Thursday, June 20, 2013

Part II: Political Friction/Fiction

[Annotated text of Talk at the Left Forum on Women and Class:  continued] 


5)  the neglect of structural analysis in the rather catastrophic failures of “socialist” societies – such analyses concentrating instead on what is claimed as “revisionist” interpretation of ideology.  Not much attention has been paid to how “socialist” societies have been organized, whether class hierarchy has been replaced by a hierarchy of privilege, and where women are located – socially, economically and politically speaking – in the new hierarchy;   plus of course whether such a new hierarchy eventually leads to the (re) institutionalization of  exploitation, marginalization and dominance, all in the name of preserving the socialist state. 

6)  and this is the last;  a great deal of feminist thought revolves around intersections of oppression.  The question of course is whether a class-based analysis or system of thought can encompass intersectionality,  or whether, dialectics notwithstanding, whether such will remain linear and cognizant of only one system of oppression.   (If we were to reduce this difference to a set of contrasting images, class analysis would be represented by a stack of taijitu,  seemingly different but remaining the same, property vs propertyless;  one set of contradictions rises to become “principal” as it moves toward maturity and others become “secondary” but the basic one is the same;   on the other hand, feminist analysis would be a pinwheel of interlocking taijitu, spinning not only through social space but also social time;  all sprouting from the central node of women’s oppression.) 

There are other sources of friction, not the least being the ahistoricity and lack of context in dealing with women’s political language.  The most common critique against feminism is the supposedly bourgeois character of the call for equality, the assumption being that any and all calls for gender equality is based on equality within the status quo.  If I may cite Gloria Steinem, than whom there’s no more liberal feminist, she said it is not a merely a matter of  getting a larger share of the pie but rather of baking a whole new pie altogether.   In any case, there’s certainly a huge difference between the Facebook CEO calling for equality and a woman in India demanding equality.  History and context and structural matrix all seem to fly out the window where women’s political language is concerned. 

I have only two more points: 

a)  the traditional view of the separation of work and the rest of a human being’s existence – his/her familial, social and political life removed from his/her engagement in production – has had a devastating consequence for 250 million transnational labor.   These migrant workers have had their existence effectively divided;  thus, their socio-political life remains linked to a supposedly home country from which they are absent;  while their economic lives are spent in a country where they have absolutely no social existence.  (A World Bank apologist wrote that this was no different from commuting to the office from the suburbs.)   This is part of imperialism’s narrative of globalization, the creation of an international homeless population – or a population that has a “virtual” home, via photographs, memorabilia, letters, phone calls…  This is an international reserved pool of labor, subject to the most extreme exploitation and the most onerous of oppressions. 

b)  the recent implementation of a Venezuelan law, passed by Chavez, granting pensions to full-time mothers --  i.e., those who have not engaged as it were in “production” – points to a different way of viewing the contradiction between private and public spheres, a way of integrating them and a way of returning to the pre-class motive for social organizations.  That pre-class motive was very simply the preservation and continuation of the species. 

I shall end here and perhaps our discussion will bring forth even more ideas.  Thank you.  #

 

One significant point brought up by a member of the audience was the issue of the autonomy of women’s progressive organizations and the friction caused when social transformation movements insist on using women’s organizations as an auxiliary force for the advance of general radical change but refuse to aid such organizations in the furtherance of changes needed for their collective liberation.   One “reason” for such an “arrangement” underlies the oft-repeated question:  “are women liberated by people’s liberation and conversely, can women’s liberation liberate the people?’  Regarding the first clause, one can only cite the recent issuance of the All-China Women’s Federation which advised “leftover women” to focus less on their career so as to have a better chance at getting married.  Granted that the party that governs the All-China Women’s Federation has gone off its ideological rocker, the incident underscores the risks in being an auxiliary force.  So people’s liberation might liberate women along one axis but if its framework is masculinist or even non-cognizant of male privilege, such a women’s liberation will remain along one axis and not spill over to other systems of oppression.  On the converse clause, one can only point to the transformational character of women’s activism and organizing, and their long-term impact on society.  For instance, labor unions in the US were NOT admitting women workers and workers of color until women workers organized and went on an all-women strike.  After that unions opened its doors to both women workers and workers of color.  Mathematically, one might add that if one liberated half or more than half of the population, wouldn’t that suffice to create a profound transformation? 

Saturday, June 15, 2013

POLITICAL FRICTION/FICTION

(Part I of the annotated text of my presentation for the panel "Socialism is Feminist" at the Left Forum, June 8th, Pace University, New York)



The theme of our panel is from Hugo Chavez’s 2009 declaration at the Via Campesina conference in Brazil.  (Audience member said this was actually at the World Social Forum;  I checked and it was but the event was sponsored by the Via Campesina.) “True socialism,” he said,  “is feminist.” Three other Latin American presidents stood beside him:  from Ecuador, Bolivia and Paraguay.  It was President Rafael Correa of Ecuador who amplified the Chavez declaration, by saying that unlike traditional socialism, 21st century socialism includes gender justice, ethnic justice and inter-generational justice.  These issues are often considered “soft issues” by those who perceive class as the main or predominant system of oppression/exploitation in society. 

 Despite this unequivocal declaration, those of us who work at the organizing of and advocacy for women continue to be at the receiving end of catcalls, continue to experience friction with other political groups and continue to be required to defend the ideological and political position we have taken.  These compel us to periodically examine the issue of intersectionality and why this concept is so difficult to integrate into the binary view of class conflict.  Several core or pivotal reasons come to the fore immediately: 

 1)  the continued refusal to accept women’s historical scholarship and its findings that the reification of women’s knowledge, labor and bodies antedated the institutionalization of private property;  that in truth, such reification was integral to the creation of private property and that indeed, women comprised the first form of private property

 2)  the insistence – and we can only call it a patriarchal insistence – on separating the category “women” from the category “people,” such that women’s liberation is often juxtaposed, contrasted, counter-poised, deemed secondary to people’s liberation.  In this view, women’s liberation is often reduced to a thin tissue of gender relations, rather than viewed as a comprehensive resolution of a complex set of contradictions affecting women, contradictions which, taken as a whole, actually condemn class society and demand its transformation. 

 3)  the dismissal or under-valuation of the dynamic between production and re-production –  the non-integration of the latter in the social structural analysis, following the separation, during the Industrial Revolution, of home and workplace.  Ironically, this is a capitalist narrative, truly, that compartmentalizes human social existence, the better to inflict a higher rate of exploitation upon an atomized labor force.   In this narrative, only work is divorced and separated as a special human activity done under the aegis of capital;  only wage labor is recognized as work;  hence the oft-repeated and rather ludicrous prescription for women “to engage in production” in order to liberate themselves – ignoring the historical truth that women have always been engaged in production since the beginning of human history.

4)  the under-valuation of either or both generational and daily replenishment of labor in the cycle of production and reproduction of goods and services.  The cost of such replenishment has been borne by women, largely;  it is estimated that the global unpaid household labor of women annually amounts to $1 trillion – an unprecedented theft casually ignored in the Left’s creation of its laundry lists of demands. 

(Part II next week)

Friday, February 22, 2013

Stop the Spam Please

If your comment contains a link to a webpage, we shall delete.  Thanks. 

Monday, February 04, 2013

from The Synchrony Tree


[Copyright;  all rights reserved.]
This opens the novel. 
 
It was a firefly – dropped onto the palm of her left hand, her fingers curling at once into a warm cage of flesh.

It was not a firefly.

It was a tear, fallen lightly, and perched moistly in the center of the palm of her left hand.

It was not a tear.

It was a demand;  a demand of a promise of a Return, dropped like a warm sea pebble into the salty moist cage of her fingers.

It was not a demand.  It was anticipation of a Return, a small light flashing with little shrieks of joy, warming the already warm cage the fingers of her hand made. 

It was in her mind now, as she skirted snow dunes at two in the morning, shivering in her gray thrift-shop overcoat, black rubber galoshes crunching ice crystals underfoot.  She was in departure, in flight actually, and that was why Return was in her mind, the heat of it, this arctic morning before dawn. 

 She wished she were a penguin, though she'd never seen one.  Because it was so very very cold and walking was difficult, with a swollen backpack pulling her shoulders back, against her torso’s compulsion to fold into itself against the unbearable winter.  As a penguin, she could slide on her belly and ignore the ice.  She had never felt as vulnerable.   Nor as strong, because running away also meant returning. 

Her mind had circled back, to Ylang-Ylang, standing in the middle of the lobby of the airport terminal, giving her a firefly, a tear, a demand, an anticipation. 

Beside Ylang-Ylang stood a nut-brown ten-year-old girl of fine features and fingers so long, so slim, each nail perfect, that one knew immediately this was a pianist, had always been a pianist and will be a great one.  In her chocolate-brown eyes, the music danced, flashing like a firefly call.

Flordeliz’s heart had halved, one section falling with an unheard thud to the cold airport gray floor.  Because she loved her family – Ylang-Ylang and the daughter she’d borne when she was only 17 and had named Scheherazade, after the woman in the stories her only male lover had used to read to her and which name got shortened conveniently to She – because she loved this family, she had to leave them. 

And because she loved them still, even in her and their absence, she was now running, on possibly the coldest night of winter in Warren, New Jersey, throwing herself down to her knees behind a glittering snow dune, to avoid being spotted by a police car one intersection away, its own lights staining the snow with intermittent red and blue. 

 She feared her employers had called the police, had accused her of stealing.  Not;  she had only taken $200 from the kitchen money, what was due her.  But she could be accused of anything:  stealing, drugs, assault, rape, murder, etc, because she had committed the worst crime of all, the very worst.  She had allowed her tourist visa to lapse, after two three month extensions, and she was now undocumented.  No greater crime could there be.  -- #

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Short-Short Story

The Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) had the national hero, Jose Rizal, who created the malevolent character Fr. Damaso in the book Noli Me Tangere, exhumed, propped up in the middle of Luneta Park, and shot by firing squad all over again. 

Sunday, January 13, 2013

The Legend of Mayang Makiling as told by Ylang-Ylang


From the novel:  Synchrony Tree 
The aliens took the most common name and called her that, to make her an everyday thing but her true name was Mayang Makiling, avatar of the mountain looming over the emerald land which would later be called Laguna, its name and hers lost from racial memory.  Contrary to the way they described her, she was neither lissome nor fair nor wore a long skirt;  rather, she was stocky and not too tall, how else would the shrubs have been able to hide her?  But this was the way our old stories were revised to fit a slave mindset that made it amenable to conquest.  Mayang Makiling was brown-skinned, of that color we call kissed by the sun:  golden ochre, as it were.  All she wore was a tapis, a cloth wrapped around the hips, ends knotted, a skirt that never loosened, never needed fixing no matter how much she moved and it was made of the gold hair of the sun and the silver hair of the moon, gathered from twigs and branches where they had gotten entangled, and with the red of hibiscus and the green of ferns running through it so that when Mayang Makiling was still, she could not be discerned against the forest that was her home.  She wore a sickle-moon necklace glittering against her naked breasts;  gold bangles from wrist to elbow and around her ankles.  Her little fingers and little toes were tattooed with encircling tiny vines of fern.  She was born with those tattoos   -- and all her followers, the wind readers, carried the same mark from birth.  One other thing they never say about Mayang Makiling:  her breath misted, like the morning fog gathered at the mountain crest at dawn.  When she spoke, her breath was a slight mist, hard to discern in the full strength of the noon sun but visible in the morning and late afternoon, a breath perfumed by wild jasmine flowers.  A retinue of wild animals followed her:  the civet, now extinct;  the wild water buffalo called the tamaraw, now driven from its old haunts, the gold-headed eagle, now extinct, and a dazzling wild rooster called the labuyo, which was expropriated by the aliens and turned into a familiar of a male saint and a favorite of cockpit gamblers.  The tamaraw carried her weapons of war on her back:  the machete whose edge never dulled, the spear with its poisoned iron tip, the shield with its runes and cabalistic signs.  The labuyo and the eagle were her scouts – one on the ground, the other in the air;  the civet was her comrade-in-arms. Where her bare feet touched the soil, plants sprouted and bloomed in frenzy;  and she had but to touch a tree trunk to make the whole tree shiver with delight and put forth leaves, flowers, fruits…  This was why she was revered and tribal people left her such delicacies as she couldn’t make herself, sweet rice cakes like the sapin-sapin, kalamay, suman and sometimes, in a bamboo tube, ginger tea.  She had a rule about reciprocity and always gave back, occasionally not what the supplicant asked for but what was fair for everyone – her way of teaching her people that even desire had to be considered within the matrix of the tribe.  Her home mountain was not desecrated, until the aliens came and laid waste to its thousand-year-old mahogany and teak for their homes, their ships, for tables and chairs and church pews – which, being dead anyway, brought no joy and eventually rotted away in more ways than one.  When Mayang Makiling lost her animals, she wept for a hundred years but the river of tears did not lessen her grief and she could think of no recourse except to curl up in a cave, to sleep, vowing to awaken only at the call of the civet, the tamaraw, the eagle and the labuyo.  In her sleep, she weeps and torrents run down the mountain side, flooding rivers and towns, overflowing the lake.  Don’t let them tell you it was all about a perfidious young man and romance.  Her heart was broken by home’s destruction.  We lost her and we will never see one like her again and only the sea will come to take back her home and her broken heart.  -- #

Thursday, November 01, 2012

When Extradition is Tantamount to Trafficking

New short piece at Ms Magazine blogsite. 
Click here. 
Read, like and/or comment, please.
Let's put a stop to this. 

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

The Day Manila Fell Silent (Part I)

[Talk at the Bliss on Bliss Studio, New York City;  September 9, 2012;  part of Re-Collection, A Commemoration of the Anniversary of the Declaration of Martial Law in the Philippines]

Ironically, the most quiet day in Manila of contemporary times began with noise:  a loud pounding on the glass door of the penthouse apartment where I resided at the time.  The friend who was hollering and shouting and bruising his knuckles on the glass, blurted out, as soon I slid the door open, “martial law na…[martial law already]”  A split second of silence, then I turned and clicked on the radio.  Nothing but white noise.  Turned on the TV.   Nothing but a white screen and static.  The friend, looking pale and distraught, said, “no TV, no radio station… everything’s closed down.”  We eyeballed one another.  I suddenly remembered the last item in the late night news:  a visual of a demolished car, its roof collapsed; a male voice saying that the car of the Secretary of National Defense had been attacked but he was not in it…  My immediate thought had been “what?  They attacked an empty car?”  The news was so truncated.    And as I was going to bed, I noticed that the government building behind our apartment building was all lit up:  floor after floor, from top to bottom, all the lights were on.   I said then, “something’s happening;  and it’s happening all over the city.”

 Now this friend blurting out his news, his eyes crazed with fright, triggered a kaleidoscope of memories.  This would become a habit with me ever after, this going into mental hyperdrive, correlating incidents and data.  The final memory that cascaded down was that of the smiling Senator Benigno Aquino, as he said to me, as he stood in the red carpeted foyer of the old Senate, “Marcos will not catch me lying down.”  I said, somewhat facetiously, “ah well, good talking to you, President Aquino.”  It would be my last face-to-face with the senator.  In 1984, when he was assassinated, I muttered to myself, “I’d better fix my papers; Marcos will fall.”  I was in New York City by then.  I had filed for political asylum but it was just on file. 

What is the point of this recollection?  It is to stress that martial law was personal… PERSONAL.  Everyone felt it, was affected by it, had an opinion, a thought, a feeling, about it.  The day it was declared, with a friend standing there, his hair practically on end, I remembered how, a week before, a minor journalist on the military beat had generously offered to check if my name and address were on an arrest order.  Young though I was, I wasn’t exactly naïve.  I gave him an old address.  Sure enough, the place was raided. 

Monday, September 26, 2011

Building a Gestalt

On September 10 of this year, the first batch of students at the AF3IRM Summer School of Women’s Activism graduated, each lighting a candle in memory of a woman of significance in her life.  I have witnessed this ritual time and again, seen the tense pause as each participant dove deep into her personal memory to find that person who summed up, with her own life and fate, the meaning of a commitment to women’s liberation.  As story after story is told briefly, often in a quivering voice -- of this woman from Puerto Rico, that woman from the Philippines, of the mother from Guatemala, or another woman from yet another country -- their images seem to rise in the circle’s center, witnesses to the eon-long struggle which had involved great-grandmothers, mothers, sisters.  This is the instant of connection, when a gestalt of history is created, when each woman stands with a long line of women stretching back to the dawn of history. 

            The class had started three Saturdays before;  I used  this poem: 

            At last I am free

            At last I am a woman free!

            No more tied to the kitchen,

            Stained amid the stained pots,

            No more bound to the husband

            Who thought me less

            Than the shade he wove with his hands,

            No more anger, no more hunger,

            I sit now in the shade of my own tree

            Meditating thus, I am happy, serene.

                                    Sumagalamata, 600 BCE, India


The poem seemed so alien in the 2011 mid-Manhattan summer setting of  AF3IRM’s school.  On the other hand, it was terribly familiar, underscoring the persistence of women’s vision, of a world where she could have “the shade of my own tree,” for space safe enough for her to be, independent of her mandated social roles.  The stories from the participants of their own mothers, grandmothers and aunts underscored the continuity of this struggle for women’s rights, equality and emancipation, and made this ceremony of remembering even more soul touching. 

(This essay appears in full at the www.rainandthunder.org journal.)

Thursday, September 01, 2011

Limerick

Turned the caption of the picture below into a parody.
Sometimes I crack myself up. 
 
3 pigeons (alas) checked out the tree
this morning
are you ill, asked one
beak prodding a drying branch,
or are you just being
law-abiding?

Apres-Irene, the Hurricane



3 pigeons came this morning to inspect the tree and held a long discussion as to whether it was ill or simply being a law-abiding citizen. 

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Piece at Ms Magazine blog

access here:  http://ow.ly/6e5wM%20#HERvotes

While doing research for this, I was struck by two things:

a)  Women workers had to create autonomous space for themselves even in terms of organizing as workers to be able to address the specific characteristics of their class oppression;
and
b)  How women organizing transformed the labor union movement, which in the aftermath of the militancy of women workers, opened its doors to both women workers and black workers. 

Friday, August 12, 2011

AMNESIA

(Written for the Atlas of Transformation, edited by Zybnek Baladran & Vit Havranek, published with the assistance of the Czech Republic and the City of Prague, available at www.artbook.com; 720 pp)

The world of healing pays scant attention to a different type of amnesia -- that which comes from a surfeit of memory, in contrast to the common medical definition of the disorder as a loss of what should be remembered.  In the amnesia of a surfeit of memory, thought processes are truncated, warped, aborted, so that one plus one never becomes two but rather, diverted from the path of completion by counter-propositions, arguments, labels, myths, artifice and polemics, one plus one remains forever one plus one…

Thus, 23 years after his overthrow and on the 92nd anniversary of his birth, the dictator’s widow is treated to a tribute, whereby those in charge of codifying and preserving the best of the national experience labor mightily to produce a few minutes of “fabulousness.”   Opera singers strain their larynxes, prima ballerinas, their ankles while composers wring the last note of bathos from their storehouse of musical notes  -- so that this “fabulousness” can overlay the odor of blood, sweat and decayed flesh;  the echo of pain moans and outraged screams, and the redolence of a thousand pairs of shoes assaulted by mold.  The dead are thereby not simply forgotten but removed from having existed, despite the list of names chiseled into stone at a shrine of “martyrs,” alongside the statue of a goddess who, if logic were to be followed, should have been faulted with having allowed the travesty to occur in the first place, rather than praised for a victory wrested by 25 years of struggle.  It is a denial of the people’s ability to transform their own social environment by attributing their success to some mysterious higher power, preferably imported.  The subtext is the preservation of a people’s reliance on authority and of a people’s faith in their powerlessness.
The dictator’s overthrow, it would seem, had wrought finished to all of that, the judgment already hammered into stone but to a people and a nation constructed from a series of historical accidents and the desires of Others, a summing up does not sum up, the past is always malleable and neither truth nor lie are absolutes.  To such a people, amnesia is not a state of being; it is a willful act of conciliatory remembering, of preferring an artificial memory of pleasantness because it is unpleasant to recall the unpleasant and easier to pretend that life experience does not provide lessons.  Besides which, lessons are only derived from summings- up, or what Einstein defined as the schematic representation of experience.  The amnesiac cannot make the leap from perceptual to cognitive knowledge.

This willful substitution of a simulation for reality comes easy to a people who have forgotten even the name of their favorite and most common dish even at the instant of their chewing upon it, this repast of pork chunks and chicken pieces simmered slowly in a broth of soy sauce and vinegar, with a concoction of spices.  What is it called, what is its name?  No one remembers and all are reduced to referring to it by the Mexican term adobo which in truth is far from the dish as can be.  If food itself loses its designation, then there’s nothing out-of-kilter in towns, villages, streets changing names, or languages altering in accordance with every change in rulers.  This is not a frailty but a virtue; it is celebrated as an infinite capacity for adaptation.  Hence, in Japan, the women acquire local names and wear kimonos;  in Saudi Arabia, they don the hijab while in Europe, their children acquire hazel and blue eyes and light skins.  The men serve under flags of every sea-faring country in the world, spending their adulthood in unbounded oceans, their moorings reduced to portable memories:  photographs of wives, children, parents, a song or two...  This malleability is said to be what enables them to survive, even in the most perilous of the 198 “host” countries to which globalization takes them, chattering in Italian at the piazza where once a week, they gather to cease soul-shifting just long enough to enable their strangeness to surface and morph into familiarity by virtue of numbers. 
Soul-shifting from a surfeit of memory is peculiar to a constructed people who hold in their psyche several complete and competing operating systems, their worldviews swinging from one to the other to ensure survival.  A Japanese is; an American is and the French is French…  A constructed people, on the other hand, is always something more over and beyond their naked basic essence, carrying as they do an imposed history.   This soul-shifting has become engrained, because colonialism, occupation and neo-colonialism are drawn-out acts of genocide.  The authority of the Other remolds the subjugated into an image of the Other, reflective of His view of the world, and that process of recreation entails the destruction of a people’s sense of what they are.  Having experienced this dismantling of one’s being, the colonized understands that amnesia is necessary and soul-shifting is vital to survival.   It is a complex process done instinctively, without calculation almost, even though it is based on the most profound of calculations. 

On the day of the overthrow itself, even as the shouts of jubilation rise through the air, the process of forgetting is already underway.  The overthrow is hailed as a great victory for democracy and no one remembers anymore how the very system that is being hailed provided the dictator with his ladder to power and the ever-intensifying consolidation thereof, that the onerous impact of his rule was legitimized through the courts, which declared his “executive orders” legitimate and refused to rule on many challenges to his right to govern by decree.  His successor is re-painted as the victor of the just-past elections, this myth of a “democratic” system triumphant substituting for the intensity of the march of a million, two million, and the spontaneous refusal of the majority – clerks, vendors, teachers, farmers, workers – to participate in turning the wheels of social business this one fine day.  The successor won;  the dictator cheated; ignore that instant of stillness, incandescent as lightning and just as swift, that fell over the land when everyone chose to ignore the last decree. 
This affirmation of the correctness of corrupt systems and process of governance, those hailed as sure signs of a democracy,  must now entail the frustration of any thing to the contrary.  Unfortunately, some 10,000 misguided former residents of various detention camps run by the dictator filed a precedent-setting case against his estate – for he has, by now, peacefully and sans accounting, escaped through death’s door – and won, thus documenting for all of time the intolerable vile acts of perfidy and treason perpetrated by  institutions that now serve the successor.  That will have to be nullified, gently if possible, harshly if not.  And thus begins the long wait for justice and balance for the 100,000 who sojourned in the detention camps, as the new government exercised eminent domain and claimed all available wealth of the dictator and his various friends and relations, denying the right of the victimized.  Slowly, that issue is laid to rest because time is on the corrupt system’s side, as not a few of the victimized succumb at last to the wounds and stress of their torture and deprivation.

In this state of amnesia, it is possible once again to commit the same vile acts of perfidy and treason against the people for whom government is supposedly set.  The first decade of the new century is marked by political assassinations, disappearances and the inexorable fall of fear and trembling over the land.  Each successor after the dictator has driven the nation deeper into poverty, selling off land, sea and sky for quick profit, and when all natural resources are gone, then selling off the people themselves without shame, nakedly, and giving them the sop of a tribute as the new heroes of the economy, the better for them to endure their slavery.
By now, it should be clear that this is about the devolution of social transformation, the reversion of its most noble impulses and objectives to the single principle of power – the acquisition thereof, the monopolization thereof.  Because one plus one is never two but remains one plus one, tyranny and corruption are a constant, and the idea of a dictatorship lingers as both a sly temptation and objective.  It has never been thoroughly anathematized.  In due time, in ways big and small, the idea becomes flesh and throughout the archipelago, warlord clans accumulate power through the expediency of violence and corruption.  Each lords it over any one of the 150 ethno-linguistic groups which had been forcibly welded together into an alleged nation by historical accidents and by the desire, needs and greed of the Other.

Amnesia is tragic to a people who live on islands afloat on the ocean of storms and tsunamis.  The first thousand buried by mudslides caused by the denudation of forests were speedily forgotten, with the second thousand devastated by a typhoon, who in turn lost their hold on public attention with the third thousand murdered by a deluge, who must thereupon give up their place in the collective memory to the fourth thousand…  And so it goes, as the sea rises higher each year and enters villages deeper.  Though amnesic, the constructed people’s memory is swollen with fabulousness:  the hit tunes of now, telenovelas of today, outrageous romances, impressive displays of wealth, plastic surgery and skin whitening…
This madcap fabulousness that has replaced true memory makes it possible for a warlord clan in the third poorest province of the archipelago to game the system, build a private army and having accumulated power through the naked exercise of nepotism, build more than two dozen mansions for themselves, thus negating poverty as it were from their personal environment and then enabling the casual massacre of 57 people, including 21 women, two of whom were pregnant, and 30 journalists. 

It is a remarkable story which, in due time and much like the thousand other assassinations and disappearances post-dictatorship, will be overtaken by amnesia.  -- ##

Tuesday, May 03, 2011

Meditation on a Death

The first narrative seemed most fitting: he was armed, shooting, when his foes cut him down, a death deserved by a warrior, not perishing from kidney failure, starvation or diarrhea from the pestilential waters of a Third World ghetto, still acting as he preached, courage and kalashnikov in hand despite white hair and beard…

Since I’d gotten tired through the years of young men/women doing the killing and dying at the behest of old, older and one-foot-in-the-grave men, dying like an old lion in combat seemed appropriate to bin Laden -- an exclamation point calling into question a pattern to which we have somehow become habituated, ever since war was invented.

But then the second narrative arrived: he was unarmed, protected by two women, one of whom was shot in the leg, the other killed, as one bullet drilled his forehead and others stitched his chest. He fell on no magic carpet, wasn’t covered by an enchanted tapestry, did not hear the ringing of djinn bells. He died in an unaesthetic house.

After a second of feeling deflated, I realized that that this manner of dying could dovetail into any variation of the Austere Warrior Myth, evoking photos of his austere demeanor, of him barefoot, wearing that threadbare almost priestly robe, in the desserts of Afghanistan.

That led me to wondering just who were there when a Prophet breathed his last on the cross. Fifteen disciples, I found out – and, except for Jude and John Zebedee, all were women.

As in birth, so in death; women’s faces attend alpha and omega.  #

Saturday, April 30, 2011

May Day Statement

AFFIRM THE VALUE OF WOMEN’S WORK!
From the Home to the Office to the Factory!

AF3IRM marches on International Labor Day 2011 in affirmation of the right of workers to self-organize, to collective bargaining, to conduct strikes and other means of struggle for just wages and safe working conditions and to resist ever-intensifying exploitation of labor by capitalists.

AF3IRM marches on International Labor Day 2011 to denounce the embedded racism and sexism that enables capital to inflict even more acute exploitation upon women workers. 187 years after the first all-women strike in 1824, women continue to suffer wage disparity. White women workers earn only $0.77 to every dollar a male worker earns; black women, $0.64 and Latinas, $0.52. Over a lifetime, women workers lose $380,000 because of wage discrepancy doing the same job as male workers. Only capitalists and Big Business benefit from social tolerance of racism and sexism.

AF3IRM marches on International Labor Day 2011 in condemnation of the continuing attacks on organized labor and labor rights. 186 years since the first all-women union was established in 1825 – the United Tailoresses of New York, Corporate America and its puppet US politicians are moving to dissolve and dismantle the ability of women workers to struggle for just wages and decent working conditions.

Women workers now comprise nearly 50% of all unionized workers in the US and half of them work in the public sector. From Wisconsin to Nevada to New Jersey, Corporate America and its puppet US politicians are terminating labor rights in the public sector, laying off teachers, child and health care givers, social service workers and more, while leaving male-dominated public sector professions intact or barely touched. By so doing, Corporate America hopes that the working class will be so rift by sexism and racism and thereby weakened as to be unable to resist its push toward enhanced exploitation.

Alongside the increasing numbers of unionized women workers is the increasing number of workers of color, of im/migrant workers – against whom Corporate America and its puppet politicians have launched xenophobic attacks. The latter are meant to keep the “undocumented” sans legal standing in the US, so they can be paid subsistence wages and inflicted with intolerable exploitation. 20% of “undocumented” workers in this country work in private households, as nannies and housekeepers.

AF3IRM declares that a man or woman who’s good enough to work in the United States is good enough to stay!

From the house to the office to the factory, women’s work remains acutely devalued by Corporate America and its puppet politicians.

We say ENOUGH! It is time to march and to denounce this effort to savage women workers, to weaken organized labor, eradicate the gains of the labor movement. It is time to march and denounce this continuing attempt to return women workers to 19th century working conditions – the same conditions which triggered the “uprising of the 20,000” – a strike by women shirtwaist workers in 1909 in New York City.

We say RISE AND MARCH!



PUSH BACK AGAINST CAPITALIST THEFT OF WOMEN’S WORK – from the home to the office to the factory!
GOOD ENOUGH TO WORK, GOOD ENOUGH TO STAY!
AFFIRM THE RIGHT OF LABOR TO UNIONIZE AND TO COLLECTIVE BARGAINING!
AFFIRM THE RIGHTS OF WOMEN WORKERS TO EQUAL PAY AND SAFE WORK CONDITIONS!
AFFIRM THE CORRECTNESS OF THE WOMEN’S STRUGGLE FOR LIBERATION!
A WOMAN’S PLACE IS AT THE HEAD OF THE STRUGGLE FOR THE LIBERATION OF HUMANITY!

Also on AF3IRM Website: http://www.af3irm.org/2011/4/may-day-statement-2011-affirm-value-women’s-work

Jollene Levid
AF3IRM National Chairperson
Email: chair@af3irm.org
Website: www.af3irm.org
Phone: (323) 356-4748
Association of Filipinas, Feminists Fighting Imperialism, Re-feudalization, and Marginalization (AF3IRM)

###

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Desperately Seeking Antigone

The young heroine of a Greek tragedy elected to bury her younger brother, despite the king’s edict that he should lie dead and exposed to the elements.


Not burying the dead is violating their primal right: to lie buried, undisturbed-- Requiescat In Pace.

This was the core template for one of my short stories: Earthquake Weather. I wrote it in honor of several friends killed by Marcos’s military and left exposed in front of various town halls. Being left unburied was one of the direst punishments inflicted under martial law; the other, ironically, was being buried in unmarked mass graves.

What to make, then, of the phenomenon of the dictator himself refrigerated since his death in 1988. Occasionally, through the years, I’d wonder how much it cost, in equipment and power supply, to turn him into a corpsicle. In a country where 80% of mothers cannot afford to refrigerate milk and baby food, this human jerky was symbolic of the excessive self-adulation of the Marcos regime.

Freeze-dried or mummified, dead is dead. Let the corpse return to the elements.

It has also become expressive of the politics of absurdity in the Philippines as recently, following a court-ordered compensation to victims of human rights violations during the Marcos regime, the dead's clan, cronies and supporters have pushed for his burial in the Heroes' Cemetery. 

One would think that the senators, congressmen and governors of the Marcos family infrastructure would have better things to highlight:  good works done, nice legislation passed, lives of constituents made better. But no, it has to be about keeping alive the myth of Marcos and hence, ruling class invincibility, maintained by thought control, historical revision and an undercurrent of a message that tells the Filipino people they're too stupid to pass judgment on someone like Marcos. 


This view is that of a supremely malleable nation (i.e., stupid enough) to swallow hook, line and sinker even the most overt lies that would maintain authority, power and privilege for a few. We’re already seeing reverberations of this mental shifting:  reversals of rulings which had seemed indelible acts of justice in the Vizconde case, Lacson redux, etc.

The Geneva Conventions actually provide for respectful treatment of even the dead: “honorably interred…their graves respected…properly maintained and marked…”

In 2002, a French court decreed that Raymond and Monique Martinot, whose bodies were refrigerated by their son in their chateau’s basement, should be given proper burial – based on the timeless principle that the dead is entitled to Requiescat In Pace.

So the Philippines need an Antigone and frankly, I don’t care how she does it -- float the corpse on a raft in the ocean and give it to its fellow sharks, shove a blasting cap up its behind and disappear it like so many disaparecidos of martial law years, toss it down an unmarked grave in a ravine and let weeds and worms have it.

Just end this necrophilic obsession so everyone can start thinking about the politics of living. -- #

Monday, March 07, 2011

Just a Little Love Song

On International Women's Day!  All hail to Clara Zetkin and Alexandra Kollontai!


Click here to see what women of the Philippines are doing.

Thursday, March 03, 2011

Arrivals/Departures Commemorative Poster



Click on photo to supersize.  To see more details, follow the link below:


http://www.facebook.com/p.php?i=1204159&k=Z4EXX25QT55G6BFBXK4XTVXYRWJJ5Z3EP3&oid=155290314527623
 
Signed by all the artists, this will sold at the exhibit. 
 
I hope this post works.  Techie things cause me extreme anxiety. 

Monday, February 28, 2011

A Helpless Alien-nation

Under imperialism’s circular migration narrative, overseas Filipino workers are perceived as united in a globe-spanning nation, connected to a virtual homeland with family faces, concerns and issues digitalized into a two-dimensional quasi-reality fabricated from sentimental bonds.

Events in North Africa, the Middle East and other parts of the globe have constantly underscored the peril of this view: that by falling in with globalization’s creation of an internationally homeless worker population, we are complicit in depriving migrants of the right to acquire a country, to belong actively to a nation and to be able to engage politically wherever they are, so that they may protect and enhance the life they have managed to establish.

Less than 2,000 of the 26,000 Filipinos in Libya have managed to make it out of the county. It will cost the Philippine government $2.3 million to evacuate them and acrimonious debate is on-going as to how to do this.

Curious, I checked the number of Filipinos working in flashpoint countries and here are some figures -- only estimates, since some OFWs are undocumented:
• 40,000 in Bahrain
• 1,000 in Yemen
• 4,000 in Egypt
• 29,000 in Lebanon
• 25,000 in Oman, which just joined the Arc of Tumult in North Africa/Middle East
• 89,000 in Qatar
• 1,000,000 in Saudi Arabia
• 100,000 in Kuwait
• 6,000 in Iraq
• 500 in Iran
• 30,000 in Israel
• 15,000 in Jordan
• 300,000 in the United Arab Emirates

But less than a dozen in the Vatican City, whose dicta on divorce, reproductive rights and health are negatively impacting the rights of women in the Philippines! We can’t even use remittances as an excuse for obeying the Vatican as there’s nothing coming from there.

I am now wondering whether, if overseas work contracts contained the right to settle and integrate in the receiving countries for overseas workers, OFWs would not be as hapless, would be engaged actually in the struggle to rid countries of despots, rather than remain on the sidelines, fearful of reprisals from both sides. - #

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Factoid

Despite a $77 billion GDP, 35% of the population of Libya lives below the poverty level. 

Poverty, as evinced in non-industrialized -- i.e., developing -- countries means having NO HOPE FOR A FUTURE.

Saudi Arabia oppositionists are calling for a Day of Rage with demands that include freedom for women.

Love it. 

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Le Deluge Reprised

Son of his father, Saif al-Islam Al-Gaddafi, who holds a Ph.D. from the London School of Economics, went public, saying that without his father, there would be civil war in Libya. 

As I said, it would sound so much better in French.   Or he could've tried it in British English.  Or paraphrased Duvalier's L'etat c'est moi

Ooops, I hope I remember that phrase correctly.

So chaos broke out -- precisely because his father refused to leave, creating the very nightmare his son says his father protects them from.

Suck on the teats of power and privilege too long and go mad -- ain't that a truth, in whatever institution, organization, agency one is?  -- ##

Thursday, February 03, 2011

Why They Remain in Power

The hated French king Louie XV said:  apres moi le deluge.  Hosni Mubarak says, "If I resign today, there will be chaos."

Ain't even original;  it was more elegant in French though equally untrue. 

Tiresome really, were it not for the memory of me flopping down on a Louie XV chair at Minnie Osmena's Park Avenue residence a long time ago.  Or was it Louie XIV? 

Hah!   --#



 

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

Dream Slayer in the City of Time

Hard to believe that Mubarak was already head of state when I reached Cairo more than a decade ago.

Hard to realize as well that despite all computer modeling programs, “scientific” methods of socio/political analysis, the wave of turmoil now arching through the Middle East, from Libya, Tunisia, Algeria, Jordan and Egypt was largely unanticipated. Hard to know how and where it will end but two things are palpable: overstaying in\at power destroys structures of governance and makes “orderly transitions” nearly impossible (Haiti is a prime example); and believing that only death can part one from power harms the very cause one espouses. Indeed, the Cause itself becomes subsumed to the issue of maintaining control and power.

I reached Cairo at the end of an inordinately long sojourn in the West. When I was awakened on my first day there by the 5 a.m. call to prayers blaring from loudspeakers in minarets all over the city, I realized how one dimensional my life had been. It was, I think, a factor in my return to Hatha/Ratha yoga practice.

It was here that a Palestinian publisher told me of how all these rich Arab women brought their children and nannies to a children's literature bookfair;  while the mothers sipped coffee, the nannies chose books for the children who spoke to them "in your language..."  All the nannies were Filipinas.  "Very soon," the publisher said, "Tagalog will be a power language."  I could only smile and say "it's a beautiful language," not adding fat chance of that happening, when we're experts at denigrating our own. 

Two persons I kind of knew were then under repressive attacks: the feminist Nawal El Saadawi, whom I was fortunate enough to have met at a European women’s conference, and the Nobel Literature laureate Naguib Mafouz, one of whose stories appeared in an anthology where one of mine (gasp!) was included. Nawal endured house arrests and death threats; Mafouz would be stabbed in the neck by fundamentalists in an assassination attempt.

Thus I was goggle-eyed in Cairo, trying to process as quickly as possible its many layers of history. Time was ascendant in the city – from the pyramids in the horizon to the Coptic cemetery of crumbing tombstones one stumbled upon to an 11th century breathtaking mosque where the attendant was kind enough to let loose with a chant to show off its acoustics. While buying souvenirs, I was asked where I was from and when I said Philippines, all the men (most shopkeepers were male) said, “yes, yes, we like Philippine women.” At which I asked what they thought of the city’s top imam saying that charity practiced and funded by the country’s top belly dancers was neither acceptable nor appropriate. Silence.

The Museum of Antiquity is impossible to describe; there was just so much wealth, not simply of gold and gems, but of art. I drooled over a pair of alabaster oil lamps, wanting to run my hand over them (not allowed) to see if a genie or two would appear. Through my half a day’s meanderings through the museum, the words from Bhagavad Gita looped through my mind: “I am Time, destroyer of worlds…” – a favorite quote since I was ten years old.

Hard to believe that in a city chockfull of relics of vanished powers, someone would believe that one could hold on forever to power.

The upshot is an accumulation of rage among people deprived of the right to their own vision. Because that is what dictators, power-hogs, self-centered cliques convinced that they alone know what’s good for a country, a nation, a people, do: they kill dreams.

And because dreams are based on hope, they kill hope as well.

It is the ultimate individualism. -- #

Monday, January 10, 2011

Split a Woman into Two

The sidewalks are clear, the snow has turned to mush and save for the cold that seems determined to dismember your body, joint by painful joint, little remains of the New York holiday snowstorm. I feel like the woman being sawed in half in those ubiquitous illusionist shows – which brings to mind the film The Black Swan which I saw in a Honolulu cinema house, one even slower Hawaii day, if that were at all possible. Talk about splitting a woman into two.


The movie left me ambivalent. I like Natalie Portman, since Star Wars and other films but I hated the story, was absolutely disgusted with its premise and kept thinking that perhaps viewed in another way, it could be an indictment of the masculinist narrative about passion and nice girls, and what it takes to be a great artist when you're female – i.e., from the male point of view, a woman had to be sexually “liberated” to be great. What a cliché, placing talent, dedication and discipline secondary to “losing control.” The end was expected: greatness kills nice girls.

That control came from the mother, rivalry from the female alternative dancer (another woman) and fate’s omen another dancer, aging and replaced by a younger one -- which together created a world of women extremely hostile to women, with women determined to do in one another for the chance to be the preferred “star” of a jerk of choreographer who had silver-haired into his function without judgment, his being a jerk excused because he was “brilliant,” his nature as a Svengali who destroys women masked.

The film left me distraught because of a recent encounter with another huge talent done in by the same social narrative and because I’d learned from reliable sources that a man’s wife had been saying I was trying to “sulot” (steal) her husband whom I hadn’t even seen in five years. The only response I could give was “if this were true, she’d be out in the cold by now.” 

Amazing how being a sexual outlaw is par for the course for a woman in the field of art – nay, it’s even encouraged – but a supposed death knell for a woman in politics. In the former, such a premise is a subject for discussion, the thorny issue of socially expected female role versus what is demanded by being an artist; in the latter, it’s only a bore. -- ##

Monday, December 27, 2010

Darkness Visible

Been spending time with a group of young women in Hawaii trying to unravel the thorny points of class, gender and sexuality;  of nationalism, regionalism and transnationalism;  of language and literature;  of what constitutes the politics of women in this age of globalization.  One asked what my writing process was -- and strangely enough, I'd been thinking about it -- for the long work specifically, since I tend to go on automatic with short pieces, sitting down and after hours of barely eating or sleeping, getting up only after the last punctuation. 

A long work often begins with an image, an idea, an event -- which becomes like a train ticket that I tend to place in a desk drawer somewhere in the writing room of my mind and try hard to forget -- until the day I can no longer procrastinate and open the drawer, pick up the ticket and embark on the journey toward another world, where I am another person.  I don't much like it, because it means going through the tribulations and stresses of a lifetime within a year or two;  and also because as I become the character and that world, my world, I resent intrusions from reality and become anti-social.

That is the process -- a journey through an unfamiliar and yet familiar universe;  where I am both main character and all characters at the same time and yet remain in total control of the evolution of events toward an end of which I have no inkling.

I've had great trouble with this last manuscript, because the real person keeps intruding between me and herself as character, returning me again and again to herself as a person versus herself as character, not understanding that my relationship is not with her but with herself as character, that I needed to deconstruct her, then reconstruct her, so that the angles of her being come out very sharply, acutely, rather than have circumstances grind them down to ordinary smoothness.  Her character may own me but she herself as a person does not.  I have absolutely neither desire nor need to have any personal relationship with her, once she has transferred her life to me.

How does one explain that to the subject of one's writings?

I am often tempted to snarl, "leave me alone -- I'm not interested in the present you but you as a sum total of your past."  Interested in what has been shaped, not in what is being shaped.  Not interested in your current crises but rather how these came about and what could possibly result from them -- mainly because every tale must have completion, even if that completion is also the beginning of another paradigm. 

In quantum physics, one sees what one is looking for only after it has gone. 

Recently, when faced by the difficulty of explaining such a conundrum to non-writers, I find myself hoisting my Nikon and taking photographs -- probably in an attempt how this freezing of the instant, the stopping of time, is so important to my writing process. 

Here's a photo I took on the night of the full moon, 21st December, from the 25th floor of a building in Honolulu.  I call it Darkness Visible.  Click on photo to supersize. 

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Two Di-Ba's

Wearing anting-anting (amulets)....


Damn, I'm beginning to look like my mother.  Ha!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Addendum

"...But first, we have to clarify who really are the victims," said President Benigno Aquino III, regarding compensation for victims of Marcos-era human rights violations. 

By admission of Marcos's own then Defense Minister, 100,000 people were arrested and imprisoned without trial;  they called it detention.

Less than 10,000 were plaintiffs in the Marcos tort case;  the Hawaii court's synchronized database is only 7,500. 

It's been 24 years and it's still not known who the victims are?  It didn't take that long to document the Holocaust victims who were in the millions. 

Don't hold your breath;  this is another 2+2=2+2, maintaining impunity alive.

Be outraged;  be very outraged.  -- ##

Response

Here's a response to the piece I wrote on the Marcos Tort Case:  http://www.gmanews.tv/story/206221/pnoy-vows-compensation-to-martial-law-victims

Let's see if 2+2 will be 4 this time. 

I'd like to be proven wrong on this one but I wouldn't hold my breath.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

2+2 Equals 2+2 Forever

The Texas Court approved a $10 million settlement of a case linked to the Marcos tort case -- i.e., about 10,000 victims sued the Marcos Estate for violations of human rights and were awarded $2 billion. It's been 24 years. Did two stories on this while on the crest of an overwhelming sadness; here's one: http://newsinfo.inquirer.net/inquirerheadlines/nation/view/20101117-303660/No-President-keen-on-helping-Marcos-victims.

Sadness came from realizing this was one more unending story of the archipelago -- kind of like Gulong ng Palad (Turn of Fate), a radio serial drama that went on forever. At some point, I think, patience becomes a vice.


So in a way, the mid-year US election results had some positive aspect, if taken as a manifestation of people getting fed up. Unfortunately, Pres. Obama seems to have misinterpreted the message and announced more "bipartisanship."

The message to me was simply: "we're tired of seeing government take care of the rich and powerful while the rest of us go into bankruptcy."

I for one would like to get bailed out from usurious credit card companies, overcharging cable-internet-phone companies, surcharges from my residential coop, etc.

I'd like to see Antartica before it melts.

And this issue of human rights violations committed by the Marcos Dictatorship resolved before the sea drowns the 7,100 islands.

Trust me, it will.  --  ##

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Is There A Civilians Day?

Marches, parades, bands, gun-salutes, white-glove salutes. 

Any recognition given to the civilians who died in wars, invasions, occupations, a hundred thousand armed conflicts?  The civilian dead likely number a hundred times the military dead.

As the Bob Dylan song goes, "how many times must cannonballs fly before they're forever banned?" 

The best way to honor Veterans, methinks, is to eliminate the causes of wars, invasions, occupations... 

I leave it to you to list such causes.