Tuesday, November 30, 2004

Sometimes, after a long hard day of trying to get students to wake up from the stupor of last week's binge, I feel like a failure. But tonight as I look at their poetry journals (based on Eileen's Reproduction...) I am surprised, impressed by their creativity, heartfelt and passionate works that I feel like giving everyone an A! Oh ok...not all...but most!

The glamorous Iranian student handed me a french connection shopping bag and inside were small canvasses tied together with a beautiful bow -- she had created 12 sculpted collages she created from Eileen's poems.

And a heavenly hunk of a Filipino guy (this one's for you el serenito!) handed me this big binder and I thought: what the heck! didn't I tell you to just turn in a small folder with your entries? I get home and open it and there is this beautiful wire sculpture of himself, collages, pencil drawings, lyrical poems.

The homework was to do a one-page response to one poem a week, typed, collated into a manila folder. Still many chose to buy expensive artsy journals, submit small paintings, collages...I didn't know how to carry this bulk back to my car; fortunately I had this big scarf that doubled as a wrap -- just the way my Lola use to carry all her belongings.

This is a GE class that fulfills the ethnic studies requirement for graduation. For many it will be the only ethnic studies course in their entire college experience. For them, the assignment of doing a poetry journal is daunting and intimidating at first but their final entries all reveal the catalytic or therapeutic effect of poetry reading and response. Many rediscover a love of words that they have buried with a 5th grade teacher who made poetry a scary experience. One commented that he now realizes how impoverished his education had been (and he is graduating in 3 weeks!) because he had not been exposed to poetry. One "macho" student who thought he was too tough to be affected by poems turned out to be a gentle poet...he was only pretending otherwise.

So yes, Bino, there is a poet-god...

Monday, November 29, 2004

Jean and her friend, Margo Ponce, has declared Nov. 29, National Ingrate Day. The caveat is that after you have whined, you must do something about any one item on the list...

Why I am UNthankful...

His second term - need I say more?
His black wife: Did you know that Condi was caught on camera almost calling him "my hhhhuuus....Pres. Bush"?
Gonzalez: a Latino doth not make a gentler Patriot Act.

Make-over shows, desperate wives, wife-swapping -- I'll turn you all into voyeurs!!

"WOW Philippines stands for "Watch our Women"!

The expensive honeysliced ham wasn't as good as it used to be.

My karaoke mike died on me.

(Jean, making this list is difficult!...so what to do with the above list? I guess I can start with turning off the tv (except at 11pm/Jon Stewart). Recycle the ham by panfrying it and adding brown sugar to make it into tocino, then make garlic fried rice, chop tomatoes, and vinegar for dipping. Don't forget to eat with hands. As for getting a new karaoke mike? nah!).

Saturday, November 27, 2004

Catching up....

Thanks, Michelle, for pointing me to your friend's response to the Nov. 13 symposium.

Since I missed Helen's public memorial on the 20th, I was happy to see an excerpt of it last night on TV Patrol, and Michelle's 30-second spiel on Helen as a mentor. Hope to hear more about the Helen Toribio Scholarship Foundation.

Rona: I hope you make it to Hedgebrook. I also submitted an application (for the first time to any writing colony) just to see what the experience might be like.

Barb: glad to hear the family is coming around to fully appreciating what it is you do as a poet -- and what an amazing year this has been for you, girl! I wish I can say the same for some members of my family. Sometimes this is the support we need the most and when we spend most of our family time pretending our work does not matter to our relationship, then we feel just a bit diminished, unappreciated.

Achilles' saga -- you have been on my mind since your operation. I hope you will recover fully!...

I hope the recent conflict between the "blacklisted" scholars and the Philippine Consulate will be the necessary impetus to draw the Consulate officials into a dialogue with the Filipino American community. This, together, with the recent Oct. 1st event, creates an urgency for such need. In a series of backchannels with a community leader, we agreed that there is a cultural and generational gap between the Consulate folks and the Fil Am community's issues that need to be made more explicit. If I had the time, I'd write about this but it will be another dissertation.

Jean! I didn't know that you are a serious jazz fan and reviewer.

This is an essay that has calmed my nerves a bit so I'm sharing it here.

Published on Monday, November 8, 2004 by CommonDreams.org
Optimism of Uncertainty by Howard Zinn

From an excerpt of Paul Rogat Loeb's book "The Impossible Will Take a Little While":

In this awful world where the efforts of caring people often pale in comparison to what is done by those who have power, how do I manage to stay involved and seemingly happy? I am totally confident not that the world will get better, but that we should not give up the game before all the cards have been played. The metaphor is deliberate; life is a gamble. Not to play is to foreclose any chance of winning.

To play, to act, is to create at least a possibility of changing the world. There is a tendency to think that what we see in the present moment will continue. We forget how often we have been astonished by the sudden crumbling of institutions, by extraordinary changes in people's thoughts, by unexpected eruptions of rebellion against tyrannies, by the quick collapse of systems of power that seemed invincible. What leaps out from the history of the past hundred years is its utter unpredictability. This confounds us, because we are talking about exactly the period when human beings became so ingenious technologically that they could plan and predict the exact time of someone landing on the moon, or walk down the street talking to someone halfway around the earth.

Let's go back a hundred years. A revolution to overthrow the tsar of Russia, in that most sluggish of semi-feudal empires, not only startled the most advanced imperial powers, but took Lenin himself by surprise and sent him rushing by train to Petrograd. Given the Russian Revolution, who could have predicted Stalin's deformation of it, or Khrushchev's astounding exposure of Stalin, or Gorbachev's succession of surprises? Who would have predicted the bizarre shifts of World War II-the Nazi-Soviet pact (those embarrassing photos of von Ribbentrop and Molotov shaking hands), and the German army rolling through Russia, apparently invincible, causing colossal casualties, being turned back at the gates of Leningrad, on the western edge of Moscow, in the streets of Stalingrad, followed by the defeat of the German army, with Hitler huddled in his Berlin bunker, waiting to die?

And then the post-war world, taking a shape no one could have drawn in advance: The Chinese Communist revolution, which Stalin himself had given little chance. And then the break with the Soviet Union, the tumultuous and violent Cultural Revolution, and then another turnabout, with post-Mao China renouncing its most fervently held ideas and institutions, making overtures to the West, cuddling up to capitalist enterprise, perplexing everyone. No one foresaw the disintegration of the old Western empires happening so quickly after the war, or the odd array of societies that would be created in the newly independent nations, from the benign village socialism of Nyerere's Tanzania to the madness of Idi Amin's adjacent Uganda.

Spain became an astonishment. A million died in the civil war, which ended in victory for the Fascist Franco, backed by Hitler and Mussolini. I recall a veteran of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade telling me that he could not imagine Spanish Fascism being overthrown without another bloody war. But after Franco was gone, a parliamentary democracy came into being, open to Socialists, Communists, anarchists, everyone. In other places too, deeply entrenched dictatorships seemed suddenly to disintegrate-in Portugal, Argentina, the Philippines, Iran.

The end of World War II left two superpowers with their respective spheres of influence and control, vying for military and political power. The United States and the Soviet Union soon each had enough thermonuclear bombs to devastate the Earth several times over. The international scene was dominated by their rivalry, and it was supposed that all affairs, in every nation, were affected by their looming presence. Yet the most striking fact about these superpowers was that, despite their size, their wealth, their overwhelming accumulation of nuclear weapons, they were unable to control events, even in those parts of the world considered to be their respective spheres of influence. The failure of the Soviet Union to have its way in Afghanistan, its decision to withdraw after almost a decade of ugly intervention, was the most striking evidence that even the possession of thermonuclear weapons does not guarantee domination over a determined population.

The United States has faced the same reality. It waged a full-scale war in lndochina, conducted the most brutal bombardment of a tiny peninsula in world history, and yet was forced to withdraw. In Latin America, after a long history of U.S. military intervention having its way again and again, this superpower, with all its wealth and weapons, found itself frustrated. It was unable to prevent a revolution in Cuba, and the Latin American dictatorships that the United States supported from Chile to Argentina to El Salvador have fallen. In the headlines every day we see other instances of the failure of the presumably powerful over the presumably powerless, as in Brazil, where a grassroots movement of workers and the poor elected a new president pledged to fight destructive corporate power.

Looking at this catalog of huge surprises, it's clear that the struggle for justice should never be abandoned because of the apparent overwhelming power of those who have the guns and the money and who seem invincible in their determination to hold on to it. That apparent power has, again and again, proved vulnerable to human qualities less measurable than bombs and dollars: moral fervor, determination, unity, organization, sacrifice, wit, ingenuity, courage, patience-whether by blacks in Alabama and South Africa, peasants in El Salvador, Nicaragua, and Vietnam, or workers and intellectuals in Poland, Hungary, and the Soviet Union itself. No cold calculation of the balance of power need deter people who are persuaded that their cause is just. I have tried hard to match my friends in their pessimism about the world (is it just my friends?), but I keep encountering people who, in spite of all the evidence of terrible things happening everywhere, give me hope. Especially young people, in whom the future rests. Wherever I go, I find such people. And beyond the handful of activists there seem to be hundreds, thousands more who are open to unorthodox ideas. But they tend not to know of each other's existence, and so, while they persist, they do so with the desperate patience of Sisyphus endlessly pushing that boulder up the mountain.

I try to tell each group that it is not alone, and that the very people who are disheartened by the absence of a national movement are themselves proof of the potential for such a movement. It is this change in consciousness that encourages me. Granted, racial hatred and sex discrimination are still with us, war and violence still poison our culture, we have a large underclass of poor, desperate people, and there is a hard core of the population content with the way things are, afraid of change. But if we see only that, we have lost historical perspective, and then it is as if we were born yesterday and we know only the depressing stories in this morning's newspapers, this evening's television reports.

Consider the remarkable transformation, in just a few decades, in people's consciousness of racism, in the bold presence of women demanding their rightful place, in a growing public awareness that gays are not curiosities but sensate human beings, in the long-term growing skepticism about military intervention despite brief surges of military madness. It is that long-term change that I think we must see if we are not to lose hope. Pessimism becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy; it reproduces itself by crippling our willingness to act. Revolutionary change does not come as one cataclysmic moment (beware of such moments!) but as an endless succession of surprises, moving zigzag toward a more decent society.

We don't have to engage in grand, heroic actions to participate in the process of change. Small acts, when multiplied by millions of people, can transform the world. Even when we don't "win," there is fun and fulfillment in the fact that we have been involved, with other good people, in something worthwhile. We need hope. An optimist isn't necessarily a blithe, slightly sappy whistler in the dark of our time. To be hopeful in bad times is not just foolishly romantic. It is based on the fact that human history is a history not only of cruelty, but also of compassion, sacrifice, courage, kindness. What we choose to emphasize in this complex history will determine our lives. If we see only the worst, it destroys our capacity to do something. If we remember those times and places-and there are so many-where people have behaved magnificently, this gives us the energy to act, and at least the possibility of sending this spinning top of a world in a different direction. And if we do act, in however small a way, we don't have to wait for some grand utopian future. The future is an infinite succession of presents, and to live now as we think human beings should live, in defiance of all that is bad around us, is itself a marvelous victory.

Adapted from "The Impossible Will Take a Little While: A Citizen's Guide to Hope in a Time of Fear", edited by Paul Rogat Loeb. Parts of this essay appeared in You Can't Be Neutral on a Moving Train and Howard Zinn on History. ###

Monday, November 15, 2004

IN PROGRESS: Personal Reflections/Report:

Symposium: Honoring and Preserving Filipino Identity in a Multicultural Globalized World
PUSOD, Center for Ecology, Culture and Bayan
Berkeley, CA
November 13, 2004

I didn’t know what to expect. All the planning for the event happened via email. As people responded with rsvp’s I didn’t recognize many of the names. But I sensed that this was going to be a good group of folks.

The morning began with a dedication of the altar to Helen Toribio. Evelie Posch led us with the lighting of candles and a chant invoking Mother Earth to bless the day ahead.

The morning’s talk by Dr. Melba P. Maggay was on Filipino Indigenous Religious Consciousness: These are the main points she made about Filipino Culture:

Dr. Maggay emphasized that the perceived dysfunction of Filipinos is due to poor governance (formal systems imposed on a culture) and not because of the culture. Formal systems are not indigenous to the Philippines; they are imposed by colonizers and perpetuated by the elite of the cultural divide. Informal systems of social distribution dominate the social relations of the majority of Filipinos in the lower half of the cultural divide.

Ofelia Villero talked about her current research on "babaylan," "loob," "kapwa." It seems that western bias against shamanism is slowly evolving thus creating more spaces for students like her who would like to explore Filipino babaylan traditions in the theological field.

Janet Stickmon talked about the process of inculturation – how the Catholic Church transforms people and the people transforms the Church. However, historically, the church has always resisted being transformed by Filipinos. Filipinos, on the other hand, have continued to imbue the images of Christ (Sto Nino and Sto Entierro) with indigenous meanings.

Christina Leano talked about the notion of Covenant; its demands (to respect the worth of ourselves; to live in solidarity; to develop the virtue of fidelity). Using her work with FACES as example, she showed how a secular movement (FACES) has religious significance. FACES as a prophetic voice in the community. To be a Christian is to do something about real problems. The search for one’s Filipino identity is a sacred journey.

Jay Gonzalez discussed the hegemony of the Church and the counterhegemonic movements within the Church constituting a form of social capital for Filipino Americans. 100,000 Filipino Catholics in San Francisco have tremendous influence in the Church and must translate this into opportunities to address social justice issues within the church – in partnership with government and corporate agencies as well.

Evelie Posch "performed" her spirituality as a musician, teacher, babaylan, ritualist, activist. She talked about her relationship with her biological mother and Mother Earth as the source of her spiritual grounding and empowerment.

The Q and A allowed the panelists, Dr. Maggay, Tito Cruz, and myself to answer a few questions.
During the lunch break, everyone was talking about the palpable energy, the good uplifting experience in the morning session. Tito, who was going to leave after lunch, decided to change his appointment and stay for the afternoon. He told me later, "after this morning, I can’t afford not to be here for the afternoon."

In the afternoon session, Dr. Maggay was able to explore in depth the "tools for analysis" in looking at Filipino culture.

to be continued...

Sunday, November 07, 2004

My darling Noah!

Thursday, November 04, 2004

Wily's post reminds me of what I've read in "After Whiteness": that the erosion of white privilege will result in the consolidation of power and privilege around matters of sex and gender expressed within a religious framework. He cites the growing Promise Keepers movement and how it shifted strategy from being a white christian men's movement to becoming a multiracial coalition of Christian men exhorted to be better men by becoming better husbands so that women can submit more willingly. Ad nauseam. And why not? In Demonic Males, the author suggests that since men are by nature violent/rapists, it will serve women well to submit. (i'm still on the Derrick Jensen track).

Anyway, so now there's talk that Kerry lost because he didn't use strong moral rhetoric the way Bush did. He didn't appeal to people's need for moral certainty and reassurance in this time of terror. He could have made a strong stand against the immorality of the war in Iraq, immorality of environmental exploitation, immorality of corporate criminals, etc., (as immoral as the pro-choice, pro-gay folks are painted to be). But why should he pander to people's fears? He believed that the American people (who are they?) can still be persuaded by reason and evidence. He thought he could still appeal to their sense of hope and compassion. He was wrong. Wrong. Wrong.

Ok. I'm trying to not be angry and sad...but why shouldn't I be? Let the emotions ride. Let them speak. Let them rant.

Wednesday, November 03, 2004

The spouse kept saying: This is the day that you need zen, dear!

Michael Moore's webpage reports voter intimidation in Ohio: retirement home residents having their ballots filled in by staff voting for Bush; young voters being turned away, etc.

I keep looking for reports of voter fraud...legal actions...discovery of tampered Diebold machines, hanging chads...but Kerry has conceded.

Reading Bino's, Eileen's, Jean's, Rona's blogs lend me a bit of solace.

I think of the Latin American countries voting for left-leaning leaders (Brazil's Lula, Venezuela's Chavez), growing indigenous movements, resistance movements.

I think about the anti-globalization movement. The new 527s that will continue citizen mobilization.

Bin Laden says he wants to bankrupt the US: For every dollar he spends on "terrorism," the US spends $1M.

I miss Dennis Kucinich.

Derrick Jensen is still talking to coyotes, dogs, chickens, geese. He is one of a growing number of advocates (i don't want to use the word "crusader" or "army") for unlearning/undoing one's addiction to western civilization.

Maybe this turn of events is exactly what the shaman ordered. Four more years of this to wake us up, shake us down.

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