Jargons and Terminologies

There’s No ‘Irrelevant’ Question

Photo via Gigi Bueno

Makati City (September 8) – There was a recent invitation from the Mindanao Institute of Journalism for me to be a resource speaker at an academic forum attended by around a hundred lecturers and students of Kidapawan Doctors College.

So I had to fly back home to speak about peace journalism and share my personal observations of the media as a MindaNews columnist (http://www.mindanews.com/author/mansoor-l-limba).

It can be observed that at the end of speech of the other resource speaker, he asked the young audience, “So, wala kayong tanong? (So, do you have NO question?)”

Result?

None raised his or her hand except a lecturer sitting in front who made a comment or two about the current imposition of Martial Law in Mindanao.

Photo via Gigi Bueno

At the end of my 20-minute presentation, I thus told the audience something like this:

“In the Open Forum, you can make a correction to any point in my presentation, give your comment, or pose a question. In posing a question, let me remind you of certain things: (1) There is no such thing as ‘irrelevant’ question. In many instances, your question may exactly be the same thing which your seatmate wants to ask, and it may highlight a key dimension of the subject. (Remember, the casual falling down of a fruit from the tree catapulted Isaac Newton into the discovery of the Law of Gravity.) (2) Language is meant to be a bridge in communication. So, do not be imprisoned by the English language. You can freely express yourself in English, Filipino, Visaya, or any other language for that matter. (Yes, you can even ask a question in Mandarin or Thai, but you need to translate it because we can’t understand any of the two foreign languages.) (3) Asking question is already half of knowledge and right answer constitutes the other half. I hope I could give a percentage of the other half.”

Result?

The Open Forum took 72 minutes to address 17 questions (both oral and written). In other words, they threw hook, line and sinker of every ‘relevant’ question they could ever think of. One may even say that they threw everything including the kitchen sink.

Photo via Gigi Bueno

Next time, perhaps I would rather say, “There’s no such thing as ‘irrelevant’ question – provided there’s still time left to address it.”

As my fellow millennials would express, “Tanong-tanong lang, kapag may time!”

Photo via Gigi Bueno

Categories: Current Events, Information Technology, Jargons and Terminologies, Public Speaking, Seminars, Trainings, and Conferences, Social Issues | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

On Global Rectificatory Justice

Just last Friday afternoon, I received an invitation to be a Reactor to a Lecture on ‘Global Rectificatory Justice’ to be given today by a distinguished professor. Also enclosed in the invitation was a photocopy of the 22-page chapter 1 (Introduction) of the book which the Lecturer has recently written about this topic.

As the basic idea of ‘rectificatory justice,’ when harm is perpetrated, the victim can claim redress under the moral principle of non-maleficence or ‘do-not-harm’. Building his argument for rectificatory justice around this principle, the author maintains that during the era of colonialism, colonies were harmed in different ways (interventions, war and occupations, slavery and forced labor, genocides and massacres, extermination of domestic religions and cultures, forced replacement of populations, economic dominance and exploitation, and various other kinds of human rights violations), and that individuals and peoples who were victims of these harmful acts have a right to redress.

Since I cannot physically attend the Lecture due to another commitment set earlier, let me take this platform to share my immediate observation:

‘Rectificatory’ justice is yet another ‘cool’ modifier for the word ‘justice,’ the others being ‘distributive,’ ‘compensatory,’ ‘transitional,’ and many more. As you may have no qualms in agreeing, justice is such a concept that whenever you attempt to modify it, you will definitely run the risk of delimiting and restricting its meaning. Even without modifying it, justice which essentially means “putting everything in its proper place,” distributes something, compensates something, provides a transition, and of course, rectifies something. Justice is no justice at all if it does not imply all these things.

On our way to the airport the other week, a Lebanese friend of mine was narrating his visit to selected places in Rwanda where post-conflict ‘transitory justice’ is being enforced. “As you see, we coin the term ‘transitory justice’ whenever the Authority cannot or is not willing to implement justice in the strictest sense of the word,” he told me.

Categories: Current Events, Ethics and Mysticism, International Relations, Jargons and Terminologies, Seminars, Trainings, and Conferences | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

Time for Government’s ‘Self-Reinvention’?

MAKATI CITY (MindaNews /18 October) – Early morning after my short presentation at the ‘terror’ in Marawi forum held last June 30 in Ateneo de Davao University (see “Is ‘terror’ Marawi’s single story?” https://www.facebook.com/mansoor.limba/posts/1739728119661013), I received an unexpected email from one of the forum’s organizers. Part of the message thus reads:

“Upon hearing your presentation, constructivist and postmodern lessons and lectures from my ‘Theories in IR’ class came back to me in waves – and I cannot agree more that indeed, the ‘terror’ in Marawi is a result of a ‘construction’ designed to shape opinions and views. Thank you for reminding me that… to focus only on one aspect of an incident/case/situation is folly… Your insights have awoken a more sensitive Atenean in me.”

More surprising to me, however, was the foresight in this question of one of the young participants during the Q&A session: “After the Marawi Crisis, in what way should the government ‘reinvent’ itself in order to defeat violent extremism?”

Literally means “to produce something new that is based on something that already exists” (Cambridge Dictionary), or “the act or an instance of replacing a product with an entirely new version” (Collins Dictionary), ‘reinvention’ was originally solely used in the field of science and technology. Later on, the concept of ‘personal reinvention’ has found its niche in psychology, particularly in the subfield of personal growth and personality development. Soon after, we also began to see the notion of ‘self-reinvention’ in political anthropology and sociology. In digital media studies, our age is also sometimes dubbed the ‘Age of Reinvention’.

In Islamic philosophy, there is a classic theory of transubstantial motion (al-harakat al-jawhariyyah) by Mulla Sadra (c. 1571-1640), who considers substantial motion to be a gradual existential transformation occurring in the very inner structure of things, and therefore, a thing or substance which is currently in a certain ontological state is undergoing a continuous and gradual inner transformation until it reaches a new ontological state.

Going back to the question, two points must be borne in mind in any attempt to answer it. First, violent extremism is both a social ill and a symptom of other social ills. As a social ill, violent extremism’s ideology as well as its pull factors (what attract a potential recruit) must be truly uprooted. As a symptom of other social ills such as endemic corruption, social injustices, economic deprivations, and moral decadence, among others, violent extremism must be vigorously addressed alongside those other social ills.

Second, winning the battle in Marawi does not necessarily mean winning the war on violent extremism. The former is basically a military fight while the latter is a wide-ranging combat. The victor in the former’s arena is not necessarily triumphant in the latter’s zone. The end of the siege is not a safety guarantee for another city not to be under siege in the near future. Neither the deaths of Isnilon and Omar could preclude the rise of Isnilons and Omars in the days to come.

In view of these two points, the government is supposed to ‘reinvent’ itself in the best possible way in at least six areas, namely: (1) Marawi rehabilitation, (2) violent extremism’s nature, (3) violent extremists’ definition of ‘enemy,’ (4) regional cooperation, (5) military doctrine and strategy, and (6) comprehensive framework on PVE-CVE.

(1) Marawi rehabilitation

In the Marawi rehabilitation program, the government is supposed to faithfully observe the 30 Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement laid down by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), particularly Section V on durable solutions (principles 28-30 related to return, resettlement and reintegration); otherwise, the reported new armed group describing itself as ‘Maranao Victims Movement’ (MVM) will eventually turn into a full-blown armed organization (see “New armed group born in Marawi, Lanao Sur,” http://www.ndbcnews.com.ph/…/new-armed-group-born-in-marawi…).

(2) Violent extremism’s nature

The government’s concerned agencies are supposed to understand that violent extremism is an interfaith as well as intrafaith issue. For instance, the ISIS upholds a takfiri ideology which declares other Muslims as non-Muslims and apostates. It is a threat not only to non-Muslims but also to Muslims; in fact, most number of their victims around the world, and in Marawi, for instance, are Muslims. In its official English magazines Dabiq and Rumiyah, Muslim personalities and entities are vehemently castigated. Hence, what we have here is a war of all against a common enemy.

(3) Definition of ‘enemy’

Upholding a particular ideology, these violent extremists have an extended definition of ‘enemy’ or ‘combatants’. As such, civilians are prone to become victims of bombings and kidnappings that may happen in the aftermath of the Marawi Crisis.

(4) Regional cooperation

As the current chairmanship holder of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), the Philippine government is supposed to forge serious regional cooperation in dealing with non-traditional security threats such as transnational non-state actors. The identification of a certain Malaysian university professor, Dr. Mahmud Ahmad, as the next leader of the remaining ISIS fighters in Marawi – some eight foreigners and 20 locals – certainly shows the urgency for such cooperation.

(5) Military doctrine and strategy

There is really an urgent need for the government to review and revise its national military doctrine and strategy in order to competently deal with non-traditional security threats. Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana’s many inaccurate ultimatums on the end of war in the course of almost five months since the siege obviously show his and his top generals’ lack of real ‘appreciation’ of the intricate spatial-temporal nature of urban warfare in the information age.

(6) Comprehensive PVE-CVE framework

Most important of all, the government is supposed to come up with a comprehensive framework on both preventing and countering violent extremism (PVE-CVE). An ASEAN-wide forum on preventing violent extremism (PVE), for instance, simply misses the point that ‘prevention’ implies that the thing to be avoided or prevented is not yet around. In the case of violent extremism, however, it is already here in our backyard; nay, it has already burned down a whole city. Hence, it requires fire-fighting, not fire-prevention. Nevertheless, in areas where there is no burning yet, fire-prevention is in order.

Moreover, any comprehensive framework to be developed must contain two essential elements that must go hand in hand, viz. all-inclusive development, and tolerance and respect for diversity. It is very difficult to teach tolerance and respect for diversity to a person who is hungry, economically disenfranchised, politically and historically wronged, or ideologically disoriented. In the same manner, for someone to be financially well off is not a guarantee for his being tolerant and honoring diversity. One may be rich and at the same time, intolerant of others. In fact, an affluent that subscribes to an ideology of hate, bigotry and violent extremism is far more damaging than a pauper who subscribes to the same.

Conclusion

To wrap up, what is even more fundamental than this ‘self-reinvention’ by the government is the personal reinvention of each of us along this line. Everybody is supposed to come out of the cocoon of his or her own indifference and passivity, and to morph into an active participant. Everybody must be a gallant warrior in countering the narratives of violent extremism in all arenas and platforms. All reservists are called for duty. Nobody must remain inside the barracks.

Now is the time to enlist. Now is the time to ‘reinvent.’

[MindaViews is the opinion section of MindaNews. Mansoor L. Limba, PhD in International Relations, is a writer, educator, blogger, chess trainer, and translator (from Persian into English and Filipino) with tens of written and translation works to his credit on such subjects as international politics, history, political philosophy, intra-faith and interfaith relations, cultural heritage, Islamic finance, jurisprudence (fiqh), theology (‘ilm al-kalam), Qur’anic sciences and exegesis (tafsir), hadith, ethics, and mysticism. He can be reached at mlimba@diplomats.com, or http://www.mlimba.com and http://www.muslimandmoney.com.]

Photo via ericbrown[dot]com

Categories: Current Events, Jargons and Terminologies, Philosophy, Social Issues | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

Searching for that Etymological School

The etymological school

A screen shot from the film “3 Idiots”

Mansoor L. Limba on February 10, 2017

MAKATI CITY (MindaNews / 10 February) – The other day, I attended a convocation program of a high school student.

It was the third in the series for this school year.

As usual, it was a gathering of students, parents and teachers in which ‘top’ students were given recognition. Implicitly, their parents were accorded that recognition, as well. The names of the ‘best’ students in each academic subject were announced, too.

Such a scenario is known to all and sundry, I’m sure. And there are no limits to its concomitant clichés.

Perennial School

At the back of this gathering are the indescribable pressures to all stakeholders – the students, parents, and teachers. The students have to burn the midnight candle in order to keep their respective ranks or even improve the same. The ‘mediocre’ among them have to strive hard so as not to fail in each periodical examination. The parents are so religious in monitoring their kids’ nocturnal rites of studying their lessons, and even in becoming their own kids’ instant tutors. The teachers have to check the test papers and compute the students’ grades most meticulously, for even less than one percent grade difference between that of the ‘first’ and the ‘second’ rank matters a lot.

In this typical set-up, there are the ‘first,’ the ‘second’ and of course, the ‘last’ rank. These ‘lower’ ranks will be seated in front rows, but in public roll call, they would be called last. There seems to have common acknowledgment that the ‘honor’ students are ‘brilliant’ while the ‘average’ are intellectually ‘poor’. The former are impliedly deemed ‘famous’ while the latter ‘infamous’.

Etymological School

This educational setting, regrettably, is too much alien to the etymology or origin of the word ‘school’. Dictionary indicates that the word ‘school’ is derived from the Greek word σχολή (scholē), which originally means ‘leisure’ and also ‘that in which leisure is employed’. In turn, dictionary also tells us that ‘leisure’ means ‘free time when a person can choose what to do’.

Etymologically, therefore, a school is supposed to be a place for play and joy. It is a playground where learning and leisure are rolled into one. It is a tryst for the lovers of Sophia and logos. It is a rose-garden where the learners are jolly bees, untiringly sipping the nectar of knowledge and wisdom.

In that ‘etymological’ school, Dr. Howard Gardner’s 1983 theory of multiple intelligences is truly acknowledged not only theoretically, but more importantly, in practice. It is duly recognized there that every student is talented; that he or she is ‘intelligent’ with respect to the subject or activity he or she is good at and passionate about. In the end, the student will be advised to follow his or her own calling.

Moreover, that school is an arena where the teacher is a ‘leisure-giver’, and not as a ‘lecturer’ and ‘terror’. Far from being pedantic or doctrinaire, she is a provider of free time and breathing space for her co-players who are conventionally called ‘students’ or ‘pupils’. She is a motivator, rather than an intimidator. She is a mentor, rather than a dictator.

Simply put, in that school, pedagogy is playing.

This is why while still perennially searching for that elusive school, I do not find any motivation to post by myself in any social media platform the ‘honors’ of that high school student I mentioned above, who graduated Valedictorian in pre-school, Salutatorian in elementary, and is the consistent Rank 1 this school year.

For me, every student is Top 1 in his or her way.

Whether that etymological school exists or will exist, or not, and whether my quest for it is an exercise in futility or not, only time can tell.

 

[MindaViews is the opinion section of MindaNews. Mansoor L. Limba, PhD in International Relations, is a writer, educator, blogger, chess trainer, and translator (from Persian into English and Filipino) with tens of written and translation works to his credit on such subjects as international politics, history, political philosophy, intra-faith and interfaith relations, cultural heritage, Islamic finance, jurisprudence (fiqh), theology (‘ilm al-kalam), Qur’anic sciences and exegesis (tafsir), hadith, ethics, and mysticism. He can be reached at mlimba@diplomats.com, or http://www.mlimba.com and http://www.muslimandmoney.com.]

Categories: Education, Jargons and Terminologies, Philosophy | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

The Politics of Hermeneutics or the Hermeneutics of Politics?

hermenuetics1 

When I was translating into English a book on the untold story of freedom a decade ago, I encountered for the first time a hermeneutically enigmatic couplet of the great Persian poet-mystic Jalaluddin al-Rumi whose 800th birth anniversary was commemorated by UNESCO on September 2007 and whose magnun opus, Mathnawi-ye Ma‘nawi (Spiritual Couplets) was first translated into English in full by Reynold A. Nicholson in 1925-40.

Rumi sings, thus:

That one is ‘shir’ [milk, or lion] in the ‘badiyeh’ [cup, or jungle]. And the other one is ‘shir’ in the ‘badiyeh’. That one is ‘shir’, which devours human (or, which human eats). And the other one is ‘shir’, which devours human (or, which human drinks). 

The word “shir” means “milk,” as well as “lion”. “Badiyeh” also denotes two meanings: the first one is “desert” and the other is “cup” or “vessel”. In this couplet, it is not exactly clear which one is “lion” and which one is “milk”. Badiyeh is equally not clear which one means “desert” and which one means “vessel” or “cup”.

This Rumian style is inherited by Maguindanaons, though in a simpler but somehow blunt fashion.

When a curious child would ask about the identity of something an adult Maguindanaon is holding, it is not uncommon for the latter to say, “Ut_n na midsa.”  Usually, the former would demand clarification, “What is midsa?” but receive only one-word reply, “midsa.” So, he would suppose that midsa is a kind of animal, but years later, he will realize that midsa means ‘one who asks’ and therefore referring to himself!

In interfaith circles, ‘dialogue’ could mean different things. In mid-1980s Durban-based Ahmed Deedat took issue with the Holy See for evincing his willingness to have ‘dialogue’ with Muslims when, accordingly, he meant something else, and therefore, challenged him to a ‘dialogue’ in St. Peter’s Basilica without realizing perhaps his own use of the same word (dialogue) that also means something else, i.e. ‘debate’—and possibly an acrimonious one. In 2000 two medical doctors, Dr. William Campbell and Dr. Zakir Naik, engaged in a religious ‘dialogue’ which every neophyte member of a university debating team can easily identify as actually a debate.

During the Cold War era, the ‘subversive’ or even ‘activist’ (read ‘communist’) was the favorite villain in the ‘free world’. Shortly after the dismemberment of the strongest bastion of communism in the world, the ‘subversive’ or ‘activist’ was soon replaced by the ‘Islamic fundamentalist’ or ‘extremist’.

After the 9/11, it is the time for hunting down ‘terrorists’. It is interesting to note that Jason Burke dedicated his informative book on Al-Qa‘ida—his first written book—on the victims of both ‘terror’ and the ‘war on terror’.

Since the occupation of the war-rampaged Iraq in 2003, this politics of hermeneutics or hermeneutics of politics—depending on one’s reading—has its own version: the hermeneutics of rafidah with the aim of throwing two birds with a single stone.

Literally means ‘one who rejects’, rafidah (plural rawafid) is translated as ‘heretic’ and its derivative modifier rafidi as ‘sectarian’. For centuries and especially more recently, it is increasingly used as a pejorative designation for a Muslim sectarian group demographically the majority in Iraq since its British-midwifed birth in 1920. Until the fall of the Ba‘ath regime in 2003, however, this majority had been persecuted and politically disenfranchised.

How to convey a sectarian message totally comprehensible to adherents and at the same time capable of fending off outsiders’ accusation of the message’s advocacy of sectarian-based civil war and division of the ummah?

The solution lies in playing with the ambiguity of the word rafidah.

Vitriolic verdicts on the urgency of killing rawafid channeled through audiotapes distributed within the flock of votaries and downloadable at insurgent websites are coupled with everyday carnage of civilians in public places such as markets and houses of worship.

Condemnation of these mass murders is immediately deflected by claiming that the targets are only the “collaborators working with the Crusaders”. Granting that police stations, military outposts and political figures are legitimate targets, why market-goers and worshippers are daily victims?

If ever pounded with this question, rafidah-manipulators argue that voters are responsible for the actions of leaders they elected: “[T]hey are not ordinary people… for they have become the soldiers of the infidel occupier… Did not al-Ja‘fari, al-Hakim and others come to power through their votes?”

Given this line of argument, one may wonder how and at which voting precinct the dome and two minarets in Samarra cast their votes for which they were condemned to destruction for two counts.

Hence, the use of such word is truly a powerful bomb that must be detonated. In postmodernist parlance, this textual interplay at work requires either deconstruction or double reading, or both.

For Derrida and Foucault wannabes, this is a golden opportunity to test the validity of these twin tools. I just hope they would not discover and thereafter conclude that ‘deconstruction’ and ‘double reading’ themselves also require deconstruction and double reading.

Categories: Current Events, International Relations, Jargons and Terminologies, Middle East, Philosophy | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

How ‘Plain’ is Plain?

Housewife

As in other occasions, during our recently held first ever high school reunion (after 25 years) in Cotabato City, one recurring introductory phrase among the lady batchmates was, “I’m a plain housewife.” In other words, it is like saying “I’m only a housewife” or “I’m just a housewife.”

Let’s see how ‘plain’ this plain housewife is. Let’s see how simple function being a housewife is.

This housewife is the automatic Vice President of the house. In the military parlance, she is the second in command.

She is the acting President of the house in the absence of the husband. Her assumption of this role lasts for many weeks, nay many months if the husband is one of the men-in-uniform, and worse still, even for a couple of years if the hubby is an OFW or seaman.

For a single-parent mom or widow, this is no longer a temporary role. She is the de facto President and Vice President of the house. In this case, she serves as both the pillar and light of the home (“haligi at ilaw ng tahanan”). She is the towering moral foundation of the family to which the children cling.

She is the Secretary of the house. She is the ‘kalihim’. In other words, she is the husband’s co-keeper of family and household secrets. In fact, one of her most difficult tasks is her unflinching determination to keep the untold ordeals, sentiments and sufferings she has as a secret to her children, parents and even friends. That’s why whenever I learn that a mother or wife dies, I tell myself, “With her shall also be buried forever many a secret – pains, melancholy, ignominy, injustices, self-sacrifices, scandals, and abjectness, to mention but a few.”

She is the Treasurer and the Budget Officer, at the same time. That is, she keeps the limited financial resources and judiciously sets the priorities for expending the same. In sum, it’s making do with less. And worse still, sometimes or many times, she is also the breadwinner of the family. There’s no need to give details in this regard as the primetime telenovelas are already replete with this line of story.

Of course, she is also the Head of the Monitoring Team that meticulously keeps track of the whereabouts of the family’s President.

To sum up, this ‘plain’ housewife is the President, Vice President, Secretary, Treasurer, Budget Officer, Monitoring Team Head, mother, and wife – rolled into one. This is how ‘plain’ plain housewife is.

To this unsung heroine of every household, it’s up to her to maintain the cliché, “I’m a plain housewife,” or to declare to the whole world that she’s higher in rank than the CEO of a multinational company by saying with utmost confidence, “I’m a housewife!”

Categories: High School Reunion, Jargons and Terminologies | Tags: , | Leave a comment

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