Monday, May 16, 2005

I'm a Leftist!

Just exactly where am I on the political spectrum?

A friend from a student party egroup sent a link to the Political Compass - a website that offers an online quiz-like test to reportedly determine where one is on the political map, depending on views on the state, families, religion, etc.

I'll just repost what the site said of me:

About The Political Compass

In the introduction, we explained the inadequacies of the traditional left-right line.

If we recognise that this is essentially an economic line it's fine, as far as it goes. We can show, for example, Stalin, Mao Tse Tung and Pol Pot, with their commitment to a totally controlled economy, on the hard left. Socialists like Mahatma Gandhi and Robert Mugabe would occupy a less extreme leftist position. Margaret Thatcher would be well over to the right, but further right still would be someone like that ultimate free marketeer, General Pinochet.

That deals with economics, but the social dimension is also important in politics. That's the one that the mere left-right scale doesn't adequately address. So we've added one, ranging in positions from extreme authoritarian to extreme libertarian.

Both an economic dimension and a social dimension are important factors for a proper political analysis. By adding the social dimension you can show that Stalin was an authoritarian leftist (ie the state is more important than the individual) and that Gandhi, believing in the supreme value of each individual, is a liberal leftist. While the former involves state-imposed arbitary collectivism in the extreme top left, on the extreme bottom left is voluntary collectivism at regional level, with no state involved. Hundreds of such anarchist communities exisited in Spain during the civil war period

You can also put Pinochet, who was prepared to sanction mass killing for the sake of the free market, on the far right as well as in a hardcore authoritarian position. On the non-socialist side you can distinguish someone like Milton Friedman, who is anti-state for fiscal rather than social reasons, from Hitler, who wanted to make the state stronger, even if he wiped out half of humanity in the process.

The chart also makes clear that, despite popular perceptions, the opposite of fascism is not communism but anarchism (ie liberal socialism), and that the opposite of communism ( i.e. an entirely state-planned economy) is neo-liberalism (i.e. extreme deregulated economy).

The usual understanding of anarchism as a left wing ideology does not take into account the neo-liberal "anarchism" championed by the likes of Ayn Rand, Milton Friedman and America's Libertarian Party, which couples law of the jungle right-wing economics with liberal positions on most social issues. Often their libertarian impulses stop short of opposition to strong law and order positions, and are more economic in substance (ie no taxes) so they are not as extremely libertarian as they are extremely right wing. On the other hand, the classical libertarian collectivism of anarcho-syndicalism ( libertarian socialism) belongs in the bottom left hand corner.
In our home page we demolished the myth that authoritarianism is necessarily "right wing", with the examples of Robert Mugabe, Pol Pot and Stalin. Similarly Hitler, on an economic scale, was not an extreme right-winger. His economic policies were broadly Keynesian, and to the left of some of today's Labour parties. If you could get Hitler and Stalin to sit down together and avoid economics, the two diehard authoritarians would find plenty of common ground.

Your political compass

Economic Left/Right: -3.50
Social Libertarian/Authoritarian: -0.77

A diverse professional team has assessed the words and actions of internationally known contemporary leaders to give you an idea of how they relate to each other on the political compass.
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Surprise! It says I'm a left-libertarian. Do you agree?

Monday, May 09, 2005

Boracay's Ambiance

UP College of Medicine, Manila - Last May 4, a group of seventeen medical students and friends from the Class of 2008 jumped for joy upon learning that they have successfully hurdled second year (as evidenced by true copies of grades), cursed those damn Path* exams, and boarded a boat bound for Boracay.

M/V Mary the Queen of the MBRS Lines gently bobbed on the not-so-clean waters of Pier 8 at Manila's North Harbor, holding a promise of paradise to be reached only upon patiently sailing for sixteen hours. The Port of Caticlan warmly (and humidly) greeted the prisoners of medical education who were freed on bail from the confines of UP Manila.

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Our beach resort - Boracay Hideaway - is located at the area of Boat Station 1, quite close to the night life zone of the island. Mornings found us on the beach either soaking up some sun or cooling off in the cool waters (that never heat up eventhough high noon was cooking everything else).

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Powder-fine sand and clear turquoise waters instantly justified the hours of ship swaying and surviving on the anti-emetic (seasickness) drug meclizine. For about 20-30 meters into the shore area, one could go swim and still feel sand underneath. It was like a huge salty swimming pool, with a mixed crowd. Lots of people were there, but it must have been the abundance of activities to pursue or the large open swimming spaces that kept the beach from becoming crowded.

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The beach front seemed to be endless. From the Northern tip where the first-class hotels were located down to the affordable villas of Boat Station 3, white sand and coconut trees lined the walkway. While in other beaches walking entailed the use of rubber slippers to keep your feet from being peeled, Boracay's sand is so enticingly cool and fine that I didn't mind sloshing around as I walked.

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And what would a vacation be without souvenirs? Flea markets (talipapas/tiangges) were everywhere, waiting for you to test your haggling prowess. Chester, a friend of my classmate who joined our little happy band on this trip, is the best haggler I have ever met. He can bring down the price of original pearl accessories from P460 to P425!

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My personal favorites are the colorful sarongs (large, multi-purpose cotton shawls) and lamp shades made from a bamboo-like material, string, and the same printed cloth used for the sarongs. I got a large lampshade for my condominium in Manila, and some small ones as gifts (pasalubong) for friends. Four sarongs also got the best of my pocket, although patterns from only three are shown above (the fourth is still being washed because it got soaked in seawater).

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Once the sun sets, the seaside speakers start booming. Night life in Boracay is as colorful and laid-back as the day activities. Partly places like Cocomangas, Pier 1, etc. are lined up along the shore, and there are tables available on the sand itself, with beanbags as chairs. Firedancers moved about, and occasionally a celebrity would be seen grooving to the music on the dance floor.

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Elsewhere along the shore, there were beautifully-executed sand castles that are sculpted only in the late afternoon, to be lighted at night by kerosene lamps. The locals who make the sandcastles would appreciate a few pesos in alms for their impressive work of art, and tourists alike would delight in pictures by the four to five-foot tall creations. Once the night ends, the castles are torn down, only to be rebuilt once more at dusk.

Boracay is still the place to be. However, be prepared to spend a lot - the prices are all tourist range (example: P50 for a popsicle, when the going rate at a Manila grocery is only half or even less). The ambiance, however, is worth the stay.

(This is my Bora post #1. Once pics from the five or six cameras that were with us have been distributed, I shall write another entry with more details and photos with friends.)

Monday, May 02, 2005

Frat War!!

If you were expecting to see bloody photos of rival fraternities battling each other, then I'm sorry to disappoint you.

The Frat War I'm writing on here is that of the Upsilon Sigma Phi's war on poverty. Now before I start hearing in the background comments like "Trapo! Just like GMA who keeps on declaring a War on Poverty," read on about what happened - because on this hot and steamy labor day, the brods chose to use shovels, barettas, and pick axes to move dirt and stones for tangible and realistic results - the construction of communities.

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Yesterday, 1 May 2005 - while our colleagues in the universal fight against poverty and oppression were clamoring on the streets for better labor conditions, Upsilonians decided to work on something else other than funding reportedly expensive student election campaigns and the like. We chose to partner with Gawad Kalinga (GK), a multi-sectoral partnership that counts among its varied donor-volunteers individual Philanthropists, Churches of different faiths, capitalist Corporations, Schools, Government Agencies, and community-based People's Organizations.

GK envisions a Philippines with "NO MORE SLUMS". Based on the rationale that environment has a big role in changing people's behavior for the better, the partnership initiated by the Couples for Christ Catholic organization aims to build for the Filipino people 700,000 homes in 7,000 communities in 7 years. To date, 8,000 homes have been built as of October 2004 in 330 sites nationwide.

Each dwelling is approximately 20-25 sqm, with its own toilet and kitchen. Built through what is known as sweat-equity (bayanihan to us Filipinos), the would-be beneficiaries and socio-civic volunteers come together to dig, hammer, and paint the construction site, at a cost of not more than PHP 50,000 per home. The communities are designed to have small town centers with schools and churches, with houses being brightly colored and pathways having landscaped gardens.

What I find most important of all is a guiding principle of GK - that dole outs will make us a country of beggars, and that the program's goal is to teach self-reliance through productivity. Over a span of 3-5 years, the responsibility of managing the community is completely transferred to what they call a "Kapitbahayan" or homeowner's association run solely by the residents themselves. This Kapitbahayan sets standards for cleanliness, peace and order, conflict resolution, and community mobilization, among other things.

From rumble to rubble: Physical Initiations

What makes the event yesterday special is that the Upsilon Sigma Phi is the first fraternity in the whole country to ever venture into a partnership with the likes of GK.

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GK Nat'l. Vice Chair and RP Deputy Exec. Sec. Jose Tale signed a
Memorandum of Agreement with Upsilon Sigma Phi Alumni
Association (USPAA) board members
Chairman Claudio B. Altura and President Danilo A. Gozo.

For some time now, the image of Greek-Lettered Organizations (GLOs) - fraternities and sororities - has been degraded by violence and the much-feared hazing/initiations. It has been alleged that GLOs are no longer relevant to today's society, having reportedly outgrown its significance. In the mid-20th century frats and soros had their heyday - a lot of leaders and society movers then were actually fratmen and sorority sisters.

The Upsilon, being the acknowledged oldest fraternity not only in the Philippines but in the whole of Asia, is no exception to this stigma of fraternities being reduced to the likes of street gangs. That is why the fraternity leadership decided not only to pay lip service to commitments to change the direction of GLOs (concepts like those forged by anti-violence advocate Raymund Narag), but to act on the call of Narag et al. to pursue genuine brotherhood through peaceful means.

Thus avoiding violent rumble as it always does, the Upsilon has ventured into digging rubble. And if someone out there decides to call us a fraternity of manual laborers, we would not mind - because the pain this time is not due to what other fraternities may be inflicting by paddling, but be by virtue of toil towards the eradication of poverty in this nation, one step at a time.

Yesterday was a historical moment, for the fraternity system is now visibly changing to get rid of the negative aspects of brotherhood. Perhaps time will come again when being called a "fratman" will not label a brother with the shame of violence and hatred, but with the honor and prestige of being committed to pursue economic stability and political maturity, perhaps not only in the Republic of the Philippines but also in the rest of the world.

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Myself (2nd from left) and the brods starting work
on a drainage trench. Juan Paolo E. Colet (3rd from left),
my brod and incoming Editor-in-Chief
of the Philippine Collegian, also got his hands dirty.

The only "hits" we Upsilonians got to do were on roaches disturbed from their hideouts in the soil as we went on to craft drainage trenches for two houses at the Gawad-Kalinga Brookside area in Quezon City.