Tuesday, May 26, 2009

The Nature of Hybrids

A reflection on the problematic nature of fence-sitting, merging interaction and the reconcillatory school of thought

Main Entry: hy•brid
Pronunciation: \ˈhī-brəd\
Function: noun
Etymology: Latin hybrida
Date: 1601

1: an offspring of two animals or plants of different races, breeds, varieties, species, or genera
2: a person whose background is a blend of two diverse cultures or traditions
3 a: something heterogeneous in origin or composition : composite

b: something (as a power plant, vehicle, or electronic circuit) that has two different types of components performing essentially the same function

— hybrid adjective
— hy•brid•ism \-brə-ˌdi-zəm\ noun
— hy•brid•i•ty \hī-ˈbri-də-tē\ noun

Being born and reared as a pacifist in childhood by parents who, despite our meagre means, shares the tastes, mindsets and apprehensions of the middle class and the petite-bourgeois, probably due in part to having been under families of war veterans who, despite their peasant backgrounds, have been beholden to the United States and are always dreaming of “the American dream.” Our families have OFWs on both sides, and are in more ways than one prettily diasporic and liberal-democratic when it comes to matters of finance and politics. In a way, I am part of a typical Filipino family. The circumstances of my formation and education, however, are precisely what my pacifist upbringing has never prepared me for: ceaseless conflict.

For one, I might be stereotyped as the consummate nerd and teachers’ pet due in thanks to my tendency of understanding the administration of our school while rejecting the company of classmates who seem to be members of a rebellious sect. No ID’s, bringing cigarettes and pornographic materials, a penchant for heckling the teachers and more. Disciplinarian mentors and school administrators would often come into the fray and mete out seeming just measures to curb them, though their policies will be always countered by parents who seem to have taken Rizal’s rejection of disciplinary measures too well that they have failed to assert their authority (and eventually causing their booting out of the school administration). That I would be eventually be caught in a period in our school’s history when I would actually deem it just to counter their policies since they are failing to assert their authority and practice an honourable means of managing an educational institution, and yet fail to give out a good point in my capacity illustrates too well how bad am I as a person of opinion back then.

Before I bore you, considerate reader, on why I would open up a reflective piece with a recall of my family history, I believe it has something to do with my reading of the fictional character Hollis Mason’s autobiography Under the Hood from Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons’ Watchmen. I also have no personal memory, other than this, to situate my views on the discussion of what we could call a survey of the middle ground. I intend to look at why we have a somewhat aversion to the nature of neutrality that most of the time, we almost always desire to extinguish it when, in fact, it holds promises of the establishment and inauguration of new ways of understanding and elucidating with the inanities and problematics of human life. There is the seeming potential of the construct which incorporates both points of view in conflicting sides which could produce a hybridity which can bridge the gap. Hybridity might be actually a valuable construct that could eventually become a starting point of new foundations.

Fearful of Commitment

May kaliwa't may kanan sa ating lipunan
Patuloy ang pagtutunggali, patuloy ang paglalaban;
Pumanig ka, pumanig ka, huwag nang ipagpaliban pa
Ang di makapagpasiya ay maiipit sa gitna...

I am inclined to believe that it is precisely my pacifist upbringing that has led me to wonder ceaselessly on the current school of thought that regards and proclaims that “peace is overrated.” Most of the time I cannot reconcile, despite my immersion in the violent world of politics, why we should prefer as the human condition the desire to participate relentlessly in conflict and war. Perhaps it is probably our perception and being beholden to action, being mobile beings, that drives us to work and labor to the point of fomenting conflict. In that note, it would appear that wishing to take a stance of neutrality and of reconciliatory purpose is almost always considered a suicidal action. Taking from Niccolo Machiavelli, in speaking of taking expedient sides, gives a scathing condemnation of the practice of neutrality:

Antiochus went into Greece, being sent for by the Aetolians to drive out the Romans. He sent envoys to the Achaeans, who were friends of the Romans, exhorting them to remain neutral; and on the other hand the Romans urged them to take up arms. This question came to be discussed in the council of the Achaeans, where the legate of Antiochus urged them to stand neutral. To this the Roman legate answered: "As for that which has been said, that it is better and more advantageous for your state not to interfere in our war, nothing can be more erroneous; because by not interfering you will be left, without favour or consideration, the guerdon of the conqueror." Thus it will always happen that he who is not your friend will demand your neutrality, whilst he who is your friend will entreat you to declare yourself with arms. And irresolute princes, to avoid present dangers, generally follow the neutral path, and are generally ruined…
Never let any Government imagine that it can choose perfectly safe courses; rather let it expect to have to take very doubtful ones, because it is found in ordinary affairs that one never seeks to avoid one trouble without running into another; but prudence consists in knowing how to distinguish the character of troubles, and for choice to take the lesser evil. (Machiavelli 1513).

Neutrality, it appears to this thought, is a manifestation of a sterility of opinion, a means by which an entity would desire to avoid conflict when it is precisely the magnet to it. There seems to be an affirmation of the belief in the human condition of conflict being inevitable and required. This is similar to saying that objectivity is similar to being a cretin, and as such is not worthy of consideration when we speak of discourses and narratives. The late Teodoro Agoncillo would, in a light moment, state a maxim which goes:

What history is not biased… show me a historian, a real historian, who is not biased! You have to interpret, of course. In history, pag sinabing objective ka, you are nothing! You are nothing, absolutely nothing! Absolute zero… the very fact that the student of history chooses what to include and what not to include is proof that history is never objective… The moment the student of history gives what is called the value judgment, and in history you always do that, wala na! Saan nandoon ang objectivity mo? It is important in history to be impartial! Which is different… (Agoncillo in Ocampo, 1995).

As have been mentioned a while ago, conflict seems to be the norm of dealing and relating to particular views whatever they may be. In a way, given the nature of two vantage points meeting each other, there will always be the possibility of clashing and the desire to debunk the beliefs of others before choosing for compromises. In light of current schools of thought practicing and pushing for a policy of reconciliation, the nature of discourse has become so adverse that it is no longer tolerated.

It is in this point, therefore, that we begin to consider the nature of hybrids or the merging of particular entities and points of view in order to see both things in light. It is, somewhat, the rallying cry of Centrist parties which supposedly advocate a train of deliberation that is “not defined by compromise or moderation, it is considerate of them. It's about achieving common sense solutions that fit the current needs; support the public trust; serve the common good; and consideration of short and long term needs.” (USCentrist.org). However, despite our wish to recognize their nature, we will see later on that the belief of hybridism, though in form and modes of propagation novel and seemingly appealing to those who wish to end conflict from differing sides, is eventually problematic and self-contradictory.

A Proliferation of a Bastardic Philosophy

We see advocacies which hold up hybridism almost always everyday. The Philippines has for its lingua franca a mixture of the national language Filipino and of English, which we usually call “Pinglish,” in a way in tone with what Vicente Rafael would call the Martial Law babies (Rafael in Ocampo, 1997) generation’s philosophy would be: a contradiction of certainty and a certainty of contradiction. The phenomenon in various cultural manifestations of “mixed media” would also illustrate it, noting how art is becoming more receptive of photography (once its worst enemy) and now actually incorporating it. Advertisements would always claim that the product being shown is something “everyone” is wishing for, creating an imagined community of people who agree on a point despite their conflicting backgrounds (calling to mind a 1970s soap ad which says in part Lahat tayo’y anakpawis nguni’t hindi natin kailangan maging amoy pawis, or words to that effect). Conrado de Quiros, however, might put it otherwise:

It’s the same effect you see when you buy something from a row of stalls or choose to eat in one particular eatery from a row of eateries. Pretty soon you collect a crowd, and congratulate yourself for having the magnetic personality to do that. It has nothing to do with your personality even if it has something to do with magnetism. People will naturally gravitate toward the tried and tested, or the seemingly popular. (De Quiros 2009).

Hippies have been hailed and decried (depending on your perspective, again another construct of conflict) as one of the best heralds of the belief in hybridism, which advocates a desire for “peace” and the absence of conflict. This is an erroneous belief, as peace is never “absence of conflict” but “harmonization of conflict.” But the main point is to say that hybridism is an organic belief which roots from conflicting sources of ideas and emerges to present itself as “the solution” to the end of conflict.

However, this is in itself contradictory and self-defeating. The institution of a belief is inevitably the inauguration of a new mode of thought which participates in the conflict. The only school of thought which has tried to do so is pluralism and it is still a problematic idea so far. It is precisely pluralism that has given rise to the memetic phenomenon of the Internet which has been the cause of analysis of the Internet’s lack of authority on various ideas (or the mockery of it) as might be gleaned here:

And with good reason, for it is inevitably the conflict by which Rizal’s Noli Me Tangere has put succinctly on the issue of race. Nick Joaquin himself would put it when he would analyse the character of Crisostomo Ibarra and note how Ibarra’s Creole background was eventually his downfall in colonial Philippines, for was viewed with suspicion by natives because of his seeming collusion with the oppressive regimes and the fear of the ruling elite for their capacity for displacing them. (Joaquin 1977).

In short, we can view hybridism as the school of thought which, in accordance with Socratic and Platonic drama, will be the philosopher who would seek to come out of the cave that is the nature of conflict. In a prevailing viewpoint such as ours which is seemingly irremediable given the human condition, they are almost always bound for the tragedy of crucifixion if eminent, and obscuration if deemed unworthy for being “too partisan for scholars, too scholarly for partisans.” Journalism as a discipline will surely agree with the description, claiming to be a hybrid of history and documentation, “history in a hurry” as Nick Joaquin would once more put it, but that is another story.


Agoncillo, Teodoro. Talking History: Coversations with Teodoro Andal Agoncillo, by Ambeth R. Ocampo. Manila: De La Salle University, 1995.

The US Centrist Party. "Overview." USCentrist.org. (accessed May 26, 2009).

De Quiros, Conrado. “There’s The Rub: Survey Says.” Philippine Daily Inquirer. May 26, 2009. <> (accessed May 26, 2009).

Joaquin, Nick. A Question of Heroes. Pasig: Anvil, 1977, 2005.

Machiavelli, Niccolo. The Prince. Translated by W. K. Marriot. 2006. (accessed May 26, 2009).

Rafael, Vicente. “Introduction” in Ambeth R. Ocampo, Luna’s Moustache. Pasig: Anvil, 1997.

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