detail from Labels for Hair Ribbons by Manuel Ocampo a delectable selection of oriental appetizers
Saturday, October 05, 2002


: . On the limits of demystification:

from Himala by Ricardo Lee:
    Nitong mga huling araw ang Cupang ay nakaranas ng maraming bagay: eklipse, ang pang-gagamot ni Elsa, epidemia, at iba pa. Tayong lahat, kabilang na ako, ay maraming natutunang mga bagay-bagay nitong nakaraang araw. Noon ay lagi ‘kong sinasabing importante lagi ang pagharap sa katotohanan. Ngayon ay alam ko na hindi tayo dapat laging napasisilaw sa katotohanan. Sapagkat kung minsan ito ay hindi makatao. Kung minsan ang kasinungalingan ay mas importante kaysa sa katotohanan. Kung minsan ang kasinungalingan ay mas nagagawang kabutihan sa tao. Katotohanan man o kasinungalingan, realidad man o ilusyon, ang importante ay kung saan ito ginagamit.

from The Wretched of the Earth by Frantz Fanon:
    A permanent dialogue with oneself and an increasingly obscene narcissism never ceased to prepare the way for a half-delirious state, where intellectual work became suffering and the reality was not at all that of a living man, working and creating himself, but rather words, different combinations of words, and the tensions springing from the meanings contained in words.

    [A]t the beginning of his association with the people the native intellectual over-stresses details and thereby comes to forget that the defeat of colonialism is the real object of the struggle. Carried away by the multitudinous aspects of the fight, he tends to concentrate on local tasks, performed with enthusiasm but almost always too solemnly. He fails to see the whole of the movement all the time. He introduces the idea of special disciplines, of specialized functions, of departments within the terrible stone crusher, the fierce mixing machine which a popular revolution is. He is occupied in action on a particular front, and it so happens that he loses sight of the unity of the movement. This, if a local defeat is inflicted, he may well be drawn into doubt, and from thence to despair. The people, on the other hand, take their stand from the start on the broad and inclusive positions of bread and the land: how can we obtain land, and bread to eat? And this obstinate point of view of the masses, which may seem shrunken and limited, is in the end the most worthwhile and the most efficient mode of procedure.
    The problem of truth ought…to be considered. In every age, among the people, truth is the property of the national cause. No absolute verity, no discourse on the purity of the soul, can shake this position. The native replies to the living lie of the colonial situation by an equal falsehood. His dealings with his fellow nationals are open; they are strained and incomprehensible with regard to the settlers. Truth is that which hurries on the break-up of the colonialist regime; it is that which promotes the emergence of the nation; it is all that protects the natives, and ruins the foreigners. In this colonialist context there is no truthful behavior: and the good is quite simply that which is evil for “them.”

from The Politics of Criticism by Caroline Hau:
    The intellectual’s ability to effectively represent “the people” is contingent upon the transformation of the intellectual and "the people" in the field of struggle. That is, the intellectual’s task is partly testimonial in character, because it attests to a transformation (perhaps not even necessarily on the human level) already in progress, a transformation that it seeks to intensify in order to bring about much needed changes in society.
    One implication of this redefinition of the intellectual is that it reformulates the relationship between truth and error not in terms of a relation of pure opposition, but one of ineluctable intimacy. The question of error is an important factor in making considerations and specifications of context relevant and imperative. The risk of error inherent in political struggle impels rather than suspends or terminates the theoretical task because we learn about ourselves and about the world in the course of our social practices in and our active theorizing about the world. The task of refining the interests and knowledge, even the experiences, of collective struggle, must ceaselessly contribute to the goal of generalizing popular consciousness because the ability to forge a collective vision of our local concerns not only affirms but makes the most of, in effect helps maximize or intensify, the social transformation at hand to propel the struggle for social change. Far from rendering intellectual work useless, the possibility of error demands and impels the ordeal and responsibility of the intellectual task, in the same way that it demands that “we” Filipinos do something about the situation we find ourselves in. Liberation struggles are, in other words, “the best schools of good sense” because they deepen our understanding not only of what is involved in the fight for radical change, but also of what is involved in the principled study of reality.

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