Saturday, January 21, 2006

My young friend, Jaykie Lazarte, has posted a review of A Book of Her Own here.

The new movie, The End of the Spear, is being praised by Christian conservatives like Cal Thomas as a movie about Christian forgiveness, triumph of Christian missionary love over the "violent" Waodani (Hourani)of Ecuador. If you plan to see this movie, I also recommend this and this.

Monday, January 16, 2006

1. Charles Ray Allen, 76 and who is dying of diabetes, will be executed tonight at midnight.

2. The other night on the Filipino news channel: The President granted clemency to female inmates 60years old and over to allow them to live out the rest of their lives with their families.

Sunday, January 15, 2006

I was digging through old files and found this editorial that was never published. I think it resonates with Bino's call for taking things into our own hands, in reference to promoting the work of Fil Am writers, artists, scholars at the forthcoming centennial of Filipino immigration to the US.

“Higher education is a free market”- (A quote by a university president) The conflation of “higher education” and “free market” is bothersome. There was a time when higher education was still considered immune from the vagaries of the capitalist system. A university was still the place where one can still acquire a truly liberal or humanistic education. There was a time when we believed that education is the great leveler, that in a truly democratic society, every one must have equal opportunity to get a good education. But now it seems, those days are over. Capital has taken over the last stronghold of independent thinking and humanistic values. Everything must serve Capital.

At a recent conference held at UC Berkeley on “Genocide in the Amerikas’, Loretta Ross, Executive Director of the Center for Human Rights Education in Atlanta, said that she would be afraid to move to California because California’s racism is so well hidden that it’s toxic. She said there must be something wrong with a state that has managed to build and grow a prison-industrial complex (20 state penitentiaries in two decades) while building only one additional state university campus in the same period. As Angela Davis asserts: prisons are profitable. It serves Capital. Now who would we put in those prisons if every citizen became educated and worked at a decent job and became a good public citizen?

Wouldn’t it be in the interest of Capital to keep some sector of the population underserved, segregated, and impoverished? Wouldn’t it serve Capital to foster a limiting view of racial and ethnic diversity as preferential treatment? Wouldn’t it serve Capital if we revived the old assimilation paradigms and require a narrowing of the social safety net necessary to keep democratic options available to all sectors of a community? Of course it would serve Capital and the free market. But what are the social costs?

There is national concern over the increasing and deepening reach of corporate interests in institutions of higher education. While it is touted that corporate profits have no (racial) color, the reverse seem to be true in this case. What are we, as a community, allowing ourselves to become? Can we truly understand and embrace diversity without getting close enough to be transformed by an encounter with its many forms? Many people already live in gated communities in fear only of what they haven’t encountered. We ought to be afraid of our universities becoming versions of the gated community.

Friday, January 13, 2006

you are more than a text to me.

I like the way that Barb has persisted in questioning her relationship to the Fil Am community. Questions of accessibility, of transgression and pushing boundaries, of relevance outside of the poet/artist/academic community.

When I'm teaching a classroom of mostly white, upper and middle class, heterosexual students, I challenge them to move away from the Center and the privileges of that location as they encounter texts by "ethnic" authors whose work appears inaccessible and incomprehensible to them. For example, they complain that they have a hard time understanding Leslie Marmon Silko (in a videodocumentary) because she gestures a lot, speaks in a metaphysical language, she doesn't talk in a linear way, etc. It never occurs to them that this perceived incommensurability requires that they let go of their culturally and socially-conditioned expectations about what a good interview should be. When they complain that: "if she has anything to say to me, why doesn't she speak in a language that I can understand?" I do not let them off easily; instead I challenge their assumptions and then make them do the extra work of moving away from the Center and towards the margins. This is my academic work.

Community: Two weeks ago, I was asked to read (for the first time) by the local Fil Am community. The community was celebrating the opening of its small library and the annual christmas party. I have a tenuous relationship with the community because I am not able to immerse myself in its activities (a requirement of belonging); yet I sense their acknowledgement as being one of them on occasions like this. Things didn't go exactly as I had planned but I made adjustments according to what I sensed were appropriate to the moment. Instead of reading from my books as I had planned, I quickly changed to a more interactive mode of addressing the audience. As everything shifted (the time, the program sequence), so did my own expectations. At one point, they told me to keep talking because the pot roast for the luncheon hasn't arrived. So I kept talking and I paused every so often to ask if the pot roast has arrived. Everyone seemed happy, a few books were bought, and the party continued.

There is a lot of ambivalence that I experience when I'm in community settings. But I don't think that I "dumb down" or "talk down to the masses" -- I hope I don't anyway, as I feel that would be a very patronizing stance that is undeserved. A friend who is a cultural activist and mainly trained in popular education once told me that the relationship between scholars and community workers is a symbiotic one. "We need your theories and you need our data" is how he put it but he also insisted that the burden of responsibility lies more on the scholar if she wants to be relevant, and more importantly, to be heard.

Some community members who have read my work say that it's difficult to understand because it's too academic. I am also aware that other Fil Am scholars do not think of my work as being rigorously academic enough and, therefore, not taken seriously. (There are also those, however, who tell me they appreciate my "critical interventions.") I notice the academic cliques that form. I do not mind my location on the margins of both. I can only be myself, after all.

Gladys gets interpellated as "Oriental" at the Asian store. They say we live in a time of "racism without racists" -- this incident belies it all.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Lloyd Nebres (via Jean)continues his story about his visit to an Assembly of God church where Pastor Sumrall (who is serving in the Philippines) preached about David and Goliath; that "God is a Capitalist"; and included a litany of ills, woes, and all kinds of negative things about Filipinos and the Philippines. What makes it sadder for him is that his Aunt defended Pastor Sumrall this way: "He loves the Philippines, why else would he be there?"

White Love anyone?

Monday, January 09, 2006

Finished reading Confessions of an Economic Hit Man by John Perkins. I usually don't pick up popular bestsellers but I've been eyeing this one since it came out over a year ago. I finally decided to buy it when I heard John Perkins on Democracy Now say that his job as an economic hit man actually had to do with the National Security Agency. That was enough to make me want to read more.

I've seen the name of John Perkins in other places -- New Age/Shamanism/Altered States of Consciousness/Ecology, etc lists and I didn't immediately make the connection that this could the same economic hit man. Well, check this out.

The paperback edition contains a new Epilogue, lists of other "economic hit men" who have come forward (Joseph Stiglitz and Jeff Sachs, for example) and written their own books. More books forthcoming.

There are epochal changes afoot....

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Thanks to Jon in San Diego for this link:

For Christmas Santa sent me two Eminem CDs, Encore and Curtain Call. Having seen 8Mile and his political video, Mosh, plus a growing curiosity about hip hop culture in general and rap in particular, I wanted to hear/see more closely what Eminem’s phenomena is about.

As I listened to the CDs, I became nervous. There were references to suicide, violence, the sound of a gun and on the cd cover a picture of Eminem with a gun in his mouth and in another he is shooting at the audience. I began to feel guilty.

Yet I wanted to get closer, to understand my visceral reaction. I began to recognize how the rational mind acts to police this reaction by labeling it as: degrading, mysoginistic, pugilistic, provocative, dangerous, immoral, corrupting. These labels impose guilt and shame and then a condemnation of “otherness” – admittedly, by letting this sound into my ear, paying for it – I have become an accomplice. Maybe this is a trace of Protestant guilt, I tell myself.

I have been telling myself that I want to break out of the prison of Modernity. Usually, when I consciously desire something, I don't really know where this desire leads; the unconscious starts to work its way into some answers. In earlier posts, I mentioned that these texts came to me: Octavia Butler’s Parable of the Sower, The End of Suburbia: The Peaking of Oil and the End of the American Dream, Jared Diamond’s Collapse.

The book I reached for as I listened to Eminem is James Perkinson’s Shamanism, Racism and HipHop Culture. I am sharing some highlights from my reading.

Rap is the strange rapture of unwrapping the nightmare inside the (American) Dream without flinching. It is the embodiment of the other ancestor (in reference to Africa) that Thomas Jefferson denied. It is the code of contemporary healing, offered in the key of challenge (136).

It (rap) returns what the mainstream culture tries to hide (the denial of death): the grotesque grin of universal desire in the face of demise. It does so in a living form of grotesquery – of artistry performed on the ugliness of destruction that renders it strangely beautiful and vital. Rap straddles life and death by refusing the quarantine. Something of the animation of human “being” in general and alive to its own impermanence and improbability – is damnably and yet irresistibly revealed in this particular body of articulate aggression gesturing under duress in a social topography, refracted in a sensibility rooted in (West and Central) African explorations of percussive polyphony, and intensified in histories of enslavement and enghettoization inflected in griot traditions of rhyming narration, spread with digital amplification of trance and rhythm. (132)

Rap growls with an aliveness common to every human “awake” existence. It is no mystery why it sells in the suburb. Ironically, it offers an intimation of wholeness.

Re the shamanistic vocation of rap: Rap can be read as a raid on ultimate destiny for the sake of a proximate deliverance. As a modern reconfiguration of an ancient incantation of the universe. As gateway to the spirit world – perceiving and experiencing the permeability of border one to another; result: alternative consciousness. (150)

Hip hop culture is a stiletto to the wall of the ghetto, letting the spirits out.

Beneath all our civilizing veneer of vanity, the grin is from the groin. (154)

The burden of the shaman is to divine the devil inside the god, the soul inside the sickness, the beast in the rock, the spirit in the matter, variation under the vibration (154)

Racism, Shamanism and Hip hop: The epidermal wall is the new shamanic stall – the place of writing wild motion against the granite grain. Melanin is the postmodern surface of the healing spell, but the modality is primarily musicality, not paint. “Paint” has been the control tactic of colonizing tyranny, making skins yield a curse, making eyeball king, raising the screen as ultimate technology of racial supremacy. Today the necessary counter erupts as time, off-beat repeat of the bass-line, fracturing the design of white melody. (155)

As initiation rite reworking the alienating consumption in Western scientific discourses into new forms of ritual practice that gave them an intimate home underneath or inside of Western surveillance. (169)

Monday, January 02, 2006

Texting out 2005!

Nothingness has killed itself, and creation is its wound (George Buchner). Here's to creation and more creativity in 2006 and bye-the-bye to the nothingness of 2005.! (From Oca Campomanes).

Mula sa Kanyang Kagandahang-loob, napusuan ng Diyos na makipagkapwa-tao. Yan ang diwa ng Pasko. (Paring Bert Alejo).

Malipayon Nga Paskua Kag Mahamungayaon nga Bag-ong Tuig sa inyo nga tanan dira (Perla Daly).

As for New Year's Resolutions, here's what TV Patrol street interviews around Manila reveal: Gusto kong magpaka-bait (I just want to be kinder). I am struck by this. The folks could have wished for a new president, a better job, more money...but no, they resolve to be kinder. I am embarrassed. I know, if asked, this would not have been my response. I might have said I wish for world peace. And would being kind-er bring about world peace? Yes, it would. Yes, it would! Let it begin with me.

Kindness was last on my mind as 2005 drew to a close. I was tired from the end of semester stress and the holidays creeping so fast with hardly a lull in between. Barely managed to mail Christmas cards and still missed quite a few beloveds. And then there was my son's large disappointment over an employment situation that weighed us down. It was Noah that saved our Christmas... as that is the work of angels -- to take us beyond our hopelessness into a widening space for dreaming anew.

And the water poured and poured. Water cleanses, a friend emails...I listen. I listen.

It wasn't easy returning to this blog. Conversations with Jean about academics who blog made me realize that I have, to some extent, plus the real constraint of time, been censoring myself for fear that the academic blog police would find this one out.

I think reading Tom Beckett's interview with Jean opened up a space within me for letting go of these irrational fears. It is Jean's points about listening to the body, to be like "ether" and to be "tethered" at the same time, to "go on with your nerves", to be embodied...and so many other gems... that finally made me enter this space again.

Plus, it seems only fitting that I acknowledge the gifts that come to me when reading my favorite people's blogs: Eileen, Jean, Barb, Michelle, Bino, and all the folks that they link to. Thinking back on your posts for 2005 and all that has been achieved/accomplished -- this indeed has been a year of nothingness! Thank you for being.

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