Friday, December 07, 2007

Ideology and Ideologues

Today's money quote, most apt for the times, again from my favourite Italian philosopher:
One must therefore distinguish between historically organic ideologies, those, that is, which are necessary to a given structure and ideologies that are arbitrary, rationalistic, or ‘willed.’

To the extent that ideologies are historically necessary they have a validity which is ‘psychological’; they ‘organise’ human masses, and create the terrain on which men move, acquire consciousness of their position, struggle, etc.

To the extent that they are arbitrary they only create individual ‘movements’, polemics and so on (though even these are not completely useless, since they function like an error which by contrasting with truth, demonstrates it).
EDSA is dead, long live EDSA.

Dying to Come Here

This news item breaks my heart. Justice was meted out to a couple for enslaving a Filipina in a small town up in Queensland.
The Weipa man who repeatedly raped a Filipina woman he used as a slave has been jailed for eight years.

His wife was jailed for four years for her lesser role in the case.

Zolton John Kovacs, 59, and his Filipina wife Melita, 49, were found guilty after a Supreme Court trial of possessing and using the woman as a slave, and of arranging a sham marriage for her in the Philippines so she could get an Australian visa.

The Reina in Spain

Emma-Kate Symons of The Australian has some choice words for La Gloria. The news article/opinion piece doesn't even bother to disguise its vitriol:
EVEN by The Philippines' world-renowned corruption standards, Gloria Arroyo's Imelda Marcos-style tour of Europe is setting new records for official decadence.

Scandal swirled again around the President when it was revealed she chartered a flight for almost 200 cronies and family to go on a state junket to former colonial master Spain, as well as France and Britain.

The retinue set off on a Philippine Airlines flight on Saturday only days after Ms Arroyo waved off a botched attempt by army rebels to overthrow her during a six-hour siege of Manila's Peninsula hotel.

The European trip list, leaked to the opposition, named her closest political allies from the congress, businessmen, ministers, staff and family down to her grandkids, partly and perhaps fully paid for by millions of desperately poor taxpayers.

Those entitled to an estimated $US9000 ($10,300) trip included at least 30 lower house MPs (plus spouses and companions); three senators; 50 business allies; Ms Arroyo's allegedly highly corrupt husband Jose "Mike" Miguel; her three children and her four grandchildren. The delegation is living it up at the five-star Melia Castilla hotel in Madrid, at a cost of at least 12,000 pesos ($326) a day, double what many Filipinos earn in a month.

Opposition congressman Nonito Joson claimed Malacanang Palace had paid the expenses ofthe junketeers, including $US3000 "pocket money" for each traveller as a reward for not impeaching the President on a recent third attempt.

But press secretary Ignacio Bunye retorted that the President was the victim of a "disinformation campaign". He said MPs would cover their expenses, and even claimed King Juan Carlos of Spain was paying for some of the delegation's expenses because it was an "official visit".

"That's a big delegation to Europe," Senate president Manuel Villar said.

"It would have been OK if it was in Asia. But the cost of living is high in Europe."

The Daily Inquirer reported that among the junketeers was Ms Arroyo's best girlfriend, the aptly named Amelita "Girlie" Villarosa, who admits she recently handed out cash-stuffed envelopes to MPs.

One administration critic, Teodoro Casino, told the Congress he was "shocked" at the size of the presidential delegation: "I can't imagine what their role is in the presidential trip."

Explanations were thin, with some MPs saying they would be meeting groups of overseas Philippines workers and drumming up local business.

At home, the absence of so many MPs has stalled an urgent bill to try to cut the artificially high costs of basic medicines.

Ms Arroyo regularly charters flights and travels with a huge entourage. However, this is the first time recently that she has voyaged with more than 100.


Me: You're not Aussie are you? You sound British.
Cabbie: You're quite right young lady. I hail from Manchester. But I have beeeen living here for almost two decades.
Me: See, I've been here long eough I can finally tell between British and Strine.
Cabbie: I've been to the Philippines recently you know. Me and my wife were there in June.
Me: Oh really, how did you find it?
Cabbie: Oh, Manila is a dangerous place isn't it? But we had a fine time at this gigantic shopping centre...
Me: Do you mean the one shaped like a ship?
Cabbie: Yes, that one. The Mall of Asia. My wife had a lovely time shopping. Lots of bargains.
Me: Yeah, I suppose its quite cheap when you convert from AUD to the Peso.
Cabbie: My wife just couldn't take the toilets.
Me: Oh, you mean that there's no soap and tissue paper? Yeah, you have to bring your own. Or just bring a hand sanitiser.
Cabbie: It was quite shocking for us. Especially her. I suppose you make do with what you're used to. Especially if you never know anything else.
Me: Well, if you go to the fancy shopping centres, the ones for pommies, they have soap and toilet paper.
Cabbie: That's quite sad isn't it? Don't the ordinary folk deserve the same? I mean, filthy is filthy whoever you are.
Me: You're right. When I get back home, I will have to get used to the dirt again I suppose.
Cabbie: Or you can start a campaign for soap and toilet paper in all toilets. *Cackle*

Thursday, December 06, 2007

A Bizarre Case of Misrepresentation

Just wondering why we look black in this poster entitled U.S. Imperialism: Uncle Sam Invites the Hungry Philippines to Share Its Prosperity. The caption below reads: "There's plenty of room at the table. Why not invite the little fellow to sit down?"

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

EDSA is Dead, Long Live EDSA

Para sa kapwa ko Pilipino.

Notes on Grugel

On Jean Grugel's Democratisation: A Critical Introduction.

Democratisation’s many definitions: “a discourse, a demand, a set of institutional changes, a form of elite domination, a political system dependent on popular control, an exercise in power politics and a demand for global solidarity” among others (Grugel 2002: 4).

Studies range from transition to consolidation.

A minimalist definition is the holding of elections. The author favours a more substantive definition: “introduction and extension of citizenship rights and the creation of a democratic state (Grugel 2002: 5).”

This definition means more than being able to jot down names on a piece of paper, but whether the “people” are endowed with power to hold the governing body (the state) accountable.

While democracy is a political order, its efficacy depends on certain preconditions. In the developing world some modicum of citizens’ economic stability directly impinge on their ability to exercise their democratic rights and duties. Operating on “one-cannot-eat-one’s-right-to-vote” principle, “citizens” are more than willing to trade the sanctity of the ballot for a week’s worth of grocery money.

Globalisation shapes contemporary democratization in various ways:
1. Culturally, through the creation of a global communications network and a global culture
2. Economically, through the establishment of a global capitalist economy
3. Politically, through the establishment of institutions of global governance

Globalisation is inherently an uneven process, its impact is much greater on developing states than on developed ones. This means that it is possible for global forces to push this form of restricted democratization more strongly in the underdeveloped world. It is not an unambiguous support for democratisation, as it has sometimes been assumed.

Some of the philosophical and political questions for which democratic theory posits tentative (contingent) answers are – who constitutes the people, in which ways can their interests be aggregated and articulated in public governance, what kinds of rights do they possess and how are these rights to be safeguarded, who sets the agenda to which the people respond, how to balance individual and collective rights.

Liberal democracy = infusion of liberalism with democracy, the best way to safeguard democracy is through the individual.

Marxist critique: “Democracy was stunted by its marriage to capitalism, and political rights without economic equality were meaningless because they could never become real. At the same time, the exploitation and alienation generated by capitalism prevented people from realising their potential and society as whole to live in harmony (Grugel 2002: 16).”


“Structural power explains why policy-making is not democratic, even where elections are free and air and civil liberties are respected. Secrecy and elitism in government are also important mechanisms for the reproduction of non-democratic forms of policy-making (Grugel 2002: 21).”

The end of the Cold War resulted to a “hegemonic” definition of democracy, that of the liberal model in the industrialised “West.”

The scholarship on democracy saw a move form a discussion of the concept as a philosophical one to one of “descriptive” democracy. Grugel posits Schumpeter’s democracy as one of competition between elites – “Democracy means only that the people have the opportunity of accepting or refusing the men who are to rule them (Schumpeter quoted by Grugel 2002: 19).”

Another problem of empirical democratic theory is its Western bias. In many ways, the conditions in mature capitalist societies are vastly different from those elsewhere. Also, it concentrates on the observable (measurable) facts of democratic process and thus “promotes a procedural understanding of democracy (Grugel 2002: 21).”

Making political rights real = ensuring economic rights

“By tying democracy to actually existing democracies, empirical democratic theory managed both to establish the idea that there was a dichotomous distinction between democracy and other forms of government, and to set out transparent criteria for measuring democracy…Democracy was taken to mean simply the creation of procedures for free and fair elections and the alternation of political leadership…Culture, society and the economy were, by and large, ignored (Grugel 2002: 30).”

Motor of democratisation in the 19th century – class. 1980s onwards, a mix of social conflict, state-building and external influence.

Rueschemeyer, Stephens and Stephens: the contradictions of capitalism generated pro-democratic forces.

In Britain gradual opening of political spaces followed the social upheavals of the industrial revolution and consequent compromises of various actors/classes.

Chances for democratisation are great when:
1. capitalism is the dominant national mode of production
2. civil society groups are active and politicised
3. class and other social conflicts are resolved through political enfranchisement and the incorporation of new social groups into polity rather than through their exclusion
4. the state is relatively autonomous and has not been captured exclusively by a small elite
5. the state has sufficient resources for redistribution and to enforce the rule of law
6. the international order promotes and encourages democratisaion and ostracises non-democratic regimes (Grugel 2002: 45)

Three main theories of democratisation : modernisation, historical sociology and transition.

Modernisation theory – capitalism equals democracy. Critiques include its ahistoricity (that a set of conditions in one context can be easily replicable somewhere else). Markets and the bourgeoisie are not necessarily always pro-democratic. Agency is taken for granted and replaced with economic determinism.

Historical sociology – a critique of modernisation theory’s simplistic framework as well as an effort to bring politics (the state) back in.

Transition studies – democracy is created by certain agents – self-conscious actors. Democracy can be created independent of context.
- pact-making between political elites, “pacted transition”

Grugel’s alternative approach – draws from historical sociology and the importance of structures, but also from transitology and the importance of agency.

Grugel’s three concepts (Grugel 2002: 65)
1. the state
2. civil society
3. globalisation

Rueschemeyer et al see democracy as the reform of the capitalist state, that is no just working in the interest of certain classes. The role of subaltern classes is important.

The State

Full democratisation of the state includes:
- institutional change, representative change, functional transformation (what the state does, what are its functional responsibilities)

Some obstacles to the democratisation of the state – national identity, issues on sovereignty, poor state capacity, authoritarian legacies, political fallout from economic reform (Grugel 2002).

“…introduction of elections and the writing of new constitutions do not, in themselves, challenge non-democratic state cultures and practices. Nor do they transform power relations within society (Grugel 2002: 91).”

Civil Society (see ch. 5)


Until the 90s, democratisation was largely seen as developing domestically, with little attention to the role of external events (Grugel 2002: 116).

External support for democratisation only plays a complementary role to domestic pressures.

Pressures of global political economy are not necessarily pro-democratic. They generate patterns of exclusion and in many ways exacerbate poverty. They weaken the state apparatus on account of liberalisation and prescriptions of global governance bodies. The West also has ideological power over the definition of what constitutes “democracy.”

Monday, December 03, 2007

More Comfort in Platitudes

A Democracy is more than just elections. Electoralism is an American disease. - Sparks

Comfort in Platitudes

It is too easy to be original by doing the opposite of what everyone else is doing; this is just mechanical. - Antonio Gramsci

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Pwede Ba?!?

Sa mga "move on" crowd at sa mga "mamemeke ng people power," pwede ba pag isipan n'yong mabuti kung gusto n'yo ng demokrasya. Eto simpleng-simple, pag-isipan n'yo.

“To be a democrat is to have faith in people, to believe that people have inalienable rights to make decisions for themselves, and to be committed to the notion that all people are equal in some fundamental and essential way (Grugel 2002: 12).”

Ngayon, kung 'di kayo naniniwala sa ganito, hala sige, magsitalon na kayo sa bangin. O sumakay kayo sa barkong ipapahanda ko papuntang Africa. Baka doon mas may silbi pa kayo.

At sa mga taong tulad ko na kamot ng kamot ng ulo habang tuluyang nasusuya sa mga nangyayari, pwede ba pag-isipan n'yo rin ito. Kung feeling n'yo hindi n'yo kayang magdesisyon para sa sarili n'yo, kung feeling n'yo merong mas marunong at magaling sa inyo sa larangan ng pamamalakad ng bansa, kung feeling n'yo wala kayong maitutulong kahit konti, hala sumakay na kayo sa bapor ko. Magsaka kayo sa Malawi. Magtanim ng kape sa Kenya. Mamitas ng saging sa Zimbabwe.

At sa mga nag-fee-feeling na tulad ko. Pag-isipan nating mabuti hane? Hanggang sa makurta ang utak nating lahat. Sige magreklamo kayong lahat. Bawal lang ang sumuko.


Join the TFC

I am joining the Trillanes Fan Club. Courtesy of Philippine Comedian, here is our logo.

Related entries:
The Soldier is a Drama Queen
Communists are Dead so What's All the Fuss?