Visual

España y Filipinas Juan Luna

Photo Credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/diamonds_in_the_soles_of_her_shoes/545503457/sizes/o/in/set-72157600119021830/

I have been striving to find culture in Metro Manila because visually, it is dominated by malls and residential areas.  So for my birthday, I wanted to do something different and I decided to go to the Lopez Museum since I’ve never been there before, and I also found out that it exhibits Juan Luna’s painting España y Filipinas.  I never thought that I would love this painting so much, but it was exactly what I wanted to see from the Philippines.  It’s not even Juan Luna’s most famous painting, but it just captured the kind of attitude which I believe we all need — moving forward, looking onward.

I also thought I should check out Escolta Street in Manila because I learned of the attempts to revive its cultural significance.  One of the booths set up there sold postcards of houses in Manila with colonial architecture, and funds from their sales would go towards the rehabilitation of these houses.  I bought two which are shown below, and I forgot but I think they were P50 each.  Even though I didn’t contribute much, I am sharing this in the hopes that more and more people will support the attempts to restore Manila to its former glory.

Old Manila Architecture Restoration PostcardsIn my quest to find culture in Metro Manila, I also wanted to see another painting by another Filipino artist — Carlos “Botong” Francisco.  The painting I’m referring to is “Bayanihan” and it is located in the headquarters of the pharmaceutical company Unilab.  Unfortunately, it’s only open to employees.

That really sucks.  I’ll just have to settle for a digital printout that I can put into my Manila journal.

I believe that this struggle to see Philippine cultural aesthetics is one of the reasons why it is easy for foreign cultural influences to seep into the Filipino psyche.  Although, our history also shores up that process.

If beautiful aspects of Philippine culture were as ubiquitous in the Philippines as it should be, would Filipinos still prefer foreign culture to local?

Carlos Botong Francisco Mural Bayanihan Unilab

In my post No Place Like Manila, I shared that I only realized how beautiful Manila was by going to the National Library, and I also included images of the type which I had found in the library.  I found some more from the library website and I’m only showing one from the periodical Excelsior below.  When I have the time, I’ll be looking for more to show.

Excelsior April 10 1912 page 24

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* I will resume my blog next year…Happy Holiday Season!!!

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Indios Bravos

Louis Maurer The Great Royal Buffalo Hunt 1895The Spanish term for “wild/brave indians” was also used by Philippine national hero Jose Rizal and his friends for themselves, after having watched Buffalo Bill’s Wild West show in Paris in 1889.  Rizal and his companions were impressed by the superb horsemanship and the character of the Native American performers — and recognized their similar place in the world as colonial subjects.¹

The word “Indio” however, was derogatory, and its effects on our people have lasted long after the Spanish were gone.

So Rizal and his fellow “enlightened ones” living and studying in Europe referred to themselves as “Los Indios Bravos” to say to Filipinos: “Hey, we’re from the same race, and we can do whatever the Europeans can.”

And the most perfect example is the masterpiece below by another “Indio Bravo” — Filipino painter Juan Luna.

Spoliarium Juan Luna Exposición Nacional de Bellas Artes 1884  Madrid

Photo Credit: Marco Collado

To be honest, when I first learned about this painting called Spoliarium, referring to the chamber in the ancient Roman Colosseum where dead gladiators end up, I was not drawn to it because it is so dark — both literally and figuratively.  I only love it now because I’ve been learning the Classics of Ancient Greece & Rome.  And I believe it does reflect oppression at the hands of a superpower — which the colonized world can relate to.

The painting won the first gold medal (out of three) in the Exposición Nacional de Bellas Artes in 1884 in Madrid, while Félix Resurrección Hidalgo, another Filipino artist won the silver for Las virgenes Cristianas expuestas al populacho (The Christian virgins Exposed to the Populace).

As Ambeth R. Ocampo wrote, “they proved to the world that indios could, despite their supposed barbarian race, paint better than the Spaniards who colonized them…”

Mahatma Mohandas Gandhi textile workers Darwen Lancashire England September 26, 1931Photo Credit: http://flickr.com/photo_zoom.gne?id=639764555&size=l

Lastly, I want to highlight a true “brave Indian” — in every sense of the word — Mohandas “Mahatma” Gandhi.  To take on the world’s largest colonial power with nothing but one’s mind, body, and soul — brave indeed.

I wonder how courageous one can really be to have no firearm or bladed weapon and go against someone who has those in their possession?

That has often been the case for those people who have been subjugated by colonial powers.

But injustice occurs at the hands of any type of adversary, whether it’s from another race or within one’s own.

Therefore, courage is not a matter of race.

It’s a matter of showing what one is made of.

Sources:

¹Luis H. Francia, A History of the Philippines: From Indios Bravos to Filipinos, (New York: The Overlook Press, 2010), p. 11-12

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spoliarium

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/F%C3%A9lix_Resurrecci%C3%B3n_Hidalgo

http://en.wikipilipinas.org/index.php/Spoliarium

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mahatma_Gandhi

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White Man’s Burden

The White Man's BurdenWhen I first heard of this expression, I thought it was some general paternalistic phrase.  But when I found out that it also came from Rudyard Kipling’s poem encouraging the colonization of the Philippines by the United States, it kinda made my blood boil.  I’m only human after all.

Here’s how it goes:

Original title : “The White Man’s Burden: The United States and The Philippine Islands”

Take up the White Man’s burden, Send forth the best ye breed
Go bind your sons to exile, to serve your captives’ need;
To wait in heavy harness, On fluttered folk and wild–
Your new-caught, sullen peoples, Half-devil and half-child.

Take up the White Man’s burden, In patience to abide,
To veil the threat of terror And check the show of pride;
By open speech and simple, An hundred times made plain
To seek another’s profit, And work another’s gain.

Take up the White Man’s burden, The savage wars of peace–
Fill full the mouth of Famine And bid the sickness cease;
And when your goal is nearest The end for others sought,
Watch sloth and heathen Folly Bring all your hopes to nought.

Take up the White Man’s burden, No tawdry rule of kings,
But toil of serf and sweeper, The tale of common things.
The ports ye shall not enter, The roads ye shall not tread,
Go mark them with your living, And mark them with your dead.

Take up the White Man’s burden And reap his old reward:
The blame of those ye better, The hate of those ye guard–
The cry of hosts ye humour (Ah, slowly!) toward the light:–
“Why brought he us from bondage, Our loved Egyptian night?”

Take up the White Man’s burden, Ye dare not stoop to less–
Nor call too loud on Freedom To cloke your weariness;
By all ye cry or whisper, By all ye leave or do,
The silent, sullen peoples Shall weigh your gods and you.

Take up the White Man’s burden, Have done with childish days–
The lightly proferred laurel, The easy, ungrudged praise.
Comes now, to search your manhood, through all the thankless years
Cold, edged with dear-bought wisdom, The judgment of your peers!

Even if there were some colonizers that did help in some way, the colonized world is still plagued by stymieing attitudes and social issues brought on by colonial oppression.

How do we get rid of those?

As Scottish philosopher Adam Smith puts it:

The savage injustice of the Europeans rendered an event, which ought to have been beneficial to all, ruinous and destructive to several of those unfortunate countries.

That being said, the first way we can help ourselves is to acknowledge that investment is essential.

The population, especially that of the lower classes, has multiplied to such an extent that it is no longer sufficient for nationally-owned industries to support them.

It is up to us to showcase our strengths primarily to draw investors to the country to provide substantial employment.  Doesn’t having so many disadvantaged people lead to even bigger problems?

When that’s being taken care of, we can then proceed to the more complex dilemmas because lesser people would be struggling.

Manila shanties squatters informal settlers poor Photo Credit: Mike Gonzalez (TheCoffee)

At the same time, the educational system must evolve in order to transcend obstacles that our world is currently facing.  Educational policy should encourage self-learning, especially of works from Classical Greece & Rome and the Enlightenment.

These are for everyone regardless of race, as this knowledge cannot be acquired by belonging to a particular race.

As I commented before about Kipling’s poem — maybe there were colonizers that improved the condition of some native peoples.  But it didn’t acknowledge the European peoples’ own turmoil.  As if Europeans didn’t have countless wars and bloodshed over religion, land, ethnicity, etc. — Gimme a break.

It had to take an enlightened, non-religious soldier from the Mediterranean island of Corsica to conquer almost all of Europe to abolish feudalism, and spread the reforms of the French Revolution.

So was it ever really a case of one race uplifting others?

No.  It has always been the case of those who continually seek the light of knowledge to help others do the same.

Napoleon Battle of Austerlitz December 2, 1805 François GérardPhoto Credit: L’Histoire par l’image [1], digital version produced by Agence photographique de la Réunion des musées nationaux [2]

Source:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_White_Man%27s_Burden

https://www.marxists.org/reference/archive/smith-adam/works/wealth-of-nations/

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Foreign Exchange

Hongs Guangzhou Canton Thirteen FactoriesPhoto Credit: http://ocw.mit.edu/ans7870/21f/21f.027/rise_fall_canton_04/gallery_places/pages/cwC_1805_E78680_Flags.htm

Before 1842, Canton (Guangzhou) was the only port in China open to foreigners.

After losing the Opium/Trade War to the British, the Chinese government finally gave in to British demands, conceding the right to trade in five port cities.

I see no point in arguing whether or not that was justified — because when a foreign country has greater military prowess, it wouldn’t be difficult to overpower or impose on others.

Instead, I will quote philosopher and father of economics Adam Smith regarding the discoveries of America and the passage to Asia:

At the particular time when these discoveries were made, the superiority of force happened to be so great on the side of the Europeans that they were enabled to commit with impunity every sort of injustice in those remote countries.  Hereafter, perhaps, the natives of those countries may grow stronger, or those of Europe may grow weaker, and the inhabitants of all the different quarters of the world may arrive at that equality of courage and force which, by inspiring mutual fear, can alone overawe the injustice of independent nations into some sort of respect for the rights of one another.  But nothing seems more likely to establish this equality of force than that mutual communication of knowledge and of all sorts of improvements which an extensive commerce from all countries to all countries naturally, or rather necessarily, carries along with it.

Another form of equality occurs because as the costs of labor increase, foreign investors start to look at countries which could be more profitable…until all countries have been improved because of investment.

Now, even if foreign investors may wish to leave as a result of rising labor costs, allowing them the right to fully own foreign firms can make them stay, as with the case of Singapore.

And then, innovation can also get investors to stay (e.g. Silicon Valley).

Thus, the human potential is further explored.

Shenzhen stock exchange center construction cranesPhoto Credit: Xublake

But, if we were to have a retaliatory or resentful mindset, can we flourish as a people and as a nation?

Now that Iran has agreed to halt uranium-enrichment beyond 5%, signed November 24, 2013 as the Joint Plan of Action also known as the Geneva Interim Agreement, economic sanctions have relaxed on the country and foreign firms are lining up to get their foot in the door to do business with a nation dubbed an international pariah.

Surely this is preferable to the instability that characterizes the Middle East of the present era.

If Iran can take the lead on improving the country through economic investment, it could become a power for good in the region, the same way it was for Islam when Persian culture, which was already 1,500 years old at the time, fused with that of the Arabs.

Iran Polandball Comic Inflation Economy Exchange Rate

I also want to refer to my post on Foreign Investors, because in it I qualified which type of investment is more beneficial.  China has proven how the manufacturing sector produces substantial employment, strengthens the economy, and reduces poverty.  But foreign investment into the primary sector can be limited because of its exploitative nature as it relies on the extraction of natural resources.

That is the reason why developing countries rich in natural resources become wary of foreign encroachment.  But if we focus more on the secondary sector and not the primary, we can avoid our demise and benefit from:

“…that mutual communication of knowledge and of all sorts of improvements which an extensive commerce from all countries to all countries naturally, or rather necessarily, carries along with it…”

Sale of Shares Factories Privatization IranPhoto Credit: Farian Sabahi

Sources:

Perry, Marvin. A History of the World. Boston, MA: Houghton-Mifflin Co., 1988

https://www.marxists.org/reference/archive/smith-adam/works/wealth-of-nations/

http://www.state.gov/e/eb/rls/othr/ics/2011/157355.htm

http://www.rferl.org/content/iran-trade-business-reaction-sanctions-lifted-nuclear/25236337.html

http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2014-08-17/iran-lures-investors-seeing-nuclear-deal-ending-sanctions.html

http://www.cnbc.com/id/100599893#.

http://www.theglobeandmail.com/report-on-business/rob-magazine/why-the-developed-world-is-eager-to-do-business-in-iran/article15593082/

http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/11/29/us-iran-companies-opening-idUSBRE9AS08T20131129

http://seekingalpha.com/article/2285563-billions-of-dollars-will-soon-flow-into-iran

http://blogs.wsj.com/middleeast/2014/03/12/post-sanctions-iran-could-be-a-turkey-size-win-for-investors/

Abercrombie, Thomas J. “The Sword and the Sermon: An American Moslem Explores the Arab Past”. National Geographic, July 1972, pp. 3-44

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Politics

New Zealand Observer Political cartoon

Photo Credit: The New Zealand Observer, work initialled “BLO”

In Book III Chapter 9 of Politics, Aristotle concludes that:

Political society exists for the sake of noble actions.

But is this what we think of when we hear the word “politics”?

If it isn’t, the reason is found in Book V of Plato’s The Republic:

Until philosophers rule as kings in cities or those who are now kings and leading men genuinely and adequately philosophize, that is, until political power and philosophy entirely coincide, while the many natures who at present pursue either one exclusively are forcibly prevented from doing so, cities will have no rest from evils, Glaucon, nor, I think will the human race.

That is why the human race has no rest from evils.

But in The Republic, Socrates’ idea of dividing society into three classes (producers, guardians, and rulers) ensuring that philosopher-kings lead, liberating us from the foibles that traditional politicians have, is just too rigid  — which would explain why it’s never been tried.

I believe there is a way for humanity to rest from its evils, and I will explain this next through the rise of Japan as a nation.

Roman Forum Comitium

Photo Credit: From the book The Roman Forum: a topographical study By Francis Morgan Nichols 1877

On April 7, 1868 the Charter Oath (五箇条の御誓文), which outlined the aims of the Meiji government of Japan, was decreed.

The Oath consists of five clauses:

By this oath, we set up as our aim the establishment of the national wealth on a broad basis and the framing of a constitution and laws.

  1. Deliberative assemblies shall be widely established and all matters decided by open discussion.

  2. All classes, high and low, shall be united in vigorously carrying out the administration of affairs of state.

  3. The common people, no less than the civil and military officials, shall all be allowed to pursue their own calling so that there may be no discontent.

  4. Evil customs of the past shall be broken off and everything based upon the just laws of Nature.

  5. Knowledge shall be sought throughout the world so as to strengthen the foundation of imperial rule.

This set the legal stage for Japan’s rapid, seamless modernization, and “can be considered the first constitution of modern Japan.”

If we can have a constitution that also legislates that knowledge be sought, it would aid our leaders to the point that Enlightenment would rule, and not an administration.

As in the woodblock print below, the Meiji Emperor merely oversees the assembly, symbolizing the rule of enlightenment — as that is exactly what Meiji () means.

Yōshū Chikanobu House of Peers Meiji era woodblock print

Photo Credit: http://www.harashobo.com/english/

What knowledge should be sought in our time?:

Knowledge should be sought regarding the equitable management, acquisition, and creation of natural resources in relation to the population of the planet.

Knowledge should be sought to eliminate environmental waste and pollution, and respond to climate change and its effects.

Knowledge should be sought regarding the best method to reduce poverty and to provide employment through investment.

Knowledge should be sought regarding the best educational system that would lead to humanity’s well-being or eudaimonia (εὐδαιμονία).

Those are just a few examples.

So, with all that humanity has been given, and the tools that have been developed, is the world’s self-destruction really inevitable?

Naka-ku, Hiroshima Japanese Garden Moon Bridge Shukkeien

Sources:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charter_Oath

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*I will be on hiatus after this post, but there is more to be written…

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Democracy

Jesse Washington Lynch Mob

Photo Credit: Fred Gildersleeve (1881-1958)

Why is democracy the ideal form of government?:

Because otherwise — to use the philosopher Montesquieu’s phrase from The Spirit of Laws — “the life and liberty of the subject would be exposed to arbitrary control.” (Montesquieu 152)

But democracy is just the form of government.

What is/are the goal(s) of government for society?  And do democracies ensure a greater likelihood of success in achieving these goals?

If a country is struggling with poverty or strife, is having this form of government what will solve those issues?

Since there are people who study those concerns, does a democracy guarantee that the government will listen to those experts, or aren’t we still subject to the whims of the government-elect?

Here is another challenge of democracy in Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s The Social Contract:

Suppose the state is made up of ten thousand citizens.  The sovereign can only be considered collectively and as a body, but every member as a subject has to be considered as an individual.  Thus the sovereign is to the subject as ten thousand is to one, that is to say, each single member of the state has as his own share only a ten-thousandth part of the sovereign authority, although he submits entirely to it.  Now if the people is increased to a hundred thousand men, the position of each subject is unaltered, for each bears equally with the rest the whole empire of the laws, while as sovereign his share of the suffrage is reduced to one hundred-thousandth, so that he has ten times less influence in the formulation of the laws.  Hence, while the subject remains always one single individual, the ratio of sovereign to subject increases according to the number of citizens.  Whence it follows that the more the state is enlarged, the more freedom is diminished.

(Rousseau 67)

While I wouldn’t go as far as to say, “the more freedom is diminished”, I can certainly feel my lack of influence in the formulation of laws.

That’s why I believe that direct democracy is the only true democracy.

Basel Switzerland RathausEven if most democracies are representative, we should encourage town meetings as a form of direct democratic rule.

Why?

Because this allows citizens to be able to exercise their minds regarding legislation and policy, even if only on a community level, and fosters community involvement.

Why is it that when we participate only by electing officials, there are still so many problems regarding the nation?

Because we have left the thinking up to our representatives while we relieve ourselves of that duty.  And then when they fail we blame them for our problems.

I have been writing about educational and economic reform instead of doing that, but still there is that “lack of influence in the formulation of laws”.

So, while democracy may be the ideal form of government, we should also try to practice the ideal democracy.

And isn’t the ideal democracy one ruled by reason, enlightenment, and virtue?

Allegory of ReasonPhoto Credit: Vitold Muratov

Sources:

Baron de Montesquieu, Charles de Secondat. The Spirit of Laws. New York: Prometheus Books, 1900

Rousseau, Jean-Jacques. The Social Contract. USA: Penguin Books, 2006

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Read. To be Happy

Reading Campaign Propaganda PosterPhoto Credit: Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division, Washington, D.C. 20540 USA

While I was in elementary school, I do remember my school having a campaign and posters to promote reading.  But I didn’t become passionate about reading until 5 years ago.

I believe that it’s because that campaign was only about reading and not about one’s interests.  That should not be missing from the campaign.

I also believe that now, we need a reading campaign like the war propaganda poster above.  If there should be propaganda about anything, it should be about reading.

The posters should be in all languages and appealing to look at, using cool graphic design and even, let’s say — fashion models.

Penguin Classics

I also wanted to share images of my books, which is the reason for my lack of savings — but highly appropriate because they went into things of value.

This page from my copy of Julius Caesar’s The Conquest of Gaul published by Penguin Books contains Pearson‘s tagline which is inspiring.

The Modern Library Classics Aristotle Works

Next is my copy of Aristotle’s works which I got at a discount because of its condition — but the contents are intact so it was a good deal.  I would have preferred to have more copies of Aristotle’s works by Oxford or Penguin Classics but having most of Aristotle’s works in one book is very convenient.

Studying in the Philippines, I have acquired the habit of using plastic covers for my books as added protection — which can be seen in the picture.  It is not tacky like plastic-covered furniture and can improve the look of secondhand books.

The used book below was purchased for 40 Philippine pesos, which is more or less 1 US dollar.  For that I got Christian, Buddhist and Hindu philosophy as well as George Berkeley and David Hume.

Random House ThinkersBelow is one of my favorite books that I bought.  The cover design is beautiful and the Fraktur is embossed.

German Enlightenment Immanuel Kant Penguin Books Great Ideas

I also wanted to show the cover design below because the crux of the essay itself is on the cover — all the more emphasizing the brevity of life.

Seneca On the Shortness of Life Penguin Books Great IdeasThese are just a few of the books I could have started reading in third year of high school.  I don’t know why during that time, I never listened to Cher from the movie Clueless when she had Tai read one non-school book a week.  If I did, I would have known more possibilities than I did before.

Speaking of possibilities, this is from my favorite Western novel Tucker by Louis L’Amour:

You can read can’t you?  If you can read, you can learn.  You don’t have to go to school to get an education, although it is the best way for most of us, and anyway, all school can give you is the outline of the picture.  You have to fill in the blank places yourself, later.

Again, that’s from a book I purchased for 40 Philippine pesos.

Louis L'Amour Tucker (2)Those are just a few reasons books make me happy.

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