Alamon: A sense of proportion

LAST October 5 to 7, 2017, the Philippine Sociological Society staged its annual convention at the University of the Philippines-Cebu.

The conference was gracious enough to feature an author meets critic panel for the two books recently published. Professors Don Velez and Jay Rey Alovera of XU and MSU-IIT respectively reviewed “Wars of Extinction”
while Profs Dakila Yee and Cleve Arguelles of UP Tacloban and UP Manila tackled “Nation in Our Hearts.”

All of them raised important points which I will try to address in future columns but here are my initial thoughts on some of them.

I particularly appreciate an important point raised by Dr. Alovera drawing attention to proclivity of the book “Wars of Extinction” to speak of the Lumad narrative with the capital L and in singular form
when, as he wagers, there are a multiplicity of Lumad narratives. If I
remember his assertion correctly there are Lumad who have opted to be quietly assimilated, those who do nothing about their predicament, and those who have opted to fight back. Correctly interpreting the politically-charged meaning of Lumad espoused by the book, why have I privileged the narrative of those who have opted to fight back?

I am actually grateful for the sharp observation because in the course of writing the book, that was one of the major theoretical dilemmas I had to hurdle. How do we speak of the Lumad and can we even speak in their behalf about their experience as practicioners of an esoteric science called sociology?

I ended up resolving this dilemma by appreciating the historicity of the Lumad identity as an upshot or result of the contradiction between capital and heretofore non-assimilated resources and people, a point that Prof. Don Velez was able to highlight.

We are all Lumad, or natives of this land, before our forefathers decided to buy in, or were coerced to integrate with the regime of colonial exploitation with the connivance of our local elite. There is a term for who have been quietly assimilated or those who opt not to fight back, that is us, Filipinos.

In other words, what I have discovered in terms of the evolution of the Lumad identity is how history and struggle has fine-tuned this in the era of extended accumulation by dispossession to refer to the collective struggle of the people to keep their way of life which is inextricably linked to their ownership and control over their land and resources.

Within the life-world of Mindanao’s indigenous peoples, they have other words for those who have left behind their struggle over lands and resources, and that is the Alamara, New Indigenous People’s Army or Nipar or the Magahat Bagani among many other deadly paramilitary groups which just goes to show these seemingly harmless cultural constructs are actually the stuff that makes up wars of extinction at the core.

I realize that indeed, I am threading on controversial ground by asserting that taken-for-granted identities, whether these be Lumad or
Filipino, actually are political economic fictions. They are products of certain historical political economic upheavals.

Which brings me to another important point that I believe, covers many of the unease or discomfort over my kind of what Gerry Lanuza would call as “partisan scholarship.” And this is where I segue to the engaged comments of Professors Yee and Arguelles on the book “Nation in Our Hearts.”

Seeing things from the vista of the grand narrative of historical disenfranchisement of the Lumad, I have realized that not all narratives are equal. Why should I privilege all and accord to them the same kind of value? Before the combined power of the RSAs and ISAs that shape reality, should I share in the work of reifying social reality as a sociologist by taking on a non-committal political stance on anything and everything?

Listening to the discussions on the roundtable panel on human rights during the conference and reflecting on the theme of the conference on the Sociology of Justice, I came around to a recurring thought. Maybe our job as sociologists is to remind the public about how to maintain a keen sense of proportion about things. The state and institutions impinged upon individuals and groups and maybe it is our job to radical transform the logic of these institutions towards more emancipatory and egalitarian ends. All these, however, require that we sociologists take sides with the weak and voiceless, such as the Lumad, against the powerful.