Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Back up them damn files

My laptop has crashed. Three years worth of work and memories. My life is chronicled in that damn computer. I have no back up files. I am fucked, fucked, fucked.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Which Country is the Best Colonizer?!?

I stumbled across a funny little article on Slate courtesy of Manolo. The article lauds a working paper written by two economists from Dartmouth College claiming that “islands with a longer colonial history (and more settlement by Europeans) have higher income per capita and lower infant mortality than other similar islands.”

Intrigued, I go on and download their working paper here. (It’s total crap, so it’s free).

James Feyrer and Bruce Sacerdote (yes, like in the bible) selected 80 tiny islands in the Atlantic and Pacific. The median population of their database is 14,000. Happily, their database includes Luzon. Yay!

In a nutshell, here are their assertions:

1. These islands have an increased income due to their “exposure” to Europeans because of increased trade.

2. Colonialism was good because it introduced political and economic structures that would later support Democracy; establishment of property rights, a system of government, education.

3. Pre-enlightenment colonizers (à la Magellan) bungled their colonial endeavors while post-Enlightenment colonizers (à la Cook) were somehow more benevolent and more successful.

4. It mattered who the colonizers were. Happily, US colonies outperformed Dutch, British, French and Spanish ones. The Portuguese were the worst of the lot.

If we add up these suppositions, we come to this shocking conclusion: Colonialism is good for you little brown island dwellers! If you want to get rich then you better pray you get American imperialists instead Portuguese ones. You might suffer a little, you may have to swallow your pride and live under American “tutelage” but really, its all for the best. See? Increased per capita GDP!

I don’t know about you, but I tend to disagree with these astonishing!!! conclusions. Let us try to address each assertion mentioned above.

1. Well, since majority of these islands were pre-capitalist societies and most likely were subsistence economies (they didn’t produce extra, they consumed what they made), an increase in “trade” wouldn’t matter to their daily lives. What did matter was when these colonies were forced to produce coffee, sugar, tobacco and bananas for export, all their productive energies were taken away from developing their own indigenous economies and were instead made to service the needs of their colonial masters.

What did matter was when these tiny islands were incorporated into the colonial world economy, they had to sever trade (if any) with their own neighboring territories.

2. Again, this supposes that the European way of organizing polities was the best way; i.e. a “capitalist-democratic” State. And that this winning formula could easily be adopted by societies the world over with little trouble.

I suppose it is difficult to imagine what may have happened had these islands been left alone all these past centuries. Can you imagine what we could be today had Magellan not come? But then you will argue some other European seafarer would have come and so it is moot to imagine another history. We would have been colonized by any other European power anyway. Because Capitalism was born in Western Europe, because the State was born in Western Europe, because Democracy (as it is known today) was born in Western Europe, and Western Europeans would go and conquer practically the whole world in about a couple of hundred years, then ours is a world where Capitalism, the State and Democracy are the standard way of living. God forbid one imagine another world differently. You can get bombed to smithereens thinking that.

3. The Philippines is a living and breathing result of a couple of great powers’ colonial experiments. Both the pre and post-Enlightenment kind. For long and short periods. What are the implications of our mixed typology? Has the American post-enlightenment colonial business corrected the wrongs of the pre-enlightened Spanish? Do 50 Yankee years erase 300 Hispanic ones? Does Luzon have better per capita GDP than, say, Martinique under France? Well according to this paper, no. Luzon has $1,000 compared to Martinique’s $21,000. What does that tell you? 3 centuries trump half a century?

4. The case of Luzon again weakens the findings of Feyrer and Sacerdote’s paper. If US former colonies performed better than, say, British or French ones then how come Singapore (under Britain) and Vietnam (under France) are outperforming us? Oh heck, everyone is outperforming us. Except maybe Africa.

Which brings us back to these economists’ claim that the longer you’ve been colonized the better. Well, most of Africa were "let go" in the 60s, the last to gain freedom among less-developed countries in the world. These days they're in so deep a shit Bono's organizing concerts to have their debt cancelled. And you've got these Hollywood types snapping their fingers on black and white ads. And you've got these other rockstars sporting white arm bands. They're in so deep a shit Angelina and Madonna are adopting their babies!

So, again, let us reiterate that this paper is a misleading, even fallacious piece of crap. A bald-faced propaganda. It is written inelegantly (so says the grad student who has the distinct pleasure of reading many, many, many! journal articles in the past few years) and it makes little sense at best. Which makes you wonder why a professor from Wharton such as Joel Waldfogel would choose to write about this crappy working paper.

Well, because it says colonial empires are good. And American colonial empires even better.

Happy Eid!

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Borgy for Mayor!

You really gotta love the Marcoses' audacity. They probably feel like they can do anything they want. Including having 23 year-old model Borgy Manotoc as mayor of Manila. His mother, Representative Imee Marcos was still non-committal on TV last night. Asked what her son could possibly know about politics, she said something like, he's been surrounded by politicos all his life, and so he must've learned something..."like osmosis."

They're probably testing the public's reaction to this news, gauging whether they have support or not. Well, this particular public's reaction is: BLEEEECCCCHHH.

I know people swoon all over him and think he's quite attractive. Don't get me wrong, I think he's pretty good at what he does; pose, pout and look pretty. But what the does he know about anything?!?

Since I know next to nothing about him other than his infamous last name (and all that signifies), I know this for sure. He absolutely refuses to speak Tagalog (at least publicly). So one can conclude that he's either he's too stupid to fit more than one language in his head or; he refuses to speak the language of the people he purports to serve.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Bonus Question in Final Exams

What is the most important thing (if any) you have learned in the class of Political & Economic Geography?

My students' earnest, at times hilarious responses:

Christian: The needs of the elites in the society and the exploitation of peasantry in the world now and back then is very similar...without the suppression and exploitation we might not have changes in...the economy.

(I am seriously worried that this student of mine is a fascist-totalitarian in the making. He's brilliant but scary.)

Glaiza: ...explanation of how countries (became) rich and why others are poor became clear.

Nikko: I learned a lot from this very interesting class...I will admit that this subject is really a pain in the ass! But heck! It is good to be a part of it. The very important thing I've learned in this experience is the value of hard work, how important working hard is! I hope that some day I will learn to work hard!

Rosa: Equality - I mean, our opinion is always considered.

Rodelyn: Yung determinasyong mag-aral kahit suko na 'ko. He he he. Ang kagustuhang matuto kahit mahirap.

Crisanta: The single most important thing that I learned in clas was reading a lot. If you do not read then you will answer nothing. Reading three times the chapter would make us understand more the topic. It is hard to read but you should do it.

Raj: The most important thing I learned in this class is striving hard and exerting effort. I was used being "Happy-go-lucky" but it did not work in this class.

Maria: I must admit that this subject was really a tough one. Maybe because I'm not used to answering questions which I need to connect to the real world...how to analyze things/issues and be able to relate it with what is really happening in our world today.

Anna: The most important thing I have learned in class is about American hegemony...It is only now that I have learned that once upon a time the United States was an agricultural country as well. All along I thought that the US has (always been) industrialized from the start...I am also amazed that the US immediately (put together) all the ingredients to industrialize. And they were able to do it in avery short period of time.

Arlie: Devote more time on reading your text...criticize the information you have read...don't be afraid to ask questions...don't be content with what you've just heard!

Loraine: The location of a state is always a factor in its development.

Sherwin: I have learned the significance of political and economic history from the very beginning of the world up to this moment, even the possible future of many states.

(Well, we didn't exactly begin from the Big Bang...more like 5,000 years ago when people started living together in large numbers.)

Maricor: I learned that everything has a connection, from how war starts, how does war affect countries, functions of governmnt and so on.

Krisanta: In order to be able to compete and achieve economic development, underdeveloped and poor countries should not be contented with what they are receiving.

(And my favorite):

Daisy: I believe that there is no such thing as a superior race...I have learned that Europeans are not better than Asians. Asians are brighter than Europeans because in the 12th century the Chinese already developed medicine and paper-making. And I believe that Europeans overtook the Chinese because the Chinese were not greedy enough to conquer the world.

(Well, not yet. But in twenty, thirty years? Who knows?)

Interesting articles of note #2

Does your choice of reading material reaffirm what you already believe? Do we "submit" to the text or do we "examine" it? Are we "moved" by the author, convinced of the truth s/he peddles? When you read, do you do it "critically" or "uncritically?"

If obesity is a disease then Americans have an epidemic. Big Pharma cashes in and invents the thin pill.

Angelina Jolie has set a trend. Madonna gets herself an African baby too.

Uncle Sam recruits Latinos to die in Iraq. The Department of Defense's Joint Advertising and Marketing Research and Studies program (JAMRS) decides Hispanics use their right brain, and so tend to be emotional and non-logical. How can one be "emotionally compelled" to serve in the military?

South Korean Ban Ki-moon is the United Nation's new Secretary General. Will he do a better job than Kofi Annan?

Symptoms of the widening gap between the rich and poor in Brazil- the rich opting to use their helicopters for safety and organized crime lording it over government.

Andrew Potter suggests Pope Benedict XVI, in that infamous speech, likens Christians to atheists. "Because atheists and Christians have reconciled themselves to the primacy of reason, while Muslims cling to a conception of God as completely outside (and unanswerable to) human understanding."

Despite what some may think, humans are still animals. So why are we still threatened to discover we share certain traits with other "inferior" species.

Good news for those always on the go, scientists say skipping breakfast isn't necessarily bad for your health.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

The Personal is Political

In my adult life I have found that very few people like to talk politics. They say they stay away from politics because it is dirty, illogical and depressing. If it can be avoided, people do not talk politics. It is something they think can be set aside, excluded from their conciousness like some dirty secret best left forgotten. Of course there are always exceptions, there are some who view politics quite passionately, but not quite personally. They frame politics as something that happens in government - in public institutions concerning only public officials. When they turn on the news and read the papers they see politics. But very few people see politics in their private lives.

In the Jesuit university I do not often find the occasion to talk politics because there I teach a foreign language. I am sometimes able to address certain pressing issues especially if they are of national import, such as the February state of the nation emergency. In any case, it is difficult to engage students in discussion, I believe it is because if your family circumstances has afforded you to grow up relatively insulated from ordinary Philippine social life, then why should it concern you? If you do not want of anything, then why shouldn't you sit content where things are? If you are rich then you can afford to be apolitical.

Imagine then my complete and utter suprise when upon commencing to teach in the Intramuros university, I find that students there are as equally apolitical, if not more so. I realize it is because they have little to lose and so care the least. These are young Filipinos who hail from middle to lower-middle class families, those with at least one parent working abroad. They who make up the majority do not care at all to be political. All they are concerned with is gaining their diploma so they may all leave this blighted country and realize their dreams in another social, political and economic space. They have given up the idea that they will ever strike it rich in this country, that they will ever see here the good life. They have their parents', friends' and neighbors' examples to follow.

And so if the elite do not care, and the masses don't either, then who are we left with? Those who are able to mount a formidable election machine to gain public office and then, like rabid vampires, cannibalize precious little State resources. And those who are so wretchedly poor and uneducated that they willingly cash in on such election machines in exchange for their democratic power to scribble names on a piece of paper. In the mean time, those of us in the middle dwindle in numbers as we all plot to jump ship, if not now then in the near future.

My dear friends, are we not well and trully fucked?

Contrary to what is taught in Pol Sci 11, politics is not a struggle that merely occurs in the public domain. Sure, what happens in the Batasang Pambansa is politics. The shenanigans in Malacanang is politics. The arduous/tortuous signature gathering in la Bureaucratie is politics. But what happens in your everyday lives is politics.

To illustrate:

I paid a princely sum of P7,000 ++ to take an exam on May 31. The TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language) was a requirement for my scholarship application (see below). Although they have a local testing center here (Prometric), only the ETS based in Princeton, New Jersey may release the test results to both the examinee and her chosen institutions. By July my recipients in Australia had already received my test scores. And there I was, checking our mailbox day after day waiting for my own copy. July came and went. Then August. Then September. No ETS envelope ever made it to my mailbox. This is my personal life, my personal dreams and the Philippine Postal Service is so absymal it cannot even effectively serve its purpose, i.e., deliver mail from point A to point B.

Then last June I had to register my car as well as renew my driver's license and again our public institutions have soiled me, extorted money and stolen from me precious hours I can never again retrieve. I spent a total of 4 hours (excluding lunch hour) registering the blighted car and another 3 for my driver's license. I spent P300 of my hard-earned money on a urine test whose veracity may well be in question, P50 on a "medical exam" which comprised of the cursory blood pressure reading and peering at letters on the wall to "test" my eyesight. Some P300 yet again on an emission test. You wonder why people run for public office on so dismal a salary? It is precisely for the opportunity to seek "rents" only public institutions such as the LTO may dole out. Officials may augment their salaries or their patrons' income by replacing services these public institutions should otherwise provide for FREE.

Most recently all our lives ground to a halt when a relatively strong typhoon (by no means a 300kph monster such as...was it Unsang or Dading?) tore our public infrastructure to bits. Some have had to endure having no power or water for days. Many were inconvenienced or worse, killed, by fallen billboards. Do we blame our government's incompetence? Yes. But who elected government? If our taxes make us customers, then shouldn't we demand satisfaction?

Many people think only to endure or escape. But are enduring and escaping the only choices? If it sucks to be Filipino then whose fault is it? If it sucks to live in the Philippines whose fault is it?

The personal is political. Those who fail to grasp this concept unknowling perpetuate political apathy and consequently, this Republic of Ineptitude and Corruption.

I tell my Intramuros students, you want to fly away to some far corner of the globe? You think to escape your roots? I think not. You may not physically be here but you will leave family behind. You will remit billions of dollars a year, and as economic conditions worsen, you will remit even more. Even then your country bleeds you. You will keep this Republic afloat and you will unwittingly keep the very Government you fled, that amoral monster of a cannibal, alive and well and fed. I say kill it. And if you want to slay it, then you stay.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Australian Leadership Awards 2007

I suppose many of us experience self-doubt. Just when I was questioning whether I was on the right path, God throws me for a loop. Or is making sure I stay this course. Or is fucking with me like always.

Anyway, it says in this e-mail I got from AusAID that I won a scholarship from the Australian Leadership Awards. The ALAs are "are awarded to professionals who are already leaders or have a potential to assume leadership roles that can influence social and economic policy reform and development outcomes, both in their own countries and in the Asia and Pacific region." It pays to love your country.

30 slots for PhD candidates and as many as 150 for Masters were open to 34 countries in the Asia-Pacific including the Philippines. And China, India and Indonesia. That's 1/3 of the world's population right there.

I wanted this scholarship so badly I had dragons in my stomach when I first learned about it. When I took the damn TOEFL, when I learned I had been accepted to the only university I applied to (Bond). And so I still can't believe it. I'm waiting for the other shoe to drop because this is just too good to be true. They sent me the e-mail by mistake? Or I'll die in the next 2 weeks before I receive my written letter of offer from Canberra. Or said written letter won't make it to Philippine shores because...because....the cargo plane drops from the sky. Or the the AusAID will go bankrupt in the next few months. Or the Australian continent will sink in the ocean. Or I'll wake up.

This has been a long journey, one which started on my first trip abroad when I was not quite 17. I came home full of questions about why this country was the way it was. And then I went to UP, that "breeder of destablizers and naked runners." Against all logic, this university has brainwashed me to love my country.

And now I am here, poised for flight. This is where the cosmos is leading me. I only pray that I am able to fulfill my potential. To stay the course. To follow. To lead.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Interesting articles of note #1

Because either Sideblog no longer works or has deleted by account, I will start a weekly survey of interesting articles on the web. Click and enjoy :)

On the evolutionary front...

While it is clear what evolutionary functions are served by human urges for food and sex, what makes us hard-wired to create and appreciate music? Experts say, its all about sex baby.

What separates our species from the rest is our ability to create meaning. During eclipses, the sun doesn't merely disappear; it was swallowed, it was stolen, it was banished by some monster or god for various reasons - anger, jealousy, hate, passion. But in this day and age of the scientific method and rational thinking, why do superstitious beliefs persist? Apparently, its adaptive and de-stressing.

Contrary to what some might believe, new research say humans use both emotions and reason to make moral decisions.

You have a heart of steel if you didn't feel for Nemo finding his father. But do fish feel pain?

In this era of the postmodern, of disjunctive and mediated relations, of ubiquitous pornography, are human beings masturbating more? Not necessarily, but attitudes towards "self-love" have been changing. Frank Furedi writes:
In an era when passionate relationships come with a health warning, there is considerable scope for endowing solo pleasure with meaning. As a result, masturbation is no longer something you do for pragmatic reasons; rather, it is celebrated as something profound. It is frequently discussed as an activity through which you can discover your sexuality and your identity – the real you. It is portrayed as a unique source of uncomplicated intense pleasure. People are told that knowing how to love yourself comes both chronologically and logically before having relationships with others. ‘My needs come before anything else’ is the slogan that best embodies today’s worship of self-obsession. Sadly, the affirmation of self-love resonates with a powerful mood of alienation from the experience of intimate relations with others.
Around the world in eight clicks...

The world's most aggressive exporter of their own brand of democracy fails to educate citizens equipped to make their model work in their own backyard. How's that for irony?

Here's another reason for us to invest in education; the global economy of the past 10 years is increasingly powered by knowledge, innovation and creativity. In the United States "at the present rate of increase, creative jobs alone will soon eclipse the total number of jobs in all of manufacturing. Already, more than 40 million Americans work in the creative sector, which has grown by 20 million jobs since the 1980s. It accounts for more than $2 trillion USD—or nearly half—of all wages and salaries paid in the U.S."

Much as Europe would like to exorcise their culture and belief systems of everything that is "Other", it cannot deny that it has been shaped by its interactions with the Muslim and Arab world in the past millenium. The Renaissance was powered by exchanges with the East, thanks to waves of soldiers, tradesmen and clergy carrying back with them new knowledge and practices from the "Levant" during the Crusades. It is because of this erroneous and arrogant notion that Europe is unique, that it is has somehow developed all on its own to become the most powerful civilization in the world, that it has trouble dealing with Islam today. In a world post 9/11, Martin Walker surveys Europe's "mosque hysteria."

Brendan O'Neill wonders why Iraqi insurgents seem more interested in committing exhibitionist suicide than articulating clear political actions to establish a new political order. He proposes that these series of seemingly primal and apolitical actions are symptomatic of a crisis in the international order itself - of the crisis of the legitimacy of the nation-state as a viable shell within which people might organize their social, cultural and economic lives.

Long acknowledged as one of the first icons of globalization, McDonald's provides a "postmodern sanctum" to travelers all around the globe - a pitstop where anyone at home and familiar with this fastfood giant may rest to take a respite from the alien culture they are immersed in. Americans in Paris flock to the Golden Arches not so much for the food but because "it creates a smoothly standardized absence of place and culture — a neutral environment that allows travelers to take a psychic time-out from the din of their real surroundings." Rolf Potts writes.

On UNDP development surveys, we're considered a middle-income country if you can believe it. Thanks to some 50 African states in much worse condition than us. Now relegated to the "Fourth World," the dark continent is apparently awash in some $300 billion worth of aid. Despite Bono's and various do-gooders' efforts, Africa is still headed for a downward spiral. You've got to wonder why.

Who's afraid of China's waking dragon? Not the Americans, and not the rest of Asia.

Surprise surprise, Egypt's sex-ed TV program. If this conservative Muslim country can do it, why can't we?

Other news...

Ever wonder why the Bible has so many prostitutes?

Speaking of prostitutes, welcome Pink TV, the porn equivalent of HBO. Oh goody.