Author Archives | Pepe Bawagan

Pride March and Prejudice

 

I’ve been to many pride marches but the most recent one in Marikina was the first time that I got to talk to one of the Christian protesters from the other side. His name was Koy, and we were able to have conversations about topics ranging from morality to epistemology. And although we may have disagreed strongly with each other’s conclusions, we didn’t devolve into a shouting match. I was listening intently to his arguments and I felt that he was also listening intently to mine.

I imagine that many people would say that I am wasting time trying to engage these so-called “fundamentalists.” To assume this, however, smacks of prejudice. I also think it’s not fair because it denies both parties a chance to learn from one another. If someone else knew that I was terribly wrong in my assertions, I would like that person to explain to me why, the same way that if I honestly believed that someone would go to hell for what they were doing, I would try my best to save their souls. Frankly, I have a bit more respect for these people who think they are saving other people from eternal damnation than for those who would rather watch other people burn in hell than have to endure social confrontation. I believe that they may be misguided, but I don’t think that they bear malice in their hearts, which is why I think it is unfair to characterize all of them as “full of hate”. Some of them may be, but definitely not all.

It is also quite unfortunate that quite a few people from the march started showing bad form when engaging the protesters, even going so far as to use their educational attainment to prove how they are on the “right side.” I think that this too is unfair and uncalled for, and does not help the cause, as it risks adding legitimacy to highly-educated fundamentalists as well as alienating less-educated members of the pride community.

Alas, not all discourse will go smoothly and there are inevitably cases where it’s best to disengage. What’s important is to be able to identify these cases as soon as possible. Let me give an example:

One of the protesters was shouting that there are no nonhuman animals who practice homosexuality. I tried to tell him that contrary to what he was saying, homosexual behavior has been widely observed in nonhuman animals. He then backtracked to say we shouldn’t be basing morality on animals, which wasn’t at all related to what I said, and actually nullified his original statement completely. When I tried to expound, he replied that I couldn’t possibly convince him of my point through discussion. And with that, I thanked him for his honesty and walked away.

Had I had more time, I would have loved to talk more to Koy about deconstructing the bible as a source of absolute truth and discussing studies about God as a projection of the self. The least I was able to do was hand him a bottle of water on the way back to my contingent. He asked me if I was sure that I wanted him to have it, us being on different sides of the event and all. I was a bit surprised at the question and just had to remind him: “Lahat tayo nauuhaw. (We all get thirsty.)

This short experience of mine made me hope that we can all find the compassion in us to resist othering those we disagree with and instead find our common humanity. Let us engage each other as individuals who are capable of love and change, however slowly, however small.

 

Below are some shots from various pamphlets circulated around the event:

The helpful

The hellful

And the sellful!

Posted in Education, Freedom of Expression, Gender Rights, HIV/AIDS, Personal, Philosophy, Society, Stories0 Comments

Pacquiao Wants to Punch Pope For “Insulting Mothers”

MANILA, PHILIPPINES – “I will give him one punch for every mother that he has insulted,” says Manny Pacquiao, reacting to various misogynist statements that the Pope had previously made. “Hindi ko na kailangan ng ring para dito. Kahit saan pwede ako.” (“I don’t need a ring for this anymore. I can do it anywhere.”)

YO MOMMA SO INSULTED she gonna punch you in the face

YO MOMMA SO INSULTED she gonna punch you in the face!

Many of the pope’s statements, according to Pacquiao, seem to attach the value of a woman to her fertility, which he finds demeaning and reduces the value of women. He also criticized the pope’s refusal to accept women into clergy, saying it “betrays a deep sense of sexism inherent in the institution.”

Pacquiao recently challenged the Pope to a boxing match as a sign of hospitality and to ease the traffic situation.

Pacquio’s coach, Freddie Roach, has expressed concern over Pacquiao’s apparent self-contradiction. “I’m glad he’s standing up for what he believes, but it’s bound to confuse people since he has previously fought against the Reproductive Health Law, which primarily empowers women and protects mothers more than anyone. But who knows, maybe he’ll switch sides again after taking a few more punches to the face. It’s normal. It’s normal.”

When asked why his reaction comes so long after the Pope’s statements, Pacquio said “I don’t read very fast.”

Pope Francis was reached for comment, responding “So he’s not going to fight me in the ring anymore? What a pussy! For a grown man he sure can be such a girl.”

 

 

 

Image credit: http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2015/01/15/charlie-hebdo-pope_n_6477928.html

Posted in Humor, Satire4 Comments

Pacquiao to Fight Pope Francis

MANILA, PHILIPPINES – In light of the upcoming papal visit and resulting expectations of heavy traffic, Manny Pacquiao has announced that he will try to ease the traffic situation personally by having a boxing match with Pope Francis himself during his visit. “It’s only fitting that I greet his holiness with the utmost example of Filipino hospitality,” said Pacquiao.

It is a well-documented fact that traffic in Metro Manila virtually disappears and crime rates drop to almost zero whenever Manny Pacquiao has a fight.

MMDA Chairman Francis Tolentino welcomed Pacquiao’s move as a gracious offering of assistance to local traffic enforcers. “And as a people, we cannot just punch the Bishop of Rome with any fist. It must be the strongest fist the world has ever seen. Anything less would be disrespectful to the Primate of Italy,” he added.

Don't miss the once in a lifetime event!

Don’t miss the once in a lifetime event!

“I don’t think it’s fair for Manny to fight with the Pope but I don’t think that it’s a good idea to tell him to stick to politics either,” says Coach Freddie Roach, who has personal reservations about the fight. “I try to discourage him from politics, you know, considering how much brain damage he might have sustained from all the concussions he’s had throughout the years,” Roach said.

Meanwhile, President Aquino has expressed excitement for the upcoming fight, saying “People think we’re bending over backwards to accommodate the Pope, but I disagree. We’re actually bending over forward, and I think the farther we can bend over, the easier it will be for the Pope to come into our beautiful country.”

When asked for comments on the challenge, Pope Francis replied, “Manny is a punk-ass bitch who has no idea what the fuck he’s getting into. He thinks that just because I’m not as young as him he can score an easy win. Well, lemme just tell you this: if he thinks he can take me down that easily, he’s in for a goddamn big surprise and a world of hurt.” The Vicar of Christ is reportedly choosing his boxing nickname between two options, namely “Supreme Punchiff” and “The Rock of the Church”.

As of writing, Floyd Mayweather, Jr. has expressed interest in taking on the Dalai Lama when the latter visits Michigan this coming March.

Image credits:

  • http://content.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,1935091,00.html
  • http://www.outsidethebeltway.com/pope-franciss-remarks-on-the-big-bang-are-nothing-new-for-the-catholic-church/

Posted in Humor, Satire1 Comment

Davao City Declares 4,581 More Personae Non Gratae

Davao City Declares 4,581 More Personae Non Gratae

DAVAO CITY, PHILIPPINES — The city council of Davao has declared 4,581 more people as personae non gratae after only recently doing the same for comedian Ramon Bautista. The 382-page list includes Davao City police chief Senior Supt. Vicente Danao Jr., former Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio, Vice Mayor Paolo Duterte, and incumbent Mayor Rodrigo Duterte.

“We just realized how inconsistent we have been in how we respond to less than ideal behavior,” says City Councilor Joel Durtete. “It didn’t seem fair that a joke from a comedian could get him punished while other far graver acts went completely under the radar. It feels as if we were being butthurt about the wrong things.”

In their press release statement, the following reasons were cited as justifications for the declarations of particular individuals:

* SENIOR SUPT. VICENTE DANAO JR.for the use of excessive force and volume against his spouse

beater

* SARA DUTERTE-CARPIO — for the downright nasty physical abuse of a sheriff

* PAOLO DUTERTE and RODRIGO DUTERTE — for the indecent and insulting treatment of media personnel

Like Father Like Son

Like Father Like Son

Most of the actions cited for the rest of the people on the list include violations of the 30 kph speed limit, 1am liquor ban, and taking Duterte’s name in vain. However, others were very specific, such as “constantly making disapproving looks at frail elderly people”, “deliberately placing dog feces on the sidewalks”, and “making babies laugh at funerals”.

In his defense, Senior Supt. Vicente Danao Jr. was quoted as saying: “I may have hit my wife’s face, but at least I didn’t call it ugly by saying she was hipon.” The Dutertes opted to send a collective reply: a one-page letter containing only the phrase “PAKYU KAYONG LAHAT” and an image of a fist with its middle finger raised.

An anonymous source from Davao City Hall also said that the council was considering adding the members of the “Davao Death Squad” to the list for their disregard for due process and human rights, but ultimately decided against their inclusion due to fear for their lives.

According to Davao City Councilor May Pajabul, the council is still investigating another incident and hope to follow up with another declaration of persona non grata as soon as they uncover the individuals responsible for a website called Hipon City, which seems to have been set up to mirror the contents of the official Davao City website except with all faces replaced by ugly ones.

Some citizens have reportedly expressed concern about the sheer volume of the declarations and have raised questions as to whether or not the status will affect the ability of incumbent government officials to exercise their authority. Pajabul has responded, saying “You really shouldn’t worry; The declaration doesn’t do jack shit.”

Posted in Freedom of Expression, Satire0 Comments

Medical Mayhem: Thoughts on the INC Medical Mission

Medical Mayhem: Thoughts on the INC Medical Mission

Today, I found out that Iglesia ni Cristo is going to have a medical mission which will be held simultaneously in the following locations:

  • Plaza del Carmen (beside San Sebastian Church)
  • Plaza Avelino
  • Magallanes Drive Ext. (facing post office)
  • Quinta Market (before “Quiapo ilalim”)
  • Parking space at the back of Far Eastern University, along CM Recto

I would have considered this all to be a fine gesture of goodwill if only it had not caused classes throughout NCR to be suspended. Many questions started coming to mind once I heard of this implication.

Why are they cancelling classes in all of these schools when not everyone from those schools is expected to participate? It’s sad how even supposedly unaffected areas like Marikina have opted to suspend classes merely in an attempt to “avoid confusion“. And if their reason is that they expect heavy traffic due to the 1.6 million people expected to participate, why didn’t they schedule it on a weekend? Some have argued that INC cannot accommodate this because they have worship on both days of the weekend. I will not, however, pretend to respect how they prioritize worship services over disrupting the educational system of an entire region.

Image from Kabayan Ko Kapatid Ko Facebook page

The public education system is one of the many expenses of being a taxpayer. I find it unfair for taxpayers’ time and money to be wasted by those who enjoy tax exemptions on their properties. In fact, if religious institutions did not have these tax exemptions, we might even be able to afford better public medical services that would obviate the need for these kinds of events. (That is, of course, assuming that public funds did not go so easily into the pockets of the corrupt, but that’s a different article altogether.)

I have deep sympathy in paticular for teachers who, with every suspension of classes, have to redo their lesson plans. Having a mother who teaches in a public high school, I have seen firsthand the effort that goes into making sure that students get the most out of their curriculum and how rescheduling sometimes also entails regrettably removing entire lessons from the slate. It’s already bad enough that we have to go through so many typhoon suspensions over the course of a year.

I also wonder how INC came up with that number of 1.6M attendees. Did the MMDA just take INC’s word for it? Did they even make projections of their own? Does the fact that INC practices bloc voting have any influence over who made what decisions? I don’t know, but I can’t help but feel like it probably did, given our country’s penchant for political quid pro quo. It doesn’t seem very far-fetched, this hypothetical “vote-for-me-and-i’ll-get-you-more-followers” conversation. It’s a win-win situation for both political favoritism and religious indoctrination.

Lastly, I want to say something about the concept of medical missions. I will not deny that they do good for people. They alleviate suffering and enable the otherwise debilitated. However, these are singular events that do not adequately prevent the same problems from showing up in the future. Personal health problems are rarely fixed with one visit to the doctor or one dose of medicine, much less the health of entire communities. For that you will need to meet many conditions including proper sanitation, good hygiene practices, and a sufficient percentage of the local population being doctors and health workers. More than doctors who go on medical missions, I admire those who choose to live with impoverished communities in remote areas and make sure that their respective communities are healthy for as long as they live. But the doctors that I admire most are those who take it upon themselves to teach others to be the same, making sure that their communities stay healthy long after they are gone.

To quote Kuan Tsu:

If you are thinking 1 year ahead, plant seeds. If you are thinking 10 years ahead, plant a tree. If you are thinking 100 years ahead, educate the people.

 

UPDATE: Another article recently appeared, stating that INC didn’t ask for class suspensions. This does not absolve them, however, of not choosing to do the activity on a weekend and planning for better logistics, e.g. using their extensive network of local churches as multiple venues as opposed to a few centralized ones that would cause great amounts of both vehicular and human traffic. I was also notified by a friend that some time last month, the INC held some kind of evangelical mission in Davao. No classes were suspended as it was held on a weekend, but it still caused heavy traffic throughout most of the day. Knowing that things like this would happen should have been enough to make them reconsider holding this event on a weekday out of sheer consideration for other people who need to use the roads they would clog up.

 

Cover image from pjbailon.blogspot.com

 

Posted in Personal, Politics, Religion, Secularism, Society1 Comment

On Posters and Poster Boy

So the whole Pedro Calungsod canonization thing did its damage and you’d think that it’s all over for now, right? Wrong. The Catholic Church, it would seem, is not content with digging into the pockets of its faithful. It’s now going to continue doing what it’s been doing pretty consistently for the past hundreds of years: breaching secularism.

Apparently, Pedro Calungsod paper bills are slated to go into circulation this year by none other than the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas. That’s right folks, they’re gonna be using state money to put their poster boy on, well, state money. State money, which I might remind you, came from citizens Catholic and non-Catholic alike.

All this blatant asking-for-money and spending-money-that-isn’t-even-theirs is really getting on my nerves, but not so much that I lose it and post something as tasteless as this video:

Good riddance, Papa Ratzi.

And as if that wasn’t enough, they exceeded their monthly political meddling quota by putting up a giant poster that tells Catholics who to vote for. Aside from endorsements, the billboard included a blacklist and both had lists of senators and party lists. As for what they used to separate the good from the evil, they looked to the handy dandy ever-black-and-whitening Reproductive Health Law. (And just in case you’ve been living under a rock, the Catholic Church is against this particular piece of legislation.)

Personally, I appreciate their very anarcho-communistic choice of colors.

Although the Bacolod diocese that put up this tarp was ordered by the Comelec to take it down for being oversized, they chose to attempt a technical ploy and simply cut the poster in half. Assuming, however that the original poster really was 6 ft. x 10 ft. as reported, I’m having quite a lot of trouble understanding how the halves would fit into the prescribed 2 ft. x 3 ft. areas*. Oh, right! They don’t because it’s physically impossible.**

Original area = 6 ft. x 10 ft. = 60 sq. ft.

Prescribed area = (2 ft. x 3 ft.) x 2 = (6 sq. ft.) x 2 = 12 sq. ft.

(☞゚∀゚)☞ 60 sq. ft. > 12 sq. ft.

What wonders you can do with basic math!

It’s pretty telling, though, how the state’s reason for having the posters taken down is a mere issue of size when it’s a blatant violation of the requirements for tax exemption. The government seems to shy from the fact that the Catholic Church is not entitled to tax exemption, although they clearly act like it. To keep their tax-exempt status, they must comply with the law*** and only use their tax-exempt properties for their stated religious and/or charitable purposes. And to play in politics without having to pay the associated fees is simply not fair, especially given how this institution is chock-full of money. With this, I think it’s high time we started taxing the Church. Don’t you?

 

 

 

* The clauses that I’ve seen (online, at least) say “with an area exceeding two feet by three feet” while it’s enumerating “Lawful election propaganda”, which seems to be missing a “not” before the word “exceeding”. I’m just going to assume sloppy proofreading and not that our lawmakers have such horrible eyesight that they chose to ban anything smaller than 2 ft. x 3 ft.

** It’s pretty disappointing how nobody else seems to have seen or pointed out this technicality, even going so far as to imply that what the diocese did actually worked in this article.

*** Article VI Section 28 (3) of the Philippine Constitution states: “Charitable institutions, churches and personages or convents appurtenant thereto, mosques, non-profit cemeteries, and all lands, buildings, and improvements, actually, directly, and exclusively used for religious, charitable, or educational purposes shall be exempt from taxation.”

 

 

 

=======

Image from Rappler

Posted in Personal5 Comments

Philippines Most Emotional Country

MANILA, Philippines—It was recently discovered that the Philippines is the world’s most emotional country. This has sparked many violent reactions from the Filipino community, most notably from those who drown themselves daily in celebrity drama on television. The following are some tweets that were collected a few hours after the findings were released to the public:

The process behind the research was reportedly very complex, involving nanobots being installed into subjects’ eyes through their pupils. These small robots measured the tear level of the subject and compiled their measurements into tiny nanoreports. These were then transmitted wirelessly using their itty bitty nanocomputers. The original procedure, which involved installing WiFi adapters directly into subjects’ brains, was scrapped in favor of this one. The stated reason was that too many subjects were exhibiting death upon installation of the new hardware, prompting the researchers to speculate that the human brain was not as compatible with computer hardware as previously thought.

The nanobots were also able to determine the exact reasons for sudden surges in emotion. The following pie chart illustrates how strongly the five most common reasons affect people:

The whole Philippine government was reportedly so enraged that it decided to have a BF (Bureau of Feels). “We will oversee all the emotions in this country and ensure that they always fall within accepted bounds,” says BF Spokesperson Lino Luha. Their proposed method of measuring public feelings is mandatory annual heart-weighing for all Filipino citizens.

According to Luha, the budget for the Bureau of Feels will be allotted as soon as the commissioner and the financial officer find it in themselves to put the past behind them and start talking to each other again. When asked exactly what past he was talking about, Luha declined to answer and instead ran out of the room, sobbing uncontrollably with his palms to his face.

Posted in Satire1 Comment

COMELEC Disqualifies “Ang Patay” Party List

Intramuros, Manila — The Commission on Elections (COMELEC) held a review hearing yesterday for the party list “Ang Patay.” The hearing ended with the panel’s rejection of the party’s application for recognition. “Ang Patay was founded to ensure that the dead are represented in the legislative branch of government,” said Ang Patay Spokesperson Randy Cabaong. He says that “with [Ang Patay’s] rejection, the government is basically saying that the departed are of no importance to them!”

“The deceased are not only underrepresented in public office,” according to Atty. Leoric Calansay, one of Ang Patay’s candidates. “They are also marginalized by society in general.” When asked for examples of marginalization, he is quoted as saying that “the recent zombie pop culture craze discriminates against the dead by focusing too much on the interactions between the living and the undead.”

Ang Patay constituents

A field full of Ang Patay supporters

However, COMELEC Commissioner Dennis Romualdez pointed out some technicalities with their application. “For one, none of the people in Ang Patay, however lifeless they may seem, have actually died. It is unfortunate for them that representatives are required to be a part of the sector they claim to represent,” says Romualdez. He also goes on to say that “the COMELEC does not even recognize dead people as people anymore.”

Some members of the Deny Universal Rights Party (DURP) were also present during the hearing. Kurt Tang, a representative of DURP, said that they were there to monitor the proceedings. “We’re here to make sure that dead people never get rights because they are a horrible sector of society,” says Tang. “They just lie there and do nothing but rot all day, costing our economy billions of pesos a year in wake and burial costs. In our view, they deserve to be disqualified for representation in office.”

Upon overhearing these statements during our interview, one of the members of Ang Patay shouted at Tang that “your mother should have killed you!”

 

 

 

Image from ww2cemeteries.co.uk

Posted in Humor, Politics, Satire7 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

Values Ed: Where Secularism Goes To Die

A few weeks ago, Kevin, an agnostic atheist member of the Filipino Freethinkers, posted on his blog about his frustrating experience with a substitute teacher in his Values Education class. He wrote:

Our regular professor was out so we had a substitute. The lesson for that day was about different personalities. He showed us a diagram:

  1. Wise – someone who is god-fearing and is able to recognize mistakes.
  2. Foolish – someone who doesn’t love god or someone who denies him and his orders.
  3. Mocker – someone who rebels against god and mocks him.

Being a secularist, this set off alarms in Kevin’s head, and after raising his complaints and delivering an extensive explanation of his objections to his teacher…

He then went on saying, “Yes, okay. We understand that. But you still have to participate in this class. You have to understand that Values came from ‘God’. He is the root of it all. And we are defining personalities according to biblical terms and definitions.”

Read the whole article here

It’s bad enough that this happened in a school that was purportedly non-sectarian, but perhaps it was just a fluke. Maybe it was just this one teacher who was, after all, just a substitute. Surely their regular Values Ed teacher would be much more aware and sensitive of religious diversity and secular morality, right?

 

Wrong: How You’re Doing Education

 

Even with their regular teacher, the same thing happened again, only this time it was much worse. Aside from forcing everyone in the class to write “the goal of my life is to make God smile”, she reacted mockingly and condescendingly towards Kevin’s explanation of his stance, spouting the usual nonsense, such as “atheists are just rebelling against God for their hardships and pain in their sad life”. I find it quite appalling that this kind of force-feeding, where dissent and diversity are brushed aside or unthinkingly dismissed, currently masquerades as education. And all this, after a lecture that was supposed to enlighten the students about differences of belief. Such a performance deserves an award of sorts for its incredible display of sustained ignorance. Gee, I don’t know, maybe something like…

 

The Slowest Clap Ever


Fact: even their regular teacher exhibited a grave lack of perspective and competence in teaching a supposedly secular Values Education class. The question now would be: Is this a cause for alarm?

My personal experience would say yes. In my (public) high school, some teachers would have students lead prayers. Back then, however, I was still a theist and not yet aware of the principle of secularism and how holding prayers in class (or any school event, for that matter) was a violation of it.

It’s even worse when your school’s dormitory has a built-in Christian chapel. Others would argue that it’s fine if the school didn’t pay for its construction, but the fact remains that government space is being used and that not all people in the school would benefit from such a “facility”. It would be much better to have a multi-purpose “quiet area” that can be used by people of all/no religious beliefs for prayers, meditation, and/or reading.

However, this is all anecdotal speculation. I have yet to find numbers about how secular our Values Education programs are (at least for non-sectarian institutions) and how well-versed educators are in tackling morality from a secular standpoint. This is one study that I’d like to see, although my instincts tell me that I probably won’t be happy with the figures that might come out.

 

Could You Point to the Part on the Doll Where He “Taught” You?

 

Given that these incidents do happen on quite a regular basis, the problem then turns into “How do we prevent it?”.

The most obvious thing we’d need is a systematic review of curricula to ensure that secular schools stay secular and that enforcement is carried out accordingly. Many Values Education programs out there include mentions of faith in (a) god and other tenets incompatible with secular morality. Values Ed programs in particular are susceptible to mentions of a deity given how the majority of our population base their morals upon Roman Catholic doctrine.* However, note that it’s ultimately up to the teacher to decide whether or not to uphold secularism in the classroom, meaning any teacher in any subject could potentially use your class time to indulge in his/her personal religious rituals.

Another important thing is the courage of individuals to voice and follow through with their dissent. I mentioned earlier that I used to be unaware of how prayers in class were a violation of secularism. I am curious however, as to how I would have acted if I was already conscious of these things back then. It’s one thing to recite your opinion in class, and it’s another to escalate and go against an entire system if the educators themselves turn out to be incompetent at recognizing their incompetence. On the part of students, this would take a lot of courage and a strong conviction that what you are fighting for is worth the trouble. And with the growing public awareness regarding secularism, I’m hoping to read more stories of students standing up for this principle and serving as a vanguard against religious domination.

 

 

 

Do you have a story to share about a similar experience in school? We’d love to hear about it in the comments section!

 

~~~

Image sources:

*Some avoid having to recognize the violation altogether by citing “natural moral law,” the Thomist ethical framework of the Catholic Church, which contrary to common assertions is not at all a secular argument.

Posted in Personal, Religion, Society2 Comments

A Slice of Occupy

In case you haven’t heard, there have been people protesting in New York since the 17th of September. (Yes, they’ve been there for more than a month now.) Possibly taking some inspiration from the recent Arab Spring, this movement, aptly called Occupy Wall Street (OWS), has now spread to over 1000 cities in over 80 countries.

What exactly are these protesters hoping to achieve with these demonstrations? I wouldn’t blame you if you’re confused, since most of the mainstream media have been terribly inaccurate with how they cover these events. There are a multitude of issues and different localities may have different focuses, but the following are an outline of what I see as the root causes for these grievances.

The problem most talked about is the terrible state of the US economy, which includes glaring income inequality, gross levels of unemployment (which is actually undesirable only in our economic model, but I’ll get to that later), and the visible corruption of government by financial institutions. A lot of these problems can be attributed to the crashing of the real estate bubble in 2008 thanks to a whole package of fraudulent practices by banking and speculation giants such as AIG, Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan Chase, and Bear Stearns, to name a few.

These problems can be traced to their roots at different levels and, at each level, a different potential solution emerges. At the shallowest, we can see the problem as corporate greed and lack of integrity. The quick “fix” for this would have been legislation allowing for more government regulation of businesses. Unfortunately, for the American people, their government seems to have been hijacked by the very financial institutions that have broken their economy. With this comes the realization that in the prevailing system, not everyone has an equal say in government, as not everyone can set aside a budget for funding a flurry of lobbyists. To quote P. J. O’Rourke, “When buying and selling are controlled by legislation, the first things to be bought and sold are legislators.” Because of this loss of faith in government, many participants in the occupations would rather focus on direct action for solutions and do not even bother with forming demands knowing that they would only be trying to remedy a hopelessly broken and dysfunctional institution.

Taking it a level deeper, it can be seen as a failure of capitalism in general and not due to the lack of integrity in government. This can be realized only if we recognize the fact that humans are fallible and susceptible to bribery, and much more so if you immerse them in a system which pits monetary gain against ethics. This makes it a basic duty for everyone to check and double-check the legitimacy of all forms of authority. I must admit that not many have made this shift in political paradigm, I suspect partly because it moves so much responsibility onto the shoulders of the common man. Indeed, it is much easier to delegate the task of governance and overseeing justice to a small group of people, but as we have already seen, this does not work as well as we would hope.

Still, others including myself see this movement as a long time coming due to fundamental flaws in the current economic system, particularly technological unemployment. Technological unemployment happens when new technology has become efficient enough to replace a human in his/her current line of work. Simply put, technology is supposed to improve human lives. In our system, however, the need for profit causes a clash between technological development and human welfare. The irony in this is that as people are replaced by machines, we can produce more but are unable to make use of these products due to reduced purchasing power. In the past, workers simply moved to different industries. However, technology has now come to penetrate almost all aspects of our daily lives such that there really are no new jobs to generate. A backwards solution that some have been using is to create new problems to solve simply because of the need to have an excuse for jobs.

There are many interesting characteristics that make this movement worth supporting or, at the very least, observing.

For one, protesters have been very conscious of their actions with regard to how they reflect on the immediate community. Because of this, there has been a tremendous display of self-restraint on their part when police forces attempt to break up their demonstrations and disrupt their peaceful assemblies. While I would usually argue that they have every right to self-defense and resisting arrest, it is interesting to note how their attitude and commitment to non-physical retaliation has gained them the support of a great number of people. And I am supposing that this might actually be a good strategic maneuver, since a great majority of their potential sympathizers still believe in the right of state enforcers to practice a monopoly of legitimate violence. Whenever police arrests and disruptions are made, people simply do their best to stick together and repeatedly chant short phrases such as “The whole world is watching!” and “Shame!” And with the help of social media and widespread video capture technology, “The whole world is watching” no longer sounds like much of an exaggeration, as the movement seems to have grown with every display of police brutality. In the spirit of a real popular movement, if you take one away, ten will take his/her place. In a sense, the police are also helping the movement with their needless initiation of the use of force by making a good example of how the state cannot handle people who have chosen not to speak their language of violence and blind obedience.

Another point of great interest is how the movement is organized. Most protests have been organized from the top-down by NGOs or political parties with an existing structure in place for mobilizing entire groups of people all at once. OWS, however, has adopted the use of a general assembly to facilitate a more horizontal type of organization. General assemblies are held once or twice a day in Zuccotti Park wherein facilitators and speakers take turns at addressing the assembly for direct participation in making decisions that will affect the entire group. This has brought about interesting social phenomena, such as the use of the people’s mic and fluttering fingers to express general sentiment.

This model has many significant differences from our current form of social organization, the most prominent of which is probably the use of consensus for decision making. An ideal that more and more people are now realizing is how decisions are best made as close as possible to the parties that are most affected. This becomes all too clear once people recognize how representative democracy has shown to be a failure, as elected representatives consistently make incredible promises with one breath and turn their backs at their constituents with the next. The disconnection between the representative and the represented is partly due to a weak sense of social accountability.

Most politicians, once elected, stay in office for years, during which the governed have little to no control over his/her decisions. In a direct democracy, however, positions are voluntary and subject to the approval or compliance of the whole group. This means that a good record of competence is of utmost importance. Also, positions are hardly ever about decision-making per se, since that is already mostly handled by the assembly. Positions and titles are usually there for mere delegation of tasks and responsibilities. Considering the frequency of the general assemblies (once to twice a day), it would be quite easy for the group to raise concerns and replace an incompetent individual in his/her position right then and there.

Another important quality of the general assemblies is that they are non-coercive. If you do not find merit in participating in the general assembly, you are free not to. You are even free to start your own form of social organization elsewhere, whereas governments commonly have harsh sentences for secession. Under a government, you are only allowed to fix the system from inside through reform, which is often painfully slow. If you see fundamental flaws in it, you are not allowed to start from scratch. This policy can be seen as a huge barrier for progress.

One thing that cannot be ignored in all of this is the role of the Internet in serving as a platform by which a multitude of people were able to communicate, collaborate, and coordinate across vast differences of location, age, race, gender, and religion. Without this public space for discussion, they would not have realized that they are not alone in their grievances and that they could actually work together to achieve their common goals. Currently, the Internet still serves as a worldwide hub for these movements, so protecting it from centralized control should be a priority. People would do well to be on guard for any more future attempts to shut down or take control of the Internet. (Yes, this has been attempted before.)

At any rate, I find these events to be greatly exhilarating, as they signify a shifting tide in our collective consciousness. People across many generations are finally finding their voices, rejecting old norms of selfishness, obedience, and coercion, while experiencing firsthand the great power of communities coming together in a spirit of volunteerism and cooperation. We truly do live in exciting times and I feel incredibly fortunate to be witnessing history unfold before me.

For more information, visit the websites for Occupy Wall Street and Occupy Together.

 

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Posted in Politics, Society6 Comments

Missing the Point By a Mile

Missing the Point By a Mile

A false notion of secularism is that it prohibits any form of public religious expression. At least that much I can agree with on John Pesebre’s recent article. Where he chooses to go from there, however, is an entirely different train wreck.

First and foremost, he states that Red’s recent article exhibits the false notion stated above. Nowhere in the article was it stated that the act was an outright violation of the separation of church and state. All it did was express valid concern over how this prayer was done in poor taste.

Let it be clear that we know how secularism does not prohibit any form of public religious expression. If we’re going to delve strictly into legal terms–“No law shall be made respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”–there was no violation as no laws were made that pass the criteria for one. As some would incessantly insist, it would appear to be “just another prayer”. Well it would not have been a problem if our dear senator had said the prayer in his bed, or with his family, or before his meal, or before eating his family in bed. Heck, he could have even prayed in senate on his own and you wouldn’t have heard as much as a squeak from us. The clincher, however, is how the obviously Christian prayer was broadcast on a pedestal that is the highest legislative office of a country to its pluralistic people. If that does not send a message of Christianity dominating as the pseudo-official state religion, then I don’t know what does.

In the end, Pesebre even suggests that we just let it go, arguing that there are many more important things to speak up about. True, there are many other important things that we could speak up about, but that in no way stops us from speaking up about something seemingly small in society that we find wanting correction. Non-participation would be a valid option in most cases, but this is the Senate we’re talking about, and unless you’re willing to boycott the national facade that we call a democracy, I would suggest you speak up when there’s something you want to change about it. And it’s not like it will take tons of effort to fix this one problem. Pesebre’s suggestion of spending effort on other things implies that not praying would take lots of time away from other more important things, when the truth is all that has to be done by each senator to solve the problem of expressing religious favoritism during government time is not praying.

There are some of us who are sick and tired of being told to just deal with it, as if it was the most harmless thing in the world. It gets even worse when we see our taxes paying for time wasted on fancy words that don’t work. Yes, our taxes. Session time is secular time is precious time. And I can’t think of a worse way to defend secularism than to argue in favor of accommodating all forms of religious expression altogether. If the members of senate were diverse enough to belong to 10 different religious sects, I wonder how many would still be in favor of hearing each and every one of their prayers before settling down to finally do what their constituents are actually paying them to do.

In a nutshell, we contend that there should be no prayers or sectarian practices in any government-sponsored event. Whether or not this is legal is open to much discussion, but it is clearly an ideal that some of us seek to achieve, not only for our wish that religious influence in government affairs be lessened, but also for the simple courtesy of being considerate to people of other (or no) faith when engaging matters concerning our common government. If you say that you’re going to talk about something that concerns all of us, don’t go ahead and talk about something that doesn’t concern all of us. That is, unless you’re passive-aggressively hinting that we don’t matter. But c’mon, senators wouldn’t do that.

Would they?

 

 

[Image from: http://ashleyconnick.files.wordpress.com/2011/09/off-target.jpg]

Posted in Personal, Politics, Religion, Society26 Comments

Seriously, Senate?

Seriously, Senate?

My disappointment knows no bounds.

Earlier, the Bantay Bishop movement was jumpstarted with a march to the Senate. Our main objective was to push for fairness in the Senate’s treatment of the bishops, particularly in response to certain senators’ assurance that these men of the cloth would be coddled like scared little children.

Despite all of the effort put into getting our message across, it seems that our wishes fell on deaf ears.

First and foremost, our protest met a sour greeting by Sen. Miriam Santiago with a hostility based on pure speculation. A word of advice to Sen. Santiago: I would be more careful to spout accusations about other people until I had significant evidence of the motives and/or funding behind their actions. Let me just say that this protest was the result of the concerted effort of many involved organizations, and not something simply pushed forward by lump funding from any single private institution. If Sen. Santiago, however, would be willing to disclose the name of the suspect she speaks of, then we would be glad to assist in calling for justice should subsequent investigations reveal them to be guilty of gross misconduct.

Second, the blatant double-standard that the Senate has displayed defies any sincere attempt at delivering swift justice. What I take from their way of handling the situtation is as follows: If a common thief seeks forgiveness by issuing a non-apology and returning the ill-gotten wares, he is sent to prison. If a bishop seeks forgiveness by issuing a non-apology and returning the ill-gotten wares, he is pardoned unquestioningly.

And last, I was expecting at the very least that Pueblos would have been prosecuted for a clear breach of the law. There is no room for twisting interpretations and the law about this is crystal clear. Pueblos had no excuse whatsoever to ask for favors from none other than then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. In the end, however, it would seem that even my lowest hopes were still much too high. Instead, all of the bishops were allowed to go scot-free. And all this, after a constant display of hypocrisy on their part.

I, for one, have long been disillusioned by the spiteful actions of clergy. Getting the majority of the Filipino people to share in this realization of mine, though, is still a distant dream. The struggle to emancipate others from the blindfolds of religious high-horseback riding is arduous indeed. The apparent failure of our recent appeal to the Senate shows this. True, others may not take us seriously at the moment, but I cannot help but feel that those whom we do not take seriously are more deserving of this treatment.

I do not take seriously anyone claiming to be pro-life while scientific studies clearly show that their stance on the RH bill is simply to sit idly and allow preventable deaths day after day.

I do not take seriously anyone who condemns gambling while at the same time accepting considerable donations from a government institution whose main source of revenue is (surprise, surprise!) gambling.

I do not take seriously anyone purporting to be pro-poor and otherworldly while in the same breath hoarding financial assets and countless possessions.

And it would seem that even our senators are so blind and/or ignorant to still take these men seriously due to an unfounded reverence. This display of grand incompetence from our statesmen is both frustrating and alarming, for if we can no longer trust our own senators with upholding the rule of law, then I’ll be damned if I can trust anyone else to do the same.

Meanwhile, life goes on, and I can only wonder when we will ever learn.

Posted in Featured, Personal, Politics, Religion, Society4 Comments

Reverse Revelations

Reverse Revelations

I’ve been cleaning out my old notebooks, cutting out used pages, and sorting out which ones were good enough to still be used again. In the process, I came across my Christian Living Education notebook from grade school, in which I found the following failures of education written in my handwriting:

Q: Why can one who rarely talks have a longer life?
A: He/she doesn’t get into much trouble or problems because he/she does not comment/gossip too much.

There’s some truth in this, but we aren’t taught to value the quality of life. All we’re taught to seek is a long life, however devoid of integrity or meaning. This kind of education creates sheep who bleat, not people who speak.

Q: What lesson may be learned from this story?
A: That whatever pain we may experience in doing it, we must obey God.

Uhh.. just plain NO. To quote Penn Jillette:

“If god told you to kill your child and you said yes, then you are dangerous and stay away from me.”

Q: Why should we listen to the advice of our parents?
A: They have gone through many experiences so they know what I should do.

This too has some truth in it, and I’m lucky enough to have parents who are quite exceptional at raising children. But this should not apply to parents who have tendencies to neglect and/or abuse their children. Bantay Bata is there for a reason, and if children are discouraged from using it when the need arises, then we have a problem.

Q: What other values does wisdom beget?
A: Sincerity, obedience, acceptance, and responsibility.

I would say yes, no, kind of, and yes.

Wisdom begets autonomy, not obedience. Sadly, disobedience is generally frowned upon in our society, even when the reasons for it are legitimate. You don’t really need obedience if both your requests for cooperation and the people you are addressing are sensible. If you can’t motivate people, that’s your problem, not theirs. You have to learn how to make them motivated and making something illegal is hardly ever the best solution.

Acceptance is tricky. You first have to know what things are inside and outside of your control. As Epictetus once taught, suffering arises from trying to control what is uncontrollable, or from neglecting what is within our power.

Lesson 4: God loves me because…

1. he created me in his own image & likeness.
2. I love him.
3. I am one of his children.
4. I respect him.
5. he can trust me.
6. he loves all of his creations.
7. I am the crowning glory of his creation.
8. he is merciful.

This is just an epic fail on so many levels.

1) So God is a narcissist. What. A. Prick.
2) So God’s love is conditional (and, as I would see it, pretty shallow).
3) Uhh.. what isn’t?
4) Same as #2. Actually, this whole exercise just seems to emphasize this point, doesn’t it? XD
5) Once upon a time, perhaps. Now, I don’t think so. XD
6) If by “love” you mean allow to suffer needlessly despite one’s omnipotence, sure, why not?
7) I find this statement to be fairly accurate. Good job.
8.) If by “merciful” you mean genocidal, sure.

I am a Claretian

1. I am a lover of God’s Word (Biblical)
2. I am a lover of The Holy Eucharist
3. I am a lover of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

Wow. If only I had known about No True Scotsman back then. I am a Claretian because I happened to pay for education at Claret. Period. I don’t think anything else follows from there. As for the three items:

1) Ahh, God’s word. Funny how it’s always people writing and talking, right?
2) Mmm.. cannibalism.
3) Joseph may have gotten sloppy seconds thanks to the Holy Spirit, but if every previous Claretian happens to be a lover of the Blessed Virgin Mary, then FUCK ME!

TL;DR – We need more secular education. Don’t pray in my school and I won’t think in your church.

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