Saturday, December 27, 2008

Reading Marx's Capital with David Harvey

How cool is this? Free video lectures! With the world turned into shit, Uncle Karl is in vogue once more. And with Socialist Imperialism (read the Soviet Union) dead and discredited, perhaps a review of Marx and the permutations/elaborations of his scholarship can again be undertaken without the ideological baggage.

"A close reading of the text of Karl Marx's Capital Volume I in 13 video lectures by David Harvey."

Friday, December 26, 2008

Vicious Cycles of Technological Underdevelopment

As some of you may know, I am currently scanning as many documents as possible. Uncluttering my home has lead to unearthing some nifty stuff - like my STS readings! I present the first entry under my 'fun with a scanner' label.




To help explain the diagram above, please refer to The Uncertain Quest: Science, Technology and Development.

Christmas Wish

Holidays and merriment, arms - metaphorical and not, are temporarily put away as the nation celebrates the season. The future looms in uncertainty, but all that is put aside. A cease fire this is. A halt in hostilities. The calm in the eye of the storm. Next year will be a rough ride, when has it ever been different? My only wish as we go into 2009 - that we get our shit together. And fast.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Sunday, December 14, 2008

The Depoliticisation of the Filipino and Marketisation of Everything

It begins with the Self - the subject at first born free then subsequently shaped and subsumed by its environment. The political is born of the bargaining of conflicting desires of individual selves. The political dies in the event where all desires are harmonised. Anti-politics it is called. While conflicts remain in the realm of the real - manifesting in actual wars, in petty crimes, in the overburdened justice system - they take a backseat to the realm of the unreal, that seething mass of collectivised desires, fed by the basest insecurities of our ego.

The siren call of self-realisation is impossible to resist. The call is heeded in those gigantic structures that litter the urban landscape. In these sanctuaries of hyperconsumption we engage in highly ritualized masturbation. The Self abuses the commodified body - that blank canvass to adorn, to modify, to pamper. To satisfy the self-perpetuating hunger for ego-stroking, the Self must sell its labour to the market, earn enough to reproduce itself its life and its lifestyle, then quickly return to the leisurely activities with which to prop its ego.

Individualised selves comprise this atomised urban society. They are in general young, hip and cosmopolitan. Now a good majority are plugged in to the globalised economy, their body clocks ticking in disharmony from the local, their id swimming in deterritorialised tastes and norms. For this class of selves, the facade of the public are inconvenient barriers that must be transcended, for collectivised desires always reside in the realm of individual private consumption. The public sphere is an anomaly, a paean to a collective identity, an anathema to the autonomous Self.

This, however, does not preclude social relations between Selves. However these relations can only be mediated by market relations. Friendships, loves, kinship are entangled in the web of monetisation. Social relations are at base motivated by the need to quench the thirst of the fragile ego, which can only be satisfied by the currency of money, that symbol of power and capacity in this late stage of modernity.

In the peripheries and interstices of urban centres, there reside masses of bodies unrecognsible. Undifferentiated, inconsequential, eking sustenance from the dregs of the urban centres' wealth-creating machine. These non-Selves are unable to self-articulate and are thus rendered mute. Like garbage and stray animals on the streets or politicians on television, they are background decoration of the public. To avoid seeing the often ugly morass of these bodies and the facade of public institutions - the articulated Self rarely ever ventures in the public sphere. It prefers to inhabit the private sanctuary of its labour and its leisure. It prefers to extenuate social relations with other Selves similarly bent on satisfying collectivised desires of consuming mass-produced objects and mass produced culture, to realise its increasingly mass-produced Self.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

The Defense Has to Hold

Practised salespersons, two young ones rushed to us selling their leis of ilang-ilang. We were smoking off my brother's birthday bounty outside a restaurant in Quezon City. And there they were eagerly shoving their wares to our newly-stuffed faces.

As I have been wont to do lately, I conducted a mini-interrogation of these child labourers. One is in the fifth grade and the other in third. They looked small for their ages - purportedly 9 and 11. They were residents of NIA road - that slum area near the QC central post office. Like all sob stories, their parents were mostly unemployed. I asked them why they were working when their parents weren't. The practised answer was - of course they wanted to help their families. Their classes are from 12 to 6, after which they hit the hard streets selling their little bit of fragrant heaven.

How long do you stay out here? Until we sell everything off. Do you have time to play or do homework? The fifth grader eagerly pointed to the little satchel at the foot of a tree. Home work on top of work work.

Bright kids, I thought. It didn't matter whether I was fed lies. I suspected as much given how fast the answers flew out of their little mouths. Maybe liars - but quick-witted ones. I was impressed and so I bought a couple of strings of ilang-ilang.

Tomorrow these little girls' evening will be exactly the same as this one. After school they will doff their uniforms and hie off to places of conspicuous consumption to earn their keep.

Tomorrow I will go to Makati, one among the multitude. Amorphous, symbolic, the many voices of those who say no to changing the highest law of the land to suit the interests of the lawless.

I will go because those little girls cannot.

Farmers' Homily

Mnsr Gerardo Santos' homily at yesterday's Pro-Carper/Anti-Chacha march.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Pro-CARPER, Anti-CHACHA, Pro-Reform Rally on December 10

These past few months have once more exposed the absurdities of our political and governance systems. The shameless attempt of politicians to extend their term, their blatant inaction on the extension of our unrealized agrarian reform, and the heartless reversal of the awarding of land to land reform communities has exposed how this administration can only work for its own agenda and how our system of
governance allows for such acts.

In this light, the CEAP is calling us to join a rally to manifest our indignation and our call for reform. Tomorrow, there will be held a Pro-CARPER/Anti-CHACHA/PRO-Reform rally. Assembly will be at the St.

Peter's Cathedral at Commonwealth. A mass at 12 will initiate the activities, which will be followed by a march to Batasan at 1 and a whole day national situationer till 8 pm.


--------------

We need genuine social and political reform for the many; Not self-serving charter change for a few.

Be watchful! Be alert! You do not know when the time will come…May he not come
suddenly and find you sleeping. What I say to you, I say to all: ‘Watch!’
(Mark 13:33-37)

As we begin the season of Advent, we are called to prepare ourselves for the Lord’s coming – to be ready to welcome Him into our hearts and our communities not only at Christmas, but at every moment in our lives as individuals and as a people, in faithful and hopeful vigilance.

Sadly, in our country, the common good is often subordinated to narrow private interests. The needs of the majority who are poor are often sacrificed for the self-serving ends of a few. Many unresolved questions of corruption and abuse of power are fostering a culture of impunity and a political climate of deep distrust and powerlessness. Thus the call to watchfulness beckons Christians to become engaged citizens in a perilous time when democracy and social justice are under serious threat.

It is unfortunate that in the present context, charter change (cha-cha) which could truly be a genuine instrument of long-term institutional reform, is viewed with deep suspicion and is seen as endangering democracy itself. This is so because just as in 2006, its advocates can barely conceal that their real aim is not reform but further concentration of power. Even as they pay lip service to economic and political development, cha-cha proponents cannot disguise their overriding objective of prolonging the stay in power of current officials, particularly the President. One draft resolution (HR 550) even blatantly extends the terms of officials for one year without elections. The hasty efforts to collect 197 signatures in the House of Representatives calling for a constituent assembly (conass) or directly amending the economic provisions of the constitution are being pursued in order to get the supreme Court to rule quickly on the meaning of a three-fourths majority in Congress which is needed to pass amendments via this mode of charter change. Those who are brazenly pushing these resolutions believe that if they can get the numbers, both in Congress and the Supreme Court, they can simply ram cha-cha through.

As Catholic schools, we cannot stand idly by while the common good is sacrificed and our basic political institutions, including popular sovereignty through regular elections, the bicameral nature of Congress, an independent judiciary, and the hard-won 1987 democratic constitution itself, are thoroughly undermined.

What we need from our leaders is truth, accountability and genuine social and political reform for the majority. We certainly do not need any charter change that will only serve the narrow interests of the few who are currently in power. Thus we
emphatically say: “No to any cha-cha before 2010”!

But more than just rejecting charter change now, we highlight two issues which Catholic schools are already engaged in and which demonstrate that there are more urgent questions that deserve the attention of Congress and other political leaders than self-serving cha-cha.

1) CARP extension with reforms and the issues of land, food and equitable development
We call for the immediate passage of HB 4077/SB 2666 which seeks to extend the agrarian reform program to cover over 1.8 million more hectares affecting almost 1.5 million farmers. It also aims to strengthen CARP by increasing its resources and strengthening the institutional infrastructure for support services to agrarian reform beneficiaries and compensation to landowners. It also calls for the stricter enforcement of rules banning the conversion of irrigated and irrigable lands.

Agrarian reform is about creating a socio-economic system which seeks the inclusion of the majority of the rural population, and focuses on the imperative of food production, agricultural productivity and equitable development which in the end serves the needs of all, whether in the urban or rural areas.

Thus rather than pushing for the term extension of the few who are in power, we call on Congress to legislate the CARP extension with reforms that address the needs of the many who are poor. This is consistent with the social teachings of the Church which we uphold. Instead of amending the constitution to extend land ownership rights to foreigners, Congress should work for social and economic development by
expanding and completing CARP.

2) Electoral reform, voters’ education and credible and meaningful elections in 2010
In rejecting cha-cha before 2010, we want to ensure that the Filipino people are able to exercise their fundamental right to choose their next set of leaders as provided for in the constitution. Thus we oppose any schemes to cancel, postpone or change the nature of the 2010 national elections. Because the political crisis facing the country is deeply linked to unresolved questions of electoral cheating, it is crucial that the next presidential election proceeds as scheduled and is seen as credible and meaningful by our people.

Our work in the educational apostolate puts us in close touch with the youth who comprise at least half of our potential voters. We are committed to help them exercise their right of suffrage wisely by encouraging first-time voters’ registration and providing full support to political education for responsible and engaged citizenship.

Beyond traditional voters’ education, we want to facilitate continuing processes for
our people, especially poor communities, to be able to articulate their real needs and aspirations. We will also work to develop mechanisms that challenge politicians to make concrete commitments of genuine and effective response and monitoring systems to make them accountable for their promises. We are mobilizing especially
our human resources to safeguard the process in the context of automated elections.
Automation needs to be enhanced and fine-tuned to guard against disenfranchisement
and to make it more accessible to and protective of vulnerable groups. But reforming
our electoral process to make it truly inclusive and meaningful to the majority
requires further reforms in voters’ registration, the party system, campaign finance
and political dynasties. These issues call for serious attention and dedicated work
from our legislators and executive officials. We cannot afford to get sidetracked by
moves toward self-serving charter change, from the urgent need to prepare for
credible elections and truly meaningful citizen participation in 2010.

Both the demands of our faith and of citizenship call on us to keep vigil against the
continuing threats to the common good. We are challenged to engage the present situation wherein democracy is in grave danger of being usurped by those who want to
hold on to power indefinitely and evade accountability to the people.

But the call is not just to defend democracy. We are asked to help deepen democracy
to make it truly inclusive, participative and socially just. It is this kind of democratic system that truly befits the name. Thus we commit ourselves to building a genuine democracy which enshrines our core belief in the dignity of every human being, that God Himself shared by becoming one like us in Jesus.

Catholic Educational Association of the Philippines (CEAP)
Manila Archdiocesan Parochial Schools Association (MAPSA)
December 3, 2008

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Juana Change Cha Cha?

I don't know who made this, but its absolutely brilliant.



ETA:

This video was produced by the Convergence Team - a group of Filipino artists. It stars Mae Paner, artist and former advertising executive.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Let the Right One In

Forget Twilight. If you want a vampire love story, see this work of art.

Monday, December 01, 2008

JPEPA: President Arroyo's Coup d'Etat?

My favorite Fil-Aussie Benign0 subscribes to the notion that the specificities of those who occupy his former country's positions of power do not matter. He writes:
If we are not able to prove that our prospects for prosperity are a function of who is sitting in Malacanang, then why bother even wasting precious bandwidth on any discussion about whether Gloria is out to extend her term or not?

Now a more inane statement I have not read in a while. To claim that structure trumps agency, i.e. that the institutions matter and actors do not, is a view taken by people who are probably so brilliant they have foregone common sense.

Manong Benigs also claims the Philippines is in a "normal" state:
We are in a situation that is part and parcel of what it means to be a democracy.

According to Manong Benig's normative standards, a democracy does not need to address serious allegations of electoral cheating and massive graft and corruption among the country's top-level officials. A democracy does not need to address accusations of its armed forces making people disappear. Nevermind the trail of anomalous deals the Arroyo administration has pursued in the last four years. Nevermind the impeachable offences outlined yearly by those who are still outraged but still go through due process anyway. Nevermind that the law in this democratic society only applies when and if the law-makers and law-enforces deem them applicable.

So, Manong Benigs wants a concrete example of Gloria Arroyo's activities which can only be described as a "serious injury" to the Republic? If the allegations of the past four years are not enough to satisfy, then let me offer the case of the JPEPA - Arroyo's largely silent coup d'etat.

The JPEPA was signed by the President in September 2006 in Finland. It was signed under a cloak of secrecy as has been wont to do by the Arroyo administration. It is the country's first bilateral agreement of such an extensive scope, dealing with trade in commodities, investments, and labour. From 2004 to September 2006 (after the president signed the treaty), the initial drafts of the treaty were kept from public view.

The House of Represenatives, mandated by no less than the Constitution to participate in crafting trade agreements, had zero participation in the trade negotiations. The Supreme Court acceded to this secrecy by ruling in favour of "Executive Privilege." This privilege is normally invoked in diplomatically sensitive negotiations - understood to be security-related. The JPEPA is explicitly an economic treaty - divulging the nitty-gritty of negotations would in no way compromise 'national security.'

In a belated attempt civil society groups and certain representatives brought the issue on executive privilege to the Supreme Court. They cite three grounds to gain access to the full text of the treaty - it is of public interest, the right to participate in an agreement of such a wide scope, and a concern that disclosure of the full text to the Senate after the negotiations have been concluded would make the latter a mere 'rubberstamp' of the Executive.

So here is a "slice" of how the Arroyo executive works.

Owing to the ignorance and indifference of the general public, the co-opted legislative and judicial branches and the weakness of civil society groups, the Arroyo government has assumed such massive decision-making powers in violation of this country's own Consitution, laws and interests of various domestic sectors.

To humour Manong Benigs, how is JPEPA "injurious" to the republic?

1. It normalizes trade in toxic wastes. DTI Secretary Favila himself admitted in November 2006 that it was a necessary condition that the Philippines include the toxic waste provisions for Japan to open its services market in caregivers and nurses.

JPEPA provisions directly clash against domestic legislation which aim to protect the environment - the Clean Air Act, the Toxic Susbtances and Hazardous and Nuclear Wastes Control Act and the Solid Waste Management Act.

2. JPEPA will subject domestic industries to competition with Japanese goods through tariff elimination and through the most-favoured-nation clause - which means that Japanese investors should be treated the same way as Filipinos. This may well kill what is left of local industries.

Unthinkingly, due either to sheer incompetence or malicious side-deals (you can imagine a Filipino negotiator being susceptible to bribes), Philippine negotiators eliminated tariff lines unnecessarily - making reservations only for rice and salt. Japan on the other hand was able to uphold its tariff protection on 238 agricultural and manufactured products.

While Philippine exporters may well benefit from open Japanese markets, JPEPA also assures that each party should able to uphold standards, i.e. SPS requirements. SPS are known to be 'non-tarriff' barriers - which could include something as innocent as requiring Philippine bananas to be certain size and blemish free. To comply with these standards would cost domestic exporters money.

3. The agreement has not won any clear benefits for the Philippines in terms of foreign direct investments (FDI). Countries such as China and South Korea have demonstrated the capacity of FDI to transfer know-how and technologies to benefit their domestic firms specifically and to be integrated into national development plans generally.

Under JPEPA, the Philippine government cannot impose these transfers of technology to the Philippines. Under normal investment treaties, foreign corporations are required to hire a certain number of locals. This has also been scrapped in the agreement.

4. The provisions on trade in services short-change Philippine nurses. No less than the Philippine Nurses' Association has rejected the JPEPA. Their grounds for rejection include the very stringent requirements needed for Filipino nurses to enter the Japanese healthcare service market.

To illustrate, despite having four years of higher education, passing the Philippine Licensure Examination and three years of actual nursing practice, nurses will enter Japan as "trainees" to undergo training for two more years. If after these two years they do not pass the licensure exam in Nihonggo, they will be deported.

As trainees these nurses will not be paid the salary of professional nurses. They also forego employment rights under the Japanese Immigration Control Act.

5. JPEPA limits the Philippine legislature's space to maneuver. Again in a monumental oversight of disastrous proportions, the Philippine negotiating team did not make reservations for future legislation that would ostensibly protect Filipino interests, while allowing the Japanese the same privilege. This means that should the Philippines craft another treaty which extends certain benefits to a third country in the name of 'national interest' then the Philippines can be sued by Japan. In negotiating for JPEPA, the Arroyo executive branch compromised Congress' law-making power.

6. JPEPA sets a bad precedent for the Philippines' other bilateral agreements - all taking place outside the WTO regulatory framwork. The Philippines is no different from a host of countries entering these FTAs and EPAs as the WTO's Doha Round has failed to progress in the last six years. Philippine bilateral and multilateral agreements outside the WTO ambit are taking place in the context of an increasingly "deregulated" international trade regime - a race to the bottom, the survival of the fittest.

JPEPA will enter into force on December 11, ten days from now. The question we need to ask is this - was JPEPA an end product of the Arroyo Administration's sheer incompetence? A lapse in governance? A result of her neoliberal ideologue-advisors? Or was it a product of more malicious intentions - i.e. officials of the Arroyo government engaging in massive rent-seeking activities to enrich themselves?

Cross-posted at FilipinoVoices.