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Archive for the ‘globalization’ Category

In his The Repeating Island, Antonio Benitez Rojo wrote of how common social and cultural practices make visible the Caribbean islands’ shared histories of plantation slavery. Benitez Rojo writes that these similarities stem from their common experience of the plantation machine—a colonial apparatus set up to extract resources from the colonies to profit the metropole. But in addition to producing profits for the colonizers, the plantation machine also produces a way of life. And long after overt colonialism has given way to postcolonialism, the plantation machine continues to produce and reproduce “the type of society that results from their use and abuse” (8-9).

Last week’s Philippine elections are making me reflect on Benitez Rojo’s metaphor of the plantation machine. The new president, Noynoy Aquino, is part of a powerful political landlord family whose collective hands are still bloody from the Hacienda Luisita massacre. The Marcos family–yes, including Imelda–have been re-elected back into office. And so has former president and incoming congressional representative Gloria Arroyo, who has just appointed her lapdog as the new Supreme Court Chief Justice to preside over her impending graft cases.

The most surprising thing about the elections, in fact, is reflected in Inquirer headline the day after: “Fast count stuns nation”.

So what are the plantation machines working here?

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An observation from an acquaintance. Many Filipino businessmen, he said, find that they already had an “in” with their counterparts from Saudi Arabia and other Middle Eastern countries. That young businessmen from the Middle East felt an affinity   with Filipinos. Magaan ang loob.

The reason? These businesspeople from the Middle East grew up with Filipina nannies. Because of their carework, said this acquaintance, Filipina women are in such positions of  influence over the next generation of businesspeople from the Middle East. Pinoy entrepreneurs, he said, could use trade on this predisposed goodwill as capital.

The gender dynamics of Filipino labor migration shifted around the 1980s. More women were recruited for domestic work, a trend that continues today. An estimated 70 percent of the 3,000 Filipinos who leave the country each day due to labor migration are women.

I had already known Filipina mothers work as nannies and caregivers, even as they leave their own children behind.  That these women’s labor feed the remittances that keep the Philippine economy afloat. And that all these benefits to the country, to the private sector, have come at great personal cost to women who spent years away from their own children.

But it still makes me sad and angry to note that decades later, long after their children had grown up without their presence, these women’s labor and sacrifice continues to generate wealth. But not for them.

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I’ve been thinking of a comment bfp left here a few weeks ago

…because of borders, I became “mexican” rather than indigenous…

and reflecting on how maps and borders classify people, instead of the other way around.

In Imagined Communities, Benedict Anderson studied how cultural instruments such as maps, the census, and museums were not only a result of colonization, but in fact served and furthered colonial interests. These regulatory instruments illuminated “the late colonial state’s style of thinking about its domain” (184). The grid of maps allowed for serialization in the colonies. The Netherlands could therefore be reproduced in the Netherlands Indies and New Amsterdam. Mother Spain is reproduced in the Philippines, in the encomienda system and in the surnames people had to take for classification.

People’s lives were molded and organized around these classification tools, these imposed borders. Classification and technology made peoples, groups, and territories visible to the colonial powers, allowing them to reproduce themselves through empire and colonization.

And what of those people who do not fit the set classifications? They’re the ones who get categorized as not statistically significant.  The ones that we turn into Others, into Outliers. It’s okay for them to be the collateral damage of what gets called progress.

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In 2002, Elena Garcdoce Francisco, a 102-year-old Tumandok woman, journeyed to Iloilo City from her mountain home in Panay. She sang an ambahan, protesting the destruction wrought by militarization in her ancestral lands. These military incursions date back to at least 1962, under then President Diosdado Macapagal.

This practice of telling stories through poetry and chants remains an intrinsic part of the communal life of many indigenous villages. However, notes writer and poet Gelacio Guillermo, the traditional content of these poetic expressions have been giving way to expressing new ideas, feelings, and aspirations—ones related to militarization, logging, mining, land-grabbing, the destruction of forests. Indigenous women continue the practice of ulallems, agayams, and salidum-ay. These poetic expressions are intended as a collective experience, with no barrier between the performer and her audience.

Gardoce Francisco’s chant could have been a galvanizing moment, bringing a common understanding of how communities are being imperiled and immiserated by a confluence of multinational and local elite interests.

But we—urban and lowland dwellers, schooled in Western-style universities—are painfully unequipped to understand her words. We are unable to see ambahan, agayam, salidum-ay, ullalem, as knowledge production.

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My first full-time teaching job was as a sociology instructor at Career U. Unlike other career schools, this one actually gave me freedom to design my own Intro to Sociology courses—certainly not the norm at most career schools. I met some pretty cool students in those classes, and we did good work. My job helped to promote critical thinking among the students.

Hooray for me!

So this week’s class reading, Gayatri Spivak’s essay “Teaching for the Times,” was quite jarring. In this essay, Spivak writes:

Proctor and Gamble, a large U.S. multinational corporation, sends students specializing in business administration abroad to learn language and culture. Already in 1990, the National Governors’ Association report queried: “How are we to sell our products in a global economy when we are yet to learn the language of the customers” . . . We are caught in a larger struggle where one side devises newer ways to exploit transnationality through a distorting culturalism and the other knows rather what transnational script drives, writes, and operates it. [emphasis hers]

I’ve been reflecting on my role in this transnational script, on how the classes I taught over those past three years at Career U were actually in service of this “distorting culturalism.” How many students eventually went on to use their knowledge in service of the various Proctor and Gambles?

Towards making globalization palatable to people in the Third World, the very people who would also be made to shoulder the resulting devastation?

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I left Catholicism in fits and starts, the way a smoker keeps reaching for one last cigarette. But I did leave for good three years ago. And though I don’t identify as Catholic anymore, Sudy reminds me of teachings that resonate.

Love one another. Whatever you do to the least of my brothers. Ministering to the poor–the prisoners, the blind, the oppressed. Striving to be compassionate.

Unfortunately, as my feminist shero Sr. Mary John Mananzan points out, the Philippine Catholic malestream emphasizes aspects such as the contraception and divorce bans and the “sins of the flesh.” This is still the dominant Catholicism in the Philippines, the strand that eventually led to my departure.

It’s also a strand that obscures how Catholic tenets on love, service, and compassion could form powerful basis for transnational feminist coalitions.

In her essay “Globalization and the Perennial Question of Justice,”* Mananzan applies a faith-based approach to highlight globalization’s injustices on indigenous populations, the urban poor, displaced farmers. She critiques the new “religion” of consumerism, globalization, and capital that gives rise to this suffering. In its place, she advocates a spirituality that is responsive to the suffering wrought by globalization.

Mananzan writes

Just as we proclaim an integral salvation, we also have to develop an integral spirituality that transcends dichotomies such as body-soul, sacred-profane, contemplation-action, heaven-earth, and so on. We need to integrate our relationships with God, with ourselves, with others, and with the planet. It is inclusive and resists exclusion of peoples for any reason, be it class, race, gender, or any other.

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There have been news stories of fetuses found around Manila, including three found at the Manila Cathedral, Santa Cruz Church, and Quiapo Church. The Quiapo Church fetus was concealed in a basket of offerings. It was wrapped in a rosary and placed inside a bottle.

This phenomenon has become more frequent—thirteen over just the last two months if reports are to be believed, with more found in sewers. A moral panic is growing over a supposedly anti-family culture in the Philippines, a discourse that includes debates over abortion (criminal), access to contraception (severely limited) and divorce (illegal).

I am struck at how much of the coverage is sensationalized and, of course, by what gets left out.

There has been a steady rise in abortion rates in the Philippines, from an estimated 400,000 in the 1990s to as high as 800,000 as of 2005. The knee-jerk reaction has been to rail against how Filipino culture is “westernizing”and “turning away from god.” The more insightful reports cite the lack of sex education/access to contraception.

But there is something more at work contributing to the spike in abortion rates in this heavily Catholic country.

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