Archive | May, 2012

Pro-Life’s Pro Lies: A glimpse into the ANG PRO LIFE hearing

You may have heard about Pro-Life Philippines’ recent filing of their new congressional party list, ANG PRO LIFE. Perhaps you wondered how this camp, with high profile supporters like Golez, Pacquiao, Sotto, and Enrile, who have managed to delay reproductive health legislation for more than a decade, could realistically be called ‘underrepresented’ (a basic requirement for establishing a party list group). Maybe you were even concerned about how the running of this obviously religious group would violate the separation of church and state under our Constitution.

Apparently, you have nothing to worry about! But don’t take it from me, take it straight from the lips of Pro-Life president Eric Manalang himself. After briefly joining the Catholics4RH in their protest outside COMELEC this morning, myself and a couple other Filipino Freethinkers attended the actual party list hearing for ANG PROLIFE. Here is a transcript of Mr. Manalang’s (EM) first few minutes on the witness stand after being sworn in under oath, with the Hon. Lucinito Tagle and the Hon. Elias Yusoph serving as presiding justices (PJ).

PJ: What sector do you intend to represent with this party list of yours?

EM: This sector intends to represent the structure of families in the Philippines and the youth that belong to them, and more particularly the OFW families who are the most dysfunctional part of the family structure of Philippines, by the very nature of them, about 10 million of them having their parents or spouses abroad, and this is the sector we wish to represent as they are not yet represented.

PJ: Is it true that you are related to any religious group?

EM: I’m a Catholic of course and I won’t deny it, though they (nodding to the Catholics4RH contingent across the room) claim they’re also Catholics, but I would say I’m not part of CBCP or any form of formal Catholic brand organization.

PJ: What laws do you intend to propose to preserve the family?

EM: We intend to have the landmark law, the Magna Carta for Families, which in essence would be looking at the marginalized groups or dysfunctional families and put a safety net so this issue of having absence of fathers and mothers or children for that matter can be resolved by being able to put in legislation. As an example, connectivity between the OFW families and their loved ones abroad is one issue that has not been resolved because it’s the lack of communication that creates much of the dysfunction.

PJ: What is the relation of this law you intend to present to the RH bill?

EM: Uh, there’s no direct effect on the RH bill, your honor, because this law is really going to be able to provide safety nets for these families that are dysfunctional and marginalized.

There you have it! I’m not sure if ‘OFW’ is the ‘O’ in ‘ANG PRO LIFE,’ but he goes on to mention OFWs several times, so it must be in there somewhere! I suppose OFWs should rejoice in having strangers who care so much about them.

Let’s take a look at exactly how ANG PRO LIFE intends to help the OFWs by looking at their official description found on their website, cbcpforlife.com (which, of course, must have NOTHING to do with the actual CBCP, because Eric Manalang just stated under oath that he wasn’t associated with them)!

“…Lobbying for the protection of LIFE and the Family in all its aspects and

incidents, before congressional committees and public offices where they

confront laws and policies that destroy and undermine the Pro-Life and Pro-

Family values enshrined in the 1987 Constitution (such as continuing attempts to

enshrine a Culture of Death in the Philippines through bills on divorce,

euthanasia, abortion, birth control, reproductive rights, population control,

and homosexuality). We believe and affirm that ANG PROLIFE will be the first and

only party list organization instituted with the primary objective and mission

to Reclaim the Culture of Life in the Philippines through direct participation

in the legislative branch of government, beginning with the forthcoming

Elections in 2013.”

Apparently, the presiding justices noticed this minor inconsistency and tried to help Manalang out of committing perjury, directly asking him about his group’s official statement. At this point, Manalang suddenly seemed to remember that yes, ANG PROLIFE would be getting around to that stuff as well. After a heated exchange wherein Justice Yusoph argued with Manalang about the merits of divorce legislation (which Manalang admitted to being against and which Yusoph was vehemently for), the two eventually seemed to reach middle ground over a joyful if somewhat incoherent round of gay-bashing.

Justice Yusoph: God created male or female, and he never created ‘ladlad’. That’s why the Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed by God, because of the presence of ‘ladlad’.

EM: We agree to that, your honor, that God is perfect. He would not create imperfection. A man is a man, a woman is a woman.

Justice Yusoph: Precisely. The role of a man should not be taken also by woman. Because if the role of woman is taken by the role of a…by you, a man, there is a total eclipse, am I right?

EM: (smiling) You’re right your honor.

Justice Yusoph: And if there is total eclipse, there is death!

EM: Correct, your honor! That’s darkness!

There’s a lot more than I care to transcribe here, but feel free to go over our upcoming video for how the conversation arrived there. Basically Eric Manalang was stating yet again how the RH Bill is defective because it is based on statistics from organizations that have no credibility, like, you know, the United Nations, and anyway they’re all foreign groups with foreign ideas like homosexuality that is all part of the grand US conspiracy to depopulate the Philippines because Kissinger.

It all ended with the spectacle of Atty. James Imbong (who must not at all be related to CBCP’s Atty. Jo Imbong because, again, Manalang has stated that they have no association with them) taking the witness stand, being questioned by himself as legal counsel.

All in all… seems legit.

As it would be a shame to take their most comforting words out of context, it being a public hearing, we made sure to film ANG PROLIFE/OFWs FTW party lists’ time on the stand in its entirety, and will be posting it on the site soon.

Posted in Advocacy, Personal, Politics, Religion, RH Bill, Secularism, Society7 Comments

5 Tips for Getting Your Piece Published on the FF Website

As editor-in-chief of the Filipino Freethinkers’ website, I go through a number of contributions from mainstays and newbies alike, and with my trusty team of pedants (better known as the FF editorial board) determine which pieces get published, and which do not.

So, if you aspire to get an essay of yours published on our site, or hope to have more of your pieces accepted on a regular basis, you should know that each article should be crisp, concise, and altogether COMMUNICATIVE — without compromising your voice as a writer, of course. You have to find the sweet spot between intelligent and accessible. You have to inform or opine with clarity and substance. You have to buy us lunch. But really, your piece has to speak, not mumble or, worse, ramble. But how exactly do you pull that off? Here are five tips that can get us editors smiling:

1) Essay writing 101: The first part of the article should be expository, the next part of the article should be explanatory, and the last part of the article should be concludatory — which is not a word, but you should catch my drift.

2) Use words because they are necessary, because they most clearly capture what you are trying to say, because they are comprehensible — not because they make you sound like Mr. Post-Grad Fancypants. For instance, instead of using the word “meretricious,” use “gaudy” or “phony” or “trashy” instead. “Meretricious” is just…meretricious.

3) Avoid making asides. Stick to your point. Anecdotes should be directly related to your topic. And, of course, have a clear-cut thesis statement. As much as stream-of-consciousness has become an accepted literary form, it is not the best thing for our site. Freethinking is the opposite of clouding up your mind. A reader, then, should finish your article clearly knowing your main point.

4) Use concrete examples. Don’t touch on abstract concepts without providing concrete imagery. We would like to think that people are learned enough to know immediately what we’re talking about, but alas, who the fuck are we kidding.

5) Creativity is da bomb! However, we are not looking for the next Finnegan’s Wake. Your creativity must serve a purpose beyond the masturbatory. Tell a short story, whip up some satire, put out a screenplay, but make sure you can reach a fairly broad audience. The site serves to help freethinking writers communicate to a greater number of people. If you’re writing just for the half-drunk Cubao X crowd, please stay in Mogwai.

And there you have it. If you are able to submit an article that subscribes to the above tips, then congratulations — there is a much bigger chance that it will get published. So, just keep ’em contributions coming! Email them to this address, and the editorial board will get to business right away. And just to be clear, we would like pizza for lunch.

Posted in Organization0 Comments

A Message for Interested FF Members and Affiliates

Community is the lifeblood of Filipino Freethinkers. One of the most common things new members say to us is that they never knew there were others like them. It is undeniable that in the Philippines, non-believers are marginalized and experience disproportionate representation in the public sphere. However, even in their private circles, freethinkers experience discrimination and familial strife because of their beliefs or lack thereof. We aim to provide a venue where freethinkers have a voice and have the opportunity to have fellowship with other freethinkers and to know that they are not alone.

Currently, we have affiliates, regional and campus, in the following places:

We have informal FF groups comprised of students from the following campuses

We are always looking to expand and build more regional and campus chapters. Parties interested in establishing new affiliates must be approved first following the guidelines according to their category, whether campus or regional. Please see the appropriate guideline for more information.

 

This is a republishing of the Affiliation Guidelines posted above for the purposes of public knowledge. This posting may eventually go outdated without notice. Please check the affiliation guidelines posted above for the up to date listing of our affiliates and guidelines.

Please note that if a group claiming to be Filipino Freethinkers is not listed here, then we are not affiliated with them.

Posted in Organization0 Comments

Pinoy Pride: Where I’m from, Everyone’s a Racist

Jessica Sanchez recently lost on American Idol, a talent show, ultimately decided by viewer voting. But by the way many Filipinos reacted to the results, you’d think it was a presidential election. Few accepted Jessica’s defeat, many giving Jessica — and themselves — the consolation prize of believing that while Phillip Phillips was the American Idol, Jessica Sanchez was the World Idol. Some went as far as asking for a recount.

But within the range of reactions, I found one particularly interesting. The argument goes that Phillip Phillips only won because he was American — and the White Guy With Guitar always wins — and that if Jessica were American, too, she would win because she obviously had more talent. And wasn’t American Idol above all a contest of talent? Wasn’t it supposed to avoid becoming a contest about race? If so, wouldn’t this count as racism? Ironically, these are the questions many of Jessica’s fans — and those who subscribe to Pinoy Pride — need to ask themselves.

On the face of it, Pinoy Pride — the kind that would champion Jessica Sanchez and Manny Pacquiao and Charice Pempengco because they’re Filipino — is harmless. Being Filipino is just one of the arbitrary traits that people use to pick their favorites, something that makes it easier to identify with and relate to one person, one out of many others who have less to do with them. And it’s not like race (or for that matter, ethnicity) is the only thing that makes a fan a fan. Jessica Sanchez is an awesome singer, and no one can throw a million punches like Manny Pacquiao.

But such sentiments are not what make Pinoy Pride. I’m a fan of Manny Pacquiao’s boxing myself, and so are many of my friends. But when his last match with Marquez went his way even though it looked like a definite defeat, his being Filipino didn’t keep us from thinking that he unfairly got the decision because of his champion status.

So how can we tell whether someone has Pinoy Pride? Two related logical fallacies are dead giveaways: hasty generalization and confirmation bias. When you say that Filipino boxers and singers are unusually talented because there are people like Sanchez and Pacquiao, you are taking an observation of an individual of a group and making a conclusion about everyone from that group. Because Manny Pacquiao is a good boxer, all Filipinos boxers are good. This is hasty generalization.

Such categorical (all or nothing) statements are easy enough to refute because all you have to do is find a single example to disprove the claim. There are many mediocre boxers and singers but these examples are easily forgotten (consciously or unconsciously) or not noticed at all. Only the examples that would prove the preferred claim are remembered. This is called confirmation bias.

Again, Pinoy Pride when applied to sports or talent shows seems harmless on the surface. But if left unexamined and uncorrected, this kind of thinking fosters negative thinking habits: lazy thinking at best, blatant racism at worst. There are many such statements that display Pinoy Pride, but I’ll use one that has bugged me since the first time I saw it: “Where I’m from, Everyone’s a Hero.” To this day I am annoyed at the patent stupidity of the statement, and perplexed that even smart people subscribe to it.

It sounds nice and nationalistic. But is it true? It says that in the Philippines there are only heroes — no villains. Everyone deserves to be emulated and admired. Sure, there are many private individuals, public servants, and even celebrities we can consider heroic. But everyone? Even the murderers, rapists, and murderer-rapists? Even the corrupt public officials who give us the reputation of being the most corrupt country in Asia? Even the Ampatuans who allegedly killed their political rivals and innocent journalists in the Maguindanao massacre?

Again, categorical statements are easy to disprove. But in this case, Everyone’s a Hero is not just inaccurate, it’s a blatant lie. For starters, count the people in the Philippines you truly consider heroic. I’ll assume that your standards are relatively low and that you’re patient enough to count up to 1000. If the Philippines had 100 million people (without an RH law, this will be very soon), heroes count for only 0.001% of the population. So it’s actually more truthful to say that “Where I come from, almost no one is a hero.”

Everyone’s a Hero can only be true if you argue that a hero is someone who is located in the Philippines. Then why don’t we make that our tourism slogan? Everyone wants to be a hero, right? “You’re more heroic in the Philippines.” But kidding aside, this kind of thinking trivializes heroism, disrespecting the legacy of true heroes like Jose Rizal, Andres Bonifacio, the Katipunan, and the many modern day heroes who truly deserve the title.

But Pinoy Pride doesn’t just ignore statistics and trivialize heroism. It gets worse. Some people think being Filipino (not just being in the Philippines) is worth being proud of. This makes it easy for them to swallow such statements as Everyone’s a Hero. But in the same way that Pinoy Pride hides contradictory examples — confirmation bias — so too does it hide necessary implications that a person wouldn’t normally make. That is, people who make Pinoy Pride statements only consider their positive implications, completely ignoring their negative ones. (Maybe this can be called implication bias.)

Let’s examine Everyone’s a Hero. When you say that all Filipinos are heroes, you are making a positive statement about Filipinos. But what are you saying about those who are not Filipino? If your answer is, “Well, they’re heroes, too, I guess,” then the statement loses its meaning. If people, whatever country they’re from, are all heroes, why make the statement at all? The statement either has no informational value, or it implies something that you’d rather ignore: “Where you’re not from, not everyone is a hero.”

This could be taken to mean that “only some are heroes” on one end to “there are no heroes” in the other. The point is that when it comes to having heroes, the Philippines is superior. And in the end, this is what Pinoy Pride is about: the inherent superiority of someone for the simple reason that they belong to a particular race or ethnicity. This is nothing new, of course. Almost 80 years ago, this nationalistic way of thinking was fashionable in Germany.

Posted in Personal, Society5 Comments

Filipinos Demand Public Apology for Their Skin Color

Filipinos all across the globe have expressed disgust at a statement made by British stand-up comedian Josh Kayden during his recent show entitled “Callous” in Las Vegas.

Kayden was purported to have said the following during one of his acts:

But wouldn’t it be awesome if you breed a chink with a redskin and got an orange kid? And after having that kid breed with a nigger, you just might end up with something brown, kinda like a Filipino!

“That Filipinos are a shade of brown is an incredibly racist and insensitive thing to imply,” according to Rep. Sergio Palmones. “If anything, Filipinos are much closer to crackers in terms of complexion.”

“I wish he would stop saying those horrible things about Filipinos. It’s really not nice. I mean, what harm have we ever done to him?” says Francis Orpua, the Chairman of the Commission on Apology Justice for Offensive Tweets (CAJOT). CAJOT is currently working on issuing an apology subpoena. To send it to Kayden, they are working in conjunction with the Philippine Postal Service, which says that Kayden should expect the subpoena in 572 working days.

According to Orpua, should Kayden fail to issue a formal non-sarcastic apology in a timely manner, CAJOT will be forced to call upon the Philippine Navy to breach his home in Bristol and ask him for an apology in person at gunpoint.

In an act of outright defiance, Kayden published the offensive lines in two separate tweets last night, triggering a wave of angry responses which include the following:

 

As of publishing time, #RacistBritard was still trending on Twitter.

Kayden recently responded to some of the backlash, saying “Nigga please. Wesley Snipes ain’t got nothin’ on my black skin.”

 

 

Posted in Humor, Satire, Society4 Comments

Corona’s Assberg


Corona’s Assets Iceberg


 

Posted in Humor, Personal, Politics6 Comments

The Spirit of the SALN: Why Corona Should be Convicted

The prosecution has rested its case, but were they right? When Corona admitted to having undisclosed dollar accounts, the prosecution decided that no further cross-examination was needed.

But Corona thinks he has the perfect defense. Although the Statement of Assets, Liabilities, and Networth (SALN) requires disclosure of all assets, the Foreign Currency Deposits Act (FCDA) states that dollar accounts need not be disclosed. The FCDA states it explicitly, and by adhering only to what is literally stated, Corona has chosen to obey the letter of the law.

The SALN, however implicitly states that all accounts need to be disclosed, and although it’s not explicitly stated, the spirit of the SALN implies that even dollar accounts must be declared.

But what is the spirit of the SALN? The basic idea is that if public officials declare their assets every year, it would be possible to learn how much they’re making from being in public office. If it exceeds the income expected of a person in their position, the excess can be interpreted as potential corruption, warranting further investigation.

For the SALN to fulfill its purpose, it is obvious that both peso and dollar assets must be declared: a corrupt politician who wants to hide ill-gotten wealth *could* and would use dollar accounts if these were indeed exempted from declaration.

I emphasized “could” because having undisclosed dollar accounts does not necessarily mean that a politician has ill-gotten wealth. It is possible for a politician to have undisclosed accounts — both peso and dollar — but still be clean (all their wealth is made honestly).

But the law is blind — it does not assume good intentions. That is, laws that are made to prevent crime do not make exceptions for the innocent — it applies equally to all.

Consider the following. It is illegal to board airplanes with explosives. This is because an explosive can be used to perform other illegal acts which is infinitely more harmful: taking the passengers hostage and potentially killing them all. Note that the bringing of explosives aboard the plane by itself is not harmful at all.

Hypothetically, a genius inventor could create a bomb that would avoid detection, take it on the plane, and fly to his lab in another country to continue development on his invention. Not a single passenger got hurt. But does that mean the inventor did not do anything illegal? No. He broke the law and deserves to be punished.

But he didn’t hurt anyone, right? Would it be better then if we modify the law so that passengers who promise to behave are allowed to board with bombs? Definitely not. Because the mere potential that a person *could* use the bomb for the more harmful act (detonation) is worth making the act of boarding with bombs illegal itself.

It becomes clear then why dollar accounts are not exempted by the SALN. In our analogy, dollar accounts are the undetectable bomb. And although having an undeclared account is by itself harmless, those who wrote the SALN law thought that non-declaration should be in itself an offense because it could be used to hide corruption.

As far as the prosecution is concerned, the legality of how Corona accumulated his wealth is no longer the issue. What’s at stake is whether he violated the spirit of the SALN. And I agree with the prosecution that of this he is guilty.

The most common argument used by Corona’s supporters is that he’s not the only one at fault. The Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism has found that President Noynoy and several cabinet members are potentially guilty of violating the SALN. But even if it is a common violation, it is still a violation, and every one of them who can be proven guilty should also receive the proper punishment.

This, however, does not mean they should all be punished at the same time. It’s Corona’s case that’s being heard, and it’s him that we should focus on. Punishing him for violating the SALN does not mean we can no longer go after other violators. On the contrary, punishing Corona will set a precedent that will be applied to all the other violators. If the senator-judges ignore the spirit of the SALN and acquit Corona, it will mean that Corona’s hypocritical critics are innocent as well.

I don’t think anyone is against fighting corruption. The intent of those who are defending Corona because of the hypocrisy of his accusers — and those who were asking other Congressmen to sign the conditional waiver — is a noble one. But it is misguided and fallacious (for starters see the tu quoque and perfect solution fallacies).

Let’s convict Corona first, send the message that we won’t accept circumvention of the law, and then go after all other public servants who may (or may not) be hiding ill-gotten wealth in illegally undisclosed accounts.

___

These are my opinions. Filipino Freethinkers does not have an official position on this issue.

Posted in Personal, Politics3 Comments

Pinoys Await Results of America’s Next Top Singer Ethnicity Test

Manila, Philippines — After the heartbreaking loss of Jessica Sanchez to another white guy with guitar in American Idol, proud Pinoys are pinning their hopes on one of the two finalists of America’s Next Top Singer (ANTS). But there’s a catch: they don’t know which one.

Both Jasmine Lopez and Evelyn Santos have been claiming in recent interviews to be part Filipino, raising the hopes of millions of Filipinos who watch ANTS on cable and via livestreaming websites.

But critics have accused both finalists of only claiming to be Filipino to get the Pinoy block vote, which has significantly helped the chances of Jessica Sanchez in AI despite her loss.

The controversy led popular online community Definitely Pinoy to conduct its own investigation into the ethnicity of Jasmine and Evelyn. “We need someone to be proud of,” said John dela Cruz, founder of Definitely Pinoy. “But first we have to verify which one of them is . . . definitely Pinoy.”

Jasmine and Evelyn have been subjected to a battery of scientific ancestry and ethnicity tests, giving DNA samples and taking various standardized Cosmo magazine quizzes. We got quick interviews from both finalists before they proceeded to their Karaoke challenge, Balut-eating contest, Tinikling face-off, and other exhaustive tests they’ll go through in the Chicago Center for Racial Profiling.

“I’m proud po to be Pinoy po.” Jasmine said to the applause of her fans. Jasmine was wearing a shirt that said, “Where I’m from, everyone’s a hero.”

Evelyn simply said to her cheering fans, “Mabuhay.” She was wearing a Baro’t Saya made from a Philippine flag.

But Pinoys in the US and at home are still holding back full support until the test results are in. “We know it’s stressful to lack this important information, so we’re doing our best to analyze our findings as fast as possible,” said dela Cruz. “They’re both world-class singers, but we can only call a text voting brigade for one of them.”

We asked him what the millions of Pinoy fans should do if the test results show that neither of them — or both of them — are Filipino. “Wow, I haven’t thought about that possibility,” said dela Cruz. “I guess we’ll just have to vote based on talent.”

Posted in Humor, Society1 Comment

The Good Intentions of Religious Conservatives

“Name me a moral action made by a believer that could not be made by a non-believer.” This was the late Christopher Hitchens’ storied moral challenge against theists who claimed that it is impossible for atheists to be moral without gods. Hitchens turned this around by showing how ethics is prior to religion. He continued, “If I were to ask, could you name a wicked action made by someone attributable only to their religious faith? There isn’t a person here who would hesitate for a second.”

In a debate between David Wolpe and Hitchens, Wolpe countered the moral challenge by presenting a personal example. Wolpe recounted a story about his father, “When I think of the most powerful and intimate moments that I had with my father, it was when he put his hands on my head and blessed me on a Friday night.” Such an action is definitely unavailable to the logically consistent atheist. Hitchens dismissed this response, saying that he was not convinced that this was truly a moral action.

Even as an atheist, it is apparent to me that Hitchens’ skepticism was misplaced. You don’t need to believe in a supernatural deity to accept that mystical activities could possibly be conducive to well-being, if only for the false consolation that things are going to be okay. This is not to say that there is any evidence for the supernatural any more than there is evidence that placebos are universal cures. This is also not to say that the comfort produced by delusion is even worth the opportunity cost of being mistaken about the nature of reality. It is sufficient to show from this example that even delusion can be compatible with ethical motivations.

 

 

In the middle of the culture wars, it is easy to get lost in the absolutist narrative (I’m often guilty of such thoughts): conservative Christians are backwards Puritanical parrots, atheists and liberals are the height of pure rationality. The opposite view that Christians are the sole keepers of moral truth and liberals are mindless instruments of Satan is also a popular belief. Obviously, such black and white views are seldom accurate for any argument. By embracing such unconditional beliefs, we lose sight of the fact that we share a common human nature, regardless of our views.

 

The religious meme

It’s a common little jab by pro-RH activists against Catholic bishops that they are against the RH bill because they want more children—children that they can indoctrinate. This, however, is an unfair accusation. The Roman Catholic hierarchy has been more or less consistent about its sex negative stance for ages. This opposition to liberal views of sexuality comes from their own idea that sex was created by God for the purpose of procreation. Anything that falls short of God’s purpose is the privation (or the prevention of achievement) of the intrinsically good nature of creation. And anything that falls short of nature is evil. Having more children to indoctrinate is a bonus, but it does not come into their reasoning at all.

There can be, however, a naturalistic explanation for how the Church came to be so adamantly against contraception. We can appeal to the idea that the proliferation of cultural ideas, like religion, can follow a Darwinian analogue to genes called, “memes.”

Genes are selfish hereditary units. If they weren’t selfish, they wouldn’t be passed on. But this self-interestedness at the gene level need not be consciously held by the organisms they build. Animals, human or not, can exhibit altruistic motives, even though these behaviors are ultimately determined by selfish genes. Similar to genes, memes are selected for in cultures such that the ones that survive are those that exhibit characteristics that are conducive to virus-like proliferation in the minds of conscious beings.

To extend the Darwinian analogy to religion, the religions that dominate are predicted to have certain traits that are conducive to self-preservation—such as child-indoctrination and zealous opposition to change. Consider the Shakers, who prohibited any sort of procreation. They practically don’t exist anymore. Now, the Roman Catholic Church may have despicably self-preservationist doctrines (as in their protocol for shielding rapist employees) but this does not necessarily contradict with any benevolent motive. As in the selfishness of genes, the self-preservationism of religious memes need not manifest in persons as conscious malice. But, the road to hell, after all, is paved with good intentions.

 

Questioning motives

It is important to understand that apparently evil actions can have thoroughly good intentions because the assumption of malice tends to be the root of misunderstanding and conflict. Relevant to this is a psychological effect called, “the moralization gap,” described by the psychologist Steven Pinker in The Better Angels of Our Nature. It is a self-serving bias where injured parties tend to see hurts, no matter how small, as undeserved, permanent, and egregious, while offending parties see hurts, no matter how bad, as justified, temporary, and exaggerated. This is a consistent bias in human psychology that makes any sort of dialogue difficult. Parties on the opposing sides of disputes tend to hold distorted accounts of their own experiences.

Since this is a bias built into our brains by evolution, we must be constantly aware whenever it pops up so we can avoid such things. It is best to adhere to the principle of charity and steer clear of assuming malevolence in the motives of people.

The truth is, most people on either side, religious conservative or liberal, have well-meaning intentions and do not go out of their way to maliciously provoke. That is, both sides see an end that would be good for all parties concerned. The problem stems from competing notions of what “good” is.

 

Competing notions of good

Conservatives, such as Manny Pacquiao, Miriam Quiambao, and Toni Gonzaga, are learning more and more that moral indignation is no longer the sole turf of the religious. From seeing the horrors of sectarian violence and the petty tyranny of religious self-appointed censors, people are growing more and more skeptical of religion’s purported monopoly on moral claims.

What liberals can fail to see, however, is that religious conservatives truly believe that they have everyone’s best interests at heart. Whether it’s closing down sacrilegious art installations or protesting blasphemous pop stars, religious conservatives honestly think that they are preventing future harm on all people—the fires of hell that will welcome all sinners. However detached from reality this motivation is, it does not diminish in any way the sense of urgency religious conservatives feel about the escalation of irreverence in the social zeitgeist. Theirs is an earnest and well-intentioned concern that liberals simply must accept and deal with.

 

 

The change in social values led by liberals is denounced by religious conservatives as moral relativism—the idea that there are no objective moral truths, only subjective moral preferences. However, liberals are just as morally motivated as their conservative opponents. It is just that liberals tend to view “bad” in light of the suffering experienced by conscious beings. This view of ethics is just as objective as the conservatives’ natural moral law, even though it is open to revision and correction as we learn more about human nature. Compare this with how medicine is an objective exercise despite the definition of health constantly changing as the years go by.

In contrast, conservatives tend to detach suffering in this world from the meaning of “moral.” They see morality as prescribed actions that lead toward the accomplishment of what they believe is their god’s desire. This is how they can find the “perversion” of the sanctity (God’s “natural” purpose) of sex and marriage more abhorrent (and more worthy of their time) than abject poverty and maternal deaths.

 

More noble than the “middle ground”

I see, in this state of affairs, an impasse. It is very difficult to argue ethics when either side comes from such completely different premises—the conservatives’ duty to God versus the liberals’ concern for earthly suffering. There is, however, hope for those who despise the notion that homosexuals do not deserve equal rights and that mothers do not have the right to raise the kind of family they want. It is this: conservatives always lose. It is only a matter of time. Our change in attitude towards slavery and the rights of women and homosexuals, clearly points to the possibility and reality of moral progress, as hard as religious conservatism may fight the rising tide.

In the meantime, we must be sympathetic to the motivations of all parties: we all mean well. We all want to make the world a better place. It is just that we mean very different and incompatible things by “better.” There is, in the understanding of this fact, a place higher and more noble than the so-called “middle ground” built by flawed notions of “tolerance” and “respect”. Acknowledging where each side is coming from without tritely asserting that everyone is right in their own way is, to me, the real meaning of respect.

Hindu Prayer Image Credit: Lauren Pursecki

Posted in Philosophy, Religion, Science9 Comments

May 27, 2012 (Sunday) Starbucks Anson’s Ortigas Meetup

Location: Starbucks, Anson’s (across The Podium), ADB Avenue, Ortigas Center, Pasig
(Google map)
Date: Sunday, May 27, 2012
Time: 2:30pm – 5:30pm

RSVP on Facebook

 

Discussion Topics
– Are forced sterilizations ever ethical?
– Is the open criticism of religion bigotry?
– Chief Justice Corona’s Challenge: Should all his accusers reveal their assets?

After the meetup we usually go for dinner and drinks somewhere nearby. If you’re not a meetup regular and can’t make it for the meetup but would like to go for the post meetup, please indicate on a post in the wall or comment so we can contact you.

Got questions about the meetup? Contact us at 0927 323 3532

* Newbies are welcome.
* Look for the FF sign (or the group of smart, sexy people).
* There is no required age, religion, philosophy, or IQ level.
* Discussions are informal yet intelligent (most of the time).
* You don’t have to talk; you can just sit in and listen.

Posted in Announcements, Meetup0 Comments

Dear CBCP: Take Corona’s Challenge First (An Open Letter)

Dear CBCP,

Some of your bishops have challenged Corona’s accusers to sign his waiver. Bishop Pabillo said that “there is really something wrong when they want a person to disclose his dollar accounts but his accusers refuse to do the same or don’t want to be transparent.” Your former president, Oscar Cruz, clarified that your message was to let people “know who have no sin and [let them] throw the first stone.”

You are saying that only those who are blameless can challenge others or throw blame. Since you have challenged Corona’s accusers, you must think that you yourselves are blameless. In the terms of Corona’s waiver, this means you think you have no ill-gotten wealth to hide. But you are mistaken.

No one knows ill-gotten wealth like you do, because you have founded your Church on ill-gotten wealth. Literally. Your organization wouldn’t be where it is today if it weren’t for the billions your predecessors stole from the Philippine government.

In case you’ve forgotten, I’ll remind you. When your former colleagues, the Spaniards, colonized us, they stole lands that belonged to Filipinos and gave it to your friars. These friar lands allowed you to control everything: business, education, politics, etc. So aside from money and property, you also gained power. You used this power to further amass wealth that went beyond the original value of the lands that were stolen.

When the first Philippine Congress was established, one of their first plans was to take back what was rightfully ours — to confiscate the land that was stolen and then redistribute it among Filipinos. But unfortunately, their plans were thwarted by another colonizer: the Americans. They would eventually give us back our freedom, but they didn’t give us back our property — well, not really. Instead, they did what capitalists do best: sell it to us.

Malolos Congress in Barasoain Church

Before they could do that, they had to take it back from you. But instead of just taking it away — something they could have done without much difficulty — they again did what capitalists do best: buy it from you. William Howard Taft, the first head of the Philippine Commission, went to Rome to ask your infallible leader for permission to buy the friar lands so that it could be given (i.e. sold) back to us. Your Pope agreed, and in 1903, the friar lands, some 166,000 hectares were bought for $7,239,784.66.

You may have lost your lands, but you got a ton of money in return. Add that to the profit you’d already made on those properties — and the power you consolidated through it — and it’s clear how you’ve become one of the richest and most powerful organizations in the Philippines today.

It’s difficult to put a price on your ill-gotten political power, but the money is another story. For starters, we can calculate how much you got for the sale of the friar lands. According to one CPI inflation calculator, the purchase price of $7,239,784.66 would now be worth $168,259,177.12 (PHP7,235,144,616.16) — if it was purchased in 1913, which is as far back as the calculator goes. Surely it would be more if we could calculate based on the 1903 amount.

Next we can check your investments in publicly registered companies. This has already been done, and conservative estimates put your investments at over P18 billion. We don’t even know how much you’ve invested in private companies, and if Corona has taught us one thing, there’s another way you could’ve hidden enormous sums of money: dollar accounts.

By the time the Americans introduced their currency in our country, you already had considerable wealth, and it’s not unlikely that you’d think like he did: you invested in US dollars. There weren’t big corporations to invest in back then, so you probably converted a considerable amount. And considering how you have nothing against the financial institution — you have PHP18 billion invested in it after all — your dollars are likely deposited safely in dollar accounts: the same accounts you’re challenging congressmen to publicize.

Rep. Faye Ferriol takes Corona's challenge

Of course, I don’t have to speculate so much if you’d just sign Corona’s waiver. Now that I think about it, you could take the moral high ground and create a waiver of your own, disclosing not only your dollar accounts but also your public and private investments, business affiliations, everything.

Because as far as I’m concerned, most of your wealth is ill-gotten. Your wealth was built on money that was stolen from the Philippine government by two foreign ones. The theft may be centuries old, but it doesn’t change the fact that a crime is a crime, or in religious terms, a sin is a sin. Even your God does not unconditionally forgive a sin simply because it was done long ago (e.g. Original Sin). So I’m sure you’ll understand that although many have forgotten, you don’t deserve to be forgiven. Not by God, and certainly not by the Filipino people.

You may try you hardest to hide this fact by casting the blame — and the spotlight — on someone else. You’ve long been very active in pushing for agrarian reform. You’ve been preaching the idea that the lands should be taken from illegitimate owners and redistributed among its rightful owners. This is a worthy cause, and I commend you for understanding the idea of rightful ownership.

But why can’t you understand that every single peso of your billions is a peso that belongs to the Filipino people? Not only should you publicize your ill-gotten wealth, you should do the “Christian” thing and give it back as I’m sure Jesus would want you to. Otherwise, you’ll be contradicting your calls for transparency and fairness — not to mention your vow of poverty. You may lose much, but only by doing so can you rightly call yourselves a Church of the Poor.

 

Sincerely,

Red Tani

___

Image credits: 1, 2, 3

Posted in Politics, Religion, Society8 Comments

The Tale of the Juvenile Chief Justice and the Boy with the Messy Room

After three hours of an emotional roller-coaster that went from balling to boring at every turn, Chief Justice Renato Corona steered the impeachment trial toward an upside down loop that made everyone breathless. He said that he would waive his right to secrecy on all his bank accounts, domestic and foreign, but only under one condition: all of his accusers in Congress should do it with him.

Reactions in the court of public opinion varied. Some thought that Corona was brave, a hero for having the courage to challenge government corruption by putting his own integrity on the line. Others, myself included, thought that far from heroic, the dilatory tactic betrayed cowardice, and by involving others, he revealed his fear of facing justice alone.

But while people were split on Corona’s conditional waiver, his subsequent walkout, and the drama that followed, practically brought supporters and critics to a consensus. Guilty or innocent, Corona should have known better than to walk out of an ongoing hearing, and for an acting Chief Justice his actions were just too unprofessional.

But I believe “unprofessional” would be putting it too kindly. The walkout, and everything that led up to and followed after it, deserves a different description, another adjective that Corona would surely disapprove of — childish.

Even before the consensus on the unprofessionalism of Corona’s walkout, people agreed that Corona was anything but a public speaker. He spoke like a university freshman, sometimes even worse than a high school student, and his communication skills — or lack thereof — did not suit someone who was supposedly the greatest judge of the land. How could someone embody all the complexities of justice when he couldn’t even articulate simple sentences well? And his ineptitude knew no borders — he spoke poorly as much in English as he did in his native tongue.

His sophomoric skills at communication was consistent with his argumentation skills, and as language books invariably teach, sloppy speaking is a symptom of sloppy thinking. For starters, Corona’s speech was so unnecessarily long that he resembled a student struggling to find fillers for his essay to reach a minimum wordcount: “Mr. Corona, in 10,000 words, why should we acquit you?”

His speech so closely resembled the papers of so many seatmates I peer-reviewed in composition classes. More than building a defense that rested on facts, his speech was like the all-too-common “How I Spent My Summer Vacation” assignment, complete with long and cliche descriptions of characters that was only appropriate in the context of a classroom.

And discovering that his speech would not save him from conviction, Corona used one of the most common tactics a student resorted to in front of a teacher who failed him — crying. I’m sure he was under a lot of mental and emotional stress, but I expected more from the way he so confidently spoke about what he’d do before the hearing. And I don’t think it’s too much to set a higher standard of dignity and decency from a chief justice.

As I’ve said, opinions are still split on Corona’s conditional waiver. If you think it’s such a dignified idea, I hope to change your mind by showing you how childish Corona’s move actually is. Think of two brothers who each have a dirty room. Mom is trying to discipline them by assigning them the cleaning as a chore instead of leaving it to a helper like she usually does.

Unfortunately for the younger one, big brother is having his summer vacation at camp, and he would have to be the first to taste this bitter medicine. Just doing it despite the perceived unfairness would no doubt make Mom and Dad proud, but the boy is just not there yet. At his level of maturity, it would not be unexpected to hear him say something like this:

“But mom, it’s so unfair! Kuya is having the time of his life while I’m stuck here, and worse, you’re forcing me to clean my room!”

Mom and Dad try to convince the boy, offering him to remove his grounded status — earlier the boy did not tell his parents that his uncle gave him some cash, breaking the promise that he’d tell them if such a thing happened. Excited about the possibility of going out to play, the boy reluctantly agrees to clean his room but only under one condition: he would only do it once Kuya got back, and they would have to do it together.

It would take a couple of months before Kuya got back from camp, which meant that the parents would have to live with two messy rooms instead of one. Mom and Dad would have none of it, and it showed in their faces. So the boy, wanting to avoid an argument against grownups he just can’t win, stormed out of his folks’ room, trying to rush outside the house. Too bad for the boy: his parents used the intercom to tell their security guard to lock the gate.

The boy would now surely get the talking of his life, and knowing this, he resorted to one of the all-purpose tricks that got him out of school or homework: he pretended to be sick. Mom and Dad had barely resisted the boy’s babyface as he made his conditional offer, but now he was a babyfaced boy whose asthma was acting up, a condition he’s had for a long time. The parents just could not resist their child, and it would border on child abuse to force him to speak despite his sickness.

I’m sure you’ve made all the connections necessary to relate this to Corona’s behavior, and the logic of the boy, at least in terms of manipulating his parents to get the result that he wanted is surely commendable. But in Corona’s case, a commendation is not in order for one simple reason: he’s chief justice of the Philippines, not some bratty boy.

To make our analogy fit more closely, we can add one detail to the story of the boy with the messy room: the parents are the progressive kind that would respect their children’s privacy, allowing them to not only keep the doors locked but also to keep the bedroom keys. For the parents to check whether the chore has been done, the boy would have to unlock his room to reveal it.

In this version of the boy story, the parents don’t know whether any of the rooms is messy, which is why they wanted to find out. The boy is still grounded for the summer, with big brother in camp, and the revelation of a clean room would grant him his freedom. All he has to do is unlock his door.

But the boy, despite all that he could gain from such a simple action, refused to do so unless his big brother faced the music of a possibly messy room with him. Tell me. Do you think little CJ has a clean room?

___

Note: I think little CJ’s room is messy — and so is big brother’s — but this is my personal opinion; the Filipino Freethinkers do not have an official position on the Corona trial.

Image credits: 1, 2

Posted in Personal, Politics, Society3 Comments

FF Podcast (Audio) 007: Lady Gaga vs Bigots and Fundies

FF Podcast (Audio) 007: Lady Gaga vs Bigots and Fundies

Filipino Freethinkers Podcast #7

Our newest podcast (that’s also a video) is up! Here, Marge, Ria and Red discuss the current protest of some Christian groups against the Lady Gaga concert, the difficulties of satire in a country where the news reads like stories out of The Onion, and how beauty queen Miriam Quiambao’s courage in defiance of popular opinion has contributed to the awareness of LGBT rights.



What are your thoughts on these topics? Please comment on this page.

You may also download the podcast file here.

Filipino Freethinkers Podcast (Audio) feed

Filipino Freethinkers Podcast (Audio) feed

Filipino Freethinkers Podcast (Audio) on iTunes

Filipino Freethinkers Podcast (Audio) on iTunes

Posted in Audio, audio podcast, Media, Politics, Religion, Secularism, Society0 Comments

FF Podcast 007: Lady Gaga vs Bigots and Fundies

FF Podcast 007: Lady Gaga vs Bigots and Fundies

Filipino Freethinkers Podcast #7

Our newest podcast (that’s also a video) is up! Here, Marge, Ria and Red discuss the current protest of some Christian groups against the Lady Gaga concert, the difficulties of satire in a country where the news reads like stories out of The Onion, and how beauty queen Miriam Quiambao’s courage in defiance of popular opinion has contributed to the awareness of LGBT rights.

What are your thoughts on these topics? Please comment on this page.

You may also download the podcast file here.

Filipino Freethinkers Podcast feed

Filipino Freethinkers Podcast feed

Filipino Freethinkers podcast on iTunes

Filipino Freethinkers podcast on iTunes



Posted in Announcements, Entertainment, Podcast, Religion, Society0 Comments

Facebook.com/Freethinkers