at seeing your items bid on. The pleasure increases two-fold, three...four...as the number of bidders fighting for your items increase. Then to top it all off at the end of your listing, you have extra cash. Isn't the WWW great?!?

So, to make converts of you lot, and also to guide the not-so net savvy (yes, that's you) here is a step-by-step guide to setting up your own Ebay virtual store.

1. Go to the Ebay Philippines main page.

2. Register. It is absolutely FREE! Please be truthful about the information you fill in. Ebaying is based on trust and policing the ranks. If you start by lying, then you have violated the basic principle which has made Ebay a multi-billion dollar enteprise.

3. Choose the items you want to sell. Usually, the easier ones to sell are books because buyers aren't really concerned about the item's physical condition. As long as all the pages are intact, then you have a good chance of getting rid of it in a few days. Best-sellers are recommended. Big names are good. You can also opt to list your obscure titles. Who knows?

"Pre-owned clothes" also enjoy brisk sales. As well as wallets, accessories and shoes. Who knew? People are always enthusiastic of bargains.

4.Take photos. You will need to take good, well-lighted photos of your items. For this, you need a digicam of course. Ebay hosts your photos for free! Up to 3 photos can be uploaded for each item.

5. Describe. Item description is an art. One must be persuasive, but not overly so. Otherwise your prospective customers might suspect you're being too enthusiastic. So stick to the facts. If your item is in mint condition, say so. If it has a few scratches, creases or tears, indicate where they are on the item. Choice of words is also important. "Pre-owned" certainly sounds better than "used" or "second-hand" right?

6. Now you are ready to Sell. Once you have registered, you will see four boxes on top of your screen. Click on Sell. Here you will have menus to indicate what kind of items you're selling. Books? Women's clothing? Computer stuff? Videos? CDs? Everything Else?

Then fill out the item title and description. Titles are also important. I've only been e-baying for 6 weeks. And so far, I've learned that:

BNWT means brand new with tag
BNWOT means brand new without tag
SZ means size

7. Pricing. In a drop-down window at the bottom of your page you will be asked to fill in a price. You are absolutely free to put in whatever you want in there of course. But try to stay clear of 00. If you want to sell your item for 200 for example, just put in 199. I don't know, it looks...better that way. I guess the brain will register the 1 better than 2.

8. Listing period.Another drop-down window will ask you how long you want your item "listed." That means, how long do you want your item available for bidding? 3, 5, 7 or 10 days?

9. Mode of payment. Usually, ebayers include their preferred modes of payment in the item description. You have many options as a seller:

a. Meet-ups. Cash on delivery. Choose crowded, public places to ensure your own safety. Malls connected to the MRT are good.

b. Shipping. Bank deposit. When you're busy you might also opt to just ship the item. Shipping costs are of course shouldered by your buyer.

There are plenty of couriers around. Air21 (of Fedex) hasn't let me down yet. LBC and 2Go are your other choices. Before you ship, make sure that the buyer has already made the deposit to your bank account.

c. Shipping. Gcash. I'm not sure how this works, since I don't have a Globe line. But if you're a Globe subscriber, you can use your phone to receive payments convertible to cash. I think.

10. Transaction Policies. These are guidelines to help both you and your buyers during the transaction period. These are clear rules your customers must follow should they decide to buy the item. Remember, this is the Internet. There are plenty of crazy people on the internet.

To give you a better idea, here is an example of an item description with the details on mode of payment and policies :

Pre-owned Kamiseta cream corduroy skirt. Size: Large. In very good condition, no tears, scratches or stains.

Length: 15 inches
Waistline: 32

++++++++++SOME REMINDERS TO ENSURE A HASSLE FREE TRANSACTION. PLEASE READ CAREFULLY BEFORE BIDDING. THANK YOU+++++++++++


1. The burden of picking up item is entirely on the buyer's shoulder. I will not go out of my way to meet you anywhere else than indicated here. If you can't pick up your item, just let me ship it.

Air21 rates for shipping in Metro Manila:

500 grams: P77

1 Kilo: P99

2 Kilos: P104.50

Rates will vary for shipping elsewhere.

2. Transaction must be completed in not more than 7 days. (From the time I inform you of your winning bid to the time you receive your item).

3. I am online everyday. I check my e-mail at least twice every day. I am completely aware of all movements in my "virtual store." Please be advised.

4. Bidders with 0 feedback (either first timers or people who've no clue what they're doing) will be contacted. This is to ensure that you actually check your mail and you really want to purchase the item. For those who do not respond in 2 days (48 hours), your bid will be cancelled.

5. For Buyers who do not respond to notification of winning bid within 48 hours, your item will be relisted and you will receive appropriate feedback.

6. I have no return policy unless indicated.



11. Feedback. This is an all-important feature because it serves as a "policing" mechanism at Ebay. At the end of each transaction, both Buyer and Seller will give each other feedback. Are you happy with the promptness of you buyer? Did s/he follow your policies?

In the end, you will build a reputation through your feedback. You will receive either a Positive, Neutral or Negative feedback. Anyone can see this information, including future buyers or people perusing through your items on offer. So if you want people to bid with confidence on your stuff, it helps to be straightforward and honest and collect as many positive feedbacks as possible.

So there. I have tried to be as brief and precise as possible. Ebaying is a great way to make some money on the side as well as get rid of your junk at home. Remember they can be other people's treasure. Enjoy.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

When Fish Come to Your House


About 3 or 4 years ago, there was only one fish vendor plying the streets of our neighborhood. Armed with his blue pedicab and 2 plastic buckets, he would trumpet "isdaaaa" in a distinctive high-pitched and pinched alto. My Mum, if she was home, would usually purchase a few kilos of lapu-lapu or dalagang bukid if there were any. Galunggong was (and still is) very much a favorite.

Nowadays there are about 4 to 5 different fish vendors hawking their goods on our streets. Each day one comes along, striving to pass by early enough before his competitors do but late enough to catch homemakers up and awake. Timing is essential.

Now that there are more choices, Mum is wiley enough to pit each vendor's prices against each other. She would claim that Fish Vendor A passed by yesterday and his Tilapia was a few pesos cheaper than present Fish Vendor. During this bargaining process, Fish Vendors usually like to make suggestions about how to prepare so and so fish and which dish would best fit such or such. Mum doesn't appreciate these cooking lectures in the very least. When she is in a bad mood, Fish Vendor will get a different type of lecture altogether.

Aside from fish, other food items are readily hawked by enterprising folks in our neighborhood. Of course the staple binatog, ice cream, taho and balut are still mainstays. Fruits have made a strong entry into the street-peddling market. We have a Pineapple Man come by once a week, and a 2 or 3 different Coconut Men every other day it seems.

It seems the days when your mother dragged you along with her to the wet market are over. These days, the market comes to you.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Politics in the Age of Information

In line with the news item presented below, here is an excerpt of a paper I wrote on the politics of the digital revolution.

We live in a continually evolving world polity. In an age where individuals are increasingly aware of what exist outside of the personal spaces they inhabit, and indeed in a time where it is relatively facile to move out of the spaces they have known all their lives, what is global, what is international, what is transnational is increasingly local and domestic. The developments in the technological, political and socio-economic realm have eclipsed each and every one of our notions of humanity. To continue viewing the world through dichotomies that artificially separate the domestic and international, the economic and political, are the gravest of follies anyone can commit.

With the view that social structures and their concomitant processes are products of historical change, we examine the notions of power and society in a world indelibly marked by information revolution. We ask, what do we mean exactly by ‘information revolution’?

We argue that power today is more the ability to exclude from access to vital information embodied in networks and institutions. We also argue that world politics in this age of information remains much as it has been for the past few centuries; one wherein struggles for dominance and power preside over human activities. The information revolution is yet another matrix, venue or stage wherein these struggles are juxtaposed...

...We attempt to reveal the structures that underlie what so many digerati claim as a new frontier wherein netizens are all plugged in as equals. Where humanity has the capacity to transcend differences, and create a harmonious world. We attempt to explode this utopian drivel and interpret today’s realities through open and conscious eyes.

It is also useful to address myths by taking them more seriously. If in fact their value is determined less by their empirical truth or falsity but rather by whether they are living or dead, then the question is not are they true but what keeps them alive. Myths are sustained by social practices that involve the leadership of iconic story tellers whose accomplishments in one area live them a platform to promote mythic story-telling (Mosco, 2001: 7).

By these ‘iconic’ storytellers Mosco means those who unequivocally see the increasing informationalization of society as a good when they are in fact speaking for particular interests and at the same time creating a misleading depiction of what the new advances in technology and the so-called information society is all about. He cautions us in the wholesale buying of the idea of globalization and the information age which has acquired such gloss and such demagogical baggage that it does not leave for a deeper unearthing of its dynamics underneath.


What is Information?

Information is not something we knowingly consume as we have in the past, but something that reaches us instantaneously and injects us the message. An interesting question therefore is what is this message?

Information today is presentational instead of representational as in the past. Art such as paintings, sculptures and works of fiction are representations of reality. They are information relaying to us depictions of what is ‘real.’ Information today however presents a message as factual, not leaving time or space for reflection as to whether the message is at all true or indeed relevant. In real life, this kind of information reaches us through the media.

Next we consider information in four perspectives. William Martin gives us four such perceptions (1995: 19-21).

Information-as-thing. Here knowledge is differentiated from information in that the former must be expressed or represented to make it tangible. To make knowledge tangible it must be communicated. The tangible form is information.

Information-as-resource. It is seen as any kind of natural endowment that can be harnessed from the environment (i.e. oil, minerals, wood etc.).

Information-as-commodity. Here it is treated as any commodity gaining value as it progresses through the various steps of creation, processing, storage, distribution and use.

Information-as-constitutive-force-in-society. “Information is not just affected by its environment, but is itself an actor affecting other elements in its environment. Information is not just embedded within a social structure, but creates the structure itself (1995: 21).”

What is the Information Society?

It is said that we are moving into a post-industrial society where increasingly production has diversified into services instead of manufacturing (to the detriment of the latter). Thus, production has become highly dependent on the possession and manipulation of information.

The Information Society is a society in which the quality of life, as well as prospects for social change and economic development depend increasing on information and its exploitation. In such a society, living standards, patterns of work and leisure, education and market place are all influenced markedly by advances in information and knowledge…This is evidenced by an increasing array of information-sensitive products and services, commoditized through a wide range of media, many of them electronic in nature (Martin, 1995: 3).

What is Power in the Information Age?

Our conception of power in the age of information is seen and investigated through different (and complementary to the traditional conceptions) lenses.

In this new economy of knowledge-intensive production, power arises more from the exclusion of actors from access to information. This exclusion is enabled through intellectual property.

“Real property in the means of production carries with it the right to exploit. Intellectual property carries with it the right to exclude (Lash, 2002: 24).”

Intellectual property rights are then enforced through political will and political institutions. The very nature of the information economy being global has made it difficult for individual states to enforce these rights. Therefore, politically-instituted international regimes such as the World Trade Organization (Which has now subsumed the World Intellectual Property Organization) have been designated the task. The WTO is increasingly becoming the battle grounds of defending the right to exclude.

This exclusion is also synonymous to exclusive right to exploit, to make profit from. For this exclusion to occur, information must necessarily be commoditized.

Knowledge is collectively produced and is not inherently scarce, it only acquires a commodity form insofar as it is made artificially scare and access thereto depends on payment of rent… It is worth noting here at least three processes involved in transforming knowledge into a fictitious commodity: the first is its formal transformation from a collective resource ('intellectual commons') into intellectual property (e.g., patent, copyright) as a basis for revenue generation; the second is the formal subsumption of knowledge production under exploitative class relations through the separation of intellectual and manual labour and the transformation of the former into wage labour producing knowledge for the market; and the third is the real subsumption of intellectual labour and its products under capitalist control through their commoditisation and integration into a networked, digitised production-consumption process that is controlled by capital (Jessop).

These seemingly innocuous events are increasingly becoming the norm in today’s scramble for exclusivity-in-use. Power in the information age then stems from the capacity to exclude other actors from access to and profiting from these life forms/modes of doing things. In an era where the creation of wealth is increasingly dependent on being plugged-in into the information network, exclusion from it promises to be detrimental to material and intangible well-being of people.

It is therefore the increasing preoccupation of world powers to appropriate as much knowledge/information as they can.

World Summit on the Information Society: Who Controls the Net?

The second phase of the World Summit on the Information Society will see the gathering of world leaders in Tunisia on November 16-18 2005. The WSIS was set into motion by the International Telecommunications Union in 1998. The United Nations General Assembly then endorsed the framework set by the ITU Council. The WSIS addresses the impacts of the digital revolution to the lives of everyone on the planet. Aside from tackling issues of governance, the summit also addresses issues of global inequality in access to information.

As in issues of Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs), Intellectual Property Rights (IPRs) and Trade in Agriculture, the economic giants are once again at odds on the issue of Internet governance. The European Union, as well as other developing countries are challenging US dominance of the management of the Internet.

Monday, October 24, 2005

Wisdom of the Ancients

Some of the strangest sex advice in the last couple of millenia in John Naish's "Put What Where?!: Over 2,000 Years of Bizarre Sex Advice."

How to pull
“Pick the woman’s worst feature and then make it appear desirable. Tell an older woman that she looks young. Tell an ugly woman that she looks ‘fascinating’.” Philaenis, papyrus sex manual (2BC)

Go blondes!
“All women are lascivious but auburn blondes the most. A little straight forehead denotes an unbridled appetite in lust.” Giovanni Sinibaldi, Rare Verities: the Cabinet of Venus Unlock’d (1658)

Buns and corsets cause nymphomania
“Constricting the waist by corsets prevents the return of blood to the heart, overloads sexual organs and causes unnatural excitement of the sexual system. The majority of women follow the goddess Fashion and so also wear their hair in a heavy knot. This great pressure on their small brains produces great heat and chronic inflammation of their sexual organs. It is almost impossible that such women should lead other than a life of sexual excess.” Dr John Cowan, The Science of a New Life (1888)

On the other hand . . .
“The majority of women (happily for them) are not very much troubled with sexual feelings of any kind.” Dr William Acton, Functions and Disorders of the Reproductive Organs (1858)

Indian enlargement
“Rub your penis with the bristles of certain insects that live in trees, and then, after rubbing it for ten nights with oils, rub it with the bristles as before. Swelling will be gradually produced. Then lie on a hammock with a hole in it and hang the penis through the hole. Take away the pain from the swelling by using cool concoctions. The swelling lasts for life.” Kamasutra, translated by Sir Richard Burton and F. F. “Bunny” Arbuthnot (1883)

Climaxes can kill
“Fainting, vomiting, involuntary urination, epilepsy and defecation have occurred in young men after first coitus. Lesions of various organs have taken place. In men of mature age the arteries have been unable to resist the high blood pressure and cerebral haemorrhage with paralysis has occurred. In elderly men the excitement of intercourse with young wives or prostitutes has caused death.” Havelock Ellis, Psychology of Sex: a Manual for Students (1933)

How often?
“The ordinary man can safely indulge about four times a month. More than that would be excess for a large majority of civilised men and women.” Lyman B. Sperry, Confidential Talks with Husband and Wife: a Book of Information and Advice for the Married and Marriageable (1900)

Single-handed signs
“Look at the habitual masturbator! See how thin, pale and haggard he appears; how his eyes are sunken; how long and cadaverous is his cast of countenance; how irritable he is and how sluggish, mentally and physically; how afraid he is to meet the eye of his fellow, feel his damp and chilling hand, so characteristic of great vital exhaustion.” Dr Henry Guernsey, Plain Talks on Avoided Subjects (1882)

Never marry these women
“Redheads. Any girl named after a mountain, a tree, a river or a bird. Ones with rough hands or feet. Ones who sigh, laugh or cry at meals. Any girl with inverted nipples, a beard, uneven breasts, flap ears, spindle legs or who is scrawny. Girls whose big toes are disproportionately small. Girls who make the ground shake when they walk past.” Koka Shastra, The Indian Scripture of Koka (12th century)

And, if you can’t find it, don’t worry
“The clitoris, while important, is not nearly as important as many of us have been taught or led to believe.” Edward Podolsky, Sex Technique for Husband and Wife (1947)

But whatever you do ...
“Never fool around sexually with a vacuum cleaner.” Dr Alex Comfort, The Joy of Sex (1972)

Saturday, October 22, 2005

Driving While Female

Makati City has become more familiar to me in the last two years since my boyfriend lived there when I first met him. I know the business district passably well, certainly more so in the last couple of years than the twenty-three odd ones before.

I especially know the area around Greenbelt because I am there at least once a month to shop or see the latest film fests. And so, I know that there are never any traffic enforcers on that "Forty Winks" intersection (Pasong Tamo and that other street I forget) going to the Greenbelt 1 parking area. It can be safe to say then that one can harmlessly ignore the "No right turn on the red signal" sign post conspicuously planted next to the traffic light as long as one ensures that one is turning right when all the cars from the other side of the road have safely crossed. Yesterday proved an exception as two conspicuously planted Makati City biker patrollers, in their white polo shirts and royal blue shorts hailed me as soon as I ignored the politely offered traffic suggestion.

What is strangely funny is, not a few moments before, I was gleefully recounting to my friend Arlene, the finer arts of charming your way out of a traffic violation. She had warned me that MMDA officers are now in the full swing of the holiday season in their early collection of "pamasko" from unsuspecting motorists. I recounted my own strategies on how to avoid parting with your money or driver's license.

It is an advantage if one is wearing a low-cut blouse. One can position one's torso and shoulders in such a way that distracts and persuades like no uttered words or pleading can. If one has reasonably well-shaped legs and one is wearing a short skirt, then by all means, open the driver's door instead of merely cracking open the window to show them in their full glory.

One's chance of being let go with a stern warning and a 20 second lecture about a driver's responsibilities and whatnot doubles when one is lucky enough to be wearing both a revealing blouse and shorts or skirt. Lucky for me, yesterday I had chosen to don cream pants and a blouse whose neckline hugged my collarbone.

Unarmed with my weapons of choice, I had to resort to other talents. Since I am over 20, the crying, scared bit just doesn’t work anymore. Firstly, one has to be polite and respectful. Always say the requisite “po” or “opo” even if your apprehending officer doesn’t seem overly aged. Alternate between smiles and a “little-girl-lost” expression depending on the situation. Play up the damsel in distress bit on every opportunity given.

Officer: “Ma’am, did you see the no right turn sign over there? You just violated a city ordinance.”

Me: (flutter eyelashes) Oh really??? I’m so sorry I didn’t see! I was just looking at the other side of the intersection waiting for the cars to pass, as soon as it was clear I just made the turn.

Officer: (Stern smile) Your driver’s license please.

Do not hesitate to lie. But never attempt to do so if you can’t deliver with grace.

Me: You see, I’m from Kalookan. I’m not in this area often, so I’m not familiar with the ordinances. And sir, I honestly didn’t see the sign. I hadn’t seen my friend in a long time so we were busy chattering.

Officer: (cursory glance at my friend on the passenger’s seat)

One must not be ashamed to play the dumb chick next to the apprehending officer’s superior logic and smarts. One must always agree, remember always with a smile or a confused frown, with whatever he says.

Officer: Ma’am this is city ordinance we strictly enforce. You see, if I don’t issue you a ticket, you will not remember this violation and you’re likely to do it again.

Me: Oh, but sir, I assure you I will never do this again. I’m not always in the area. I swear I didn’t see the sign!

Officer: (macho man-ish) You do agree that I am right, that you won’t remember to follow the rules if I don’t penalize you for your transgression. You admit that I’m right and you’re wrong.

In the three years that I’ve been teaching I have learned that the tone of voice is a powerful thing. It can intimidate, inspire, move, censure, mock or cajole depending on the need. When it looks like things won’t go your way, remember to keep your voice flustered, a bit panicky and always, always sweet. Sweet in a little-girl helpless way.

Me: (breathy) Oh yes sir, I know I’m totally wrong! But can you please let me go on a warning just this time?

Officer: (goes to his comrade with the ticket book)

When it looks like you officer is unrelenting, offer to do the right thing and do your duty as a responsible citizen of the country.

Office: Ma’am you’ll have to claim your license at the Makati City hall.

Me: Can I get it today?

Officer: Oh, no. Monday to be safe. It’s already late and the city hall closes at five.

Me: Oh, where is it?

Officer: On JP Rizal.

Me: Where is that?

Officer: Err. You can reach it through Guadalupe.

Me: (confused frown, fluttery breath) I’m so sorry sir, but I’m not sure where that is!

When one has amply demonstrated one’s total helplessness and utter sweetness, one moves in for the kill.

Me: Sir, are you sure you can’t just let me go this one time. I’ll remember this and I promise never to do this again. What’s your name?

Officer: (flustered) Rolly.

Me: Rolly, I’ll remember this I promise.

Officer: (puffed chest, confused frown, utter resignation) Oh alright. Here’s your license.

Grateful, flushed with adrenalin after having scaled that tiny mountain, I drove away in smug satisfaction that contrary to common knowledge, women are not, in fact, the weaker sex.