Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for April, 2013

Image

“Because to take away a man’s freedom of choice, even his freedom to make the wrong choice, is to manipulate him as though he were a puppet and not a person.”  ~Madeleine L’Engle

*************************************************************************************************

Property rights . . . Human rights. Let’s take these matters one after the other.

Basically what do we mean by “property rights”?  These are rights one exercises over what s/he deems to be her/his properties—over tangible or intangible entities that s/he possesses and calls her/his own. One’s rights over them could consist (without being exhaustive) of the right to keep them in an appropriate location; the right to protect and defend them from harm or destruction; the right to conceal them from public exposure; the right to share them with others; the right to exchange them for something else; the right to give them up or away; the right to get rid of them; the right to dispose them off; the right to destroy them, among others. But what about “human rights”; do we consider them as properties? It is only if—and only if—we could prove that human rights are properties that we can claim property rights over them.

Now, what are “human rights”? Are these rights generally inherent or otherwise in our humanity? Are these rights necessary factors that make us human and hence define our humanity or are they states of affairs that emanate from the human condition but do not necessarily define our humanity? In other words, can we still be considered human without these so-called human rights or even without one or some of these rights we may still be considered human? Or are there—and thus we must distinguish between—human rights that make us human, without which we lose our humanity and human rights that even without them our humanity is not lost? The former cannot be considered as properties that we HAVE but conditions of what we ARE—our very BEING—while the latter could be construed as properties that we have and do not necessarily deprive us of our being human even if we lose them. To the former type, the issue of having property rights does not apply whereas to the latter it surely does. The former being human rights that define our humanity are inalienable, absolute, incontrovertible, undeniable, non-negotiable. The latter being human rights acquired in the course of experiencing the socio-cultural dimension of human existence are viewed as “properties” that we are supposed to uphold, keep, protect and defend or fight for in times when they are at risk or endangered.

In view of these considerations, we ask the question: What are these intrinsic human rights that determine and confirm our BEING human?       I am of the opinion that the first is our right to biological life. As living human beings, the right to life is most basic. Human life in the biological sense is not viewed as a property (in the sense we use the term in the context of the present discussion) but as the foundation—the very fundamental underpinning—of human existence for how can we affirm the meaningfulness of such existence without a consciousness that is only made possible in the being of a living human entity? We cannot therefore apply to the right to life as a human right the issue of property rights. In other words, we cannot appropriate a property right over the right to life as a human right. Human life in the biological sense is not a human property acquired through socio-cultural interaction. That is why, whether we believe in a deity or not, human life has its own dignity and for the theist, the term that gives more impact to its meaningfulness is sanctity. To a theist, human life is sacred.

We may look at human life tentatively and superficially as a property that we can own but more seriously and intensely, we get to the paradoxical point that we own it in a sense but in another, it is not our property because if it were, we could also claim as a “human right” the right to get rid of it, to destroy it, to dispose it off, to eliminate it. We have no property right over and above the inherent human right called right to life. The modern controversy, however, that puts this principle into question lies in the ethical issue of whether it is moral (or immoral) to clinically administer euthanasia and abortion. This ethical issue, being yet at the stage of controversy, is being argued and debated on in various fora, both professional and casual. The other side of the divide asserts that like any other human rights, the right to life is a human right to which we have a property right and hence, the right to death is likewise affirmed along the way. To this, I beg to disagree.

Another intrinsic human right over which we have no property right is the right to freedom of the will. We basically say that we humans have free will but beyond having it, free will is a defining factor of our humanity. In philosophical terms, a human individual is not only a possessor of free will but s/he IS free will. We are not only organisms of biological instincts passive to external stimuli and carried by the ebb and flow of the changing seasons but each of us is a Dasein (according to Heidegger) or Existenz (that is nobler than Heidegger’s Dasein, according to Karl Jaspers) endowed with a free will that defies instincts and hence significantly disconnects us from the animal world for we are not only conscious but we are conscious of our consciousness. It is from this human self-consciousness that free will issues out not as a property but as the deciding factor that discriminates on things to own as properties and those that are not. In other words, one’s right to freedom of the will is the limit of property rights and human rights to which we ought to have property rights.

Like the right to life which is a human right to which we have no property right as an ETHICAL option to get rid of, we neither have the property right to the right to freedom of the will in LOGICAL terms because we cannot choose to get rid of it without exercising the very right to freedom of the will to get rid of it. Choosing to get rid of the right to freedom of the will is an act of the same right and hence is self-stultifying.

The right to justice is another right that is intrinsically human over which we cannot exercise property right. It is not a property that we can own and get rid of and still retain our humanity. Sans right to justice, our humanity is in peril. Like the two intrinsic rights discussed above, the right to justice similarly defines the human condition. It is not a value that may be derived from the outside and be taken as a “property”; it is an ethical virtue that strengthens the fiber of the uniqueness of our humanity. In conditions where some people are exposed to dominant politico-economic forces that have created situations of injustice, they inevitably suffer extremely to the point of the threat of death and even of death itself. The people in such conditions have been robbed of their right to justice, an innate human right that without which the human individual at least and the society where s/he is located at most are deprived of the human character. Succinctly, robbing humanity of the right to justice is an act of dehumanization.

There is however a certain variety of human rights that could be viewed as properties to which we could exercise property rights. These are human rights that if we don’t exercise do not necessarily render a person less human. Nevertheless, these human rights are never less significant. Like the intrinsic human rights we have earlier discussed, this second variety of human rights consists of very important rights to individuals that need to be esteemed, upheld and protected in their personal capacity. These are human rights we may exercise or waiver without any violation of our moral integrity. Without being exhaustive, among these rights are: the right to formal education, the right to gainful employment, the right of domicile, the right to practice one’s religion of choice, the right of suffrage, the right of speech, among others. To these human rights, we have property rights.

© Ruel F. Pepa, 30 April 2013

Read Full Post »

IS LIFE A DREAM?

dream02

What is life? a tale that is told;
What is life? a frenzy extreme,
A shadow of things that seem;
And the greatest good is but small,
That all life is a dream to all,
And that dreams themselves are a dream.

[FROM ‘LIFE IS A DREAM’ by Pedro Calderón de la Barca (1600-1681)]

****************************************************************************************
If life is a dream, then we must be living a dream here and now. But is my life really a dream right at this very moment? I am conscious now and I remember when I went to bed last night to sleep and I know I woke up this morning with a very faint memory of some episodes of seemingly unconnected dreams I had while asleep. It’s not so complicated at all to say that I am able to distinguish between dreaming and being awake and with this, I know that I am not dreaming now. It sounds so simplistic and doesn’t have to be argued about. There is nothing philosophical in this consideration except if seen in the light of naïve realism which looks at life—or experience in life—as it happens, no frills and fancies. Besides, we could think that there must be something psychologically wrong with an individual who cannot establish the demarcation line between the so-called paramount reality and dream. The question, “Is life a dream?”, seems to be a no-sweat matter automatically resolved with the response, “No, life is definitely not a dream.”

However, the question could be elevated to the philosophical level and bestow on it an air of “metaphysical” seriousness. Then the whole issue of life being a dream becomes a “mystical” concern given more importance in oriental thought-systems where the philosophical merges with the religious so that religion is philosophy itself and vice versa. To the western mind, a dream is not real; an illusion experienced while asleep. But to a Hindu, it is this very world that is an illusion—maya, in Sanskrit—where humans experience samsara or the cycle of birth and rebirth. It is from this maya that we human beings should achieve liberation or moksha which is likened to an experience of awakening from a dream-like illusion.

In a way, this view of reality and illusion is not strictly oriental as I am reminded of the magical-realistic foundation of at least two of the Cambridge-based Nigerian author Ben Okri’s novels, The Famished Road and its sequel Songs of Enchantment where the life in this world of the novels’ leading protagonist, Azaro, is just a “dream” of the supernatural denizens in the spirit world from where Azaro originally came. In both instances—whether orientalist or magical-realist—life in this world is just a dream and sooner or later, we will all wake up from this dream and be in the “real world” which from our present viewpoint is in another unique dimension of existence, call it supernatural or spiritual, it doesn’t matter as yet for access into it is yet impossible.

But isn’t this worldview a clear-cut formulation of an illusion to create in our minds the idea that a better—in fact, a perfect—world (which to its believers is the “real world”) is waiting for us who have long been struggling in the pains, troubles and tragedies of living in this illusory world of imperfections, hardships, sicknesses and sufferings? Isn’t this in reality, the “dream-like illusory world ” with which its formulators and their “fellow believers” want to psych themselves up to make life in the here and now more bearable through the promise of a “heavenly eternity” when they “wake up” from this dream-life? In other words, isn’t it an outright craziness—if not an absolute stupidity—to even think that the life we have in this world is nothing but a dream, with all the self-consciousness we have at this very point in time that we are here and now and we can absolutely distinguish between waking moment and sleeping moment?

Yes, dreaming is a life event, i.e., an event in a living human being. Specifically, it is an activity of the subconscious mind. In this sense, we can reasonably say that some aspect of life is dreaming. In this connection, we can infer that some of life is a dream but not all of life is a dream. Using the technicalities of formal logic, particularly, Aristotelian logic, the proposition, “Some of life is a dream,” is particular-affirmative which if true contradicts and hence renders false the universal-negative proposition, “No life is a dream.” While maintaining the truth of the proposition, “Some of life is a dream,” it doesn’t however necessarily render the sub-contrary proposition (which is particular-negative), “Some of life is not a dream,” false; it could likewise be true or it could be false. The technical term used to describe a proposition whose truth or falsity cannot easily be ascertained by logical means is “undetermined.” While further maintaining the truth of the proposition, “Some of life is a dream,” its sub-implicative relation with the universal-affirmative proposition, “All of life is a dream,” is also an undetermined case. In other words, the former doesn’t give us a definite logical ground to determine the truth or falsity of the latter.

Here we see the limitedness of formal logic in determining the truth or falsity of certain propositions and this leads us to cross the demarcation line that divides the analytic and the empirical (or synthetic). The former is purely a search for linguistic or propositional solutions while the latter requires to resolve issues and problems by the use of empirical methods that in a more serious and technical process could be construed as scientific. At this point, two aforementioned propositions have been rendered as undetermined in relation to the proposition, “Some of life is a dream” which is assumed to be true: 1) “Some of life is not a dream” (sub-contrary proposition); and 2) All of life is a dream (sub-implicative proposition). An appeal to experience resolves the first as true and the second as false.

Perhaps there is a better way of philosophizing sensibly on the issue of life as a dream barring all supernatural, mystical and magical considerations we have so far discussed. Perhaps a metaphorical understanding of dream would lead us to a more meaningful appreciation of the notion that life is a dream. So that, in this sense, dream is not associated with illusion or is not taken as an event triggered in the subconscious mind while the person is asleep but something one desires and plans to achieve in the future for a better life and in a broader sense, for a better world. In this way, we look at dream as some kind of an ambition. Someone dreams to be an engineer while another dreams to have a vacation in the Philippines and experience its exquisite beaches. A young scholar dreams to earn a doctorate from Cambridge or Harvard while an old professional dreams to enjoy retirement in a South Pacific island.

Dreams, dreams, dreams. Human beings, young and old, under normal circumstances, are suffused with dreams. Dream in this sense is something uniquely human. In fact, we could say that a lot of concrete human achievements in science and technology that we witness now in the world were once upon a time dreams of men and women of extraordinary intelligence and will who thereafter acted responsibly and creatively on those dreams to make them a reality. But whether a dream is big or small, we humans are all dreamers. It doesn’t even matter whether a dream is achieved or not; the point is, we dream and in this sense, human life is a dream. Today’s reality was yesterday’s dream and today’s dream could possibly be tomorrow’s reality. What else can we say but to assert that life in this world is a life of dreams and in a figurative manner, we say that truly, life is a dream.

© Ruel F. Pepa, 22 April 2013

Read Full Post »

1. Had a German pastor been sent to Spain as a missionary, it could have created a confusion coz he would have been called PASTOR ALEMAN (Spanish for “German pastor”). But this is also how a German shepherd is called here.

2. If the biggest chain of malls in the Philippines is SM, here it is EL CORTE INGLES (Spanish for ” The English Court”). Once I entered one of its big branches in Puerta del Sol and talked to sales people, security guards and others in English. It was so disappointing coz none of them spoke English.

3. Buses in the Philippines generally have drivers and conductors. Here, buses have no conductors (as we know them to be different from the drivers); only drivers. What’s interesting is a bus driver here is called “conductor”.

4. In offices and homes in the Philippines, it’s common to find the sign COME IN posted on the doors. Spaniards are much more accommodating coz if you find the sign COME posted on a door, you are not only invited to enter but to EAT. (“Come” in Spanish is from the verb “Comer” meaning “To eat”.

5. In the Philippines, we find people who look nice and good but “crazy inside”. We say: “nasa loob ang kulo”. Here, it’s also “nasa loob ang kulo” coz it’s a case of indecent exposure if one would show his or her “culo” (ass) in public.

6. In Tagalog, we have the same Spanish word for “horse”—“caballo”—which Spaniards pronounce the same way we do: “kabayo.” However, there is also the Spanish word “caballa” (pronounced “kabaya”) and it is not the feminine form of “caballo”. Caballa is a kind of fish which in English is mackerel. (Well, the truth is “kabayas” is a common food fish in the Philippines.)

7. Here an adult guy is respectfully addressed as “caballero” which literally means a “horseman” or “a horse-rider” even if he is neither one nor the other. Actually, “caballero” is “gentleman” in the Spanish language-game.

8. “Dama” in the Philippines is a board-game which we call “checkers” in English. In Spain, “dama” is the feminine counterpart of “caballero” being the respectful address used for an adult female. In English “dama” is “lady.”

9. Christian feminists will surely be delighted to embrace the Trinitarian faith in Spain because even if God (Dios) here is basically masculine in three masculine persons—Father (Padre), Son (Hijo) and Holy Spirit (Espiritu Santo)—the collective term for the said three persons automatically makes God feminine: The Trinity, which in Spanish is “LaTrinidad”!

10. There is no “tarantado” in Spain; only “atarantado” which means “dazed” in English or “hilo” in Tagalog.

(c) Ruel F. Pepa, 18 April 2013

Read Full Post »

THE SILENT MIND

Image

“The soul always knows what to do to heal itself. The challenge is to silence the mind” ~Carolyn Myss

(http://www.goodreads.com/author/quotes/11236.Caroline_Myss)

 

Initially, I’d say that dealing with the issue of “the silent mind” wouldn’t surely make one’s mind silent as this involves thinking and getting into a lot of connected/related issues in the process of at least resolving what a “silent mind” is. Implicitly, what I am saying here is the primary notion that the thinking mind is not silent. But is it really the case? Is there really an instance when the mind is truly silent? If we associate the “non-silence” of the mind with thinking, then we can theoretically say that the silence of the mind is achievable only when thinking ceases.Thinking is the activity of the conscious mind. In this sense, we could logically infer that an unconscious mind is the only instance when the mind gets silent. But this idea could be very superficial and simplistic especially for those who have a basic knowledge of the Freudian theory of mind.

Sigmund Freud proposed that the human mind has three levels: the conscious mind, the subconscious mind and the unconscious mind. Each of these three levels has its own “active” dynamics. Normal and willful thinking is obviously active as it is performed in the conscious level. Nevertheless, the subconscious mind has its own activity—and hence not silent at all—through the appearance of dreams while a person is asleep. But what about the unconscious mind? Is it the silent state of the mind? Is there no activity of mind in the unconscious level? Freud disagreed. In what he claimed as the research studies he had done that led to the development of the principle and methodology of psychoanalysis, the unconscious mind is never inactive. In fact, it has its own kind of “activities” that affect human behavior and attitudes toward one’s circumstances in life.

The Freudian theory describes the unconscious mind as the depository of one’s suppressed passions, unfulfilled desires, unrealized wishes, unsatisfied cravings and frustrated aspirations. These are the factors that “actively operate” underneath human existence and make life problematic, troubled and painful. In other words, the unconscious mind is actually the most “active” of all the levels of the mind as its impact has produced the neurotic human being. Freud theorized that unless these factors are unearthed and brought forth to consciousness from the depths of the unconscious mind by way of psychoanalysis, the human being will continue to be deprived of the opportunity to more fully and better understand her/himself and to enjoy life more meaningfully.

Keeping the notion that the mind—in the Freudian sense—is never inactive in all its levels and instances precludes the silent mind. Setting aside Freud at the moment leads us to assume that there is no silent mind among the living and the silencing of the mind occurs only at the moment of death when mind is no longer mind. It then follows that the silent mind is a contradiction in terms. It is thus predicative of the mind to be active and never silent. An application of the law of contradiction in formal logic translates the proposition, “The mind is silent” to “The mind is non-mind” which is obviously contradictory and hence invalid.

But as we review what has transpired in this discussion, there seems to be a flaw in the way the notion of silence is “forcibly” attached with the concept of inactivity. So that, the concept of the silent mind appears to have been audaciously construed as the mind in a state of inactivity—an inactive mind. What if we rethink our paradigm and redefine “silent” and understand it in the figurative or symbolic sense, i.e., getting us to the thought that the mind may be active and yet silent. Doing so frees us from the thought that “the silent mind” is a contradiction in terms. This re-conceptualization reminds us of a still pond whose pristine water allows us to have a glimpse of its depth and a variety of objects beneath. It is an inspiring moment that leads the poet in us to spontaneously describe the sight as serene, tranquil, peaceful, quiet. The same modifiers apply perfectly to a state of the human mind even in the course of its activity when such a mind is composed, calm, well-focused, non-agitated. And such mind-state is behaviorally manifested in the character of an individual who is in control of himself—someone who is poised, unruffled and able to maintain her/his cool despite the enormity and the magnitude of clear and present problems—even dangers—before her/him.

The silent mind is therefore a sober mind. It is the mind of a normal human being who has the ability to preserve her/his rationality in the face of an emotion-stirring situation. It is the restrained mind of an individual who doesn’t easily give in to the excitement or despair that a particular event brings about. The silent mind is characterized by the steadfastness of a calm decision impervious to the distraction of rattled reactions prompted by troubled spectators or terror-stricken witnesses amid appalling circumstances. This may sound “oriental” to those who have some exposure in eastern mysticism but it is indubitably realistic in the general human condition regardless of whether the contextual reference point is eastern or western.

In Chapter Three of the Tibetan Buddhist volume, The Peaceful Stillness of the Silent Mind [http://www.lamayeshe.com/?sect=article&id=139], titled “Experiencing Silent Wisdom,” the author, Lama Yeshe, shares with the readers an enlightened understanding of how important is the silent mind in coping with the nitty-gritty of human reality :

At certain times, a silent mind is very important, but “silent” does not mean closed. The silent mind is an alert, awakened mind; a mind seeking the nature of reality. When problems in the sense world bother you, the difficulty comes from your sense perception, not from the external objects you perceive. And when concepts bother you, that also does not come from outside but from your mind’s grasping at concepts. Therefore, instead of trying to stop problems emotionally by grasping at new material objects or ideas, check up silently to see what’s happening in your mind.

No matter what sort of mental problem you experience, instead of getting nervous and fearful, sit back, relax, and be as silent as possible. In this way you will automatically be able to see reality and understand the root of the problem.

 When we experience problems, either internal or external, our narrow, unskillful mind only makes them worse. When someone with an itchy skin condition scratches it, he feels some temporary relief and thinks his scratching has made it better. In fact, his scratching has made it worse. We’re like that; we do the same thing, every day of our lives. Instead of trying to stop problems like this, we should relax and rely on our skillful, silent mind. But silent does not mean dark, non-functioning, sluggish or sleepy.

 In this light, we say that the silent mind is also a creative mind with the ability to (1) clearly interpret an exigent state of affairs; (2) analyze its components logically; (3) evaluate its implications with an open mind; (4) accurately locate it in a larger context; (5) come up with a definite and appropriate decision pertinent to its resolution; and (6) confidently act on the basis of the decision made. Sounds quite easier said than done. But that is where the challenge is. And I maintain the view that the meaningfulness of the notion of the silent mind should be pragmatically understood in this manner, regardless of whether it is emanating from an eastern or a western mind.

Namaste.

Suggested Readings:

Lama Yeshe. The Peaceful Stillness of the Silent Mind. http://www.lamayeshe.com/?sect=article&id=139

Tolle, Eckhart. The Power of Now. http://www.baytallaah.com/bookspdf/51.pdf

©Ruel F. Pepa, 16 April 2013

Read Full Post »

Image

“In fact, nations, like states, are a contingency, and not a universal necessity. Neither nations nor states exist at all times and in all circumstances. Moreover, nations and states are not the same contingency. Nationalism holds that they were destined for each other; that either without the other is incomplete, and constitutes a tragedy. But before they could become intended for each other, each of them had to emerge, and their emergence was independent and contingent. The state has certainly emerged without the help of the nation. Some nations have certainly emerged without the blessings of their own state. It is more debatable whether the normative idea of the nation, in its modern sense, did not presuppose the prior existence of the state.”

~Ernest  Gellner, Nations and Nationalism (1983)

****************************************************************************************************************

The modern usage of the word “nation,” has in some ways acquired a multiplicity of connotations. There is not a single general, much less universal, definition of the term as it is used by different people and groups in various contexts and instances. Nevertheless, consulting the Online Etymology Dictionary [http://www.etymonline.com] yields the following etymological traces of the word “nation”:

nation (n.) c.1300, from Old French nacion “birth, rank; descendants, relatives; country, homeland” (12c.) and directly from Latin nationem (nominative natio) “birth, origin; breed, stock, kind, species; race of people, tribe,” literally “that which has been born,” from natus, past participle of nasci “be born” (Old Latin gnasci; see genus). Political sense has gradually predominated, but earliest English examples inclined toward the racial meaning “large group of people with common ancestry.” Older sense preserved in application to North American Indian peoples (1640s). Nation-building first attested 1907 (implied in nation-builder).

http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?term=nation

Implicitly, its etymology brings us to a sociological consideration originally focused on the family which is the most fundamental formation of social interaction. The association of a number of families in a common geographical locus constitutes a tribe whose relationship with other tribes in a wider geographical setting comprises a nation. In other words, the concept of a nation has its rootage in the configuration of more basic social units wherein an individual person is born and identified as a member of a family (or a clan), a tribe and hence a nation. This is however a very technical way of getting to the definition of what a nation is as we look at how the term is presently used in various instances to imply an assortment of connotations.

Perhaps there is some sense in the primal idea that a nation is racially distinguished. In this connection, we may agree with the Cherokee, the Cheyenne and the Shoshone, among others, that they are absolutely accurate as they call themselves “nations” of native North Americans. From another point of view, they are tribes. But what is the modern significance to them of laying emphasis on nationhood over “tribe-hood”? Is it a political move? At this point, being a nation has therefore acquired an innovative overtone triggered by a power-driven sensibility geared to rise above the neutral and ineffectual understanding of a people’s selfhood on a purely social plane. Being a mere tribe lacks an absolute projection of power. Besides, being a tribe evokes a primitive implication that seems incapable to assert itself in the face of political domination. In this sense, adopting nationhood in place of “tribe-hood” is essentially politically significant. In a lecture entitled, “What is a Nation?” delivered at Sorbonne on 11 March 1882 by the celebrated 19th century French philosopher and writer Ernest Renan, he commented:

A nation is therefore a large-scale solidarity, constituted by the feeling of the sacrifices that one has made in the past and of those that one is prepared to make in the future. It presupposes a past; it is summarized, however, in the present by a tangible fact, namely, consent, the clearly expressed desire to continue a common life. A nation’s existence is, if you will pardon the metaphor, a daily plebiscite, just as an individual’s existence is a perpetual affirmation of life.
(ig.cs.tu-berlin.de/oldstatic/w2001/eu1/…/Renan1882EN-Nation.pdf)

In the context of indigenous Philippine ethnic groupings which are more or less twenty-five in number, none of them has called itself a “nation”. Commonly, they are tribes and at best and in a more erudite way, they are called “ethno-linguistic groups. As a political initiative of the republic—whether superficial or substantial—what is being promoted is the strengthening of the Filipino nation which is comprised of the ethno-linguistic groups found within the Philippine sovereign territory. It is therefore an effort to dissolve ethnic/tribal boundaries with the ultimate goal of unifying the Filipinos regardless of their ethno-linguistic identities. In the process, a comprehensive program that sustains the ideology of NATIONALISM within a protracted time period is laid down to achieve such an ultimate goal. And a new complicated state of affairs arises alongside the complexity of getting to a better understanding of what a nation is. At this point, there is not only an equivocation in the concept of a nation but likewise in the idea of what nationalism is.

Nationalism as an ideological platform is manipulated by a myriad political tendencies, parties and organizations fitting it in the mold of their respective political ambitions. We have witnessed in history how nationalism has been appropriated by the so-called liberal democrats, social democrats, socialists, communists, fascists, and others. They are all “nationalists.” Their existence is self-legitimized and self-justified by the intensity of their commitment to their expressed desire to strengthen and hence empower the “nation.” “Nation,” “nationhood,” “nationalism” . . . These are concepts made more significant now in political than in social terms.

If we pursue racial identification as the basis of a nation, modern (or perhaps postmodern) cosmopolitanism is in the way to break this up as we have witnessed the migration flux of people from one geographical location to another. Germans, Britons, Spaniards, Norwegians, Swedes, among others who immigrated to the US are now people whom we call the American nation. They have established a community of “nations” to constitute an extensive unified “American nation” grounded on a monolithic ideology of “American nationalism” and pursuing the goal to become a stronger American nation whether such a goal is to the detriment of weaker and more vulnerable countries whose economies and governments are exploited and continually disempowered by the imperialist machination of the US government’s foreign policy.

In conclusion, let me share a more serious and in-depth look into the dynamics  of what a nation is as this concept is explored in Benedict Anderson’s scholarly research penned in his essentially critical volume IMAGINED COMMUNITIES (pp. 7-8): (http://issuu.com/ruel56/docs/benedict_anderson_imagined_communities/1)

In an anthropological spirit, then, I propose the following definition of the nation: it is an imagined political community – and imagined as both inherently limited and sovereign.

It is imagined because the members of even the smallest nation will never know most of their fellow-members, meet them, or even hear of them, yet in the minds of each lives the image of their communion. . . .

The nation is imagined as limited because even the largest of them, encompassing perhaps a billion living human beings, has finite, if elastic, boundaries, beyond which lie other nations. No nation imagines itself coterminous with mankind. The most messianic nationalists do not dream of a day when all the members of the human race will join their nation in the way that it was possible, in certain epochs, for, say, Christians to dream of a wholly Christian planet.

It is imagined as sovereign because the concept was born in an age in which Enlightenment and Revolution were destroying the legitimacy of the divinely-ordained, hierarchical dynastic realm. Coming to maturity at a stage of human history when even the most devout adherents of any universal religion were inescapably confronted with the living pluralism of such religions, and the allomorphism between each faith’s ontological claims and territorial stretch, nations dream of being free, and, if under God, directly so. The gauge and emblem of this freedom is the sovereign state.

Finally, it is imagined as a community, because, regardless of the actual inequality and exploitation that may prevail in each, the nation is always conceived as a deep, horizontal comradeship. Ultimately it is this fraternity that makes it possible, over the past two centuries, for so many millions of people, not so much to kill, as willingly to die for such limited imaginings.

©Ruel F. Pepa, 9 April 2013

Read Full Post »

Image

the steel-cold nights have long stolen
the eagle-spirit that animates the warrior’s will,
once soaring high over battles among principalities and powers

the towers have long been abandoned and the battlefield
is now a desolation, no more offensives and rear guards
in the silence of wars’ classic tragedies.

the halls of fame have long been ruined;
memories and honors, all scattered and trampled,
broken on dusty pavements, forgotten, desecrated.

for in the skirmishes and collisions
of violent forces in the arena of earthly life
there is not a single victor; only losers and tragic praises.

Read Full Post »