Tag Archives: Multiculturalism

Point(s) of departure in US/Filipino History

21 May

Point(s) of departure in U.S./Filipino History


(photo of Morro Bay California)

A couple of weeks ago I was discussing the idea of the history of Filipinos in the U.S. with two friends.  The two of them (pinoy and pinay) seem to disagree with me on the issue of the point of departure for Filipino historical study.  I ruffled some feathers by stating that the arrival of Spanish Galleon (that carried Luzones Indios) in Morro Bay, California in 1587 was not a good point of historical departure.  I argued that American Colonialism was a proper place of beginning a “Filipino American History”.  Needless to say, I didn’t come off very convincing to my colleagues.  I was accused of being negative, and for putting to much concentration on numbers, and to top it off, paraphrasing what one of them said:  “elevating Americans in Fil-Am history”, instead of focusing on Filipino efforts.  I was troubled by this uncritical acceptance of history.  As if Morro Bay landing was a “Filipino effort” (they were under Spanish servitude).

It seems various online sites and Fil-Am groups (as far as my experience with them goes) privilege this event.  I have no problem mentioning it as a historical event, but to foreground it as a significant event in Filipino American History lends itself to a poltics of recognition, a strategy under the logic of liberal multiculturalism.  Privileging this event (The rationale for having Filipino American History month in October is because of this event) becomes about integration and pluralism.  Implicit in the investment in the importance of this historical event is the lack of Filipino history/culture in existing U.S. curriculum.  What is missing is a mention of why there is a lack of Filipino history and culture in the first place.  The liberal multicultural logic is one that seeks to integrate and become apart of society without addressing issues of injustice.  The history framed in this way shows that belonging precedes justice. 

I am not disregarding this historical event, it should be studied.  But it needs a proper context and presentation.  If anything, the Morro Bay landing should be mobilized into understanding the World System of the late 1500s and the complexities of Spanish Colonialism.  The approach to this event is tame and watered down.  Filipino Americans become interpellated in elevating the Morro Bay landing to the status of a migration narrative.  Interpellation is the concept put forth by the marxist Louis Althusser.  The process of interpellation is the dominant ideology producing its subject(s) by ‘hailing’ them.  In the response to being hailed or called, subjects recognize themselves in the dominant ideology.  In short, in the context of the priviliging the Morro Bay landing, Filipinos identify themselves in the dominant ideology of the U.S. Hegemonic state.

Not only does the framing of Filipino/U.S. relations lend itself to the logic of liberal multiculturalism, but it obscures the centrality of American Colonialism in Filipino/U.S. relations.  Filipinos were not migrants but were colonized subjects.  As they say, “We are here, because you were there”. 

(President Mckinnley bathing a Filipino native, “Benevolent Assimilation”)

I find it incredible that to this day even in “progressive” circles under emphasize the genocide of the Filipino American War (1899-1902, dates vary), of course they are not to blame when the much of the history is relegated to a footnote in U.S. History textbooks.  The privliging of the Morro Bay landing pales in comparison to slaugther of 1.4 million Filipinos (numbers vary, numbers not inclusive of Moro death toll). 

(dead Filipinos in a trench)

The necessity of examining American Colonialism at the turn of the century will help us to better understand the Neocolonial present.  Instead of murdering Filipinos themselves, the U.S. government relies on the corrupt Gloria Arroyo regime (responsible for 1000 political killings/abductions since 2001), its compradors and landlords, to do its dirty work in keeping the Philippine semi-feudal and within the sphere of the U.S. hegemonic bloc, for reasons of neoliberal globalization and miltary dominance in Southeast Asia and beyond. 

Geniune critique is needed in Filipino history, I say enough of the self-serving identity politics in abstract “pride”.  The 1.4 million dead haunt us, the dying and disappeared today will haunt us in the future if Filipinos shy away from a historicizing and problematizing the political and economic policies by the U.S. and Philippine governments.  Filipinos have endured just under 500 years of colonialism.  The saying goes “300 years in the convent [Spanish Colonialism], 50 in Hollywood [American Colonialism]”.  That needs to be extended to the 50 years plus of Neocolonial control.  Another reality is possible, enough of the half-stepping.

Exit Music (For the People)

24 Mar

Radiohead fans might know the blog title comes from the song “Exit Music (For A Film)” off their seminal album OK Computer.  This blog is not a fan blog, though I am a fan.  I will be dealing with issues of Art and Culture, but not in its traditional mainstream sense.  If I am talking about art I will most likely focus on the sociopolitical context that underwrites it.  I will try to tackle many subjects as I can.

“Pessimism of the intellect, Optimism of the Will” – Antonio Gramsci

The motivation for this blog is expression, not just personal expression but expression towards something: conscientizacao or conscientization/critical consciousness expounded by the Brazilian Educator Paulo Freire.  Hopefully by addressing certain topics I will generate new knowledge for myself and others, which will lead to action and intervention in the world (personal and collective levels).

“Exit Music (For A Film)” was made for the motion picture soundtrack of Baz Lurhmann’s adaptation of William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. 


Exit Music (For A Film)

Wake from your sleep,
the drying of your tears,
Today we escape, we escape.
Pack and get dressed
before your father hears us,
before all hell breaks loose.

Breathe, keep breathing,
don’t lose your nerve.
Breathe, keep breathing,
I can’t do this alone.

Sing us a song,
a song to keep us warm,
there’s such a chill, such a chill.

And you can laugh a spineless laugh,
we hope your rules and wisdom choke you.

And now we are one
in everlasting peace,

we hope that you choke, that you choke,
we hope that you choke, that you choke,
we hope that you choke, that you choke.


The song is based on the scene in the film where Juliet was going to kill herself.  According to the authorial source himself there is a separate meaning.  Thom Yorke (lead singer/writer) said this about the song: ““I saw the Zeffirelli version when I was 13 and I cried my eyes out, because I couldn’t understand why, the morning after they shagged, they didn’t just run away. The song is written for two people who should run away before all the bad stuff starts. A personal song.”

Pop culture tends to idealize the love between Romeo and Juliet.  A definite “innocent” love between youth, not yet tainted by the world.  The focused aspect of an archetypal innocent love obfuscates the political implications of sociopolitical conflict.  News flash for people, the play is a tragedy and not comedy.  The play may idealize this innocent love in the foreground but it is constantly haunted by its violence, and in this case, Romeo and Juliet cannot escape the rivalry between their clans.  A very pessimistic play indeed.

Thom Yorke is far from a mainstream pop song romantic.  However, his solution to play rubs me the wrong way (don’t worry fans I still dig the music).  There is an anti-romantic romantic in me that disagrees with Thom.  Though I enjoy the song, it speaks to a fashionable individualist idea of love, what I call “love bracketed”. 

It is a nice idea that two lovers can escape and live their lives separate from the blood feud.  However, questions arise. What happens to the other people in the story, their families and the people caught in the middle of the blood feud?  Though it may seem that the text privileges this love as a supreme example.  However, they do die at the end.  The protagonists succumb to the injustice of the social realm.   

There are many films and artistic examples that follow this line of escapism.  Using Romeo and Juliet as an example, it would be much more productive if an artist can use the ideas in the play to challenge the social injustice within the text. So instead of Romeo and Juliet planning to flee, the two would be brave and stand up to the blood feud.  Idealistic? Yes, but art has to traverse this idea of an escapist love, or this promotion of the individual or lovers investing in themselves instead of challenging that which oppresses them and others.  This idealized love bracketed away from social conflict is a narrow concept, detrimental to collective people power. 

So what?  Why is this important?  I for one do not believe in the idea of “art for art’s sake”.  When one deploys meaning whether it is through the medium of art or criticism, it is always for someone and for some purpose.  Though the intention may or may not be to disable sociopolitical action in mass numbers, the constant (re)production of art promoting the ideas of escapism and Hollywood conceptions of love will continue to reinforce a pessimistic outlook on society, one that people cannot change because the monster (blood feud, and or U.S. Hegemony) is too big. 

The blog is named after that song because I believe we should move beyond the idea of the song.  Furthermore, there are other ways you can read the title “Exit Music”.  Another way of reading the title, that is productive in relation to social justice, is that it can also read like someone declaring music to exit, for it to go away. Thus “Exit Music” taking the idea of the death/disappearance, more specifically the disappearance of art.  The reading of the statement this way has its relation to the film movement/genre Third Cinema.    

About a year ago or so I came across the Filipino filmmaker Kidlat Tahimik  on the internet (I have yet to see his films).  Through him I was introduced to the film movement/genre that is known as Third Cinema.  Third Cinema sets itself apart from other forms of cinema due to certain formal aspects and most of all its sociopolitical commitment.  The movement/genre stands in contrast to what is called First Cinema and Second Cinema.  The former is the film genre that promotes bourgeois values, passive audiences, escapism, and individualism.  Second Cinema could be considered to what we may deem “Art House Cinema”, “Auteur (author) Cinema”.  It stands in contrast to the First, but is generally centered on individualism by enthroning personal expression.  Furthermore, it is centered on the cult of the Auteur, as the master of the text. 

It is safe to say that both first and second cinema films are not void of political content, but still fall victim to individualism, spectacle, escapism, and personal expression.  Third Cinema on the other hand very stringently espouses an anti-colonial political stance and seeks to decolonize the film, the filmmaker(s), and the viewer.  This is not to be confused with Third World Cinema (film from the Third World), although Third Cinema films are typically made by people from the Third World or what is known today as the Global South.  It is aimed at inspiring and promoting mass political activity to the viewer. 

I was inspired by this idea of art production.  Moreover by this particular view on art:

“It is no longer a matter of replacing one school with another, one “ism” with another, poetry with anti-poetry, but of truly letting a thousand different flowers bloom. The future lies with folk art. But let us no longer display folk art with demagogic pride, with a celebrative air. Let us exhibit it instead as a cruel denunciation, as a painful testimony to the level at which the peoples of the world have been forced to limit their artistic creativity. The future, without doubt, will be with folk art, but then there will be no need to call it that, because nobody and nothing will any longer be able to again paralyze the creative spirit of the people.

Art will not disappear into nothingness; it will disappear into everything.” – Julio Garcia Espinosa

What I adopted from the artistic movement was to try to reproduce this same attitude in my own critical-creative (I don’t believe in the division between the two) writing.  I particularly adopted Espinosa’s idea of “disappearance”.  This is the impetus of this blog, to challenge common sense wisdom attached to U.S. Hegemony and other oppressive formations.  The aim is not for progressive democratic ideas to disappear by leaving this earth.  I would very much like for such ideas to proliferate throughout society.  The intention is for these ideas to disappear into becoming something else, transforming the common sense of fashionable liberal multiculturalism, which sustains racial, gender, and class oppression.