Friday, January 31, 2020


Filipino American Voices in Asian America 
(circa 2009-2010)

by E. SAN JUAN, Jr.
Philippines Research Center, Washington DC

The starting point of critical elaboration is the consciousness of what one really is, and is "knowing thyself" as a poduct of the historical process to date, which has deposited in you an infinity of traces, without leaving an inventory, therefore it is imperative at the outset to compile such an inventory.

---ANTONIO GRAMSCI, Prison Notebooks

          After the precipitous collapse of financial giants like Bear Stearns, Lehman Brothers, Washington Mutual, Merrill Lynch and other US banks and the October carnage in the global stock market,  US finance-capitalism's substance seems to dissolve rapidly into shadows. US finance capital, once unimpeachable, is suffering a rapid slippage not into Derrida's vertiginous abyss of textual undecidability but into bankruptcy. How are the humanities and literary studies, specifically that “peculiar institution” called Asian American Studies, impacted by this epochal and now traumatic event? Before we can answer the challenge of our communities as to how to understand imperialism as a haunting predatory presence, indeed, the "history of the present" shock-and-awe of an unprecedented crisis, we need to review why Asian American literature--to refer tentatively to a discursive fabrication--seems unable to transcend its paralyzing conceptualization as a plural unstable ethnic identity, despite its imagined or hypothetical foundation in centuries-old civilizations (China, Japan, Korea). This paper rehearses and evaluates the key theoretical schematics and initiates a pedagogical critique of two Filipino American novels as an example of an alternative to the status quo. 
For this modest academic exercise, it is not necessary to invoke the legacy of the pre-Columbian past to revitalize "the exhausted tropes of solidarity and coalition" because such tropes--except for a brief period during the popular-democratic upheavals in the sixties--never appealed to the "political unconscious" of each specific "Asian" group undergoing the "labor of the negative," by which I mean the ordeal of their normative and routinized exclusion, exploitation, inferiorization, stigmatization, and destruction by the white-supremacist polity and its hegemonic apparatuses in the domain of the State and civil society. The rubrics of transnationality, citizenship, immigration and globalization are the symptomatic indices of our contemporary predicament under the shadows of Empire. 

Orientalizing the Buffer Race

As the Vietnam quagmire deepened in 1966, sociologist William Petersen declared the Japanese Americans "a model minority," rescuing them from the trauma of the internment years. A decade after, Maxine Hong Kingston's The Woman Warrior appeared in 1976, hailed as a breakthrough for Asians. After the US debacle in IndoChina and the eclipse of the Civil Rights struggles, Newsweek  in 1982 headlined a leading story "Asian-Americans: A Model Minority" (Kitano and Daniels 1988, 51). This is the year when Vincent Chin, a Chinese American mistaken for a Japanese in Detroit, was killed by two white workers. The gospel of neoliberal globalization, also known as "the Washington Consensus," took off with a retooling of methodological individualism in "rational choice theory" and officially sanctioned Establishment multiculturalism. To maintain the hegemonic common-sense of a racial hierarchy, the U.S. dominant bloc requires a "buffer race" to split the toiling majority, keep blacks visible but subordinate, and thus deflect class conflict by preserving the civil-society consensus of white color privilege (Gran 1999). To preserve the status quo, the identity of the white working class needs to be defined by race, not by class consciousness. 
Before the ascendancy of the global village of multinational corporations and its administered pluralist ethos in the 1970s, the U.S. elite under Nixon reinforced the racial hierarchy by its attacks on radical trends among people of color; soon, covert and open repression encouraged religious separatism, national chauvinism, and the consolidation of the underclass(chiefly, African Americans). At this conjuncture, East Asians on the West Coast in particular were instrumentalized to breathe new life into the assimilationist syndrome. Later on, with the return of finance capitalism in the Reagan-Bush years and the influx of Irish and Mexican immigrants after 1965, modernism as an ideological disciplinary complex and structuring habitus (to use Pierre Bourdieu's [1993] category) is displaced by postmodernist tendencies--subaltern studies, deconstruction, postcolonialism, Foucaultian modalities of suspicion, etc. Asian American cultural production, with its scholastic authorities and texts, finds its niche in this new tri-polar world (U.S., Europe, Japan as leaders in the G-7 bloc) characterized by the rise of Japan as a peer partner in global hegemony, with Asians as "no longer 'second class citizens' " (Gills 1993, 212).
With ethnicity today as the equalizing mechanism of conformity, we rarely hear special pleas for the plight of "the model minority."  In Taiwan-born Eric Liu’s provocative brief for “model minoritism,” The Accidental Asian, we find a rather nostalgic diagnosis of the madness labeled “ Mongolphobia, “an archaic but insidious” belief that Asians threaten the American Way of Life. Liu ascribes this primal terror, the “fear of a yellow planet,” to yellow journalism—The Insidious Dr. Fu Manchu, the Evil Genius—and to the annals of early psychoanalysis. A history of collective psychosis is recounted: the riots and lynch mobs against Chinese in the 1870s leading to  the infamous 1882 Chinese Exclusion Act; the internment of Japanese Americans in the concentration camps of the 1940s; and, with the Wen Ho Lee scandal, the conspiracy theory of China as the new source of the “yellow peril.” 
But Liu believes the “last judgment” is on the horizon. From “perfect Manichean scapegoats,” or subhuman creatures to superhuman monsters or machines, Asians have multiplied and “breached the mainstream,” with the “advance guard” reaching “the commanding heights of power,” while a resurgent Asia is profoundly altering American language, manners and dreams. Liu prophesizes the third possibility that reconciles extreme aversion and extreme idolization: “Asians are, in fact, human; that they have left our imagination and arrived in our lives. Soon we may have to admit: We have already met the East, and it is us” (1998, 135).  Welcome to/from Disneyland, gated Asians!  In this sleight-of-hand version of Hegelian dialectics (unwittingly parodying Francis Fukuyama), Liu has ironically collapsed the heterogeneous Other into the banal Same. This passage from the thesis of the wholly Other into the worshipped "model minority"--still being resurrected by Helen Zia and other tokenizing gatekeepers--may serve as an allegorical figure for the vicissitudes of the Asian presence in the landscape of the United States in the era of globalization and the post 9/11 war of terror and the crisis of a retrenchingneoliberal dispensation.

E Pluribus, Unum? /  Out of Many, One?

    The neoconservative triumphalism of "free market" Weltanschauung from the Reagan administration up to the collapse of Lehman Brothers marked a decisive
turn in the way white-supremacist hegemony operated. The Cold War required a pretense or premise of defending the "Free World" from the evils of Soviet and Chinese communism. While the 1965 Hart-Celler Immigration and Naturalization Act opened the floodgates to more immigration from Asia, abolishing the "national origins" quota, it was the Vietnam War and its aftermath that dissolved the Chinese/Japanese monopoly of the cultural field of Asian America. In 1975, over 130,000 refugees from Vietnam, Kampuchea and Laos were allowed into the U.S. It is at this point when formalist New Criticism in literary and humanistic studies, already battered by the Civil Rights demand for revising the Western canon, had to be overhauled in order to allow the implementation of a new mode of racial hierarchization. Since the old narrative of assimilationism and adaptation (retooled as the cyclic pattern of suspicion and adjustment) has lost purchase, in anticipation of finance-capital's ascendancy over a de-industrialized America, a new paradigm had to be invented to preserve the myth of consensual democracy. This is summed up in Lisa Lowe's (1991) triple shibboleths of "heterogeneity, hybridity, multiplicity."
     With the advent of the IndoChinese and the heightened influx of Filipinos, Asian America--by which I mean the Chinese/Japanese monolith--had to confront changing reality. This is not what Lowe had in mind despite her claim of recognizing the material contradictions among Asian communities in the US (see the synoptic analysis of those contradictions by Paul Ong, Edna Bonacich and Lucie Cheng [1994]). For her, asserting ethnic multiplicity was a means of disrupting Eurocentric hegemony, quite a novel revision of Gramsci's original use of the concept as a political strategy of a proletarian-led historic bloc to overthrow capitalist power. But aside from intra-ethnic differential relationships and hybrid mixings, multiplicity serves as the theoretical wedge to displace the organizing category of class, founded on the unequal division of social labor and therefore unequal power, as the ordering principle of US capitalism. Asians are now contingently determined by "several different axes of power, the contradictions of capitalism, patriarchy and race relations" (2000, 429). This may be useful in explaining the cycle of acceptance and abuse that historian Iris Chang observes in the history of the Chinese in the U.S. (2003). But in effect it merely replicates the repressive teleology of mainstream functionalist empiricism and its coercive agencies.
We no longer dream of the pleasures of victimhood, to be sure, at this late date. In the age of cosmopolitan self-help and cyborgean bootstraps, we want agency. Deploying Spivak's "strategic essentialism," Lowe claims that privileging this socially constructed uneven cultural terrain will enable Asian subalterns to contest and disrupt the discourses, laws, norms, rules and practices of racial prejudice, exclusion, discrimination, scapegoating, oppression, etc. She also invokes Stuart Hall's notion of cultural identity as a matter of "positioning." Consequently, she rejects class solidarity because it erases ethnic particularity. This then becomes a theory of politics as social movements moving in parallel lines, diverse alliances and coalitions striving to transform hegemony--to be sure, not only capitalist but also scattered racist and sexist hegemonies.

Essentialism of the Signifier

     The eighties and nineties witnessed the propagation in the US academy of the ideas of Derrida, Foucault, Deleuze, Lyotard, etc. following the decline of Althusserian Marxism. This was signaled by the revised Gramscianism of Stuart Hall, the founding father of the Birmingham School of Cultural Studies. One offshoot is Ernesto Laclau and Chantal Mouffe's 1985 book Hegemony and Socialist Strategy, the scriptural testament for "new social movements," whose anti-totalizing obsession resonates in the theory of "minority discourse" sponsored by David Lloyd and Abdul JanMohamed in Cultural Critique (Spring-Fall 1987). At the same time, the intervention of Michael Omi and Howard Winant's  (1986) "racial formations" approach reinforced the vogue of cultural relativism and voluntarist idealism that conceives of society as a random collection of social practices lacking any necessary integrating structure (Callinicos 1982; see San Juan 1992; 2002). Philosophical adventurism and Nietszchean metaphysics of "the will to power" began to prevail in Asian American literary studies. Recycling the Althusserian motif of "multiple articulations" to counter the ideology of pseudo-universal humanism, Lowe follows these revisionists in firming up the deconstructive-anarchist trend in Asian American criticism.
     With this linguistic/culturalist turn, criticism becomes solipsistic and uncannily tendentious. Amy Tan's sensational blockbuster, The Joy Luck Club (1989) and its movie version, may have sealed the fate of Asians as potentially subversive agents of social change. As soon as the Asian American canon began to be institutionalized in the eighties as part of the "cultural war" maneuvers, teachers/scholars in this peripheral region needed to justify their scholastic anti-legitimacy. By 1995, Lowe herself had to shift gears by instructing us that the Asian American canon (Bulosan, Okada, Kogawa, Cha) is really a defiance of the reigning Western canonical tradition since it upholds unevenness, indeterminacies, inassimilable alterity, nonequivalence, irresolution--all against unification, reconciliation, development, linear narrative, uniperspectivalism, ethical formation, etc. that constitutes American imperial nationalism. She concludes her thesis: "The teaching of racial, ethnic, and postcolonial texts decenters the autonomous notion of Western culture by recentering the complexities of racial, ethnic, and postcolonial collectivities, and unmasks the developmental narrative as a fiction designed to justify the histories of colonialism, neocolonialism, and forced labor and to erase the dislocations and hybridities that are the resulting conditions of those histories" (1995, 66).

Postmodernity's Revenge

          The exorbitant addiction to Derridean maxims and post-structuralist doxa has continued unabated. As one of the Establishment gatekeepers, Shirley Geok-lin Lim prefaces her widely used 1992 anthology Reading the Literatures of Asian America with an essay on the "ambivalent American," meaning herself as a "new new American." She resents the habitual tokenism inflicted on fellow poets like the Polish Czeslaw Milosz, rejects Lynn Cheney's Eurocentric universalism, and invokes Werner Sollor's notion of symbolic "multiple choice" ethnicity as the way out and into the majoritarian consensus.  Unfortunately she succumbs to the lure of the immigrant paradigm and all its insidious implications (including the belief that American English is a life-line for the pariah's salvation). Her idea of a dialogic identity, "identity on the cusp," as it were, construed as a compromise between a Utopian American future and the ancestral golden past of the native folk (as in Carlos Bulosan's America Is in the Heart, and in other authors such as Kingston, Chin, etc.) exudes a pathos of wish-fulfillment that undermines the realism of her initial polemic. 
Aestheticist individualism overrides the constraints of historical structure and other social determinants. With the shift from the white majority nation to a multiethnic nation of minorities, Lim hopes that the paradigm of conflict and ambivalence in Asian American texts "will be transformed into a productive multivalence: " 'Valences' speak to the abilities to integrate, combine, fuse, and synthesize different elements. Conflict is almost always a product of dualities; perhaps synergisic commonalities will be the product of pluralities of ethnic figures, pluralism which we know is already on its way" (1992, 28-29). This may be an improvement over Elaine Kim's (1982) inaugural configuration of Asian American literature as modeled on the ethnic immigrant success story; but, in actuality, it reinforces the pluralist/multiculturalist dogma of neoliberal globalized capitalism.
       "Pluralism" may be an exhausted idea, but it can be refurbished disguised as "transnational" or "diasporic." Arjun Appadurai and Theodor Adorno are called in by Susan Koshy to rescue entropic US hegemony. In an attempt to inflect Lowe's standpoint into something contestatory, and "ambivalence" into something contingent or aporetic, Koshy posits the notion that the inferential value of "Asian America" resides in "the catachrestic status of the formation" (2000, 491). Agreed that there is no objectively verifiable referent to "Asian America," Koshy's agnostic and complaisant response is that we should resign ourselves to "the limits of its signifying power."  Do we need another exhibition of crippling Derridean discourse whose purpose is to shift our concern from the analysis of the political economy of production relations to the metaphysics of sliding and floating signifiers?  Ludic semiotics, to be sure, does not threaten the profit-making machine of the "free market." Nor does it question the ethics or morality of ruthlessly extracting surplus-value from the super-exploited peoples of the world. This cultural/linguistic turn can only hide, if not obfuscate, the material contradictions that our critics claim to confront; rather, as Teresa Ebert and Mas'ud Zavarzadeh points out, "it generates an imaginary re-patterning of the social by displacing class with 'difference,' 'performativity,' and 'desire,' thereby remaking the social: erasing it as an effect of labor and rewriting it as an effect of meanings, affects, hospitality, and the unrepresentable" (2008, 29).

Discombobulated and Compromised

This labor of decentering the Western bourgeois standards of truth, beauty and goodness was the primary task of Marxist ideology-critique before the Nietzschean/Heideggerian vogue. Despite the brief renaissance of Marxist thought in the 1968 May uprisings and the popularity of Marcuse and the Red Book, the heavy weight of Cold War repression aborted a full-blown mobilization of the working masses. Within the Asian communities in the United States, youth re-discovered their ethnic roots and impelled the composition of linear narratives now anathema to Lowe and postmodernist epigones. 
The histories of the "tribe" by Sucheng Chan and Ronald Takaki, however, recontextualized the protracted agon of the Chinese, Japanese, Filipino and Korean workers, their suffering punctuated by collective insurrections and solidarity actions with other groups. This perception of a multilayered narrative seems to have registered the significant theoretical intervention made by Robert Blauner which, for me at least, exploded the myth that all Filipinos were immigrants and thus could not but follow the venerable itinerary of European immigrant success. Blauner distinguished colonized from immigrant minorities in the pluralist order; metropolitan nations incorporated "new territories or peoples through processes that are essentially involuntary, such as war, conquest, capture, and other forms of force or manipulation" (1972). The case of the Philippines and Puerto Rico are the obvious examples. Colonization--this time, the "internal colonialism" (Allen 2005) of racialized groups--and immigration of ethnic Europeans represented two ideal-types or polar ends of a continuum that explains the peopling of the US social formation. Takaki understood this, but he could not hold on to and elaborate this crucial distinction in his 1989 opus, Strangers from a Different Shore. His world-view was still imprisoned within the mystified ideal of American Exceptionalism, as attested to by his 1994 comment on the "culture wars" then raging at the end of the Reagan era.  
Takaki  locates the problem in the linkage of "democracy to national identity" (1994, 299), not to capitalism. Consequently, his solution to economic and racial inequality, including the intensifying exploitation of ethnicized or racialized workers, is the extension of rights and citizenship to everyone. There is a rich, flourishing archive of scholarly texts and discourses by Asian American lawyers (especially those engaged in "critical race theory") and activists devoted to this reform-minded approach, none of which has prevented the worsening inequality and anomic decay among Chinese, Filipinos, Vietnamese, Laotians, Kampucheans and Hmongs, since the liberalization of entry in 1965 (Hing 1998). The prophylaxis of citizenship rights offered by Lowe, Takaki, Okihiro and others should be laid to rest by Natsu Taylor Saito's (2002; 2003) cogent argument that such belief in citizenship as the cure can only reinforce the state's systematic "plenary power" over the others, especially in cases of immigrant persecution, dating back to the 1882 Exclusion Law. So we are back to the analysis of the capitalist mode of production and reproduction as the enabling principle and legitimizing guarantee of the racial polity (Meyerson 2001).
          An affliction of similar proportion may be discerned in Gary Okihiro's apologetic, if not opportunistic, mode of historicizing the vicissitudes of Asian American existence in late-capitalist United States. Okihiro intends to denounce the crimes of white-supremacist America on Asians, but at the same time he doesn't want to be seen as an angry ideologue, an uncouth left-wing doctrinaire scholar; his tone varies, at once serious but complacently ironic; he strives to distance himself from the anecdotal Takaki and the more schematic style of Sucheng Chan by gestures at once hedging and temporizing, almost verging on a defense of McKinley's "Benevolent Assimilation" policy eventually administered with Theodore Roosevelt's big stick. Okihiro may be the authentic by-product of Lowe's hybridized discourse-deconstructing machine. 
At the end of the Cold War, the bombing of Yugoslavia, and the inauguration of a more fiercely predatory pax Americana with the impending US invasion of Iraq, Okihiro's confession of partisanship for the mystique of "multicultural America" speaks volumes, rivalling Eric Liu, and provides the key to the current stagnation and malaise in the discipline:  "But class has never, I believe, been central to our analysis. We persist in our belief in the push-pull (or some variant thereof) hypothesis of Asian migration, we see articulation as a racial encounter, and we present our work and subject matter as yet another aspect of multicultural America" (1998, 32). Okihiro and other functionaries in the academy cannot resolve the impasse of duplicity, not ambiguity, while negotiating between the old panethnicity model based on racial formations (see Espiritu 1992; San Juan 2002) and the siren song of incommensurable discrepancies and undecidabilities. This may be due to an Orientalized "cunning of history" missed by Edward Said.

Therapy or Exorcism?

         On this emergence in the nineties of the Asian American penchant for schizophrenic inquiry, the best diagnosis is, to my mind, the insightful and wide-ranging treatise of David Palumbo-Liu, Asian/American: Historical Crossings of a Racial Frontier. Palumbo-Liu comments on the schizophrenic symptoms found in three texts, among others: Daniel Okimoto's American in Disguise, Yoshimi Ishikawa's Strawberry Road, and Chang Rae Lee's Native Speaker. Just as Lowe manifests symptoms of the process of transnationalism and transmigrancy that forces into crisis the once sacrosanct notions of citizenship and nationhood, the protagonists of those texts, in particular that of Lee's novel, testify to the splitting and disintegration of social and political subjectivity in the age of globalized finance-capitalism. Palumbo-Liu notes: "If the 1970s named Asian Americans as dual personalities, the 1980s and 1990s have produced a particular vision of the schizophrenic, one intimately linked to transnationalism" (1999, 320), who may no longer be amenable to the programmatic techniques of healing, reconciliation, and adaptation beloved by pragmatic social scientists and technocrats of the Cold War era.
Faced with the civilizationalist racism of post-9/11 Homeland Security State, Vijay Prashad for his part attempts to revive a moribund Ethnic-Studies institution by replacing the epistemology of identity with that of polyculturalism. Comparative ethnic studies, for him, is the way out of the deterministic, vulgar optic of class exploitation. One would think that this hegemonic apparatus of mis-representation has already been rendered inutile long before the actual bankruptcy of Lehman Brothers, Bear Stearns, and so on. But not for Prashad. This refurbished version of the old cultural pluralism may be discerned also in current historiography where, for example, the United State's "calibrated colonialism" (Kramer 2006) becomes a dynamic interactive field where the colonizer and colonized transact the business of politics as equal partners. The fallacy of equating exploiter and exploited in order to ascribe agency/humanity to the subjugated but emotionally appealing victim vitiates many empirical studies of Filipino overseas migrant workers (e.g. Tung 2004). Supposedly novel in inventing agency for the colonized, this new epistemology in the disciplines of history and sociology interprets colonial domination as consensual negotiation between rulers and ruled, reducing hegemony into an exercise in Habermasianesque rational communication. Polyculturalism thus becomes the alibi of imperialism suddenly capable of "bad faith."
It is thus not surprising to find Prashad nostalgically enthused with the obsolete panethnicity nostrum and the anti-totalism of Lowe's Immigrant Acts, unwittingly generating an aporia that is both paradoxical and unintelligible: for him, "ontological incompleteness" fetishized by Lowe, Koshy and others "need not obscure for us the social completeness of identity and identification" (2006, 169). This rhetorical contortion may be an instance of what Fredric Jameson (1991) calls "schizophrenic nominalism," a postmodern malady in which the traditional markers of  identity and historical progression, coherence and continuity have disappeared so that everything now is characterized by fluidity, disjunctures, aleatory slippages, nomadic drifts, and other symptoms that defy thought and logocentric reason. We enter a realm of ludic terra incognita about which we cannot speak, much less intuit and reflect.

Malays Running Amok?

     At this juncture, it would be useful to explore how Filipino writers in the United States responded to the shift from racialized pluralism to globalized differentiation. As everyone knows, Carlos Bulosan's problematic exemplum, America Is in the Heart, has become an ever contentious object-lesson. The reason lies in the fact that practically all readers ignore or choose to elide the historical singularity absent from textbooks and mass media: the Philippines was violently subjugated by US imperialism in the Filipino-American War (1899-1902) at the cost of 1.4 million Filipino lives (San Juan 2000; 2008). This is the submerged text of the first part of America, whose revolutionary impulse surfaces intermittently in the stories and essays, but more fully in the novel of the McCarthy/Cold War period, The Cry and the Dedication. Because of the persisting amnesia about this ugly truth in monumental US history, only dredged up recently when apologists of the Iraq War invoked the "humanitarian" occupation of the Philippines by the US military at the beginning of the twentieth century; or when the recently reported practice of "waterboarding" on Iraqi and Afghani prisoners was discovered to be a common form of torture against captured Filipino insurgents, Bulosan remains unread, or inadequately appreciated, up to now.
     Almost equal if not surpassing the total population of Chinese Americans, the Filipino community (more than three million of 12 million Asians) in the US exists due to the political instability and economic underdevelopment of the Philippines (Hing 1998). Perhaps one should really define the Philippines from 1898 to 1946 (when the US granted formal independence, with many strings attached) not as a classic colony but as a dependency, thus an internal colony like the Native American territories. Virtually a neocolony today, the Philippine social formation cannot be understood by means of postcolonial concepts of hybridity, in-betweeness, interstitiality, and so on. Nor can decolonization of Asian American Studies' paradigms of cultural nationalism, identity politics or national assimilation be carried out by using the phenomenon of the global diaspora to expunge anti-imperialist liberation struggles that mobilize the sedimented nationalist traditions of peasants and workers in the neocolonies. The durable recalcitrance of Filipino subjectivity saturated with nationalist memory-traces explains why, unlike the relatively assimilated Japanese, Korean and Chinese middlemen strata, Filipinos who have been disenfranchised and demonized for a long time cannot function as the "buffer race" between the white majority and the castelike black underclass. This remains the case until today, even though these colonized "nationals" were not locked out in 1882, nor banned by the Gentlemen's Agreement of 1907-08, nor by the 1924 Immigration Act which favored  "desirable" Europeans and denied citizenship to Asian "aliens." Nonetheless, all Filipinos are Americanized to one degree or another, in more ways than one; and if what Arif Dirlik says is correct, that Americanization is synonymous with racialization, then all Filipinos have been thoroughly racialized, "not just fitting into a racially organized society but also thinking racially" (2008, 1367).
A few years ago I pointed out how the postcolonial notion of transnational citizenship, fluid and flexible, originated from the dynamics of circulating use-value whereby all goods and services (as health care given by Filipino domestics) are commodified and made equivalent , translated or quantified into exchange value via the cash-nexus (San Juan 2005). The Philippines to this day remains a neocolony, formally independent but politically a client-state of Washington and the Pentagon. It functions as a strategic testing laboratory for US Special Forces fighting the proxies of Al Qaeda (shadowy Abu Sayyaf bandits some of whom work for local politicians and the government military) was long prepared by more than a hundred years of trying to preserve the oligarchic rule of a corrupt and murderous elite whose subservience to the "Washington Consensus" guarantees the accelerating Filipino "warm body export" part of which services the US military bases in Iraq, Europe, Guantanamo, Hawaii, Guam, and elsewhere, including the secret "launching pads" of CIA clandestine operations in the Philippines itself (Mahajan 2002).
     During the thirties and forties of the last century, Filipino workers exposed to the insurrectionary and seditious milieu of the islands were considered nasty trouble-makers, aside from being perceived as a threat to the purity of  Caucasian women. They collaborated in strikes with Japanese, Mexicans, and other ethnics in the Hawaii plantations and West Coast farms. From the outset up to 1946, Filipinos were legally considered "nationals" without any rights but only the "duty of permanent allegiance" to the U.S. nation-state (Hall 2002, 101).  They were not allowed to vote, own property, start any business or marry Caucasian women. However, Filipino surplus labor as a rule were Americanized enough to warrant their candidacy for model-minority status; migration is thus valued as "an opportunity and mechanism for upward social mobility," according to functionalist sociologists (e.g., Carino 1996). 
With the post-9/11 racial profiling, the Filipino re-entered the target-vision of the alarmed racial polity, i.e. "white supremacy... as a political system in itself" (Mills 1999, 25). In August 2002, for example, 63 Filipinos were herded into an airplane for a direct flight to the Philippines, all the deportees manacled during the flight. In December, a second batch of 84 Filipinos were deported under the same humiliating condition, legitimized by the Absconder Apprehension Initiative Program of the US Dept of Justice (effective since Jan. 13, 2001) and other laws which criminalized the Filipino for being undocumented workers (Mendoza 2003).  From October 2001 to April 2002, 334 Filipinos were deported through authoritarian executive orders, justified by legislative actions (including the USA Patriot Act) under the Bush administration. This is quite unprecedented: Filipinos have never been deported in this brutal way in such large numbers. With the discovery of terrorists in their country of origin, Filipinos are now doubly marked as a "brown peril" of sorts, with affinities to Muslim Pakistanis, Indians, Bangladeshis, Indonesians, Afghanis, and so on. The old somatic/physical markers of race as well as the ethnic/cultural signifiers have now become either amalgamated or sublimated into the prevailing computerized "terrorist" profile.
How does a novelist like Jessica Hagedorn, for instance, respond to this new regime of "civic nationalism" engaged in a "just war" to defend "civic order and democratic liberties"? How does this post-Cold War "insecuritization" (Thornton 2002) under the aegis of the "global war on terror" provide an opening for Hagedorn's volatilization of the old formal properties of mimetic art which foreground versimilitude of character and plot? 

Hagedorn's Untamed Flicks

     As though afflicted with a severe attack of "repetition compulsion," Hagedorn does a reprise of her 1988 Dogeaters in her new production, Dream Jungle. We encounter here a postmodern repertory of combining parts and suturing disparate fragments.  This technique of collage/pastiche may be viewed as imitation or copying without laughter. And since there is no original common language of bourgeois individualism and its attendant metanarrative, parody is ruled out. If the real, assuming there is some agreement that reality is out there, can no longer be captured or expressed by language and its resources, what is there to write about? What is striking in this setup, despite the postmodernist obsession with  the materiality of the sign as image, not a vehicle of meaning, is that readers and reviewers refuse to give up summarizing, decoding, and making sense of bits and pieces somehow stitched together in Hagedorn's artifice. 
Hagedorn's Dream Jungle weaves two constellations of events. The first  centers on the wealthy playboy Zamora Lopez de Legaspi who discovers a tribe of Stone-Age cave dwellers (alluding to the Tasaday tribe found in 1971 before Marcos' declaration of martial law). The second gravitates around a servant girl, Rizalina Cayabyab, daughter of Zamora's cook, who flees to Manila, becomes a go-go dancer, and meets an American actor, Vincent Moody. Moody happens to be working on the crew of Napalm Sunset (alluding to Apocalypse Now), a Vietnam-war movie being filmed in Mindanao, Philipines, where the indigenous Tasadays were discovered. These two event-networks, for one reviewer, function as semantic indices to convey what Hagedorn feels are the effects of Spanish and American colonialism. They are decipherable signifiers that convey the novel's major themes, making this bricolage intelligible: "explorers [Magellan; Coppola; other foreigners] turn out to be conquerors, Westerners are still bending Philippine destinies and lechery continues to bind colonizer and native" (Ramzy 2003). If so, then Hagedorn has wasted time and energy on banalities. At best, she has distracted our mind from the toxic and barbaric disasters inflicted by US power on the peoples of Iraq, Afghanistan, the Philippines, and elsewhere.
     What strikes our critical intelligence is the standard by which Hagedorn can be said to represent a Filipino response to the historical conjuncture I have addressed here. Tentatively we can say that this schizophrenic mode of fabulation is actually both the form and substance of Hagedorn's attempt to make sense of the historical period from the end of the Vietnam War to the 9/11 terror attack. Pastiche, variegated points of view, alternation of episodes, may indeed achieve what The New York Times reviewer suspects is Hagedorn's singular intent: to engage with the "unreliability of the realities it depicts" (Upchurch 2003). But then we have to ascertain if the realities--among others, for example, Secretary Manda Elizalde/Marcos' abuse of power on all levels, and the corruption of Filipinos by Coppola's filming of Apocalypse Now in the Philippines--have been convincingly presented, and scrupulously documented, as claimed by clever reviewers.  
Metropolitan taste demands more than humdrum anecdotes. It turns out that Hagedorn's real concern--to zero in on "the societal repercussions of heavily staged-managed creations," such as the alleged anthropological findings, or the publicity surrounding that and Coppola's representation of the Vietnam War experience--was achieved by simply intuiting or insinuating "her way around a dozen memorable characters and milieus, letting her concerns swarm beneath the busy surface of her narrative" (Upchurch 2003). Granted; but this technical experimentalism itself relies on a dense texture of surface details, an incoherent assemblage that reproduces the illusion of an interminable present without depth or resonance. 
As Shelley Jackson acutely puts it, Hagedorn's is "a scavenger aesthetic, choosy but eclectic" (2003). It chooses, yes, but in a rather brusque, self-conscious, astutely exhibitionistic fashion. Given the fact that Hagedorn (since Dogeaters) has rejected the typifying realism of the bourgeois narrative for the abstract, psychologizing mannerism of high modernist art (Lukacs 1995), which is the ideological aura of finance capital in the age of globalization, we can conclude that Dream Jungle serves precisely the agenda of the racial polity caught in an emergency : namely, human existence is a matter of individuals with arbitrary experiences, society an accidental collocation of idiosyncratic characters, and history a wild, arbitrary and ultimately chaotic iteration of scenes for which there is no overarching vision or framework that can make sense of the whole. Isn't this a version of the fluid, heterogenous, border-leaping Asian American creature fashioned by Liu, Lowe, Lim and their disciples?

Homecoming Trajectory

Let us now turn to Bienvenido Santos, a Filipino writer whose career spans two generations: the Manongs of the forties and the immediate postwar period, and the post-1965 immigrant community of professionals and exiles from the Marcos dictatorship. Now, the vintage Santos beloved by anthologists, the author of You Lovely People (1955) and Villa Magdalena (1965), can certainly be aligned with the "model minority" scheme that could not resist the inroads of alienating bureaucracy, consumerism, utilitarian standardization, and the predatory Social Darwinism of the seventies and eighties. Santos' novel What the Hell For You Left Your Heart in San Francisco (1987) may be regarded as the melodramatic and at times self-ingratiating response of the petit-bourgeois stratum of the Filipino community to the shock of its continued marginalization, subordination, and exclusion. 
One peculiar feature of Santos' life may be contradistinguished from Hagedorn's. While Hagedorn's sensibility was shaped by the "Beat"generation of the sixties and the trendy cosmopolitanism of New York, Santos' world-view emerged from his forced stay in the US when World War II broke out in 1942, and from his voluntary exile from the Philippines when his novel The Praying Man was banned by the Marcos authoritarian regime in 1972. By circumstance and choice, Santos aligned himself with the fate of the Filipino community in a period when the pressures of fascist power and reactionary ideology impacted heavily on the daily lives of his compatriots, pressures registered in the episodic but chronological unfolding of his 1987 narrative. It serves as the inchoate national allegory of Filipinos in the interregnum between World War II and the Iraq War.
Santos' attempt at a totalizing narrative may be conceived as an emergent national allegory, or if you like, a national allegory-in-the-making. I believe Fredric Jameson's theory of "national allegory" is more useful in describing the situation of Asian American writers trying to represent their group for the racial polity. The reason is that the personal and political for the Asian writer is always intertwined, given their reification and subjection to the dominant norms; hence the logical distinction between the spheres in Asian experience is not as rigid or fixed as European aesthetic doctrine since Kant and Coleridge would have prescribed. Jameson defines his concept of national allegory: "Third-world texts, even those which are seemingly private and invested with a properly libidinal dynamic--necessarily project a political dimension in the form of national allegory: the story of the private individual destiny is always an allegory of the embattled situation of the public third-world culture and society" (2000, 320). As a reaction to Jameson’s hypothesis, Aijaz Ahmad (1986) calls attention to the sheer plurality of the cultural production in “third world” societies which defies reduction to a formula. However, I contend that Jameson’s paradigm takes into account distinct national bourgeois formations with specific histories determined by the international division of labor organized by imperialism. Imperialism is thus grasped here as a concept, not an experience. Unfortunately, Ahmad confuses these two spheres of discourse and analysis, hence the need to experimentally assess Jameson’s theory and mobilize its potential with the necessary mediations, as I do here. 
As a heuristic proposal, Jameson emphasizes the pervasive reification and alienation characteristic of the culture and sensibility of the metropole, part of which are relayed in colonial institutions and ideological practices. National allegory then functions as the typical colonized people’s response to this ideological fragmentation and commodification. Of course, there exist sub-categories or variants of this archetypal response.  By extension, an allegorical project of reconstituting a self-determining collective subject or subject-position may be discerned in those artists operating within the internal colonies of the United States (Asians, Latinos, African Americans, Native Americans). In the perspective of "internal colonialism," the Asian communities resemble the underdeveloped "third world" of the sixties and seventies. What a world of difference it would have made if the canonical texts by Kingston, Bulosan, Okada, Villa, Theresa Cha, Frank Chin and others were read as allegories of their specific nationality formations and not one-sidedly as emanations of individual psyches reacting to hostile environments. 
Parenthetically, it would be prudent to remark that I reserve a full exposition of this new approach for another occasion.  Here I can only signal the inadequacies of past and existing theoretical frameworks where critical interventions can be launched. Such interventions will be collective and experimental in nature. In the process of critique one may discern the seeds of emergent trends and new directions. Meanwhile, I urge that Kingston's three major works, The Woman Warrior, China Men, and Tripmaster Monkey,  be read as national allegories of a kind, critical articulations of Asian American feminism wrestling with racialized patriarchy and class exploitation. I nominate two powerful examples of a "national allegory" that elaborates a metanarrative of multiethnic solidarity: first, Yuri Kochiyama's autobiographical assemblage, Passing It On, which resists Derridean or Foucaultian subsumption; and second, Marilyn Chin's shrewd recasting of the dramatic monologue genre in "A Portrait of the Self as Nation, 1990-1991" (1997, 159-163).
 Realism and the Cartesian ego have been jettisoned together with all kinds of nationalism--except the unmarked one of U.S. Herrenvolk patriotism, and the equation of its national interest with democracy and liberty (of the "free market") everywhere. And so the hegemonic ideology continues to prove tenacious and instrumental for careerist ends. Otherwise, we could have easily liberated ourselves a long time ago from the corrupting spell of the "model minority" myth inflected in postmodern ambivalence, multiculturalism, and compensatory postcolonial mimicries. National allegory requires a dialectical method that would mediate historically specific experiences and establish their coherence in a meaningful totality, a unifying meta-narrative of historical development anathema to our current orthodoxy. With finance-capital dictating the parameters of globalization, Asian America remains locked up in a world of virtualization where an emergent configuration of wholeness, autonomy, and unity dissolves in simulacra, spectacles, and illusions of alterity regurgigated from the mechanical reproduction of the commodified Same, and finally assimilated in the absolutist Leviathan corpus. 

Adumbrations of Pinoy Existentialism

Conventional wisdom has recycled platitudes about the Filipino community in the US: family- and clan-centered, regionalistic, with unique resources drawn from the cultural heritage (barangay, plaza complex) such as the "bayanihan" (cooperation) spirit and "balikbayan" (returning to the homeland) practice, which allegedly harmonize the native-born Pinoys/Pinays from the interfacing Philippine-born immigrants (Guyotte 1997). Santos' novel dramatizes those stereotypes and cliches only to satirize them tactfully, as shown by the choreographed behavior of the circle around Dr. Vicente Sotto, the employees and bureaucrats of the Philippine Consulate, the Filipino-American organizations at St. Joseph's Catholic Church, and Dante's students and colleagues at City College. 
David Dante Tolosa's journey, ostensibly a hunt for his lost fugitive father, turns out to be an education/initiation plot, a learning process. Although filled with a menagerie of character types, whose relatives inhabit Hagedorn's Dream Jungle, Santos' narrative revolves around the writer Dante's search for a viable community. He pursues solidarity linkages with American lost souls (Judy), enigmatic survivors (Cesar Pilapil), and anti-"model minority" derelicts like Professor Arturo Jaime's family. Right from the start, Dante moves to settle the issue of ambiguity by identifying himself as typical Americanized colonial subject: born in 1938 "on the outskirts of the American naval base near Subic Bay in the Philippines. An oriental with broad hints of Malay-Indonesian, perhaps Chinese, strain, a kind of racial chopsuey, that's me.  Better yet, for historical and ethnic accuracy, an oriental omelette flavored with Spanish wine" (1987,1). Well-meaning pastiche breaks down here into culinary grotesques. 
In Dante's search for support for his project and his vocation, Santos allegorizes a whole nation's struggle for genuine sovereignty, for recognition as a singular nation. Not so much the character of Dante as the itinerary of the quest for solidarity, the deracinated individual's need to communicate and connect with others (the priority of audience and context for the Filipino artist) and thus unify the fragmented collective psyche--that is ultimately Dante's over-riding motivation.  It is none other than to articulate the dream of nationhood, to imagine the birth of national self-determination. It is not so much the solitary artist's agon for self-fulfillment that we see in Dante's comic if pathetic maneuvers for self-recognition, but the Filipino organic intellectual's dilemma of deciding whether to succumb to self-indulgent anarchist gestures--the fate of Jose Garcia Villa, a contemporary exiled artist, and kindred compatriots--or to mediate the shipwrecked psyche's anguish and craft with the suffering and oppression of the larger community to which, by descent or consent, he belongs. Dante confronts this ethical imperative during his sojourn in America.
Hegemony in politics and art is a matter of calibrating the ratio of force and consent. Dante was driven into exile by geopolitical forces beyond his control. His reservoir of "consent," fueled by conscience or naivete, is what explains Dante's sympathy for Estela, the invalid in a wheelchair in a mansion on Diamond Heights--the child whose inability to control the psychosomatic symptoms of her life symbolizes the existential plight of the Filipino community. Estela's fascination with the blazing lights of San Francisco from the Heights is the general Filipino enchantment with the surface glitter of industrialized America as the incarnation of the mythic "City on the Hill," the promised land of freedom and equality and redemption. The scene epitomizes Bulosan's enduring fantasy of a fabled America, innocent and virginal before the Puritans' bloody errand in the wilderness.
This theme of fantasy and disillusionment is recapitulated by Santos for this period of "colorblind" racism and brutal fascist violence in the Philippines and other U.S. imperial outposts before the advent of a "global apartheid" (Marable 2006). Unfortunately, this doctrine of American Exceptionalism--a Messianic ideology embodied in the policy of "Manifest Destiny" and affiliated slogans of the Cold War and Bush's "war on terrorism" (Pease 2000)--appears as a healing trope, even though ironically fused with a horribly diseased, helpless Filipina child. Ultimately, the "American Dream" evaporates in the flood of sordid disenchantments that hound Bulosan's characters, a lesson not lost to Santos' protagonist. Dante survives owing to a peculiar mixture of native resources: susceptibility to seduction, intellectual naivete, convivial will-power, sensuality, and strong animal instincts. At times, he manifests the DuBoisian virtue of double-consciousness. For the mass audience of the global North,  however, Dante serves to personify the model citizen of  impoverished, underdeveloped "third world" countries vulnerable to the temptations offered by the World Bank/International Monetary Fund, US Agency for International Development, and transnational corporate investors hungry for super-profits. 

Asian America: A Utopian Project?

What I find somewhat disconcerting, though in hindsight perfectly understandable, is Santos' resort to a tired humanistic formula to resolve his protagonist's problems. Having gone through the grotesque and painful ordeals in his search for some mooring (emblematized by the lost father) in a chaotic consumerist milieu, Dante settles for an ending to his existential search. The novel's closing scene with his final goodbye to Estela may be read as an attempt to transpose to this vacant placeholder the old Jamesian "central intelligence," a scene that emits somehing like the "Great Gatsby" intuition that would reconcile all contraries and pacify everyone. Dante imagines Estela watching the landscape before her as her limbs twist, eerily crying and frothing, the convulsions of "wounded beast" that operates as Santos' "objective correlative" for the diseased body politic and the metropolitan wasteland at the end of the Vietnam War and the onset of deadly Reaganite repression and missile warfare against the unruly "third world" subalterns in Libya, Nicaragua, Grenada, Philippines, etc. (Blum 2005):
There are no stars blinking at our feet, no encrusted jewels, such as you might imagine, winking over our heads.  We are flesh and blood, tired before the day is over, seeking to find after the rains, a welcome door, a smiling face, both the familiar and the strange. Surrounded by strangers, we look for friends in a continuing search against despair.
We have left native land but our hearts are still there, not here, Estela, not in this golden city by the bay. We like to think we gain a lot from day to day in hope, that we are not as we often suspect we are, sentimental fools.  But we believe in love, that's all we live for, love. But what the hell is that? And like you, Estela, we carry our own deformities as nobly as we can, but unlike you, we hide them well. (1987, 191).

Unlike Hagedorn's slyly cynical if proprietary distance from her creations, Santos' empathy is, to my mind, somewhat patronizing and even excessive for the real worth of the problems his characters are grappling with. Perhaps Santos senses this danger of pathos-becoming-bathos so that he catches himself and asks rhetorically: "What the hell for you left your heart in San Francisco"?  The colloquial register seems to offer a fitting denouement to a memorable verbal performance, analogous to how the Chinese artist Zhang Huan incarnates genealogy in his theatrical art. In enacting "Family Tree," Zhang asked three Chinese calligraphers to write directly on his face and shaved head until all his skin was covered. Not the substance (Chinese folktales, poems, names) but the form soon becomes legible: the ink-brushed characters gradually darkened his entire head. In the last of a sequence of nine photographs of this unrepeatable happening, Zhang's face is completely black "as if erased by, or completely absorbed into, language" (Cotter 2007). This may apply to Hagedorn's art, but not to Santos' stylized realism and his stubborn drive to articulate the tale of the "tribe."
In any event, Santos' performance values signifiers but not at the expense of the signifieds and their sociohistorical grounding. References to public conduct and speech-acts are not manipulated simply for a psychological reality-effect; they index the kaleidoscope of scenes and characters to specific embodiments, to concrete historical contexts: Marcos' authoritarian rule and the suspended state of animation of the Filipino pettybourgeoisie in California.  In a time when "Only English" became the latest outburst of the racial polity(San Juan 2005b), with de-industrialisation, outsourcing, and cutbacks wrecking middle-class lives; with the abject failure of Brown vs Board of Education to remedy de facto discrimination; and when the gains of the Civil Rights struggles have been coopted or eviscerated by right-wing assaults on social services and public programs--long before the Katrina disaster will demonstrate that equality and freedom for people of color remains a hope or dream--Santos dares to write in Tagalog and other vernaculars with English words. Maxine Hong Kingston praised Santos for this miraculous feat, for his being "a master at giving the reader a sense of people speaking in many languages and dialects" (Cruz 2005, 36). This dialogic, more exactly polyphonic or heteroglossic (after Bakhtin), method of constructing the scaffolding of a particularized "national allegory" is, I contend, a much more subversive and radically transformative strategy for thwarting finance-capital's attacks on immigrants, ethnic minorities, and internally colonized peoples than the calculated ruses and panaceas of multiplicity, leveraged ambivalence, transnational cosmopolitanism, and other new-fangled nostrums sold in the now bloody, turbulent marketplace. 

On the Eve of the Collapse

 Meanwhile, history unfolds as we engage in our Wittgensteinian language-games. We are informed by a New York Times op-ed piece (March 31, before the present crisis) that the era of the white man and woman has ended, with the "baton" passing to Asia: soaring growth rates in China, India and Vietnam; 450 million cell phones in China; with Hong Kong's "efficiency and high-speed airport" making "New York seem third-world." Postmodernist motifs overflow in this passage: "These alternate faces of globalization--fluidity and tribalism--define our frontier-dissoling world....Everything passes.  In the 17th century, China and India accounted for more than half the world's economic output. After a modest interlude, the pendulum is swinging back to them at a speed the West has not grasped" (Cohen 2008). And so, inscribed in this cosmic panorama, the unfortunate episode involving CalTech aerodynamics professor Dr. Tsien Hsue-Shen who was deported at the start of the Cold War, or the somewhat comic refusal to allow Congressman David Woo to enter the Dept of Energy hall in Washington DC to deliver an invited speech celebrating Asian History Month, need not deter us. Nietszche's Eternal Recurrence or some updated version of Kierkegaard's "Repetition" may appear more "sexy" than this challenging project of national allegory. We beg to dissent.
This is a modest proposal. This is not the occasion to elaborate in nuanced detail a new theory of Asian American Studies suitable for this new millennium. All I can do here is sketch alternative routes and emancipatory possibilities.  What I am proposing here in this brief survey of critical theories is the need to shift our attention away from the current nihilistic and cynical impasse. Instead of privileging the "free play" of discourse released from any contextual anchoring, we need to focus on the whole intellectual formation of Asian organic intellectuals (instanced in Peter McLaren's interview of Lisa Chin [1994]). We need to examine the structure and dynamics of specific cultural modes of production in each Asian collectivity within the systemic constraints of late capitalism. In the process, we move beyond the now routinized genealogy of power/knowledge to the inventory of concrete historical limits and possibilities for radical transformative praxis.
For an effective counterhegemony against the disingenuous and ingenious weapons of the racial polity sustained by a protofascist State--the Homeland Security State of Bush and the neoconservatives--which has gutted Constitutional rights and international law (practising torture, "renditions," preemptive bombings, unwarranted surveillance, and other abuses of power), it is obligatory for progressive scholars to draw up an inventory of our resources derived from both the native cultural legacy and the Western Enlightenment, however ridden with "orientalizing" traits, in order to forge a synthesizing plot of collective emancipation of working peoples across color-lines and ethnic boundaries, as well as across class, gender, and religious barriers. We need to collaborate together in a struggle that will destroy the basis of the racial polity in the unjust division of social labor and the unequal power stemming from that exploitation, which is the overarching narrative of all communities fragmented and divided among themselves, under the shadow of a dying Empire.

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Wednesday, January 01, 2020


Modernidad at Globalisasyon: Diyalektika ng Panahon at Lugar

                          Ni E. SAN JUAN, Jr. Polytechnic University of the Philippines

Nasaan tayo ngayon at kailan nangyayari ito? Tila kabalintunaan ang nangyayari ngayon.

Pagnilayin natin ang mga mungkahing sumusunod. Singkahulugan ng modernidad ang katwiran at pagkamakatao, sagisag ng pagsulong ng kabihas- nan. Sa malas, batay sa krisis sa Ukraine, Syria, patuloy na digmaan sa Af- ghanistan, Mindanao, at hidwaan tungkol sa China Sea, umuurong na tayo mula sa modernidad tungo sa barbaridad, mula globalisasyon tungo sa kumprontasy- on ng mga makasariling bansang nagpipilit ng kanilang natatanging etnisidad na namumukod sa iba. Kabaligtaran nga sa perspektiba ng rasyonal at makataong antas ng sagad-modernong milenyo sa mundo.

Ibungad natin ang problemang bumabagabag sa atin: Anong uri ng mod- ernidad ang taglay ng Pilipinas? Kaugnay nito, paano mapapalaya ang potensyal ng ordinaryong araw-araw na buhay ng bawat mamamayan sa epoka ng kapital- ismong pampinansiyal na laganap sa buong planeta?

Isang anekdotang may masusing pahiwatig ang ibabahagi ko muna. Ka- makailan, sa isang workshop ng mga manunulat sa TABOAN 2014 (pagtitipon ng mga manunulat sa Subic Free Port, Zambales) tungkol sa pagsasalin, naitanong ko sa panel: "Pare-pareho ba o magkakapantay-pantay ang lahat ng wika na mag- agamit sa pagsasalin sa kasalukuyan?" Di umano, isang inosenteng tanong. Tu- gon sa akin ng dalawang kasali roon: "Oo, pare-pareho, walang wikang nakahi- higit sa iba." Ibig sabihin, Ingles, Cebuano, Pranses, Intsik, Ruso, Aleman, lahat iyan ay magkakapantay-pantay...
Saan ba tayo nakatira? Anong petsa ba ngayon, saang lugar tayo nakatala- ga? Ano ang tunay at eksaktong posisyon natin?
Nakakalito nga. Tingnan ninyo: bagamat ang Subic ay isinauli na sa Filip- inas, patuloy pa rin ang paggamit noon ng Kano sa taun-taong Balikatan Exercis- es, pati Clark at iba pang dating base militar sa buong sangkapuluan. Lumubha pa nga dahil sa pag-iral ng Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) na pinirmahan nina Presidente Aquino at Washington. Dagdag sa Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) na saligan ng taunang Balikatan Exercises, ang EDCA ay lubos na pagsuko ng soberanya ng bansa sa tropa ng Estados Unidos: halos lahat ng bahagi ng teritoryo ng Pilipinas, pati lupa't mga gusali at magagamit na likas-ya- man nito, ay pwedeng sakupin ng hukbong Amerikano nang walang pahintulot ng karaniwang mamamayan. Bumalik na tayo muli sa posisyon ng isang kolonya, o di umano'y neokolonya dahil may pagkukunwaring taglay natin ang kasarinlan. Kabalintunaan ba ito?
Sa ano't anuman, una munang pinagkaabalahan ng mga nagpupulong ang PX goods at aliwang karaoke sa Olongapo, hindi ang VFA at patuloy na interben- siyon ng US sa ating soberanya na sumukdol na sa pagpataw ng EDCA. Kaya patas ba ang neokolonya at estado ng bansang nagdidikta ng kondisyon ng VFA sa gobyerno ni Presidente Aquino?
Himayin natin ang sitwasyon. Sa perspektiba ng lingguwistika, tama, bawat wika ay nagsisilbing sapat sa pangangailangan o adhikain ng grupong gu- magamit nito. O sa layon ng partikular na pagsasalin. Ngunit ang wika, anumang senyas o sagisag na may kargadang kahulugan, ay hindi nakalutang sa himpa- pawid o sa pantasiya; nakaugat ito sa espasyong may tiyak na lugar at panahon. Sa globalisasyon ng mundo sa ilalim ng IMF/WB at mga higanteng korporasyon, walang pasubaling global Ingles ang namamayani. Hindi lengguwaheng Intsik, Ruso, Hapon, Pranses, Aleman, Espanyol, o Filipino, salungat sa sentido komun ng mga manunulat na nabanggit. Bakit nagkaganito?

Punto de Vista sa Pagsasaliksik

Dalawang mungkahi. Una, palagay ko'y hindi natin masasagot iyong tanong kung hindi susundin ang ilang gabay o paalala sa pag-ugit ng imbesti- gasyon.
Una, ilagay sa konkretong konteksto ng kasaysayan ng lipunan ang wika o anumang usaping pangkultura. Pangalawa, hindi uubra ang indibidwalistikong pananaw (methological individualism) kung nais natin ang malawakang kontek- stuwalisasyon at praktikang paghuhusga. Bakit? Sapagkat ang lipunan ay hindi koleksiyon ng hiwa-hiwalay na atomistikong indibidwal. Binubuo ito ng artiku- lasyon ng ugnayang panlipunan na may kasaysayan, may lumipas at kinabukasan sa pangkalahatang kabatiran.
Anumang pangyayari ay lilinaw sa pagtarok sa lohika ng pagsudlong ng panahon at lugar. Tinutukoy rito ang konteksto o kuwadrong kinalalagyan ng tema, paksa, buod ng diskurso. Sa madaling salita, kontekstuwalisasyon sa isang
tiyak na yugto ng kasaysayan at pagtutok sa proseso ng panlipunang relasyon ang dalawang bagay na dapat idiin sa ating pag-aaral ng modernidad. Kung hindi, arbitraryong hatol ng metapisikang pag-iisip ang maghahari.

Pagtugis sa Kasalukuyan

Makasaysayang pagkakataon ito upang pag-isipan natin ang sitwasyon ng Filipinas, ang katayuan ng lipunan at kultura nito, sa panahon ng globalisasyon. Panahon din ito ng malubha't lumalalang krisis ng imperyalismong sumasakop sa buong planeta. Bagamat global ang pananaw, isang sipat na bumabagtas sa bakuran ng mga bansa, lokal pa rin ang pokus ng analitikong pagsusuri ng ispe- sipikong buklod ng mga pangyayari at tauhan. Nakaangkla sa praktikang dalumat ng mga kolektibong lakas kaakibat ng situwasyong nagtatakda at nagbibigay- kahulugan sa bawat teorya at karunungan.

Bagamat tila patag ang lahat sa biglang sulyap, mapag-aalaman na umiiral ang hirarkiya at pagtatagisan ng lakas ang kalakaran. Panahon din ito ng paglan- tad sa "total surveillance" at "drone warfare" na isinasagawa ng US habang patu- loy na pinatitingkad ang giyera laban sa "terorismo"--ibig sabihin, ang interben- syong paglusob at paglupig sa mga bayan at grupong kontra sa imperyalismo ng mga higanteng korporasyong nakabase sa US, Europa, Hapon--ang Global North at mga kaalyado nito. Nakapanig pa rin ang Filipinas sa Global South, nakapailal- im pa rin sa mga industriyalisado't mayamang bansa.

Sa okasyong ito, ilang tesis lamang ang ilalahad ko upang ganap na ta- lakayin natin sa pagpapalitang-kuro hinggil sa usapin ng suliranin ng mod- ernidad.
Nasaan tayo sa hirarkiyang internasyonal? Bagamat kunwaring may kasarin- lang republika buhat pa noong 1946, ang Pilipinas, sa katunayan, ay isang neokolonya ng US. Lantad ito sa pagdepende ng oligarkong gobyerno sa poder militar ng US, at sa mapagpasiyang kapangyarihan nito sa WB /IMF, WTO, G-7, UN, at konsortiya ng mga bangko't nagpapautang na mga ahensiya. Hindi lumang kolonya kundi makabagong anyong angkop sa bagong salinlahi at bagong sensi- bilidad nito.

Sa pandaigdigang situwasyong ito, nakalukob tayo sa panahon ng malub- hang krisis ng kapitalismong pampinansiyal. Ebidensiya ang pagbagsak ng Wall Street, pangalawa sa nakaraang siglo, noong 2008. Mas maselan ito kaysa noong 1929. Napipinto pa raw ang isang mas mapanira't katastropikong pagbulusok sa hinaharap, kalamidad na makapagbabago sa kultura't ideolohiyang pumapat- nubay sa kasalukuyang modernidad. Dito nakalakip kaipala ang post-modernidad ng lahat ng bansa, ang kultura't kaayusang pampulitika't pang-ekonomya nito.
Akumulasyong Walang Iginagalang
Nakalilito ang mga karatula't palabas sa ating kapaligiran. Maingay ang konsumerismong namamalas na pangunahing aktibidad sa lipunan---laluna sa mga siyudad sa atin na siksikan na ang malls, trapik, gusaling "call centers--kaya tila nakalimutan na ang basehan nito. Paglago ng tubo ang siyang lohika pa rin ng lipunan.

Ngunit huwag tayong palinlang sa namamasid sa nakasisilaw na tabing ng mga palabas. Bagamat iba't ibang porma't paraan ang akumulasyon ng kapital, ng tubo, dahil sa makabagong teknolohiya ng komunikasyon at transportasyon, sa tulong ng kompyuter at Internet, nakasentro pa rin ang sistemang global sa pagkamal ng kapitalista sa surplus-value na nagmumula sa di-binayarang trabaho ng karamihan. Iyon ang bukal ng tubo/profit.

Kasama na rito ang "service workers," OFW--mahigit 12 milyong Pilipinong empleyado sa Saudi, Hong Kong, at saanmang lupalop, pati sa mga barkong nagdadala ng langis at mga produktong ipinagbibili (kabilang na ang armas, bomba, tear gas, atbp). Sa ngayon, anim na libong katawan ang umaalis sa bawat araw, Kung magpapatuloy ang walang kaunlaran ng bansa sa hinaharap, tiyak na mayorya ang tatakas o maghahanap ng bagong tahanan.

Nakalutang ang ekonomya, salamat sa kita o sahod ng 12 milyong OFW, mga kababayang nag-abrod. Sa patuloy na lumalaking remitans nakasandig ang ekonomya ng bansa--dagdag ang "call centers" at iba pang "business outsourc- ing." Walang matibay o malusog na produksiyon ng makina, ng malaking kagami- tan sa industriya, sa atin kundi mga mall, ispekulasyon sa real estate, at "service industry" ng turismo, atbp.

Sa ibang salita, ang tubo o kapital ng uring kumukontrol sa malalaking gamit/paraan ng produksiyon, ay hinuhugot pa rin sa lakas-paggawa ng mayorya, ang mga anakpawis, magbubukid, at mga propesyonal na bumubuo sa panggit- nang saray, ang petiburgesya. Dito nakasalalay ang modernidad ng ordeng inter- nasyonal.

Vortex ng Modernidad

Sa sangandaang ito, maiging idiin ang ilang nakalimutang aksyoma sa agham-panlipunan. Ang pinakaimportanteng katangian ng kapitalismo, ayon kay Marx, na siyang birtud na nagtutulak sa tinaguriang "modernization" at "devel- opment," at humuhubog ng kultura, lifestyle, at araw-araw na pamumuhay ay walang iba kundi ito: walang tigil na transpormasyon ng modo ng produksiyon, walang patid na pagbabago ng kagamitan at proseso ng produksiyon ng lahat ng bagay, at reproduksiyon ng relasyong panlipunan/ugnayan ng mga tao. Nakasalalay dito ang pagsulong ng lipunan, ang paghahati ng panahon.

Sa dagling paglalagom: "Everything solid melts into air...." proklamasyon ng Communist Manifesto. Pangkalahatang pagbabago, pag-iiba.
Nais kong salungguhitan ang katotohanang naipaliwanag na nina Marx, Engels, at sinaunang pantas tulad nina David Ricardo, Saint-Simon, at iba pa. Materyalistikong diyalektika ang nagsisiwalat sa rebolusyong nagpapasulong sa kasaysayan ng mundo. Ang rebolusyong ito ng "mode of production" (na umuugit sa kompitensiya ng iba't ibang paksyon o grupo ng burgesya) ang sali- gan ng modernidad sa estilo ng buhay, ng kultura, ng sensibilidad at mentalidad ng bawat lipunan. Mabuting tandaan: ito ang motor o makina ng pagbabago sa diwa, ugali, gawi, at damdamin ng ordinaryong nilalang.

Siguradong dama at danas na ng lahat ang mga nangyayari sa kapaligiran, bagamat hindi nila tarok ang mekanismo't dahilan nito. Sintomas ng pagbabago ay masisilip at makakapa sa larangan ng ideolohiya--relihiyon, pulitika, sining, mass midya, atbp.--kung saan nakikita, nararamdaman, natutuklasan ang pag- tatagisan ng ibat ibang pwersa sa lipunan sa bawat yugto ng kasaysayan. Ang modernidad ng globalisasyon ay nagkakatawan sa tekstura't istraktura ng ideolo- hiya.

Metamorposis ng Kapaligiran

Bumalik tayo sa tema ng lugar at panahon. Pwedeng ituring na alam natin kung nasaan tayo. Kung di ninyo alam, konsultahin ang GPS, o inyong cellphone. Kung sa bagay, nagtatalo pa rin ang mga akademiko hinggil sa diyalektika ng "place" (lugar) at "space" (espasyo) sa isyu ng globalisasyon. Dahil nga sa kompyuterisasyon, nakompress ang espasyo--ayon kay David Harvey sa kanyang librong The Condition of Postmodernity--kaya panahon, bilis ng pagkitid ng es- pasyo, dagliang transaksyon--ang makatuturang problemang kinakaharap natin ngayon, ang "politics of time." Dapat tayong maghatol sa halaga at katuturan ng bawat baytang sa pag-inog ng panahon, ang katuturan at kalagahan ng bawat ba- hagi nito.

Ginawang larangan ng pagsukat at pagtimbang ang bawat bahagi ng kasaysayan, ang pagkilala sa bahagdan ng kasaysayan. Paano babansagan ang bawat hati ng panahon upang makatiyak sa ating pinanggalingan at patutun- guhan? Nasaan tayo sa temporalisasyon ng kasaysayan? Bakit importante na nasa unahan tayo at hindi sa huli? Paano ang pagkilala sa huli at una, at pagkakahalintulad o pagkakaiba ng mga ito? Ano ang bentaha nito, ano ang imp- likasyon nito sa ordinaryong karanasan ng mamamayan?

Siyasatin natin ang mapa ng panahunan. Tanggap ng lahat na pagkatapos ng krisis noong 1970, minarkahan ng pagkatalo ng U.S. sa IndoTsina, nagbago ang mundo sa pag-urong ng Unyon Sobyet sa antas ng "booty capitalism." Sumunod ang Tsina at Biyetnam, ngayo'y mahigpit na kasangkot sa pandaigdigang ikot ng akumulasyon ng tubo. Pumasok tayo sa panibagong yugto pagkaraan ng 9/11; at paglunsad ng digmaan laban sa tinaguriang "teroristang" extremists--giyera sa Afghanistan, Syria, Palestina-Israel, Ukraine, at kampanya ng NATO laban sa Iran
ukol sa langis, petroleo, na bukal ng pangunahing enerhiya pa ring gamit sa mga importanteng pabrika ng higanteng korporasyon sa buong mundo.

Sa ngayon, nasa bingit tayo ng giyera laban sa Rusya at Tsina--sintomas lahat ito na patuloy na kompetisyon ng mga paksyon ng kapitalismong global hinggil sa pamilihan ng komoditi, kung saan ipagbibili ang yaring produkto, at kung saan kukuha ng hilaw na materyales sa produksiyon. Sa kontekstong ito, mabilis ang pagbabago ng kagamitan sa produksiyon at pagsasakatuparan sa paghango ng tubo/profit. Ang malaking tubo ngayon ay galing sa upa, sa utang (credit/debt), sa palitan ng salapi at iba pang instrumentong pampinansiyal, na susi ng imperyalismong salot ngayon. Mabilis din ang buhos at agos ng penome- nang kaakibat nito sa anyo ng kultura ng araw-araw na kabuhayan.

Digmaan sa Arena ng Kultura

Samantala, maalingasngas ang usapin ng NSA (National Security Adminis- tration ng U.S.), espiya o surveillance, tortyur, at kagyat na asasinasyon o pag- paslang ng sibilyan sa pamamagitan ng drone, atbp. Talagang tumitingkad ang krisis ng kalikasan, sampu ng paglusaw ng Artika at Antartika. Penomenal ang Yolanda, baha, lindol, bagyo sa Mindanao, at iba pang sintomas ng epekto ng kabihasnang pinaiinog ng exchange-value, salapi, tubo.

Tanda ba ito ng bagong epoka, o pag-uulit lamang ng nauna at walang pro- gresyong pag-inog na kasaysayan?

Walang tigil na pag-uulit ng araw-araw na buhay o pagbabago--alin ang at- ing oryentasyon? Saan tumutungo ang takbo ng panahon, ang gulong ng kasaysayan? Para sa konserbatibong modernista (tulad ni Martin Heidegger), repetisyon ng tradisyon at mito ng lahi ang dulo ng pagpapasiyang umiral sa harap ng takdang kamatayan. Ito ang solusyon sa eksistensiyalistang kilabot. Ang mito ng Volk ay siyang kalutasan sa angst ng tiyak na pagsapit ng itinakdang kamatayan. Nalutas ang indibidwal na kapalaran sa mistipikasyon ng dugo't lupa ng Volk. Ito ang doktrina ng Nazi sa Alemanya noong nakaraang siglo. At ipinag- papatuloy kakatwa ng mga liderato ng Zionista sa Israel laban sa mga Palestino at iba pang rasa sa Gitnang Silangan.

Maraming kategorya rin ng transpormasyong titigil at tuwirang puputol sa repetisyon ng araw-araw na buhay. Para sa radikal na modernista (tulad ni Walter Benjamin), ang kasukdulan ng panahon ay pagputol sa repetisyon--sa opresyon at kahirapan--sa katuparan ng Ngayon, pagpapalaya sa pwersang sinupil o sin- ugpo sa araw-araw upang maligtas ang lahat. Transpormasyong radikal ang kailangan.

Maraming paraan ng liberasyon ng araw-araw na buhay, na makikita sa avant-garde na kilusan ng suryalismo, futurismo, konstruktibismo, situwasyon- ismo, sining konseptuwal, atbp. Kaalinsabay nito ang mga rebolusyonaryong
proyektong pampulitika ng mga anarkista, sindikalista, at sosyalistang nilagom nina Marx, Lenin, Gramsci, Luxemburg, Mao, Ho Chi Minh, Fidel Castro, Che Gue- varra, Amilcar Cabral at iba pa. Kasalukuyang sinusubok din ang iba't ibang uri ng liberasyong pambansa, o pambansang demokrasya, sa Venezuela, Pilipinas, Hilagang Korea, Mexico (konsultahin ang masinop na pagsasalaysay ng pi- losopiya ng Pangatlong Mundo sa libro ni Enrique Dussel, Ethics of Liberation(Durham & London, 2013).

Karnabal ng Pakikipagsapalaran

Dalawin muli natin ang matinik na temang inilunsad sa umpisa. Anong yug- to ng kasaysayan tayo ngayon? Saang dako ng proseso ng modernidad (hindi modernisasyon) nakahinto ang bansang Pilipinas?

Ang temporalisasyon ng kasaysayan ay pag-uulit ng nakaraang karanasan. Ngunit sino ang sumusukat o tumitimbang sa agos ng panahon at paano ito natatarok na makaluma o makabago? Makatatakas ba tayo sa rutang siklikal na krisis ng kapitalismo o imperyalismo? Makaiiwas ba tayo sa kalamidad sa pagbuo ng ibang hugis o uri ng makabago, ng modernidad, ng kontemporaneo nang hindi pinapalitan ang lohika ng kapitalismo?

Bihag pa rin tayo ng indibidwalistikong pananaw, ng "methodological indi- vidualism" ng burgesyang sosyolohiya at sikolohiya. Suhetibismo't relatibismong kalkulasyon ang resulta. Nakakulong pa rin tayo sa atomistikong pagtingin, ti- walag sa konkretong konteksto ng kasaysayan. Nakatago pa rin ang tunay na kawalan ng katarungan sa alyenasyong namamayani sanhi sa reipikasyon ng ug- nayang panlipunan. Ang ugnayan ng bawat tao ay nilalason o nilalambungan ng petisismo ng komoditi, ang pagsamba sa salapi, tubo, mga produktong mas ma- halaga pa kaysa buhay ng mga taong yumari o lumikha nito.

Ang mga problemang ito ang dapat masinsinang bulatlatin. Dapat mata- mang tugaygayan ang temporalisasyon ng historya at uri ng modernidad sa araw- araw na kabuhayan upang maipaliwanag ang kinabukasan ng bansa sa gitna ng krisis ng kapitalismong global. At upang mapalaya ang nasugpo't nasisikil na en- erhiya ng taumbayan, ang kinabukasan ng diwa't budhi ng bawat nilalang. Susi ito sa problema ng pagkadehado o atrasado ng kabuhayan ng ating bayan.

Maidagdag pa na ang krisis na ito ay di pansamantala lamang kundi per- manente, batay sa mabangis na rasyonalidad ng sistemang kapitalista: ang walang hintong pagbabago ng paraan o mekanismo ng produksiyon, ang walang tigil na pagsulong ng imbensiyon ng mga gamit sa produksiyon, ng teknolohiya, at mga produktong ipinagbibili sa pamilihang pandaigdig. Naidiin ko na: ito ang saligan ng modernidad, ng mabilis na pag-iiba at transpormasyon ng mga bagay- bagay sa kapaligiran, hanggang sa epokang digital at mabilisang komunikasyon. Kalakip nito ang susi ng modernidad at globalisasyong sumisira sa kalikasan at pinagmumulan ng giyera at pagdurusa ng nakararami.
Alyenasyon at Reipikasyon

Sa lipunang pinatatakbo ng tubo, salapi at komoditi ang namamagitan sa bawat tao. Alyenasyon ang bunga nito. Reipikasyon o pagtiwalag sa maram- daming buhay ang resulta nito. Kontrolado ng komoditi ang lahat, ginawang bagay na walang buhay ang tao, sinipsip ng mga bampira ang dugo ng bawat ni- lalang.

Sapagkat sa ordinaryong karanasan, ang tunay na pagtatagisan ng mga uri at sektor sa lipunan ay nakatago o natatabingan ng petisismo sa komoditi--ang buong mundo ng salapi, negosyo, pagpapalitan ng binili-ipinagbili--sampu ng mistipikasyon ng reyalidad dulot ng relihiyong institusyonal, pyudal na gawi't paniniwala (halimbawa, ang doxa na demokrasya raw ang sistemang pampulitika natin)--katungkulan ng mapagpalayang kritiko/intelektwal pampubliko ang wasakin ang tabing na nagtatago sa katotohanan: ang paghahati ng lipunan sa ilang mayamang nagsasamantala at karamihang aping binubusabos. Ibunyag ang pagtatagisan sa likod ng tinaguriang normalidad ng pagsasamahan o natural na pakikipamuhay araw-araw.

Nasaan tayo ngayon? Ano ang dapat gawin? Sa harap ng mistipikasyon ng komersiyanteng kultura at araw-araw na komodipikasyon ng karanasan, dapat sikapin ng makabayang intelektwal ang pagbubunyag sa katotohanan ng neokolonya, ang patuloy na pagsunod ng oligarkong namumuno sa utos ng USA (sa tulong ng mga kakutsabang elite na kinabibilangan ng oligarkong komprador, burokrata at panginoong maylupang taglay ang pyudal na ugali) at pagpapailalal- im ng kapakanan ng taumbayan sa interes ng tubo ng korporasyong global. Pag- wasak ng mga ilusyon at kababalaghang pumapalamuti sa mandaraya't mapan- linlang na burgesyang orden ang dapat adhikain ng mapagpalayang sensibilidad at mapanuring kamalayan. Lumaban tayo sa ngalan ng prinsipyo ng katarungan, katunayan, at egalitaryong kalayaan.

Sa Wika Nakataya ang Katubusan

Maibalik ko ang usapan sa wika o lengguwaheng sinasalita at isinusulat.
Ang wika ng kumbersasyon, midya, paaralan, kultura, atbp., ay madugong larangan din ng pagtatagisan ng mga uri, ng burgesyang gamit ang Ingles--o baryasyon nito na mga "englishes'-- bilang sandatang ideolohikal sa pagsuhay sa buong sistema ng palsipikadong soberanya at walang hustisyang demokrasya. Sa gusto o ayaw mo, wika ay sandata o kagamitan sa ideolohiyang pagtatagisan ng mga uri. Samakatwid, pinipili ka ng wika upang magpasiya laban sa interes ng iyong kolektibo o upang magsumikap itaguyod ang kapakanan nito.
Paglimiin natin ang nangyayari sa milieu na lunang sosyo-politikal na ating ginagalawan. Araw-araw, sa TV, Internet, pelikula, radyo, at iba pang midya, ang
wikang ginagamit--na nakakabit sa mga imahen, dramatikong eksena, perfor- mance art, awit, at komplikadong salik ng pelikula-- ang wika ay siyang sangkap na makapangyarihang umuugit ng mensahe na siyang nagtutulak sa ating kumi- los, magsalita't gumanap ng isang tiyak na papel sa lipunan, partikular na ang maging konsumer at masunuring mamamayan. Sa ibang salita, maging isang subalternong alagad ng imperyalismo.

Mapang-akit at mapang-gayuma ang nangingibabaw na kakintalan, ang kagyat na impresyon ng kapaligirin, na nakasaplot sa katotohanan. Nakabubulag ito at nakaliligaw. Upang makaligtas sa alyenasyon at reipikasyong nabanggit ko na, kailangang hubarin ang balat-kayo, ang saplot ng pagkukunwari't panlilinlang ng burgesyang ideolohiya. Kailangang tistisin at buhaghagin ang mga mapang- gayumang idolo ng pamilihan, ng tangahalan, ng midya at iba pang institusyong aparato ng explotasyon at pagsasamantala.

May aral na mahuhugot dito. Kung pesimistiko ang utak, sikaping maging optimistiko ang pagnanais, payo ni Antonio Gramsci. May dahilan kung bakit masigla ang pagnanais bagamat maulap ang kabatiran. Hindi malagim ang lahat ng sulok ng larangan ng kultura. Ang halimbawa ng mga kritikong sumusulat sa PINOY WEEKLY o BULATLAT, mga progresibong midya, at mga kapanalig sa iba pang midya at diskurso ay isang katibayan na ang malikhai't mahusay na artiku- lasyon ng konsepto ng katwiran at katarungan sa wikang umaabot sa nakararam- ing mambabasa--ang wikang sinasalita ng taumbayan--ay siyang mabisang kagamitan sa pagpukaw ng mapanuring kamalayan, ng mapagmalasakit na damdamin.

Kahinugan ng Panahon

Balik-tanawin ang paksang bumabagabag sa mga pampublikong intelihen- siya ngayon.
Sa panahon ng total surveillance, ang konsumerismong modernidad ng neokolonyang Pilipinas ay nagkukubli ng lumalalang problema ng malalim at mabagsik na paghahati ng ilang pangka ng mga mayaman at mayoryang mahi- rap. Huwag nang ibilang pa ang ekolohiyang kalamidad at pagsira sa kalikasan. Ang remitans ng mahigit 12 milyong OFW, na siyang dahilan ng pagpapatuloy ng kapangyarihan ng oligarkong rehimen, sampu ng mga instrumentong ideolohikal (iskwela, militar, korte, burokrasya, simbahan, midya), ay lantad sa panganib ng krisis cyclical ng kapitalismong pampinansiyal.

Pag-isipan ang isang sintomas nito. Maraming Pinoy na humanga sa pe- likulang "Ilo-ilo" na ginawa ng isang taga-Singapore at tinustusan ng gobyernong Singapore, ay walang memorya sa pagbitay kay Flor Contemplacion at kasawian ng maraming kababayan sa Singapore. Sa harap ng napipintong "global melt- down" ng imperyalistang orden, sa matinding kumprontasyon ng mga nagtu- tunggaling mga pwersa (USA, Tsina, Rusya, Europa), pati na ang digmaan laban
sa terorismong tutol sa paghahari ng USA, Europa, at transnational power-elite, ano ang maaring posisyong dapat piliin ng Filipinong nag-iisip at hangad lumaya? Ano ang situwasyon natin at sirkunstansiyang magtutulak sa ating de- sisyon?
Ibaling natin ang kamalayan sa ngayon. Ang kumbersasyon natin sa pagkakataong ito ay isang paraan upang makatulong sa edukasyon ng nakarara- mi at mobilisasyon sa mga kolektibong proyektong makapagsusulong at maka- pagpapabuti sa sawing kalagayan ng nakararami. Hanggang may nakikinig at handang kumilos salungat sa indibidwalismong naghahari, may pag-asa pa ang ating bayan.

Ang kontradiksiyon ng modernidad ay nagbubunga ng kanyang kalutasan. Sa anahon ng globalisasyon, sa mas mabilis at mabilisang pagbabagu-bago ng lahat ng bagay, sa disyerto ng mall at mga "Global City" na itinatayo sa guho ng mga tahanan ng maralitang taga-lunsod at sa bukid na inagaw sa mga magsasa- ka, kailangan ang mapangahas at subersibong panulat upang tuklasin ang kato- tohanan at itanghal ito sa panunuri't pagkilatis, pagtimbang at pagpapahalaga, ng taumbayan. Mabigat ngunit mapanglikhang pananagutan at katungkulan ito para sa mga nagnanais ng kasarinlan at kalayaan.

Mapanghamong tawag ito na hinihingi ng sitwasyon, isang pagkakataon kung saan ang diskurso ng manunulat, kritiko't guro ay makapagsisilbi sa pagpa- palaya't pag-unlad sa tunay na ugat at bukal ng kanilang imahinasyon, ang sim- pleng araw-araw na buhay ng masang yumayari ng kayamanan ng lipunan, ang proletaryo't magsasaka ng bayang naghihimagsik. -

Ilang Pagninilay sa “Bakas” ni E. San Juan, Jr.

Sa puwang ng ilang pahina, hiniling ng patnugot na ipahayag ko ang ars poet- ikang nakatalik sa tulang “Bakas.” Balighong hinuha, ngunit sa tangkang paunlakan,
sinubok ng makata ang interpretasyong sumusunod na bukas sa anumang pasubali, pagwawasto, at pagpapabulaan.

Pambungad na gabay muna: Huwag kalimutan na nakapaloob sa kolonyalis- mong orden ang lahat ng intelektwal sa ating bayan, mula 1899 hanggang 1946, at sa neokolonyalistang istrukturang saligan ng Estadong nakapailalim sa imperyalismong U.S. Dahil sa kapangyarihan ng pribadong pag-aari (kapitalista, piyudal) at di- makatarungang dibisyon ng trabaho, patuloy ang digmaan ng mga uri’t iba’t ibang sek- tor ng lipunan. Mistipikasyon at obskurantismo ang namayani sa klima ng panahon ng pagkagulang ng makata (1938-1948), at utilitaryanismong neoliberal mula 1949 hang- gang sa ngayon. Samantala, maigting din ang paglago ng mga puwersang sumasalun- gat sa hegemonya ng kapitalismong global.

Walang tabula rasa sa naratibo ng talambuhay. Masasaksihan doon ang suli- ranin ng “Unhappy Consciousness” (Hegel) na diyalektika ng ugnayan ng alipin at panginoon sa islang sinakop. Kolonyalisadong mentalidad ang minana ng makata hanggang magkaroon ng kabatiran sa panahon ng anti-imperyalismong pag-aalsa la- ban sa U.S. interbensiyon sa Vietnam at pagsuporta sa diktaduryang Marcos (1972-1986). Ang katotohanan ng kolonisasyon/neokolonisasyon ng isang subalterno at kung paano maitatakwil ito’t makahuhulagpos sa nakasusukang bangungot ng pang- aapi’t dominasyon—ito ang tema ng “Bakas.” Sa trabaho ng negasyon, sa pamamagi- tan ng gawaing subersyon ng umiiral, bumubukal ang kinabukasan na siyang katubu- san ng nakalipas. Ililigtas din nito ang Rason/Ideyang ipinagtanggol ng mga bayaning nagbuwis ng buhay upang mapalaya ang sambayanang lumilikha ng pagkataong Fil- ipino at kalinangang batayan ng sosyalismong hinaharap.

Mapa ng Salaysay

Di na dapat sabihin na matatarok lamang ang buod ng karanasan kung pagdu- rugtungin sa banghay ng naratibo ang proseso ng pagsulong at kinahinatnan. Mauu- nawaan sa gayon ang Konsepto (Begriff) ng kolektibong kamalayang nagbabanyuhay. Kaya susubaybayan natin ang detalye ng panahon at lugar na sumasagisag dito. Bawat nilalang ay nakaangkla sa isang espasyong partikular, lunan o pook kung saan nakaluk- lok ang Ideyang Unibersal (“Geist,” bansag ni Hegel; ang kooperatibang humanidad, sa isip ni Marx-Engels). Ngunit walang kabuluhan ito kung hindi nailalakip sa daloy ng kasaysayan.

Naimungkahi ni Henri Lefebvre na ang produksiyon ng espasyo ay isang usaping kaugnay ng buhay o kamatayan para sa bawat lahi. Naisusog niya na walang makaiilag sa “trial by space—an ordeal which is the modern world’s answer to the judgment of God or the classical conception of fate” (The Production of Space, 1991, p. 416). Ad- hikain ng tula ang himaymayin ang ideolohiyang minana sa kolonisadong kultura ng Commonwealth at neokolonyang Republika sa paraan ng paghahalo’t pag-uugnay ng iba’t ibang kontradiksiyon ng karanasan, paghahalintulad ng pira-pirasong yagit ng guni- ta, alanganin, pagsisisi, panimdim, pangarap, pagkabigo, mapangahas na pagsabak sa daluyong ng pakikipagsapalaran. Makikilatis ang tunguhin ng bawat tagpo sa tula: ang balak na lumikha ng identidad mula sa metapisikal na indibidwalistikong ego tungo sa isang konsepto ng budhi ng pagkatao. Sa kabilang dako, layon din na makalinang ng isang diwa o matris ng kolektibong ahensiya ng uring gumagawa o yumayari—sa ibang salita, ang ahensiyang istorikal ng mga manggagawa’t pesante, ang bayang pumipiglas
sa kadena ng imperyalismo’t burokratang kapitalismong namamayani hanggang ngay- on. Ito ang protagonistang uugit sa transpormasyong radikal ng bansa.

Sinikap dito na isatinig ang kolektibong memorya sa pagbabay sa mga kon- tradiksiyong masisinag sa karanasan ng makata. Kailangang ilugar ang nangungusap na aktor sa isang takdang yugto ng kasaysayan. Kung walang katawan, walang mararamdamang pangyayari, walang bisa’t katuturan ang pontensiyal ng kaluluwa— ang birtud ng inkarnasyon. Sino ang bumulong ng balitang isisilang na ang Mesiyas? Kinakasangkapan ng sining ang ilusyon ng anyo o hitsurang nadarama upang maibun- yag ang katotohanan, ang sintesis ng sangkap at kaakibat na totalidad. Sa gayon, hindi matatakasan ang araw-araw na pakikihamok, tuwa’t daing ng mga katawang magkaba- likat. Bawat pulso ng wika’y siya ring pulso ng body politic, ang komunidad na kinabibi- langan ng makata. Artikulasyon ng katutubong wika (hindi Ingles) ang mabisa’t mabun- gang medyasyon ng bahagi at kabuuan.
Mobilisasyon ng Pagnanasa
Nasaan tayo ngayon? Patungo saan? Balitang nakatambad sa Internet: Martial law sa Mindanao, patayan sa Marawi City ngayon, mistulang katuparan ng binhing naipunla noong dekada 1972-1986 kung saan namulat ang makata sa realidad. Paano maipangangatwiran ang sining/panitikan sa gitna ng gulo’t ligalig, malagim at nakasisin- dak na paghahari ng terorismong gawad ng imperyalistang globalisasyon? Paano maikikintal sa konsiyensiya ng lahi ang balangkas ng buhay na nakagapos sa anomie at alyenasyong naibunsod ng komodipikasyon ng bawat bagay—panggagahis o pag-
bebenta sa karanasan, pag-ibig, seks, panaginip? Lahat ay nalusaw sa fantasmagorya ng salapi at bilihing lumamon sa dugo’t espiritu ng bawat tao. Saan ang lunas sa malubhang salot na nagbuhat pa sa pagsakop ng Estados Unidos nang mabuwag ang proyekto ng himagsikan ng 1896 at nalubog tayo sa barbarismong laganap ngayon? Nabalaho ang kasaysayan natin sa gayuma ng komoditi/bilihin, sa diskursong burgis ng pamilihan/salapi at indibidwalistikong pagpapayaman.

Ituring na alegorya ang imahen, tayutay o talinghagang ikinabit dito sa ilang pook ng MetroManila kung saan nagkaroon ng kamalayang sosyal ang makata. Isinilang bago pumutok ang WW2, nasagap pa ang huling bugso ng nasyonalismo ng Philippine Commonwealth (Avenida Rizal). Nagbinata noong panahon ng Cold War, panahon ng Korean War at pagsugpo sa Huk rebelyon—rehimen nina Quirino, Magsaysay at Carlos Garcia (Montalban, Rizal). Tinalunton ang landas tungo sa pagpasok sa Jose Abad Santos High School noong nakatira sa Balintawak; at sa paglipat sa Craig, Sampaloc, nasabit sa mga anarkistang pulutong sa Unibersidad ng Pilipinas.

Di sinasadya itong makitid na ruta ng uring petiburgis. Paniwala ito ng aktor/ suheto ng pansaliring pagnanais. Natambad sa positibismong pilosopiya nina Dr. Ricar- do Pascual at mga kapanalig—sina Cesar Majul at Armando Bonifacio—at nakisangkot ang awtor sa kampanya nina Recto-Tanada noong dekada 1954-58. Nakilahok din sa praxis ng diskursong sekular laban sa panghihimasok ng ilang reaksyonaryong kleriko sa akademya. Nakakawing sa mga pook na naitala ang ilang pangyayaring nagsilbing konteksto sa paghubog ng diwang mapagpalaya’t makabayan, diwang tumututol sa umiiral na ordeng puspos ng pagsasamantala’t korapsiyon, ng walang tigil na tung-
galian ng uri, kaalinsabay sa pagsigla ng pambansang pagsisikap makalaya’t makamit ang tunay na kasarinlan at pambansang demokrasya.
Salungat sa pormalistikong estetikong iginigiit ng akademikong institusyon ang buhay ng makatang tinalunton dito. Litaw na nagbago ang kamalayan sa pamamagitan ng ugnayan ng praktika at teorya, hindi lang pragmatikong pakikilahok at pakikiramay. Maraming balakid, natural, ang ruta ng gitnang klase sa lipunan. Tubo sa petiburgesyang uri—guro sa haiskul at pamantasan ang mga magulang, na naging ka- mag-aral nina Loreto Paras-Sulit at henerasyon nina Jose Garcia Villa at Salvador P. Lppez—naging huwaran ang mga intelektuwal sa milyu ng Komonwelt. Unang pumukaw sa imahinasyon sng mga pelikulang Hollywood, mga huntahahan ng tiyo’t tiya sa Blumentritt, ang mga kuwento ng kaiskuwela sa Jose Abad Santos High School sa Meisic, Reina Regente, na ngayo’y higanteng mall sa Binondo. Nagpasigla rin si Manuel Viray, tanyag na kritiko, at naglaon sina Franz Arcellana, Rony Diaz, Ernie Man- alo, Pete Daroy, Gerardo Acay, Carlos Platon, Ruben Garcia, atbp. Huwag nang bang- gitin ang palasintahing pagpaparaos ng panahon na pwedeng suriin sa isang nobelang education sentimental—tila kalabisan na ito, mangyari pa.
Naligaw na Mapa ng Paglalagalag
Bagamat kabilang sa mga petiburgesyang etsa-puwera, hindi biglang naging maka-kaliwa ang awtor—matinding impluwensiya sa simula ang Existentialismong naisadula nina Sartre, Camus, Marcel, Nietzsche, Kierkegaard. Ginagad sina Villa, T.S. Eliot, Wynhdam Lewis (tingnan ang “Man is a Political Animal” at iba pang detalye sa Kritika Kultura #26 ) at mga awtor na tinangkilik ng mga kaibigang kalaro sa bilyaran at
kainuman sa Soler, Sta. Cruz, Quiapo at Balara. Tanda ko na laging bitbit ko noong kat- ulong ako sa Collegian ang libro ni Sartre, What is Literature? Hihintayin pa ang dekada 1965-1975 bago mapag-aralan sina Mao, Lenin, Lukacs, Marx, Engels, Gramsci, atbp. Nauna si Mao noong huling dako ng dekada 1960, at sumunod si Georg Lukacs sa an- tolohiya kong Marxism and Human Liberation (1972). Mapapansin ang indibiduwalis- tikong himig ng tula, na hango kina T.S. Eliot, Ezra Pound, at W.B. Yeats, mga ma- nunulat na naging ulirang padron noong aktibo sa UP Writers Club at sa krusadang anti- obskurantismong pinamunuan nina Pascual, Alfredo Lagmay, Augstin Rodolfo, Leopol- do Yabes, Elmer Ordonez, at iba pang guro sa pamantasan. Nakaimpluwensiya ang mga sallita’t kilos ng mga iskolar-ng-bayan, at naging tulay ang tradisyong humanis- tikong iyon sa pakikipagtulungan ko kina Amado V. Hernandez at Alejandro Abadilla noong mga dekada 1960-1967. Hindi dapat kaligtaan ang pakikisama ng awtor kina Ben Medina Jr., Rogelio Mangahas, Ave Perez Jacob, Efren Abueg, at ibang kapanalig sa kilusang makabayan.

Bakit panitik o sining ang napiling instrumento upang maisatinig ang mailap na katuturan/kahulugan ng buhay? Anong saysay ng tula sa harap ng mabilis na trans- pormasyon ng lipunan—ang pag-unlad nito o pagbulusok sa lusak ng barbarismo ni Duterte at oligarkong kasabwat? Noon, masasambit bigla ang pormularyo ng Talks at the Yenan Forum ni Mao. Sapantaha kong nakausad na tayo mula sa dogmatikong gawi. Sukat nang sipiin ang bigkas ni Amado Hernandez sa panayam niya tungkol sa sitwasyon ng mga manunulat noong 1968: “Ang kanilang mga katha ay hindi na bun- gangtulog kundi mga katotohanang nadarama, kaugnay at kasangkot sa mga pakikiba- ka ng lipunan at taongbayan at ng pagbabalikwas ng uring dukha laban sa inhustisya
sosyal ng mga manghuhuthot at mapanlagom” (Panata sa Kalayaan ni Ka Amado, ed. Andres Cristobal Cruz, 1970).

Salungguhitan ang Sangandaan

Nasa kalagitnaan na tayo ng pagtawid sa ibayong pampang, bagamat naudlot ang usapang pangkapayaan sa pagitan ng gobyerno at National Democratic Front (NDFP). . Inaasahan kong naisaulo na natin ang prinsipyo ng materyalismong istorikal: ang konkretong analisis ng masalimuot na paglalangkap ng sari-saring dimensiyon ng anumang krisis sa kasaysayan. Umpisahan natin ang mapanuring pagtalakay ng kasaysayan sa metodong Marksista: malawak ang imbak na posibilidad ng sam- bayanan, ngunit ito’y binhi pa lamang ng kinabukasang nahihimbing sa pusod ng kasalukuyan (ayon kay Ernst Bloch). Gayunpaman, hindi natin mahuhulaaan ang tiyak na oras o sandali ng kagyat na pagsalimbay at pagdagit ng anghel ng Katubusan.

Ito ang dahilan sa pagdiin ng makata sa kontradiksiyon ng di-maiiwasang pan- gangailan at libertad, ang larangan ng contingency at ng nesesidad. Naitanghal na ito ng mga suryalistikong artista at nina Pablo Neruda, Bertolt Brecht, Lu Hsun, Aime Ce- saire, atbp. At naipaliwanag din ito sa pilosopiya nii C.S. Peirce (ang polarisasyon ng tadhana at aksidente; tychism, synechism). Sa paglagom, ang kalayaan ay nagmumula sa pagkabatid sa batas ng kalikasan (tendensiya, hindi istriktong batas, batay sa galaw o kilos ng produktibong lakas ng komunidad).

Sa masinop na imbestigasyon, masisilip din ito sa Tao Te Ching, o sa akda nina Clausewitz at Sun Tzu hinggil sa arte ng digmaan. Kaugnay nito, pag-isipan din natin ang turo na ang sining ay hindi tuwirang salamin ng realidad kundi simbolikong praktika.
Sa pamamagitan ng retorika, talinghaga, sagisag, binibigyan ng solusyong ideolohikal o pang-imahinasyon ang kongkretong kontradiksiyong pulitikal-sosyal sa lipunan. Tungku- lun ng manapanuring aktibista ang pagsiyasat at pagsaliksik sa subtexto na mga kon- tradiksiyong pinoproblema sa karaniwang buhay ng madla sa lipunan.

Pahimakas sa Patnubay ng mga Bathala

Sa larangan ng malikhaing panulat, desideratum sa makata ang paghabi ng makabagong artikulasyon sa loob ng parametro ng sistemang lingguwistika, at sa musikero ang pagyari ng baryasyon sa tema sa loob ng kumbensyonal na kuwadrong sonata o fugue, halimbawa. Lumisan na ang Musang maipagbubunyi. Naiwan na lamang ang gumuhong labi ng malungkuting alingawngaw ni Maria Makiling sa Pinag- buhayan ng bundok Banahaw. Marahil, bukas, makikipag-ulayaw tayo sa mga Pulang Mandirigmang nagdiriwang sa liberated zone ng Sierra Madre.

Balik-aralin ang proposisyon ni Sartre: Kanino mananagot ang manunulat? O sa pagtatasa ni Brecht: dapat bang mang-aliw o magturo ang manunulat? Maari bang pag- isahin ang naihiwalay sa aksyomang klasikong dulce et decorum, ang responsibilidad na magpataas ng kamalayan habang nagliliwaliw at nagsasaya? Maibabalik ba ang gin- tong panahon nina Balagtas at Lope K. Santos?

Sa panahon ng kapitalismong neoliberal, at madugong militarisasyon ng bansa (sa ironikal na taguring Oplan Pangkapayapaan), paano maisasakatuparan ang pagba- balikwas sa lumang rehimen at pagtatag ng makatarungang orden? Paano mapupukaw ang manhid na sensibilidad ng gitnang-uri na nabulok na sa walang-habas na ko- modipikasyon? Hindi na matutularan ang huwarang kontra-modernismo ng makatang Charles Baudelaire, halimbawa, na nagsiwalat ng kabulukan ng burgesyang lipunan noong ika-1800 siglo (ayon kay Walter Benjamin,The Writer of Modern Life, 2006).

Ano ang dapat gawin? Malayo na tayo sa milyung inilarawan ni Ka Amado noong 1968. Sa ngayon, ang katungkulan ng mandirigmang makata (mithiin ng awtor ng “Bakas”) ay makisangkot sa pagbuo ng hegemonya ng proletaryo’t magbubukid bilang organikong intelektuwal ng nagkakaisang-hanay (tagubilin ni Gramsci) sa panahon ng imperyalismong sumasagka sa pagtatamasa ng kasarinlan at kaunlaran ng bansa. Huwag kalimutan ang Balanggiga? Oo, subalit huwag ding kalimutan ang Maliwalu, Es- calante, Mendiola, Marawi! Itampok ang bumabangong kapangyarihan ng sambayanan! Sa halip na mag-fokus sa egotistikang talambuhay, ibaling ang isip sa mabalasik na bugso’t pilantik ng kolektibong gunita na mauulinigan sa musika ng “Bakas.” Sukat na itong magsilbing pahimakas sa kabanatang ito ng paglalakbay ng manlilikha sa mapan- ganib na pakikisalamuha (hindi pakikipagkapwa) sa digmaang-bayang rumaragasa’t patuloy na gumigimbal at bumabalantok sa buhay ng bawat nilalang sa milenyong ito. —##


           Kilalang kritiko at manlilikha sa larangang internasyonal, si E. SAN JUAN, Jr. ay emeritus professor of English, Comparative Literature, and Ethnic Studies, University of Connecticut & Washington State University. Siya’y awtor ng maraming libro, kabilang na ang Balikbayang Sinta: An E. San Juan Reader (Ateneo University Press), Kontra-Modernidad (University of the Philippines Press), Tinik sa Kaluluwa; Rizal In Our Time (Anvil Publishing), Bakas Alingawngaw (Ateneo University Press), Salud Algabre (University of San Agustin Publishing House), at Ulikba at mga bagong tula; at Learning from the Filipino Diaspora (U.S.T. Publishing House).

Inilathala ng Lambert Academic Publishing Co., Saarbrucken, Germany, ang kaniyang Critical Interventions: From Joyce and Ibsen to Peirce and Kingston, kasunod ng In the Wake of Terror (Lexington), US Imperialism and Revolution in the Philippines (Palgrave), at Carlos Bulosan: Revolutionary Filipino Writer in the U.S. (Peter Lang). 

Ilulunsad ng U.S.T. Press sa taong ito ang bagong libro niya: Faustino Aguilar: Kapangyarihan, Kamalayan, Kasaysayan, Isang Metakomentary sa mga Nobela ni F. Aguilar--pinakaunang libro ng makabagong panunuri sa mga akda ng isang rebolusyonaryong  tagapagtatag ng panitikang Filipino.

          Naglingkod siya bilang Fulbright professor of American Studies sa Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, Belgium; Fellow, Center for the Humanities, Wesleyan University; visiting professor of literature sa National Tsing Hua University, Hsinchu, Taiwan. Kamakailan, siya ay naging Residential Fellow ng Rockefeller Foundation Study & Conference Center sa Bellagio, Italya, at Fellow sa W.E.B. Institute, Harvard University.  Siya ay kasalukuyang director ng Philippines Cultural Studies Center sa Washington, DC, USA, at katulong na patnugot ng maraming dyornal tulad ng  Cultural Logic, Kultura Kritika, Unitas, at iba pa.  Kasapi siya sa  American Civil Liberties Union, Democratic Socialists of America, at Modern Language Association of America. Kamakailan, naging chair professor of Cultural Studies, Polytechnic University of the Philippines, at visiting professor of English, University of the Philippines.