A Discussion on the Institution of Family in the Midst of the Challenges of Contemporary Society

Part 1

Situationer

Family is the most basic unit of society but it is the most challenged institution nowadays when its function as a social institution is set aside to cater to individualistic and relativistic reasons. I say “set aside” because it comes after a choice or preference.  (Remember that this is one of the characteristics of contemporary time. We are presented with so many alternatives that makes decision making more complex.  Prioritization becomes a problem.  We often choose or prefer what we want rather than what is really necessary.  We often choose or prefer what is external or material over substance, over what is essential or valuable.  Because there are a lot of alternatives, we sometimes just take it all and try it all, and then we choose, over the fear of not having what really matters.)  People choose or prefer to do things their own way – individualistic and relativistic – other than what is institutionally “traditional” or “customary”; and so, we tend to set aside what is “traditional” or “customary”.

Family is a social institution. It means that persons or a group of persons, in their interaction and as they establish relationships, arbitrarily and conventionally, respond to needs of the time, respond to the context, and so develop social institutions.  (Remember in sociology we were able to discuss the social institutions. There are generally eight of them and among them are the family, government, church, school, etc.)  Considering this, social institutions develop in context.  This is the first point that I want you to keep in mind.  Social institutions, like family, develop in context.

The second point that I want you to keep in mind is social institutions are essentially developed, sustained and improved by a group. It is never an individual endeavour.  Regardless of how particular groups of people respond to their context, be it in the desserts of the Sahara or the outbacks of Australia or the jungles of the Amazon or the highly industrialized cities of New York or Toronto or Iloilo, family is always essentially a group.  (That is why when we think of “family,” we constitute “father” and “mother” and “child or children” into the concept. Take out the “child or children,” the concept is “couple”; take out either the “father” or “mother” as “parents”, we conceptualize “single parenthood”, not “family”.  So, essentially and conceptually, “family” is always a group that constitutes the “parents” or the “mother” and the “father” and their “child or children”.)  That is why the issue nowadays is that people choose or prefer what suits them personally as opposed to what the group or community chooses or prefers.  Family, being the most basic unit, meaning basic group, in society, is in contention.

Because family is a group and with the issue I pointed out as with people’s individualistic or relativistic choices or preferences, prevalent issues like divorce that leads to broken families and blended families, teenage and/or single-parenthood, cohabitation, same sex marriage, surrogacy among others; take into account in the macro-level, population control or depopulation i.e. with RH Bill, all these are a cause-and/or-effect, if not an alternative, to the “traditional” or “customary” family organization (like the cause of broken families (effect) is divorce, legal separation or annulment (cause) just as blended families (effect) or single parenthood (effect); premarital sex or teenage pregnancy is the cause of teenage parenthood (effect) and also even single parenthood (effect); cohabitation, surrogacy, same sex marriage are alternatives to the “traditional” or “customary” institution of family and marriage.) Contemporary people are brought to the contention, a tug-of-war, a love-and-hate, between individualistic and/or relativistic choices or preferences versus “traditional” and “customary” functions of the institution of family.  (So, man looks at two poles when deciding on something, especially as life determining realities like marriage and having a family.  At one pole is the individualistic or relativistic choices or preferences and on the other, “traditional” or “customary” functions of the institution of family.)

So, as I proceed, I want you to think about this.

Are all the realities I have mentioned a while ago (divorce, legal separation and annulment, broken and blended families, teenage or single parenthood, cohabitation, surrogacy, even population control or depopulation, are all these realities) a response of contemporary man to our context now granting that these are going on now and by the likes of it, this is going to stay for a while or this is where we are going to just as what was “traditional” or “customary” was man of the past’s response to their own context – in the past? (I am asking this because we might consider the realities I mentioned above as “issues” because we are looking at it from the perspective of the “traditional” and “customary” which are the response of the people in the past to their own context in the past.) What do you think?  Keep to mind these big question as we proceed.

Are all the realities I mentioned above a response to our context now granting that this is where we are now, granting that this is where we are going to just as what was “traditional” or “customary” was in their own time and space, in their own context – in the past? As I proceed, this is what I want you to think about.

Overview

With the time given to me by Tom, I’ll go over the terminologies to help you make sense of it in context somehow. Since these are mostly definitions I will not dwell on it so much.  I leave it to you to take note and research on these terms and put to heart their sense; not even their definitions.  Understand it and apply it in context.  Next to that, I’ll discuss the purpose of family, why it was institutionalized by groups of people in the past.  It did not just pop out of nowhere.  People had to live together, interact and relate with one another, to be able to see a need for this kind of response to their context – the institution of family.  And with all these discussed, I’ll leave it to you to critique how the institution of family is doing.

Part 2

Terminologies

Most of the terminologies pertinent to family are related somehow to the institutions of kinship and marriage. I hope that these were already discussed already.  Terminologies pertinent to family can be categorized into two: membership and location.  These two categories serve as the structure from which the processes of interaction and relationships are established in the institution of family.

So as to membership, families are classified into nuclear and extended family structure.

The members of nuclear families include two generations: the parents and the child or children. Conceptually, this is the basic family structure we know of: there’s the mother and the father and the children.  Without one member, we consider it not a “family” (As I have mentioned a while ago, when we think of “family,” we constitute “father” and “mother” and “child or children” into the concept. Take out the “child or children,” the concept is “couple”; take out either the “father” or “mother” as “parents”, we conceptualize “single parenthood”, not “family”.  So, essentially and conceptually, “family” is always a group that constitutes the “parents” or the “mother” and the “father” and their “child or children”.)  This family structure is autonomous and independent.  They separated themselves from their kin or commonly to us we call this “relatives” not only in terms of location but also with the affairs of family life, most especially in terms of economics and livelihood.  This family structure is also encouraged by industrialization.  Come to think of it, in history, families separated themselves from their kin or “relatives” to go to cities.  This led to urbanization.  Right now, with the demand of work in developed or even developing country, families naturally prefer to become or stay nuclear.  Technology i.e in the advancement in transportation allowed more mobility for families to stay nuclear.

Other than that, it should be noted that the initial social organization with the band system in nomadic societies was nuclear in structure. Take note of “initial” because as soon as they were able to manipulate their environment, when they were able to settle already and started farming, they grew in number.  In short, they became extended.  But out of necessity, because nomads transfer from one place to another for food, they should limit their membership to nuclear.  Why?  One, for easy mobility; and second, they naturally limit their number in proportion to the available resources.

Here, we can make sense that conceptually when we think of “family,” being the basic unit or group in society, we mean “nuclear”. Thus, nuclear family structure cut across the changes and developments in society, in the social organizations, in time.  Such structure of family, being the basic unit, is the core of society that has survived the challenges in context since the time of the nomads to our time now.

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The other one is extended family. The membership of this family structure is a consequence of blood or consanguinity and affinity.  Consanguinally, or by blood, the membership does not only include two generations but includes generations before and after the basic nuclear family. By kinship terms, tt can be extended patrilineally or matrileneally. (You take notice of your extended family structure. Who are the members?  Are they from your father or mother’s side, or both?)  It is not too difficult for us to conceive of this since the Filipino family structure is still extended.  We may be nuclear by location but our relationships, being closely-knit, is still dynamically extended.

Membership by affinity considers adoption, fostering, god-parenthood, even friendships. This can be considered “fictitious kinship” since without blood ties; the members create parent-child relationship.

If we trace it back in history, extended families started when people settled already because they can manipulate their environment in segmentary societies or commonly known as tribal or village societies. By necessity, families group together so that they can help each other.  The principle of “more hands to help” was the guiding force in this social movement that led societies to grow to civilizations or states.  In effect, extended families also became a mechanism for alliance, both economic and political.  Nowadays, especially in the context of our Philippine society, extended families still function as such for the same reasons long, long time ago: economic and political.  Other than that, with the extended family structure, culture is transmitted efficiently from one generation to the next.

Here, we can make sense that as we become industrialized, as we prefer to become “nuclear,” history and heritage, traditions and customs, lose meaning. We become detached from our past.

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Now, by location, families are classified as patrilocal, matrilocal, avuncolocal, ambilocal or bilocal and neolocal. These classifications are a consequence to the kinship patterns practiced in the given society.  Remember context.  Generally, since I will not go into the details of these classifications, these classifications, in principle, are governed still by power and economics.  In short, the location of the family, regardless of the membership, is dependent on who can provide and support more the members of the family.

Of course, patrilocal families live with or near the relatives of the father’s father. Matrilocal, on the other hand, live with or near the relatives of the mothers’s father.  (Again, try to look at your own family structure when it comes to locality. Where do you live?  Who lives with you?  Is it your father’s family or your mother’s who lives with you?)  If it is both, it is called ambilocal or bilocal.  You have either your father’s or mother’s family, or even both.  Avunculocal families are least prevalent.  These are families who live with or near the father’s mother’s brothers.  In short, you live with your uncles, the brothers of your mother.  Neolocal families, because of economic circumstances, decide to or leave their extended family in order to establish a new residence, usually, in a city or where work is available.  Now take note: whether it is nuclear or extended family structure, this classification looks at location.  Not membership.  Meaning, you can still be nuclear even if by location you are patrilocal or matrilocal.  You are simply a nuclear family living “near” such and such.  Of course, these classifications are further explained when we consider the institution of marriage i.e. how marriage is being transacted like with the bride-wealth, bride service, dowry or woman or reciprocal exchange.  Again, you determine the locality to whoever is more abundant to support a starting up family.  You can also look at these classifications by reason of political alliance or tribe or “clan” alliance.

Part 3

Function of Families

As I said so, the institution of the family, being the basic unit, did not just pop out of nowhere. Its institution, such that it developed from the interaction and relationships of man long, long time ago, is “arbitrary” and “conventional”.  “Arbitrary”, meaning, it was decided upon by the persons in the group; and it is “conventional” because, as it was arbitrarily decided upon, after some time, as to membership for instance or locality, or even bring it to the level of the institution of marriage, it was shared by everyone in the group and passed on from one generation to the next.  As such, it became “arbitrary and conventional.”  And when I say decided upon, I mean, it came about, not from a debate or a forum where the wise men convened at one time in history and declared such as such as institution.  What I mean by decided upon was that it was accepted by experience.  That is why it was not just at once.  It took years or generations or interaction before it was institutionalized.  Other than that, I want to point out that since it is arbitrary and conventional, whatever was decided upon in the past, with the context in mind, can be changed – for as long as it is decided upon.

Now, why did they decide on that? What is the institution of family for, stretch it back for instance to the very dawn of man?  What was it for?

There are several theories that help us explain its function. And for the purpose of going through it, knowing major theories in social science, I’ll just get to the functions point by point.  It should be noted that as I discuss in particular only family, we cannot do away principles of kinship and marriage, because family after all is the result of the function of kinship and marriage.  In a sense, they come one after the other – which is now has become ideal rather than norm or standard.  Like marriage first and then family is established and so kinship is sustained.  Nowadays, it can be family first then nothing more or family first then marriage for kinship sake or kinship pressure.  Nowadays, as it has become individualistic and relativistic, we can play around with the institutions in any order and we lose its functions in the first place.

So, what are the functions of family?

  1. Socialization. This is our first world. We are born into our families. And, we cannot choose our families. The family prepares the person to become a performing citizen of the world.   Here we learn how to nurture nature. In short, culture is being transmitted to us initially by our parents.  Here we learn the basics of what it is to be human. Here we learn survival skills. We learn life-skills. Mess this up as many families who do not understand this function of family deeply, that they are responsible to socialize the child properly to become citizens of the world, the child suffers, the society suffers in the long run. Everything starts in this institution. We make or break society in family by socialization.
  2. To compliment socialization, as human beings, families provide emotional and practical support. We learn how to build relationships. We learn how to love, care, become hurt or endure pain, or otherwise. At some point, with functions 1 and 2, psychoanalysts like Freud, Erikson and Jung have somehow explored the realities of these functions to a child and we have learned that, as we grow up in our families and out to the bigger world in school, in work, and so on, we develop poles from which determine our personalities. Our families are responsible for that. No wonder when we process our issues now, we cannot evade being asked to go back to our childhood, to our experiences in the family. So family should keep us sound in mind, heart and spirit. Again, mess it up, we mess up society as well.
  3. Family also provide social identity. Consider Tom and myself. If we come into terms with the families we were born into, somehow, if you look at us, our identity, grounded on our families, you will see that, being a Garin and him a Flores, we are “contrapartido”.   If we exist in the middle ages, we may be at war like that of the Montague and the Capulet in the classic Romeo and Juliet story. Our families determine who we are in society. Bluntly said, even our social classes are determined by our family such as who is rich or poor. It also determines our successes in life. Come to think of it, as to how we were socialized, our choices in education and profession, the job opportunities, the social mobility we have, are all influenced by the families we are born into.
  4. To compliment somehow with function no. 3, social identity, and following through, how conflict theories would look at family, it also reinforces social inequality. It reinforces economic inequality and even patriarchy.  Well, you can actually see that in our context, even in our history. No wonder that the prevailing fact of the rich becoming richer and the poor becoming poorer still stands true. The good thing about our society though is that we have social mobility. By very, very hard work or luck, we can move up and down the social ladder.  And by the rise of our middle class, relatively speaking, we are far better than societies who are socially determined or have become socially static, to Durkheim’s terms, which means, “not moving,” which means, rich or poor, that society will just die off. Look at the ancient civilizations. I’d rather have a society who has social inequality with people who are not deferent of the affairs of politics (true to what I said in the philosophical conference) and head on, as a family, as a community, struggle by very hard, hard, hard work, to make their lives better than a society who is rich with people who are abundant materially but scarce in everything else that makes them human. This issue I can discuss in another topic. So, family reinforces social inequality.
  5. As a consequence to marriage, family also regulates sexual activity and sexual reproduction. This is practically what makes us rational in the realm of sex. Take out the institutions of marriage and family we are merely animals who can have sex anywhere anytime. There are no kinship concepts of mother or father or children. Given that, we can have sex with our “supposed” mothers and fathers and children or siblings. Can you imagine that now that we are conscious of this reality?  It happened. It can happen again. We call this taboo. But that’s the thin line there. Take out the institution, “setting aside” its functions; we will be just like our dogs and cats. So family it regulates sexual activity. It elevates the animalistic act, to reproduce, into something more. With family, sex is accorded a certain responsibility. For what? Responsibility to reproduce the next generation. It becomes a mechanism for humanity to live on. In its normalcy, with nothing artificial to use for an argument, sex reproduces offspring. That’s the reason why family regulates sex to be an expression of love, bound by marriage, to reproduce.  The end of sex is reproduction, the offspring. That’s its normalcy. So again, family regulates sexual act and sexual reproduction.
  6. Other than the 5 functions I have already covered, under subjective interactionism, given that this is a theory that looks at specific interaction and relationship, this theory enumerates several functions of family.
  • Shared understanding. Having a shared family history or background, shared experience at present, with anything and everything that the family encounters every single day, we learn a lot of things together. Even in our differences, we know how to compromise, to make things work, to prioritize and decide on things all for the good of the family. Much of our family values are shared understanding of what is right or wrong, what is good and bad.
  • Styles of communication. Do I need to elaborate on this? As a means and effect of socialization, family pass on language in all its nuances: choice of words, style, flow, pace, loudness or softness, what else? And so, even how we communicate is replicated even outside of family.
  • Social roles and Social expectations. Looking at the family as a unit, as a group, the social roles are mother, father, and children. Each of these has expectations to perform. With these expectations we create structures in society. This was clearer during the ancient social systems when it was clear cut: men hunt/fish and women and children gather grains. But as society develop to what we have now, expectations are not as black-and-white but the principles of having a breadwinner in the family, of having a moral guide and so on are still there but, I should point out, is not gender bound. In some sense, with social roles and expectations set in place in the institution of family, it helps man – when he enters the bigger community or society – to “see” these structures and with and within those structures know what to expect and how to perform – I can say, personally and professionally.

Now it should be noted with these 9 functions, regardless of the membership and location, the institution of family is still – necessary – institution to our society. It is the foundation of society. Inasmuch as it is being challenged now, we know for a fact that when something does not have a function, it ceases to exist. Does the institution of family still serve its function?

Now, given these terminologies, and all the more these functions, what do you think would happen if people nowadays will be successful in destroying the institution of the family – in any way legit or outrageous? Or, would you still hold a firm hope that they can never destroy the very foundation of our society? Why do you think so? I leave these questions along with the issue I pointed out at the beginning of this discussion.

End

I’d like to thank, Tom for this privilege. I am now allowing my students before to abuse me just so I can be sane here. I am still waiting for Jess to do so, to abuse me. So Tom, more? Well, I know that he won’t pay me for my thoughts but it would be a pleasure to read your thoughts. And by that, you know what I mean, Tom?

I miss saying this. I want all of you to write a reflection paper on this topic. You may reflect on the issues I presented in the Situationer before I gave the overview or answer randomly any of the rhetorical questions I asked in the discussion. Of course, granting that I am here in Canada, all your outputs will be sent to me by my good student and now my fellow teacher and your teacher through email (josephsylvesterp@yahoo.com).

This one I miss saying, too. What would I always say if you I am asking you to write an essay most especially reflection papers? —– S.O.P. – It should be written in S.O.P.

No pressures. Well, it’s up to Tom if he will require you with this but it is always inspiring to see all of you become the best. We are a rare breed, brothers. So keep it up and shine.

“Hope lingers, life triumphs, love prevails.” (Amo Vitam) Love you all and miss you all!

 

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Feminist Theory is Social Construction Theory: Some Random Discussion on Sociological Theories

Introduction

This paper will try to discuss the feminist and social construction theories. The former, feminist theory, is a sociological theory of practice, of which was adapted by other minority movements like the Blacks, the ethnic minorities, as well as the gays and lesbians, sprouting at first in the United States and later on, spreading all over the world.  This theory can be considered “reactionary” to, and specific to and for, women living in society, in a certain context.  The latter, on the other hand, the social construction theory is also a sociological theory, but that of knowledge, following contemporary philosophical traditions, especially postmodern and post-postmodern thoughts on language, on language-and-reality and reality in general.

Feminist Theory

Feminism, as a philosophical system, reflects a world view that values women and that confronts systematic injustices based on gender.” Kathy Lay and James Daley, in their paper, “A Critique of Feminist Theory,” defined Feminist Theory (FT), in general, as “a perspective for understanding human behavior in the social environment by centering women and issues that women face in contemporary society.  It also looks at individuals, groups, family, and organizations in their social, political, economic, ethnic, and cultural context using the feminist lens.  Most often, FT is associated, directly or indirectly, with the rights of women.  Being an extension of feminism, being the movement, of theoretical or philosophical discourse, it aims to understand nature of gender inequality, examining women’s social roles and lived experiences, and feminist politics in a variety of fields, such as anthropology and sociology, communication, psychoanalysis, economics, literary criticism, education and philosophy. (Brabeck, M. and Brown, L. et. al. Feminist Theory and Psychological Practice, in Shaping the Future Femenist Psychology: Education, Research and Practice, American Psychological Association, 1997)

As a movement, it “began a widespread call for a major reassessment of concepts, theories, and methods employed within and across the academic disciplines. (Hesse-Biber, 2000, in “A Critique of Feminist Theory”) Since the movement strives to challenge traditions, methodologies, and priorities in all aspects of life, FT slowly found its way into the mouths and sentiments of women, as well as, those who find the application of the theory in context to society.

Since, by definition and understanding, theory is about understanding our world and everyday experiences; thus, Flax (1999) said that theory is “a systematic analytic approach to everyday experience” and at some point, he would qualify that this analysis is done unconsciously. Some thoughts and feelings coming out of expression, usually as we speak or write, in critique of our context, our society, in the process, much of “theorizing” is indeed done unconsciously.  Something that is normal for human beings.  That is why Flax continues on by saying that “to theorize, then, is to bring this unconscious process to a conscious level so it can be developed and refined.”  One of the first theories so far that started FT are: (1) “men and women have different experiences in that their worlds are not the same;” (2) “that women’s oppression is ‘a unique constellation of social problems and has to be understood in itself…and (3) that oppression is part of the structure of patriarchy which has deep roots in culture at large.”

Because of these factors, together with a bunch of other issues that sprouted out in the past decades, FT proponents responded, at first, conservatively, until they have become assertive, even aggressive. Generally, FT, from Feminism, has evolved in different arenas rather than one unified concept i.e. black feminism, radical feminism, cultural feminism, lesbian feminism, liberal feminism, Marxist feminism, materialist feminism, and socialist feminism (Andermahr, et. al. in “A Critique of Feminist Theory”) Across these types of feminism, FT has evolved in 3 waves (Three Waves of Feminism: From Suffragettes to Grrls (http://www.sagepub.com/upm-data/6236_Chapter_1_Krolokke_2nd_Rev_Final_Pdf.pdf).

First-wave feminism arose in context of industrial society and liberal politics but is connected to both liberal women’s rights movement and early socialist feminism in the late 19th and early 20th century in the United States and Europe.  The main concern of this wave was access and equal opportunities for women.  One of its significant voices was Elizabeth Cady Stanton, who outlined in the Seneca Falls Declaration the claim of natural equity of women and outlining the political strategy of equal access and opportunity, of which, gave rise to the suffrage movement in the 1800s.  In the early stages, in the United States, feminism was interwoven with other reform movements, such as abolition and temperance, and initially closely involved women of the working class.  This was also supported by Black women abolitionist i.e. Maria Stewart, Sojourner Truth, and Frances E. W. Harper, who also agitated the rights of women of color.  By their joining the band, it strove to show the linkage of sexism and racism that functioned as the main means of White male dominance.  That is why first-wave feminism members were largely white, middle-class, well-educated women.  Later on, with the civil war in the United States, as well as, the two world wars, feminism in the first-wave also focused on the demands of national unity and patriotism.

One significant issue that the women of the first-wave poured so much effort was their voting rights (rights of suffrage). Of which, suffragists had to stereotype women to be: (1) unbecoming or unwomanly when they engaged in public speaking, (2) resisting the “cult of domesticity,” dictating that a true woman’s place was in the home, meeting the needs of the husband and children; and (3) the requirement of modesty and to wield only indirect influence, and certainly not to engage in public activities.  (Who would have survived such stereotypes?)  Eventually, just as the right of suffrage was granted to women, politically, it also led to the claim that women and men should be treated as equals and that women should not only be given access to the same resources and positions as men but also be acknowledge of their contributions and competencies.  This concept is called “equal-opportunities feminism” or “equity feminism,” characterized by lack of distinction between sex and gender.

The second-wave, which emerged in the 1960s to 1970s in postwar Western welfare societies, when other “oppressed” groups such as Blacks and homosexuals were being defined and the New Left was on the rise. This wave is closely linked to the radical voices of women’s empowerment and differential rights.  During the 1980s to 1990s, feminism were initiated, to a crucial differentiation, by women of color and third-world women.  Key to this branch of feminism was a strong belief that women could collectively empower one another.

Under the theories of radical feminism, they believe that patriarchy is inherent to bourgeois society and that sexual difference is more fundamental than class and race differences. They even claimed that women – due to their primary social attachment to the family and reproduction – constitute a class and economy of their own, based on the unpaid work in the home, the productivity of motherhood, and their function as a workforce reserve.

The second-wave feminism, according to Luce Irigaray, a British feminist, helped us open a door to a different kind of thought and action, in which a continued process of diversification and multiplication takes over the frozen pairing equity (sameness) and difference. These movements had consequences, considering that in this wave, feminism is not only one, but many; it has become highly theoretical and consequently have had strong affiliations with the academy; have generated an explosion of research and teaching on women’s issues; and, has influenced communication through concepts of cultural feminism and gendered communication styles or “genderlects.”

This wave is also known, in the beginning, as radical feminism, using performance i.e. underground or guerilla theater, to shed light on “women’s oppression.” Florence Kennedy, one of its proponents, would say, “There are a few jobs that actually require a penis or vagina.  All other jobs should be open to everybody.”  Here, women were victims of a patriarchal, commercialized, oppressive beauty culture to such an extent that feminists of this wave even protested against beauty pageants, most especially, Miss America. (Friedman, in Three Waves of Feminism, in “Gender Communication Theories and Analyses”)  This movement even criticized “capitalism” and “imperialism” and focused on the notion and interest of the “oppressed” groups: the working class, Blacks, and in the principles, and women and homosexuals.

The third-wave, stretching from the mid-1990s onward, springing from the postcolonial and postsocialist world order, in the context of information society and neoliberal, global politics. This wave manifest the “grrrl” rhetoric, which seeks to overcome the theoretical question of equity or difference and the political question of evolution or revolution, while it challenges the notion of “universal womanhood” and embraces ambiguity, diversity, and multiplicity in transversal theory and politics.

This was born with the privileges that first- and second-wave feminists fought for, and so, third-wave feminists generally see themselves as capable, strong, and assertive social agents; buoyed by the confidence of having more opportunities and less sexism. The movement has simultaneously criticized sexist language, appropriated derogatory terms for girls and women, and invented new self-celebrating worlds and forms of communication.  And, instead of condemning the stereotypes used against them, they exaggerate them, beginning with the very word girl.  By this, they developed a feminist theory and politics that honor contradictory experiences and deconstruct categorical thinking to such extent that even “slut” or “bitch”, once derogatory, was deconstructed to be concepts of grrrl empowerment.

With all that considered, third-wave is tied up with the effects of globalization and the complex redistribution of power, which challenge feminist theory and politics, mirroring the diversification of women’s interests and perspectives and the breakdown of master stories of oppression and liberation. This was at a social context where people are confused of the overflow of information or the concepts that the world has “no-borders.”  Consequently, their consciousness formed concepts of equality and equity; a society whose individual parts are blurred by the “whole.”

With the first, second and third wave of feminism, the movement and advocacy issue is vibrant, diverse, and wide-ranging. Social issues that moved women long time ago to cry, if not call, and fight for their rights are still there: oppression, lack of power, or lack of control, over all, in a male-oriented culture, only that the world has become smaller where traditional boundaries or categories has become “non-necessary”.  Across decades, with the world events putting up a modern history all together, feminism has survived and is still fighting the fight, proposing theories that applies and responds to their needs, to the “call of the time.”

Social Construction Theory

Peter Jackson and Jan Penrose said that Social Construction Theory (SCT) is concerned with the ways we think about and use categories to structure our experience and analysis of the world. (http://staff.washington.edu/saki/strategies/The%20Theory%20of%20Social%20Construction_files/v3_document.htm)   These are sociological theories of knowledge that consider how social phenomena or objects of consciousness develop in social context. (Beaumie, Kim, et. al. Social Constructivism (http://projects.coe.uga.edu/epltt/index.php?title=Social_Constructivism) What comes out of this analysis is the seeming “awareness” or “recognition”, if not “naming of,” social constructs which are products of particular groups.  These social constructs are generally understood to be the by-products of countless human choices rather than laws resulting from divine will or nature.

A major focus of SCT is to uncover the ways in which individuals and groups participate in the construction of their perceived social reality. It involves looking at the ways social phenomena are created, institutionalized, known, and made into traditions by humans.  As such, it becomes an ongoing dynamic process and must be reproduced by people acting on their interpretations and their knowledge of it.  Because of social constructs as facets of reality and objects of knowledge are not “given” by nature, they must be constantly maintained and re-affirmed in order to persist.

How are social constructs “constructed”? SCT considers reality as the product of social interaction; it begins with the language of a social context.  With language, we categorize concepts into terms.  From that, we try to negotiate these concepts as rational or symbolic, of which, requires to be tested or lived by the people.  As it is practiced, rules are designed to deal with immediate adaptations.  With regulated practice, habituation follows.  By this time, that from which “constructed” by language, put into practice, becomes normal.  As it becomes normal, institutionalization follows.  (http://www.andosciasociology.net/resources/Social+Construction+Theory.pdf) Here, actual “construction” of social construct is achieved.  Constant reification comes from time to time, checking the validity, the application, the “normalcy” of the social construct as people, in their culture; continue to live in a certain social context.  Once social constructs are institutionalized, after it has been arbitrarily made conventional, or normal in a sense, the people use these constructs as lenses of which they view their life-world.  By that, how we know something to be real depends on these social lenses.

According to Peter Berger (1967), in his book, “The Social Construction of Reality”, together with Luckman, argues that all knowledge, including the most basic, taken-for-granted common sense knowledge of everyday reality, is derived from and maintained by social interactions. When people interact, they do so with the understanding that their respective perceptions of reality are related, and as they act upon this understanding their common knowledge of reality becomes reinforced.  Since this common sense knowledge is negotiated by people, human typifications, significations and institutions come to be presented as part of an objective reality, particularly for future generations who were not involved in the original process of negotiation.”

Although this brings us to question reality, especially when reality, be it a thing or not, an idea or concept, is “constructed,” it also allows us to re-evaluate our perception of reality, using other various philosophical perspectives like that of language i.e. of hermeneutics or even that of epistemology. We get to “see” (analyze) the world we live in; our life-world.  For instance, when we allow ourselves to do this, we can say, according to Rudolph Carnap, “all reality is thought, all thought is in a language, all language is a convention, and that all convention is socially acceptable, hence, it uses language to socially program.”

By this, true indeed, that man was given by God the power to “name” the plants and creatures in the Garden of Eden (Genesis 1). By this, we have dominion over all things; we have dominion, then, over our reality.

Feminist Theory vs. Social Construction Theory

By preference, I am more adept to ground my discussion on SCT. Not only that its conceptual structure can easily be outlined, SCT has also proposed a workable process and is objectively applicable.  By that, FT, then, can eventually ground its conception, its principles, especially from the standpoint of gender and their methodology, in SCT.  Gender itself is considered in many schools of thought as a “social construct.”  Sex, since it is biological, given by God – something natural – in all of us, cannot be arbitrated by a group of people.  There’s no argument about it.  But, its cultural designation, along with it is concepts of gender identity and gender roles are arbitrary; and of course, once institutionalized, becomes conventional.  Gender, in other words, is not universal in application.  This is anthropologically supported by many researchers who have eventually proposed cultural relativism as its “eye” in analyzing society, in studying the world.  What is Filipino male and female, its identity, the expected roles and status, to Filipino understanding, may not be to the Americans or Chinese; more so, to tribes in Africa and Papua New Guinea.  Given that, FT, since it is “reactionary” in favor of a specific gender — female — is consequently grounded on principles that are “socially constructed.”  Thus, it is so difficult for women to delineate really what makes one a woman; and the men, man.  In some sense, FT is “fluid.”  That is why it has reached 3 waves, of which, the third-wave, by principle, has gone away from the principles the first-wave fought for.  Deconstruction of FT was power to the third-wave.  FT was more of interpretation or evaluation — from observation — of surrounding realities.  But what made them “see” this oppression or inequality?  Their being feminine of which is “just” a social construct.  FT may be a project of sociological imagination contained only within the bounds of women-concerns; thus, cannot be generalized of which supposedly, theories should.  SCT, on the other hand, though its foundation or grounding is “arbitrary” yet, as a theory, is applicable to general knowledge of reality; in fact, to everything.  The “arm” of SCT is its “recognition” or “awareness”; more so, of its “naming.”  To many language philosophers, this is a mechanism which, at first instance, allows us to study, thus, analyze, anything perceived to be real.  By the fact that it is a product of language, even that of the fictional world can be conceived as real; and thus, SCT still applies.  But with its arbitrary characteristic, it can be held in contention.  There is always a moment from which man doubts its “construction,” whether it is real or not or is just a product of convention.  By that, it can be argued and so, even changed.  This is a fact.  Once, in society, we do not like a structure or a process, change is possible because reality is a social construct.  Dangerous as it may sound but this is a mechanism for analysis and evaluation.  Who determines it is an issue.  Who decides what to objectify is an issue.  From this point, both FT and SCT can be subjective, individually and collectively.

References:

  1. Lay, Kathy and Daley, James, A Critique of Feminist Theory (http://journals.iupui.edu/index.php/advancesinsocialwork/article/viewArticle/131)
  2. Three Waves of Feminism: From Suffragettes to Grrls (http://www.sagepub.com/upm-data/6236_Chapter_1_Krolokke_2nd_Rev_Final_Pdf.pdf
  3. Hanish, Carol, The Personal is Political: The Women’s Liberation Movement classic with a new explanatory introduction (http://www.carolhanisch.org/CHwritings/PIP.html)
  4. Petersen, V. Spike, Feminist Theories Within, Invisible To, and Beyond IR, in the Brown Journal of World Affairs, vol. X, issue 2, 2004.
  5. http://edu.learnsoc.org/Chapters/3%20theories%20of%20sociology/8%20feminist%20theory.htm
  6. http://stmarys.ca/~evanderveen/wvdv/Gender_relations/Feminist_theories.htm
  7. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Feminist_theory
  8. Shaw, Alan, Social Constructionism and the Inner City (http://xenia.media.mit.edu/~acs/chapter1.html)
  9. Stam, Henderikus J., Introduction: Social Constructionism and Its Critics, in Theory and Psychology, vol. 11(3): 291-296, SAGE Publication, 2001.
  10. Jackson, Peter and Penrose, Jan, The Theory of Social Construction (http://staff.washington.edu/saki/strategies/The%20Theory%20of%20Social%20Construction_files/v3_document.htm)
  11. Cromby, J., What’s wrong with social constructionism?, in Social Constructionist Psychology: a critical analysis of theory and practice, Buckingham, Open University Press, 1999.
  12. http://www.andosciasociology.net/resources/Social+Construction+Theory.pdf
  13. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Social_Constructionism

 

VOICES IN THE DARK Spencer, Merton and Homosexuality

A final paper I wrote for my Sociological Theories class, Master of Arts in Sociology (2009-2010)

  1. Introduction

“We shall rewrite history, history filled and debased with your heterosexual lies and distortions. We shall portray the homosexuality of the great leaders and thinkers who have shaped the world.  We will demonstrate that homosexuality and intelligence and imagination are inextricably linked, and that homosexuality is a requirement for true mobility, true beauty in a man.”

This is an excerpt of an editorial by Michael Swift, entitled “Gay Revolutionary” for an important gay community magazine, Gay Community News last February 15-21, 1987, which after a decade, it was reprinted for The Congressional Record, and since then, was repeatedly cited, apparently verbatim, by the religious right.  The editorial stood as “revolutionary” because it carried an angry stand against the widespread discrimination of homosexuals.  It remained that way, as when one has read the editorial, because the religious right cites the text omitting, as does the Congressional Record, the vital first line, which sets the context of the piece, that is:

“This essay is an outré, madness, tragic, cruel fantasies, an eruption of inner rage, on how the oppressed desperately dream of being the oppressor.”

It is from this perspective that, no matter how widespread homosexuality is, it still carries along with it a structural stigma of deviance, and with it, an institutional discrimination, that, regardless of the context which a gay man stands, is yet to be suspended.  Michael Swift’s inner rage speaks of every homosexual’s dream – of liberation.

From that global standpoint, Exene Tejano, in his article for AssociatedContent.com (2009), entitled, “Male Homosexual Culture of the Philippines” said that “Homosexual culture is a little different in the Philippines than its western counterpart.  Homosexuals, cross-dressers, and bisexuals are all labeled under the term “gay.”  “Suprisingly,” he continues, “in a Catholic dominated country homosexuality is accepted in the Philippines compared to other cultures, even to dominant American culture (to which Michael Swift’s inner rage proves so),” but he ends with, “but there is still much discrimination towards these people.”

Come to think of it, as to the acceptance level, say, tolerance, of the Filipinos with homosexuals, comes with a little indifference, when we can say, “Bay-i da sila,”  an indifference or complacency that also comes down to a subtle discrimination.  What brings this subtle discrimination?  Exene Tejano continues with his article by categorizing homosexuals in the Philippines.

First, the “Pa-girls,” the ones associated with the beauty parlor, into cosmetics; as to choice of a lover, they would want to be with “straight” (duh?) men because being with other homosexual men will be like being with another girl which would make them lesbian.  They’d rather call the fellow gay, “Sis!” (with a pitch!)  Included to this are effeminates, one who moves or acts, though not much into sexual acts, like girls.  The later is more stereotyped by gender rather than sex, or the preference of it.

The second category is the “Pa-Mhin,” the ones who don’t dress like women or act feminine, hiding the fact that their gay for fear of being unaccepted by society.  They usually live a double life, some even married to a woman, but goes out especially at night with his fellow “Pa-Mhin” or “Pa-Girl” boyfriend. (Such a mix up of terms, right?)

And third, for me, at part with “metrosexuals,” are the Urban Gays.  They aren’t ashamed being gay and are usually more educated than the first two categories.  Their outward appearance resembles that of the “Pa-Mhin” because he doesn’t like to cross-dress or look like a girl.  They usually have a successful career and have a normal open relationship with a partner.

  1. Spencer Speaks

From  Spencer’s Evolutionary Theory, here, we can see that there has become a “differentiation and increasing complexification of an organic or super-organic “body,” his term for social system.  True indeed that the social pressures has eventually led them to evolve, to survive (from external selection).  Following through his theory, the perennial presence of homosexuals in society and its perennial discrimination, even to the point of putting them to death for being such, has caused the “fluctuation of equilibrium,” (Gay Rights Movement in the 1970’s for instance) and of course, has cause “disequilibrium.”  Since then, the cycle of evolution, especially on how homosexuals react to the external social pressures laid on them, in general; they “adjusted and adapted” in more than one way, and has now come to an internal selection, of which now, in the Philippines, we have such “Pa-Girl,” “Pa-Mhin,” and the “Urban Gays”.

According to Spencer, in this cycle, “however, every solution to a problem caused a new set of selection pressures that threatened the society’s viability.”  This is how they followed through, since time in memorial, with the race for survival, and following the dynamics of tribal societies, to him, they have indeed, increased in population as they have evolved through all the external and internal pressures laid on them – to survive.

Question is why have they, homosexual regardless of the categories, have survived?  To Spencer, they have survived because as they “differentiate,” the society also “complixifies,” and as such, “differentiated structures” also survive and so, out of that, they assume “specialized functions.”  As Michael Swift puts it:

“We will unmask the powerful homosexuals who masquerade as heterosexuals. You will be shocked and frightened when you find that your presidents and their sons, your industrialists, your senators, your majors, your generals, your athletes, your film stars, your television personalities, your civic leaders, your priests are not the safe, familiar, bourgeois, heterosexual figures you assumed them to be.  We are everywhere; we have infiltrated your ranks.  Be careful when you speak of homosexuals because we are always among you; we may be sitting across the desk from you; we may be sleeping in the same bed with you.”

But again, the first line says the context, “of how the oppressed desperately dream of being the oppressor;” they are never liberated just yet.  Michael Swift and Exene Tejano have said it so in many ways it can be said – they are still “stigmatized,” “discriminated,” etc.

III. Merton Saves

Deviance, for Merton, “is central in explaining how internal changes can occur in systems.”  For him, deviance is necessary for society to develop, to improve; not so much of its function as “dysfunctional” when it simply mirrors to those who are “functional” their good standing, that they are working for the whole system; much so, an affirmation to those who are “functional.”  For him, along with social integration and regulation, he grounded this theory of deviance to Durkheim’s “anomie,” which for him “is a discontinuity between cultural goals (“cultural ends”) and accepted methods (“institutional means”) available for reaching them.”  Here, the response of the individual to societal expectations and the means by which the individual pursued the goals can help us understand deviance, even with homosexuality.

With the element of how individuals respond to the pressures, he gave five (5) situations facing each actor: conformity, when an individual works for cultural goals using accepted institutional means; innovation, when an individual works for cultural goals but rejects institutional means; ritualism, when an individual rejects cultural goals but accepts institutional means, as such, the simply complies devoid of meaning; retreatism, when one reject both cultural goals and institutional means; and, last is rebellion, when one simply forges new cultural goals and means, a complete social change.

And out of the categories given by Exene Tejano, we can see how homosexuals, in order not to be in the state of anomie, have responded differently, that by which they can operate functionally in the structures of their society.

Using the diagram used by Merton to show the responses of individuals to cultural goals and institutional means, as to whether they accept or reject it, taking the context of the three categories of homosexuals here in the Philippines:

 

    Institutional Means
    Accept Reject
Cultural Ends (Expectations) Accept  

 

 

 

 

 
Reject
“PA-MHIN”

 

 

 

 

“PA-GIRL”

 

  New Means
New Ends
“URBAN GAYS”

 

 

 

 

The “Pa-Mhin” in this structure ritualizes his homosexuality, in such a way that he rejects cultural ends, that he is “male,” but accepts what is acceptable to the society, thus, he acts out he is masculine.  In common terms, this is called, “Silahis” or “Bisexuals.”  The “Pa-Girl” falls to retreatism, rejecting both cultural ends as well as the means; the individual simply is indifferent to his gender expectations, such that it is socio-culturally constructed; and since “he” is indifferent to the former, “he” assumes something contrary to institutional means.  But, it is not rebellion as yet because they do not forge so much, at least, in the Philippine context, change in the way society looks at them.  They just prefer to be externally recognized among the many stereotypes, such as “efem’,” “parlorista” in such indifference.  The “Urban Gays,” on the other hand, works with a rebellion, working their way, internally.  They assume a new end, an expectation from themselves, from where or what?  From the functions they can perform in the structures of society, thus, as defined by Tejano, they are educated and are successful career-oriented professionals.  Their means, then, follows, “taking control.”

Ritzer, in explaining Merton’s stand on rebellion says, “It is true that society will attempt to control these individuals and negate changes, but as the innovation or rebellion builds momentum, society will eventually adapt or face dissolution.”  This sounds radical, indeed, if applied to how Michael Swift puts it in his editorial, but true enough as how Tejano presents the “Urban Gays” – they are educated, they are professionals, they are rich!  If society “negates the changes,” “refuse to adapt or adjust” and continues to stigmatize and discriminate the “educated,” the “professional,” the “rich” “Urban Gays,” Merton will just come smiling and sigh, “I told you, people,” when society will eventually adapt or face dissolution.

Capture

  1. Conclusion and Recommendation

As I have stated in one of my essays entitled, “Operation: HANDS ON: Operating System Infestation Alert, 3000 AD (2004),” I said there:

“The Pro-Gay social movements should resolve a more “hands on” struggle. And this struggle has no need of a “loud” way of revolting against the system.  I’d say, instead of “irritating” it, why not “infesting” it.  Just like how a virus in the computer would work into its operating system.  I would put my point into a scene in a darkness of a cave (like the KKK) and then, all the pro-gay will convene a “secret” meeting, commissioning them to all the sectors of the society, deploying them to “make good” in whatever they do, if they can, make it to the top.  Then, after a long silent revolution, the majority of the people will just realize how naïve they have been all the time “operation: hands on” was taking place.  Take this “operation: hands on” to every little unit in our society.  They will realize that it just takes time and great control of their libidos, but they have made a difference on what they were sulking for in the first place.”

“In this struggle, they don’t have to put themselves in the bitter struggle to put the great question in life to torture by the society. They just have to do it – silently but “mercilessly” – better than the majority.  After all, reality is indeed working its way into this kind of “operation: hands on.”  We see them everywhere.  Only that they should “make good” to make this work.”

I have come full circle with my article five years ago, with Spencer and Merton, this time helping me out. Reading through the words of these two sociologists, society has structures and out of these structures, functions are necessary to make the society survive.  Deviance, be it criminality or homosexuals, or whatever, has functions, too.  Even in its dysfunction, it still has function.  Without function, anything and everything, anybody and everybody, will cease to exist!  That is why, as I read through my article, I mention prevalently, “make good.”  By all means, “make good” in what? Of course, in all our functions in society, be it, as Michael Swift has enumerated it in his editorial.  True, indeed, he said, “We are everywhere; we have infiltrated your ranks.”

To end, let me quote further the words of Michael Swift:

“If you dare to cry faggot, fairy, queer, at us, we will stab you in your cowardly hearts and defile your dead, puny bodies.”

“There will be no compromises. We are not middle-class weaklings.  Highly intelligent, we are natural aristocrats of the human race, and steely-minded aristocrats never settle for less.  Those who oppose us will be exiled.  We shall raise vast armies, as Mishima did, to defeat you.  We shall conquer the world because warriors inspired by and banded together by  homosexual love and honor are invincible as were the ancient Greek soldiers.”

“We shall be victorious because we are fueled with the ferocious bitterness of the oppressed who have been forced to play seemingly bit parts in your dumb, heterosexual shows throughout the ages. We too are capable of firing guns and manning the barricades of the ultimate revolution.”

“Tremble, hetero swine, when we appear before you without our masks.”

And just as yet, we forget the first line that opens this inner rage…

“This essay is an outré, madness, tragic, cruel fantasies, an eruption of inner rage, on how the oppressed desperately dream of being the oppressor.”

References:

Swift, Michael. 1987. “Gay Revolutionary,” Gay Community News, February 15-21, 1987. (http://www1.profile.org.ph/page/homosexuality/.

Tejano, Exene. 2009. Male Homosexual Culture of the Philippines, Associated Press. (http://www.associatedcontent.com/pop_print.shtml?content_type=article&content_type_id=281878).

(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Deviance_(sociology)).

Ritzer, George. 2004. Sociological Theory, 6th ed. USA: McGraw Hill.

Pampliega, Joseph Sylvester. 2004. “Operation: Hands On: Operating System Infiltration Alert, 3000AD,” (Unpublished, CPU Graduate School).

“ACTUALIZED” AND “PRESENCED” SEMINARY COMMUNITY Mixed Nuts of H. Peter Steeve’s “Phenomenological Communitarianism” and “my” Social Sciences from the Edge of the Cliff

Delivered during the Academic Convocation last November 3, 2010 to open the 2nd Semester of the Academic Year 2010-2011

The intention of this paper is to apply what I have learned from one of the philosophical papers of H. Peter Steeve entitled “Phenomenological Communitarianism” to the subjects I teach.  For quite a while, in fact, days already, I have been groping how to put things in order.  I was boxed into thinking I’d be more “philosophical” because, in my idea, that is how academic convocations are delivered.  For days I was left with nothing.  Nothing.  I wanted to take refuge at “nothingness” but I know I’d be more endangered if I grope at “nothing” according to the understanding of nihilinsic philosophy, when I know it is the “possibility of everything.”   At the last hours, I gave up.  I just want to have fun this morning.  I want to have fun sharing to you what I know from my side of the cliff.  If I fall, I guess, we will all fall.  After all, I am tasked – not to explicate the text of H. Peter Steeve – but to simply make use of it in the subjects I teach specifically – the social sciences.

In “Phenomenological Communitarianism,” H. Peter Steeve tries to solve three fundamental problems that arise, generally, from the theories of Communitarianism; in particular, by Michael Sandel and Alasdair MacIntyre.  For Michael Sandel, he said:

We cannot conceive ourselves independent…as bearers of selves wholly detached from our aims and attachments…Our roles are partly constitutive of the persons we are – as citizens of a country, or members of a movement, or partisan of a cause…Open-ended though it be, the story of my life is always embedded in the story of those communities from which I derive my identity – whether family or city, tribe or nation, party or cause.  In the communitarian view, these stories make a moral difference, not only a psychological one.  They situate us in the world and give our lives their moral particularity.” (p. 81-82)

Can you imagine yourself apart from a “community”? According to Sandel, the stories of our lives are embedded in the stories of those communities from which I derive my identity.  Here, it should be noted that what comes first are the “stories of communities” out of which our individual stories – “the story of my life” or the “stories of our lives” – are embedded and to which we derive our identity.  In my history classes, be it Philippine and World History, I highlight myths.  Myths, after all, are stories.  Question is: Are myths true?  Before we answer that, here are some examples of myths.

The Quarrel between Sky and Sea

“Once upon a time there was no land. There were only the sky, the sea, and the flying bird.  For a long time, the bird flew and flew, without resting, because it had no place to rest on.  One day the tired bird incited a quarrel between the sea and the sky.  The sea hurled big waves against the sky.  The sky rose higher and higher to escape the foaming waves.  The sea continued to hurl the waves to greater heights.  The angry sky then threw down boulders of rocks upon the raging sea.  Out of these rocks came the Philippines.”

The Giant’s Tale

“A long, long time ago, the world was a vast ball of solid rock borne by a mighty giant on his shoulders. For untold ages, he carried his burden patiently.  But one day he became tired and let his burden slide down his shoulders.  As the rock fell, it crashed into pieces.  Out of the fragments rose the continents and islands, including the Philippines.”

Are myths true? Are these stories “The quarrel between the sky and sea” and “The Giant’s Tale” true?  Myths are true! – Only seen in the eyes of our ancestors.  Myths are typically accepted factual depictions of something by some group of people at some point in time.  Ancient people developed creation myth using the knowledge that they possessed at that time.  Both time and place in which they lived constrained their knowledge.  Knowing these facts about myths or “stories of communities,” what do these myths tell us about who we are as persons?

Given that we are “situated” already such as we are in the lowlands or uplands, coastal or forested areas, how do we live as communities? Many of the elements of these myths tell us how our ancestors have lived their day to day lives.  The most emphasized is their economy, their way of looking for food of which division of labor is also determined.  Status as such can also be established from these stories.  There is so much information that as we venture to learn who we are as a community, we have to go back to stories – oral or written – by people who have lived their lives way ahead of us.  After all, wisdom comes with age.  At some point in my discussion, I asked one of my students in world history how he would understand this quotation: “Only simple-minded people would develop a myth about creation.”  Ask yourselves, would you bother making one now?  When science tries to solve everything for us?  I would be overwhelmed of the great intelligence of these “simple-minded people” who wasted their time trying to explain who we are as a people and never got confused about it.  We, nowadays, who have all the aid of science and technology, face more problems trying to look for an answer to who we are and still leave discontented of hard truths.

Here are some more important points to consider:

  1. Ancient people believed that they could not have created the world.
  2. Therefore, they decided that a power, superior to themselves, must have created it.
  3. At the same time, people saw themselves as the center of creation, perhaps because they knew the world from their own perspective.
  4. They formed a theory based upon their knowledge and reasoning skills.
  5. They have recognized that they could not know how the universe came to exist. However, they desperately wanted to explain it. Therefore, they developed myths.

Following through Sandel’s theory on communitarianism, Alasdair MacIntyre said that:

“I am never able to seek for the good or exercise the virtues only qua individual. This is partly because what it is to live the good life concretely varies from circumstances to circumstances even when it is one and the same conception of the good life and one and the same set of virtues which are being embodied in a human life…It is not just different individuals live in different social circumstances; it is also that we all approach our own circumstances as bearers of a particular identity.  I am someone’s son or daughter, someone else’s cousin or uncle; I am a citizen of this or that city, a member of this or that guild or profession…Hence what is good for me has to be good for one who inhabits these roles. As such, I inherit from the past of family, my city, my tribe, my nation, a variety of debts, inheritances, rightful expectations and obligations.  These contribute to the given of my life, my moral starting point.” (p. 82)

Myths, as it tell the “story of communities” – of the communities of our ancestors – as we try to learn it and put it to heart, completing our own stories; we become also “bearers of a particular identity.” That is how meaningful myths are.  It allows us to see, to share, to experience what was in the past.  History, including pre-history when there was no written records yet, are collectively shared to us now in the present.  As MacIntyre worded it, these are “the given of my life.”  These are truths about who we are that we did not choose and so, we cannot deny.  After all, our identities in our communal life as a people are intensified.

Having the two communitarian theories discussed from my side of the cliff, the three problems that H. Peter Steeve identified are:

  1. The “Disappearing-Self” Problem
  2. The “Intersubjective Good” Problem
  3. The “Constitution of a Community” Problem

What is the “Disappearing-Self” Problem? If we insist that our identities are determined by the consciousness, by the knowledge grounded on the “stories of communities” where we belong, how is the Self constituted?  Generally, communitarian theories put the Self as a “product of culture, of his or her communal roles, his or her traditions, etc.”  In view of Sandel’s theory, the Self is simply a product, more so, a character in the “stories of communities;” and for MacIntyre’s theory, the Self is simply “given” like that of a mathematical problem – it is given already.  No need to look for it, to think about it.  It’s just there.  Sociology affirms this possibility that man – human being – is just social constructs.  Given that they are “constructs,” they are conventional and arbitrary.  There are chances that, once arbitrated “null,” for instance, man will “no longer be man.”  And once such new arbitration is promulgated and accepted (without thinking), it will be conventional that what we constituted as “man” before it was arbitrated anew is no longer “man” in the previous sense.  People can play around losing sight of persons that make up society, the very people that makes society a possibility.  Worst is, as H. Peter Steeve highlights it, that “there is no self that is attached to others.  There are only conglomerations of attachments intersecting at a point which we label “the Self.”

Our community life here in the seminary might well be a conglomeration of attachments. You are simply a “phantasm,” a kinetic entity made potential by external forces beyond your control i.e. the seminary community or the seminary formation or the seminary as an institution.  Thus, community life has penetrated deep into the recesses of our spirit that it has become like water to a fish – essential to existence yet, if not the last to be noticed, simply unnoticed.  We need a nudge at times to get to notice it and value it once again.  We know we live with a community but at some point we get confused how to live as a community.  We get into trouble working out personal needs with communal needs.  We get messed up with what is good for one’s self and for others in the community.  Most of the issues we confront about our seminary formation have to do with community life.  Problems with our academic, spiritual, apostolic life, even our human formation, all boils down to how we live our community life.  Come to think of it, many of the solutions to these issues are, in fact, found in the community, too.  Everything is about the community, nothing, though how much we clamor, is about us – individually.  All is usurped by the community.  Your “Self” is disappearing in this case.  How should we deal with this as we fully claim our community?

Peter Steeve proposes the “Phenomenological Communitarianism” way, stating that, It is impossible to experience the Self in any way other than communally enmeshed. From the very beginning I am constituted as a member of a community – the Ego and the Other rises in sense simultaneously and my experience is always in the context of the community of Others.” Here, as he continues, “through reflection on experience augmented by phenomenological reconstruction, we discovered that the Self is experienced as fundamentally in community and that it is impossible to conceptualized our own ego otherwise.”

How is this “experienced” by ancient peoples? And how was the possibility of the “self” disappearing in the course of human history?  There must be something in history, in the “stories of communities” so to speak, in the interactions and relationships developed in the course of time and space.

In the language of sociology, the “disappearing self” can mean Marx’s “alienation” or Durkheim’s “anomie;” the latter is the primary reason why people kill themselves. Alienation and anomie were prevalent during the rise of industrialization most particularly when factory systems were favored substituting man’s labor to cold machines that are efficient and do not tire at all.  As all factors are doomed to contribute to the demise of persons in a system already cruel to the “fallible,”  there is much more reason to learn from experience – the very experience of the Self in a society – in a community – that does not care of its component parts: persons!  Where does the seminary community (society) fall at this point? Are we still in a preindustrial society or the industrial or postindustrial?  Or just about a mixture of the three?

“The self is constituted as a social entity, indeed, but the experience of such a self is universal, true, and self-evident. Consequently, we can appeal to the experience of a fundamentally communitarian self – a self that is always taken as a member of a community and that arises in sense with the other…The human self, then, is always experienced as a self-in-community.” (p. 88)  For those who feel the pain of a cruel society, this is where you find yourself doomed.  No matter how much you alienate yourself; no matter how society push you to anomie, you exist as a Self, constituted by other Selves; and constituting each other makes possible the “re-appearing,” the “constancy” of the Self no matter how communitarian theories plunge them as “products” or “constructs,” much worst, as a “conglomeration of attachments.”

What then is the “Intersubjective Good” problem? The questions posted by Steeve is: “Even if I am fundamentally in community and my Ego is fundamentally constituted in conjunction with the Other, why should I care about the goods of the Other and of the community?” and “Perhaps it is the care that we cannot conceive of ourselves as detached from our relationships, roles and culture, but why does this mean that we should care about the goods of those to whom we are attached? (pp. 88-89)

It is pointed that “there is individual first for which there is an individual good.” The constitution of the individual gives the possibility for the constitution of the good.  Here, goods are experienced to be fundamentally intersubjective.  Why?  Because “my good…necessarily arises in sense with the Other’s goods and the goods of the community of Others.  As the Ego and the other simultaneously arise in sense, so my conception of goods arise with my understanding of the other’s conception of goods.  We should act in such a way that takes into consideration the goods of others since whenever we act on any good, it necessarily is an intersubjective good which has repercussions for other people. Acting with consideration for other people’s goods is a way of acknowledging this intersubjectivity – a way of being true.”  To further ask: what is the difference between yours and my good?  Steeve puts it that “Your good and my good can be fundamentally related and interdefined while at the same time be neither identical nor unrelated. My goods are goods which appear to me as such.  This is not to say that they exclude the other.  For my goods appear as communally situated and enmeshed with the other’s goods.  But they are goods from my particular perspective and goods that are appropriate (possible) for someone like me.  Thus, when I identify your good and promote it as such as my own, this is possible because goods are intersubjective – they are perspectives of the good, where the other possible perspectives (other goods) are apperceived.” (p. 90)  This sheds light to the goodness of man in history, allowing the possibility of good to permeate all aspects of the community.  Better yet, when these possibilities of goodness are pooled together can generate progress and development.  But at some point in history, the “good” of the Other can be bad for us.  Such is the case when we were colonized by Spain, by United States and the Japan.  Their “good” subjugated us, put us into decades of suffering.  But just that, when we see the “good” of the subjugated – the Filipinos – we sought for a common good, a good which is independence.  We constituted the good of Others by working out our good, which eventually, becomes the community’s good.

The consciousness of this “good” may have been just recent but to our ancestors, this may have been, still, “face-value,” a “good” which draws life-or-death to them. Thus, their regard for the good of nature which has so much power than them, a force that can yield them life through the food it provides, as well as, a force that can yield death through the calamities that come from time to time.  Along this recognition of the “good” of nature, their own interaction and relationships reflect this desire for the “good.”  Thus, traditional values, mostly religious in nature, abound their way of life.  Every step of the way, their way of life is highlighted by rites or rituals celebrating the intersubjective good of and by the community.

The third problem is the constitution of the community. As it is put in the paper, “Given all this…if it is the case that the Self is experienced as fundamentally enmeshed with the Other (and the community of Others), and goods are initially and subsequently experienced as being intersubjective, how do I know the limits of my community and thus who counts for me?”  Continuing on, “while taking up and promoting the other’s good as such as my own constitutes the realm of moral action, how do I know which others are in my community and thus have moral possibility for me?

To answer these questions, there are three perennial problems: What counts as a community? How is a community founded?  What are the boundaries?

According to Frazer and Lacez, “Communities as entities can be identified in a variety of ways: as geographical entities, as groups instituted by ties of kinship; or as collectives bound by common values and/or a shared history…Additionally, or alternatively, we might identify communities in terms of some specific shared purpose or practice. Particular discourses and practices, ranging from complex, open-minded activities through to the institutionalized production and distribution of particular benefits, can be thought of as making distinctive “communities.”  Hence, we might speak, for example, of “linguistic communities,” of “interpretive communities,” of “communities” based around clubs or associations.  All of these cutting across other limits of communal membership and identification.”  Here, Sandel’s and MacIntyre’s theories on communitarianism tie with Frazer and Lacez’s view, out of which community is nourished by “stories of communities.”  But definitely, according to James Rachel, “Community” is a way of saying “all human beings.”

Given that, “how might we conduct a census of the “local community” or do a roll call to see who “we” are, and what are we to do with new community members – with on-going additions (and subtractions) from the community?” And, “Even if someone is added to the community, why should we care about him or her?”

Part of the problem is in thinking of the “new” community member as an “addition.” How should we consider the new members then, since saying, they are “addition” to the community is problematic?  Looking at it from the perspective that “such members are actualizations rather than additions and that their goods are not goods which are somehow added to my good, rather their goods are newly experienced perspectives in the communal Good.  What was before emptily intended is now filled; what was absent is present; what was apperceived is straightforwardly perceived.”

What phenomenological communitarianism tells us is that everybody is a member of the community even before we recognize him, even before the “new” member even thought of joining or coming to be recognized in a community. He or she is potentially a “recognized” member.  The coming out of or the “actualization” leaves us to hope for more “presenced” persons in the varied communities we have.  This also stretches forth – the “actualization” even of the “actualized” long ago and those who “will be actualized” is carried in the present moment of “actualization.”  This should give us – human beings of today – much to regard our ancestors and, in time, our descendants.

Now that we have discussed how H. Peter Steeve propose Phenomenological Communitarianism as it tries to solve the three basic problems of the “Disappearing Self,” the “Intersubjectivity of Good” and the “Constitution of Community,” let us examine how communities have developed or founded in history. And from that, reflect on how we are as a community here in the seminary.

How societies are classified?

In order to avoid value judgment, most archaeologists and ancient historians classify societies in terms of the scale of social structures and processes and the complexity of social organization. With these variables, social scientists are able to classify and characterize societies into:

Bands

  1. Typical form of society among HUNTERS-GATHERERS
  2. Small-scale societies, numbering, usually, fewer than 100 people
  3. Most members are related to one another by birth or marriage
  4. Do not have formal leadership
  5. There are few disparities of wealth or status between members
  6. Because most hunters-gatherers are seasonally migratory, they do not build to last and use only simple and easily portable technologies (nomad/nomadic)

Segmentary Societies

  1. Larger than bands
  2. Numbering up to a few thousand people
  3. Usually associated with settled farming people
  4. People are divided into several communities, which are all integrated into the greater society by kinship ties
  5. People build permanent structures for both practical and ceremonial use and they may live in either dispersed farmsteads or nucleated villages
  6. Have more formal leadership (than bands), but leaders usually lack real coercive power
  7. Sometimes described as TRIBES

Chiefdoms

  1. Are ranked societies in which these are marked differences of status between individuals
  2. Different lineages or clans are graded on a scale of prestige
  3. The whole society is governed by a chief who is a senior member of the senior lineage
  4. Control food surpluses and other commodities to support retainers
  5. Can command the labor of the whole society
  6. Chiefdoms have power centers with residences for the chief, his retainers and craftsmen
  7. Can vary considerably in size but are generally reckoned to have populations between five to twenty thousand

State

  1. Most complex form of social organization with considerable specialization of roles and settlement in cities
  2. Larger societies than chiefdoms
  3. Status is no longer defined by lineage as society has become stratified into different classes (agricultural, craftsmen, merchant, upper class including relatives of the ruler)
  4. Rulers have coercive power through the use of standing army
  5. Usually justified by political or religious ideology
  6. And by a law-making body to regulate society
  7. Subjects have duty to pay taxes
  8. Synonymous to CIVILIZATION

What classification of society is the seminary community? From that, we know what to do and how to get to where we’re going.

Talking about community here in the seminary seems cliché already. I cannot count the times I have discussed “living in a community” or “how to live as a community” in almost any of my subjects, even in English.  I would not even deny that I am obsessed with “living in a community” even until now.  (See?  I am still here!)  Much of my seminary formation was devoted to community life (Ask Fr. Andy about it).  Being here in the seminary until now is greatly because here “I have a community.”

Community life is culture. Be it seminarians, priest administrators, lay faculty, staff and the personnel, we were not only “thrown-into” – as in, passively without our wanting it – to the seminary community.  We, in fact, chose to be here, to stay here – at some point.  We may have been forced by our parents or by other factors beyond our control but eventually we chose to stay, in good times and in bad times, in sickness and in health, for richer or for poorer, so on and so forth.  That is why we are all still here.  Those who are not here anymore, out of their individual conditions and decisions, have been part of our community.  That is something we cannot deny.  That is something they, too, cannot deny.  Each of us was, is, and will be present in the seminary, in this community.

I believe that community, be it the seminary or the society at large, is indeed, more than just a place. It is where human persons, constituted I’s, “WE,” make every possible effort to constitute the good in Others, in everyone.  In fact, it is a constant struggle for all of us.  Our day to day lives here in the seminary, regardless of our “stories” from the “stories of communities” we were before we entered the seminary, regardless of the myths we bring along with us, is bound to fulfill another “moment and movement” in history.

This community where we are “actualized,” where we are “presenced” demands so much from us – to continue living out its history and heritage for the past 140 years and still counting and to live out what makes us “a” seminary community.

Welcome to Classroom 1869!

This blogsite is my virtual classroom.  The blogs that I will be posting here are anything and everything that I have written before when I was still teaching, ranging from learning packages, modules, lectures to academic papers, and the likes, for publications or convocations, which, I believe, when put into context, are still applicable and relevant; and also, anything and everything that I will be writing about anything and everything on, or related to, the subjects or topics, I taught. – english and the social sciences.

It is my intent in the future that this blogsite will be collaborative.  I believe that knowledge is free as it is a power, and so, it must be shared.

As a teacher, I believe that teaching should empower the person’s mind, heart and soul in order to share the best of himself or herself for the good, to make things better, for a better world.  Always about and for others.  Always for the good.  Always for the beautiful.  Always for something better, if not the best!

As my great teacher in philosophy, Rev. Fr. Domingo Rafael Alimajen, Jr.  has taught us, “Liberation begins in the liberation of the mind.”