Secrets DO make friends

Happy new year, dear blog readers!

I haven’t posted since last year, yes. Took a little break. But, no worries, here I am back to get it in, in 2011!

First post of the year, a bit about Wikileaks by the homie, Slavoj Zizek.

It’s a fun and interesting read about the whole dripping drama of secrets and lies. He even starts with a bit about The Dark Knight. Who doesn’t love a movie-made-into-reality example?

Interestingly enough, Zizek also argues that secrets and lies do make a international polity polite. The whole sensationalized epic that is Wikileaks and Julian the A., is really about a public shaming, confirming what we’ve known and tolerate and concede to. That is, capitalism is ruining everyone’s lives. Well, except for the few elites. But they know that we know that they know.

Zizek says, “What WikiLeaks threatens is the formal functioning of power.” An interesting argument he makes is that Wikileaks’ threat isn’t the information, it is the subversive and non-normative way in which Assange and his organization decided to challenge power.

Why I wanted to post this article is really to start off a discussion about Zizek’s closing sentence:

Through actions like the WikiLeaks disclosures, the shame – our shame for tolerating such power over us – is made more shameful by being publicised. When the US intervenes in Iraq to bring secular democracy, and the result is the strengthening of religious fundamentalism and a much stronger Iran, this is not the tragic mistake of a sincere agent, but the case of a cynical trickster being beaten at his own game.

What do you think, dear reader?

English Only Never Works

Nurses in central California have sued and won a case against English-Only discrimination in their workplace.

In the Center for Place, Culture and Politics seminar a few weeks ago, Bill Fletcher, came in and spoke about how racism in the US is inherently tied into American foreign policy and thus American immigration policy. And I, like most of the seminar’s participants, agreed with him.

Then I wondered why this isn’t always the way that we talk about racism in America, and especially now, what with all the anti-immigrant/racist things going around. Anti-immigrant fervor isn’t very different from racism. And although the permutation of this racism is inadvertently structural and institutional, aka immigration reform. We still gotta call it what it is.

In light of the contemporary climate of colorblindness and “diversity,” I’m happy that these nurses can claim this win.

Analog Girl in a Digital World

On the front page of the NYTimes is an article about the role of technology and student learning/teacher’s teaching. The article has an alarming affect, I was nervous about my use of the nets and computer devices as soon as I reached the bottom of page one. And then I continued. The author, Matt Ritchel, cites some neuroscientists who believes that the internet isn’t as harmful as TV and that multi-tasking is stimulating for the brain.

Nonetheless, educators in the article say that high schools are being corroded by technology, teachers are caught in the middle, as Ritchel puts it, “…computer or homework? Immediate gratification or investing in the future?”

As an instructional technology fellow at Macaulay Honors College at CUNY and someone who’s taught classes at Hunter college, I’m also in the middle. I think that engaging students’ lay wisdom of technology, their dexterity in multi-tasking and quick response could be a good platform to innovate education.

However, I also think that its harder for teachers to carry out traditional lesson plans with long reading and homework because the generation of ADD just can’t sit still. For the most part,I’m not also sold to the idea of online-ing classrooms, making face to face teaching and learning time obsolete. I’m not sure why, I don’t love the idea of wholesale giving up my teaching to the nets. I suppose education on the internet is of great interest to the neoliberal university, and the shrinking of an intellectual public is a part of neoliberal  ideology (ala Jurgen Habermas) but outside of those initial reactions, I don’t have any deep political reasons for it (but I should).

So, I’m asking you, readers, help?

Hip hop better than homework

Today, Asian Journal’s Dennis Clemente wrote a bit about why Fil-Ams aren’t doing well in school. And, it really, really sucks.

I know my last post is about the study of culture in sociology,  the dangers of its circulation and, its internalization. And voila. Here it is, operationalized to talk about me, my fam, my community, my people. Big woop.

There are a number of things wrong with Clemente’s take and the NAFFAA study, he so relies on:

1. Filipinos and the collective black

Eduardo Bonilla-Silve wrote a book called Racism Without Racists where he effectively argues that Filipinos belong to the “collective black” in the US racial order and, I would argue, the US social imagination. He goes to argue (and back up with real data, unlike the vague, unknown source of data in Clemente’s article) that racial inequality in the US persists because the liberal project of colorblindness and thinking that we’re all equal in the land of the brave, actually works off of the very racial stratification institutions choose to ignore.

We can’t ignore that Filipinos as well as other Asian Americans who are, in a sense, “blackened” (either by US foreign intervention in their countries–Vietnam, Burma, Laos, hella other Southeast Asian countries) aren’t also doing as well as the poster-child (East) Asian groups. It’s not just us. It’s a problem with race in America. It’s a problem with a global racial ideology that first migrated to the Philippines by way of US benevolent assimilation.

2. Tests don’t always measure “smart” or “doing well”

Just because young folks aren’t doing well on science and math tests doesn’t mean they aren’t good at it. Or that they don’t enjoy it. Or that they won’t learn to love it in the future and become fruitful contributors to math and science fields.

Students doing bad at tests also means tests suck. And that teaching to a test sucks even more. And that the standardization of math and science knowledge doesn’t incorporate the actually rich creativity one needs to be a fantastic mathematician or scientist.

3. Underfunded means underfunded

Hello. See the broken California school system. Goodbye.

Sunny Vergara says it better on Facebook, “Wow, this is a pretty shoddily written article because it totally asks the wrong questions. Its only attempt at institutional critique is citing statistics about retention and the declining quality of American education in general (surprise!) — nothing really about race, or class, or the reasons why U.S. public education is so pathetically underfunded in the first place.”

4. Fil-Am culture can’t be the culprit, neither can Hispanic or Black culture

I really strongly dislike the idea that being “lumped as hispanic” can be a reason why Filipinos aren’t doing well in school. I think if we are going to rely on “culture” as the answer to a problem, it is condemning different cultures to false binaries. Brown = bad. Not brown = good. And this is just not a smart argument.

Looking at culture alone removes institutional racism and structural inequality from the formulation of why youth are disenfranchised from their own education. Blaming culture lays the blame on the bodies of brown youth who are destabilized under the conditions of institutions under them that keep shifting its plates, often for more profit and less care for student welfare.

5. Hip hop IS  better than homework

The arts have been over and again proved to be essential to learning. Outside of the arts, as an educator, in and out of traditional classrooms, I’ve seen hip hop work better than homework. So if were to pick, I’d pick hip hop any day.

xveganjoshx, my fave vegan thinker said it the best, “…there needs to be a Filipino dance/MC/karaoke/graff/avant garde performance group named ‘Hiphop over Homework.'” I’d like to be a part of that, thank you.

Culture of Sociology

A month or so ago the New York Times published a piece on the comeback of the “Culture of Poverty” in research, and latently, in popular social imagination.

A month or so ago, I really wanted to write about this; my anger and frustration with the limiting perspectives in the discipline I “belong” to or am “trained” in and my fear about this rhetoric prevailing over years of other good studies of culture in sociology that have over again rebuked this strain.

And then, of course, busy ate me up.

When I posted this on my FaceBook, my comment that accompanied it was something to the effect of–“How predictable. Just when an economic crisis is settling in and aggravating lives, the idea of blaming people whose backs bear the burden of unemployment, retreat of the state and social services comes up.”

A colleague replied that he believed in studying cultural sociology to elucidate the different ways inequality outside of economic strategies.

I’ve been simmering on that comment, and the implications of this article for a month. Here are some questions that I have in a bulleted list because god forbid I write any coherent paragraphs:

  • I think studying culture in sociology is extremely important. But I can’t help but think about how culture and economy constrain each other, among other things that constrain those. I wonder why people keep separating these categories that are core in the rubric of neoliberalism. In sociology, why do we think when someone is studying economy, we’re not studying culture?
  • Neoliberalism circulates in culture. If and when sociologists study culture, in a perspective of just showing how people live, and deriving theory inductively from the data, then are we not reproducing that neoliberal culture and bottling/booking it up for secondary consumption? And more importantly, who gets to consume it?
  • When did the culture of poverty ever stop as the way governance shapes how marginalized people are treated?
  • In what way is sociology in service, intentional or unintentionally, to neoliberalism?
  • Why do sociologists, both critical and mainstream, feel like they are not?

Sometimes, the culture of sociology upsets me. But other times, most times, I feel like the potential in scholarship and education is limitless. And, yes, I’m ending on an optimistic point so that I don’t feel like I’m wasting my time in graduate school.

Harvey “Crises, Geographical Disruptions and Uneven Development of Political Responses”

Seminar 1 – September 1, 2010

For next week’s seminar, we all read David Harvey’s “Crises, Geographical Disruptions and the Uneven Development of Political Responses,” which I’m sure will be available on

I found that this reading, after a summer of turning my brain into a bowl of oatmeal at the beach, at the movies, etc., was a definitely a good way to come back to school. Here are some points that I thought were quite interesting and helpful, both politically, for analysis of the sustained crisis, and, academically, for those of us who are theorizing the crisis as it meddles and explodes in the lives of people who live in the world:

In the first part of Harvey’s essay, he breaks down the many explanations provided for why the crisis happened:

  • the failure of regulation, like state regulation in the financial sector or controls over the “shadow banking system” or regulation of “big institutions” (not really sure what this is)
  • ignoring the many warnings that markets don’t correct themselves or the hypothesis that crisis is the self-correction of free markets
  • the crisis lies in the inherent depravity of some nations and cultures, the doings of what President Lula referred to as, “white, blue-eyed and out-of-touch-male world of Wall Street”

Harvey says its a little bit of all. I think what’s helpful about this breakdown is that it get to the core of what conservatives and neoliberals point to as the root of the crisis. Of course, later, Harvey discusses the arrival of “systemic risk” in the discourse of economists trying to fix the crisis, which to Harvey, sounds a lot like Marxian analysis of chronic problem of capital–crisis. But its helpful to think about these explanations because these are the very ways politicians, still wedded to free market capitalism and authors of current racist, xenophobic policies that shape work in the US and globally, are thinking about fixing things.

Harvey then lays out a historical-geographical timeline about the current crisis which can be found here. Basically following economic insulation of particular nation-states from 1945-80, deregulation of finance capital in the early 1970’s ala Thatcher and Reagan, mobile capital and the onset of globalization, rise of international competition and a shift of power to E. Asia, effectively 2 corollaries of power that arise from that accumulation of dispossesion and the primacy of finance capital over goods, the dependence on debt and bubbles!

Always useful info, always a good reminder.

Then, he is heavy into Marx, (which I love!). “Capital, Marx insists, is a process of criculation and not a thing.”  He re-establishes in this essay that capital’s main concern is to circulate and sustain growth, aka accumulate. And in the context of the crisis he notes “potential blockages” in the circulation of capital:

  • “State-finance nexus”: the problem between finance and production capital
  • Workers organizing
  • Running out of nature to exploit (even thought Harvey argues that nature’s limits are often defined socially)
  • Labor process and laborers slowing that process down, on purpose
  • Human wants as potential barrier, the reason why capital is always in search of compound growth and innovation
  • The last one, I’m not so sure, I understand but its called “Capital Circulation as a Whole”–damn, how could that be a potential block to capital? Ahhh, I wrote capital too many times!

Ok, 2 more things.

Harvey states that, “Capital moves its crisis tendencies around geographically as wella s systemically.” And he points to how the crisis happening in particular locations didn’t affect others in some locations. For example, the burst of the mortgage bubble in So Cal, Arizona, Florida, etc. didn’t really touch Canadian and E. Asian financial institutions because the systemic dispersion of finance capital, and its disorganized organization, developed unevenly.

Last, in his theorizing about a “left alternative,” he states that the problem left movements must contend with is “compound growth for ever is not possible.” That probably sounds annoyingly decontextualized. But earlier in the essay, he argues that “tomorrow’s growth creates the effective deman for yesterday’s expanded product. The effective demand problem today is coverted into a problem of finding profitable new investment opportunities tomorrow.” He’s arguing that this logic is not sustainable.

Therefore, he recounts Marx’s “co-revolutionary theory,” a dialectical unfolding of seven facets of the body politic of capitalism, which I will not state here because its 7 more things to type.

But basically Harvey is arguing that if the identified problem is as stated above and, the currently, failings of past movements and revoutions occupy and are obstacles to left movement-building, what we need to recognize is the need for a coherent anti-capitalist, revolutionary movement. He ends his essay with a sweet thought for a Friday afternoon, “why not also say, ‘another communism is possible’?”


Migrante International

If you are or you know anyone that is a migrant and is in need of help, please go to Migrante International’s new online complaint form:

Prison Industrial Complex (Immigrants included)

Yesterday, Ruthie Gilmore said, “If we want to understand the prison industrial complex, we have to talk about capitalism.”

Today, I echo her and add that if we want to understand how capitalism will expand the prison industrial complex we have to look at how the neoliberal state is looking for more black and brown bodies to sequester as surplus populations.

Immigrants are the new markets for prisons, Arizona is the new stomping yards.

‘Gender Gap Index’ Not Reflective of True State of Filipino Women

“A glaring proof that Filipino women are still living in oppressive conditions – even though the country ranks high in gender-based indexes – is the increasing number of victims of violence against women, most notably, gang rape,” said Lana Linaban, secretary general of Gabriela.


MANILA – Marian Acosta-Doydoy, 30, married with one child, did various jobs on a contractual basis. She was already working for two years as a sales clerk in a boutique shop and was up for regularization until she got pregnant and was forced to resign.

“They terminated my contract because I’m pregnant. Their policy is that a sales clerk should be single,” Doydoy said.

Acosta-Doydoy worked for various companies. She worked for five months as a cashier at Value Point supermarket, but her contract was not renewed. She worked at an electronics firm for five months and her contract was never renewed. She worked as collator in a health care company. She was removed from work nine days before her contract expired because the company terminated the services of the manpower agency that hired them. In her recent job as a coordinator, her contract was renewed three times. “They renewed my contract every five months because of my performance,” Doydoy told Bulatlat. But the company offered a maximum of three five-month contracts so she was removed again.

Doydoy is only one of the many Filipino women who have no choice but to agree to work as contractual employees. And their dire situation keeps them disempowered.

In the recent Gender Gap Index by the World Economic Forum (WEF), thePhilippines ranked ninth in countries where women are “empowered”. The Philippines is also the only Asian country to make it to the top ten.

The WEF is an independent, non-profit international organization. It is composed of top business leaders, international political leaders, selected intellectuals and journalists. The Global Gender Gap Index was developed in 2006. It uses Gender Gap subindexes such as economic participation and opportunity, educational attainment, health and survival and political empowerment.

Marian & Kalai Doydoy

However, Gabriela said the system of ranking is misleading. The WEF uses quantitative measures without looking into the qualitative aspects. In the category of economic participation and opportunity, for example, it merely computes how many women are in the workforce without considering how they are being treated in the workplace.

Lana Linaban, secretary general of Gabriela said WEF’s figures might be accurate but it does not dig into the real situation of women. “The WEF concluded that the gender gap is getting narrower and that there is equality between men are women but in reality that is not what is happening. Additional burden such as child rearing, doing household chores and abuses are not looked into in the survey.”

Gabriela said in a statement that the high ranking the Philippines received in the Gender Gap Index should not be mistaken to mean that Filipino women have been fully empowered nor have been freed from oppression. The Gender Gap Index simply measures the “gender-based access to resources and opportunities in individual countries” rather than “actual levels of available resources and opportunities”. For example, it could only tell that less women trail behind men in access to rights such as education. But it does not show the fact that the widespread poverty in the country has prevented millions of children, both male and female, from having access to education. It might reveal that more women are in high positions in companies, but it does not show that the eroded domestic economy has rendered millions of Filipinos, especially women, jobless.

Women Still Living in Oppressive Conditions

Linaban pointed out that even though more married women compared to married men have jobs, it does not mean that these married women are free from abuse. “They may have jobs and might even earn more, but they still do the household chores, take care of the children’s needs, and worse, still suffer maltreatment.”

“A glaring proof that Filipino women are still living in oppressive conditions – even though the country ranks high in gender-based indexes – is the increasing number of victims of violence against women, most notably, gang rape,” Linaban added.

According to the 2009 data of the Center for Women’s Resources data, there were 9,797 cases of violence against women. One to two children are also experiencing violence every hour. There are nine children being raped every day, while there are six to seven battered children every day.

“The most recent gang rape of a volunteer nurse in South Upi, Maguindanao is a grim evidence of this reality,” said Linaban. “During the same month the rape in Maguindanao happened, a woman was forcibly taken in a van and raped by three men in Quezon City. Aside from those cases that hit the news, Gabriela also received an increasing number of unpublicized cases of gang rapes. In 2008, there were six cases that we handled; seven cases in 2009; and eight cases from January to September in 2010. “Worse, most of the victims are minors.”

Meanwhile, Doydoy, now unemployed, is again looking for a job. It has become a cycle, she said. She is now preparing her papers for her application for employment in Dubai. (

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Population pill

If you’ve ever been to the Philippines–well, Manila, at least–you’ll agree that it is one packed, overpopulated place. The Guardian in the UK agrees.

So, Gabriela Partylist (the only women’s partylist, representing women, by women) has introduced, House Bill 3387, one out of 6 reproductive health bills so that abortions can be provided safely and, because they don’t want to come off too strong against the Catholic church, they are proposing for one day off for each month of a woman’s pregnancy so she can see the doctor. (In my humble opinion, they should really have more time off..)

I know its bio-politically weird to offer medicalization to resolve the social and geographical problem of people living on top of each other, because that’s what Metro-Manila looks like. But it’s a step towards helping women gain more autonomy over their bodies. I’m for that.

Insecure Workers, Secure Labor Brokerage State

Last week, I was alarmed to see that the brand-spanking new Aquino administration put OFW assistance on the chopping block to be cut. The Inquirer reported that last year’s P50 million legal assistance fund would be cut to a meager P27 million this year. Why was I surprised?

Because, as you may have noticed, I’ve been reading Anna Guevarra and Robyn Rodriguez’s book these past few months while I’m writing the book review for both books and I was thinking about what kind of labor brokerage system would cut its own institutionalized regulation of migration.

Yes, I know that neoliberal immigration policy requires the cutting of social services for any and everyone but I thought that the management of migration would top the list of a neoliberal state, such as the Philippines. Cutting assistance for their biggest money-making machine seems crazy to me. Why would they do that? Wouldn’t they want to have some contingency plan for the very migrants that are turning the wheels of long-failing national economy?

Of course, the response of workers is fury and outrage.

And then yesterday, on Bulatlat, I read some news that a group of Filipino women migrants in Dubai were jailed for their expired visas when their negligent employer abandoned them in inhuman conditions. These women who were brought to Dubai to work as “cleaners and office assistants” and trying to keep things together when their boss took off were called into question because male members of Filipino community were aiding them medically and with food.

The sad truth of the 46 women in Dubai is that their migration and deportation spins on the formidable axes of gender and unstable jobs in the informal labor. They got shipped to Dubai to work because they were women and they’ll get shipped back to the Philippines, essentially, because of their suspicious womanhood.

Then, synapse.

Perhaps the cuts on legal assistance, leaving a (gendered) migrant population vulnerable is complementary to the unstable, insecure, informal jobs that demand for their labor. That leaving migrant workers out there in the world without help, ensures the security of the Philippines as a permanent revolving door for global workers.

Same problem, different places

“Nearly 190 million people, about 3% percent of the world’s population, lived outside their country of birth in 2005.” says the mighty NY Times.

I’ve been thinking about how this “migration” problem isn’t just a Filipino thing. Duh, Val. But really, what I was thinking about is how Filipinos aren’t alone in the problems they face in and during migration.

Yup, just like any good sociologist would do.  I’ve been trying to categorize different themes that where migration becomes a contradiction. Well, migration under a neoliberal political and economic climate, to be specific.

I mean how many states are wishing to be better labor brokering institutions, how many governments are aspiring to be good wells of indispensable and disposable labor, and more importantly, how many people in the 3rd world are looking to get out via migration, how many families are getting shafted because of it, how are countries sustaining the absence of its citizens.

Here are some themes I’ve come up with:


Malaysian people sound a lot like women in my research who desire to stay home but realistically cannot.


One thing I thought that was super helpful when I read Foucault was when he wrote about the disciplined subject and the surveillance of population. Sure looks like that in China.


There’s more but they’re hiding in my brain.

Lesson of the day, pals: Migrants of the world have, now more than ever, many things that they are experiencing together, albeit apart. We, immigrants and migrants, have to stand together.

Here’s a good way to do that: IAMR3. Peep.