Nation, self, and citizenship

I. Theoretical Framework

If a person reads the book “ Nation, Self, and Citizenship” by Randolf S. David, one would gain a general idea on the Philippine situation, oneself, and how oneself is situated in the nation. In addition to that, the very nature of the book, a collection of articles categorized and grouped in three main topics, makes it easy to read and easy to digest. Moreover, the author does this in a very conversational manner or sometimes in a storytelling fashion. And these are the reasons why the book succeeds in conveying to its audiences its messages and teachings. Looking it at a micro level, one can’t help but find similarities with how the articles are structured.

Like in the popular children’s series Harry Potter, the book acts like a bowl of “ pensive” into the memories and thoughts of Prof. David. For most of the articles, the author initially sets the tone and context by giving a quick background or history of the topic. This may come in the form of an anecdote, quote, related news, or just a plain reverie. After which he then proceeds to layout the main problem or agenda and subtopics that are necessary and/or pertinent to the matter at hand. Next, he gives a solution or a comparison (in the hope of arriving to a solution) or just pinpointing the root of the problem. He usually gives his insights and opinions on the matter in this area.

After that, he closes the article with a thought, quotation, or something to ponder on; most of which would incite emotions or actions. This framework/structure appears in several articles such as “ Who’s Afraid Globalization”, “ Looking Back at Edsa”, “ The Powerless Public”, and many more. One would notice that this follows the basic form of storytelling and follows the graph such as in Figure 1. 1. With such a basic framework, the author doesn’t have to worry about losing his audience or appear to preach, which some people don’t want. This also gives him a lot of chance to inject his comments and thoughts as the article progresses to the different areas of the topic. It is also good to note that in an article, the author cites several quotations and ideas from renowned philosophers to make his arguments more credible. One would also notice a subliminal theme of hoping for a better nation.

Some of the articles he wrote uses different perspectives and through different lenses. An example of this is in the article “ Dogtown: Memories of the 1904 World’s Fair” where the author emphasized how others perceived us then and now. The author also used several similar situations of other nations as comparisons. Most of which other nations have surpassed and succeeded, but some have a more somber and foreboding tone. One such example of triumph that the nation could emulate was of the Zapatistas and the Mexican government.

On the other hand, an example of a more somber situation was of Mang Pandoy. In the hope of trying to rationalize and conceptualize a given situation, Prof. David gives brief histories and roots of a topic. In the example of the Moro Problem, the author uses the long history of the Moro People to bring into context what their culture has endured for them to act as such. After which, he then gives opinions and critiques on our current situation. He does not blatantly say that it should be like this or that, but he does it in a subtle way of suggestion and examples.

This is a good thing since the real aim of the author is not for a specific change, but review of the situation and hopefully a dialogue ensues and a peaceful solution will be reached. This was elegantly exemplified in the article “ Postmodern Bandits”; the author did not outright say that the Moros involved are bandits or outlaws, but he slowly put the audience in their shoes and showed them their situation.

He then closes most articles usually by leaving an open-ended thought that effectively makes the audience think for themselves. One of the more poignant closings in the book was in the article “ Our Children All”. Here, the author closed the article with the thought that the nation have placed more effort sensationalizing the deaths of other children but forgot that the perpetrators themselves are the nation’s children too.

Figure 1. 1

On a superficial level, this kind of structure makes it easier for the readers to digest and absorb the articles; without having to worry about the specific details, but just having this general feeling or emotions after reading the articles. On a more intellectual level, recognizing this basic structure would provide the users easier means to deconstruct the articles and be able to analyze the root of the problem and hopefully arrive to a solution. Either way, the way the articles were structured makes it for the users, may it be for light reading or heavy analysis, to achieve their goals. After looking at the micro level structure of the book, one can then compare it at the macro perspective of the theoretical framework/s behind the book.

The author sets the scene by laying down theories on Nationhood and after that Selfhood, both of which were tackled independently. He fashioned both as such that the audience will be taken in a journey through the different aspects of nationhood and selfhood; namely, the core (Situating the Filipino Nation and The Constitution of the Self and Identity), the relationships (Affinities and Identities and Self Identity and Collective Memory), and the institutions around it (Institutions in Flux and Institutional Embodiment of the Self). There is also a recurring theme of situating both nation and self through the different settings of time and situation of the world: traditional, modern, postmodern, and globalization. For most parts, the readers would come to conclude that the author is trying to relate the nation and the self as according to the settings they operate in.

The last major part of the book involves synthesizing both Nation and the Self. The first subcategory involves mainly the nation; how the people in it imagine the nation and what they hope for it. After the first category, the author tackles how the people still want to have personal autonomy in spite of being part of a nation. Lastly, the readers will find that they can indeed strike a balance between the first and second theories; and it comes in the form of Citizenship. Being a citizen has its benefits and challenges, and the author describes some of them in the last part of the book.

He tends to give guidelines on how to become a good and a responsible citizen, but doesn’t blatantly say do this or that; more like suggestions. Patterning the book in this fashion, the readers are given an opportunity to understand the nation and the self first, and then the relationship of the two. This also helps the audience understand both theories individually at first and then synthesize them into a working theory of the two. The author succeeds in explaining two independent entities together to understand their many differences and intricacies and how they fit together to give the readers a notion of how these two gears operate together.

II. Themes and Insights

The author has a good grasp of the current situation of the nation and the world in terms of politics, sociology, and philosophy. With this, he’s able to explore the different facets of the issues at hand and give expert advice on how to deal with them, or just plainly bring them to attention. The book deals with several themes and the three most relevant and recurring are of poverty and inequality, institutions and politics, postmodernity and globalization. With these major themes, he’s able to provide good and knowledgeable insights, in the hope of providing sound advice and ultimately to solve or rid the many problems plaguing the nation.

Upon closer inspection, one would notice that almost all of the articles in the book deals with inequality and poverty, the results that arise from them, or the root and cause of it; may it be inequality against the poor, women and children, or a minority group. The author brings to the spotlight that the root cause of intolerance is to believe that you are better than everyone else; and from this inequality and poverty becomes more pertinent and alarming. In the articles “ Justice and the poor”, “ Aetas”, and “ Karen”, the author points this situation out.

Poverty can also be seen as another form inequality; inequality in the sense that the poor do not receive the same treatment from the government, from the justice system, and other social institutions, also in the sense that the wealth and power of the nation tend to favor the rich and well-connected. He also clarifies the difference between charity and anti-poverty strategies, and championing the latter. With the advent of the modern woman, the world radically changed how women are treated, and the Philippines is no different.

However, through the articles, the audience witnesses that not only do women are still treated unequally, they too are also maltreated. Articles such as “ Karen”, “ Mrs. Maniago’s Family”, and “ Of Bloody Men and Other Metaphors” shows the audience just this. Inequality, and the effects of it, are very widespread in the nation and actually persist in different relationships between different groups, and also in their culture. For example, the author brought the issue of cultural inequality in his articles “ Solidarity Amid Difference” and “ Moros and Zapatistas”, and warns the audience that if go unchecked, the consequences are dire, such as in the article “ Bugnay Revisited”.

For institutions and politics, the author has a balanced approach to such; sometimes his articles criticize the institutions, sometimes he commends them. For example, his article “ What is Trapo” criticizes the government then for being lacking and corrupt; on the other hand his article on “ Agoo: Who needs miracles” commends the rationality and fairness of the local Church even if offered with more converts and believers. As seen by these examples, the author is fair in assessing institutions based on their own merits. Easy as it may be to always put the blame on the government for not doing this or that, the author doesn’t solely put the blame on the government for being corrupt and wanting, but actually tries to go into the roots, and takes the readers into a journey to discover for themselves, to realize, what the cause of the problem is.

This is a good maneuver since the effect of discovering for oneself will last longer than if just blatantly given. The book also deals with the other major institutions at play such as Family, Education, Religion, Economics, and Mass Media. The author usually brings to light a topic through a personal anecdote that is relevant during that time, and tries to put into perspective and look at it from different angles. This helps to lessen biases and gives the reader the opportunity to believe the author or not. In the article ” Investing in a Public University”, the author does just that, bringing in different points of view together with his own opinion. The book dwells a lot about the postmodern condition and globalization and how the nation and the self adapts accordingly.

In several areas of the book, the author brings unto the table the different effects of postmodernity to both the nation and the self. In the article ” Virtual Pain, Virtual Love” the audiences are offered a different perspective on something one might take for granted in this day and age when technology offers one with a lot of new possibilities of realism. One can own a pet that only takes a press of a button to replace; or fully control a virtual family in a computer game. Some are just for entertainment but some have far reaching effects on our lives.

For example, the author brings into question the archiving of every data that we ever use in the Internet and this gives the readers a different perspective of a ” virtual self”. The nation and, in truth, the world is not free from the effects of postmodernism and rapid changes brought about by technology and “ progress”. As described in ” Conversations for Sale”, there is a growing market for accompaniment and even conversations in the western hemisphere. Although the Philippines is still a friendly and talkative country, the author warns of increasing troubled homes as more and more overseas Filipino workers do not come back home and leave broken homes that just might cause the people to rely on anonymous callers.

This is also the case when the author writes about the diaspora of Filipinos due to globalization. One of Globalization’s effects is that it makes it easier for peoples all over the world to cross borders and migrate. And as the local job market continues to deteriorate, the first to leave are the nation’s top minds; doctors, engineers, nurses, and even those who work as domestics helpers are the first to go. We are reminded of this fact in the article ” Maid in Hong Kong”, “ The NPA of London”, and “ Nationalism in a Global Age”. The nation’s labor force is not the only one to suffer, but also the domestic production of goods. As more and more better products are imported into the Philippines, the local producers, who can’t catch up, die out.

The author reminds the readers of this sad fact in the article ” Globalization Blues”; however, Prof. David also offers an advice to solution this ever-present problem, one that involves Tagalog and the government. Overall, the themes that Prof. David brings to the table prove to be pertinent and have good bases, and these are not just ordinary matters, but they are pressing and alarming as the nation tries to adapt itself in the new age and global order. Accordingly, the insights he provides are useful and innovative in the sense that the way he tackles the issues are accompanied by backgrounds, examples, comparisons, and ideas from renowned philosophers. The advice and insights that he provided are very useful and innovative that almost a decade after the book was first published, his words still ring true.

III. Relevance

The first print of the book came out in 2004, and some articles date back to the mid-90s. Eerily, the stories and insights he shared in his articles still ring true today, almost a decade after. When comparing Philippines from his perspective back then to the Philippines now, is it just because the country failed to improve since “ Erap para sa Masa” days, or was he able to pierce into the psyche of the Filipino nation, that his articles are able to transcend time and still be relevant today? Whatever the case may be, it is apparent that Prof. David’s words are still applicable to the current status of the nation. Articles such as “ What is Trapo”, “ Why We Elect Bad Leaders”, “ Sex, Money and the Catholic Church”, and even “ Public Lands, Private Uses” are still the very same problems we face now.

Needless to say, the book is still relevant even to this day. Even other countries that have turned for the worse can also make use of the insights in the book. Drug-ridden Mexico might have use for articles such as “ The Powerless Public” or “ The Issue is Corruption”; Egypt and Syria, who is in transition right now because of revolutions can learn from “ Remembering Martial Law” and “ Looking Back at Edsa” to avoid repeating the same mistakes we made; ever-busy United States can learn a lot from “ Necessary Interruptions” and “ The Infrastructure of Learning”.

Having mentioned all these, it is easy to see that the relevance of the book transcends time and national borders; and as the popular saying goes, “ History just repeats itself”. A good book like this should have a place in the nation’s national treasures or better yet, the education system. Yet if not for Socio 10, I myself would have not heard of this book.

As a reviewer of the book, I recommend that, with a little bit of streamlining and improvements, we should include this book in the curriculum of high school students for them to be exposed to the situation of our nation and be inspired to act on it. As Prof. David once wrote, “ The academe operates solely under the norm of reasoned debate, and the only force that true scholars respect is the force of the better argument.” Without books like this to open debate, and as a result of which, a better argument, we cannot hope to face the next decade armed only with our cultures and traditions. We have to wake up and see the world in a kaleidoscope, as it truly is.