Friday, May 8, 2009

Losing the Three Flags: A Discourse on the Notion of Kantian and Foucauldian Enlightenment and the Demise of the Political to the Social and Economic

Hansley A. Juliano, II AB Political Science: November 25, 2008

The notions of Enlightenment as expressed in the essays of Immanuel Kant and Michel Foucault, both entitled “What Is Enlightenment?” has been given a precise demarcation, marked by a question that is bounded by the realms of the finite, the rejection of scientific deliberation as a consonant to achieving a certain level of understanding. Despite the fact that Foucault abhors scientific methods of discerning the philosophical and the political, he does not reject its very inherent roots of careful and methodological analysis and criticism. At the same time, he also disengages from the Kantian notion of subjectivity as universal, having had a firm belief in the being specific of an entity based from its cultural and historical situation. It appears, then, that Kant was stemming from a theological tradition that, though almost fully immersed in the political life of the Classical and Renaissance era of thought, is something that is not given much consideration in the Modern and contemporary era of philosophy. In believing that there is a universal definition by which men are governed and deliberate their actions, we run the risk of giving them a stereotypical characteristic, something which would trap them in a blob. This, then, runs counter to the traditional Classical notion of men as individual and assertive of their personal identity but do so in service to the state.

Such a discussion brings to mind a parallel argument that occurred between the jeweller Simoun and the supposedly-liberal peninsular politician Don Custodio in José Rizal’s radical novel El Filibusterismo. The jeweller, in secret the vengeful former ilustrado Crisostomo Ibarra, intended to wage a revolution which will bring forth the downfall of the Spanish central colonial government. He planned to bring this forth by corrupting the government and forcing the enslaved indios to despair, which will cause them to take up arms. One of these policies he devised is to once more enact forced labor to create a waterway in the Pasig River, one which was met by strong criticism from Don Custodio. This was not brought forth by his belief in his projected conviction of being a Liberal (affirming the right and equality of men), but due to the fear that such harsh policies might incite insurrections dangerous to the status quo.

Knowing fully the danger of being considered unpatriotic, I would say that it was Don Custodio who was following the sounder political course of action, though his motivations are not entirely in consonance with what politics require. In seeking to drive the people to madness and despair, Simoun intends to create a society driven by pure desire to accumulate, a people only driven by their wanton drive to fill empty stomachs. Rizal himself repudiates this, as witness the rebukes the fictional Father Florentino gave to Simoun at the end of the novel. A revolution is only validated if it is for a noble belief on uplifting the human condition, the desire to recover a lost means of communication and community-building. To build on the ashes and remains of vice and collective brokenness will mean only simply to repudiate the historicity of the people and risk committing the same mistakes that our predecessors committed. History does not repeat itself; we repeat history.

It is in this light, then, that we attempt to look at the circumstances that brought forth the events of the 1896 Filipino Revolution. It appears to me that there is a question that has been left out for so many years now, a question which we will attempt to give a few initial answers: the question of its effectivity. By comparison to its predecessors in the French Revolution and the American Revolution which gave birth to leading and powerful nations, what it has only accomplished is the birth of a stunted and weak nation which immediately fell at the first swoop of invasion by the Gringos.

Contrary to popular (and heavily Marxist-influenced) opinion that the call for revolt originated from the hungry masses, the roots of revolution, reform, were sowed by the middle-classes, the very same people who would rise to prominence as the highest Filipino caste (if one may be allowed to use the term). They have, in fact, cultivated a novel approach into the objective of community-building that has not actually been considered by both French and American: a desire to return to the original traditions of the people, reclamation of their identities and their communities which were, supposedly, mangled and perverted by the establishment of the highly-discriminatory Spanish conquistadores. This is actually by far nobler, if not as noble, as the desire of the Founding Fathers of the American Union.

And yet they fell to the same trappings that brought forth the downfall slide of the French Revolution. In their discussions of restoring foundations, all made the unfortunate error of considering first economic questions as those of utmost importance. To channel the hot and burning fervour of the people simply to place food on the table is contrary to the interests of community-building; it, in fact, dissuades interaction with each other, converting each citizen into a mere carabao waiting for a day’s worth of hay and would have no other interaction with others of its kind save during mating season. This pre-eminence of protecting self-interests was, in fact, the very root of the First Republic’s downfall and eventual evolution into puppet republics through the promises of “Benevolent Assimilation” and inclusion in the Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere, all strewn in paths of blood. The selfish desires of the Malolos Congress are to be blamed a lot for their rational choice of seeking to preserve and accumulate, even under the “protection” of new colonial masters.

Thus it did happen that the banners of liberté, egalité and fraternité were swept under the “merciful embrace” of Madame Guillotine, only to be stopped by the imperialist designs of Napoleon Bonaparte. Thus did it transform the supposedly- egalitarian United States into what would be today’s world-hegemon, endlessly babbling about bringing civilization while it is actually only creating a global empire. And thus, the Philippine Islands has remained in slavery, stunted growth and disunity.

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