Monday, November 21, 2005

Orphans of the Anglosphere

It breaks my heart to read a blog like Albion's Seedlings,
For it makes me see that not only are we orphans,
We are cut-off.
And that is partly how and why it is with us,
That the Nihilists have made mincemeat of our carcass.

ANGLOSPHERE: That scale-free network of human beings that just happen to think in English.

A network is a thing that is composed of NODES and LINKS. Exactly what those nodes and links are depends on the specific network one is considering. The network by which you are reading this blog is called the World Wide Web. I have described this particular network elsewhere (based of course on what others have discovered about it by analyzing and discussing it).

But human societies are also networks. The human beings that make up society are the NODES in this network. The LINKS in a human network are composed of all the INTERACTIONS between and among them, including but definitely not limited to talking to each other, feeding, clothing and sheltering each other, and all the other things that human beings do.

Sometimes, we abstract a collection of human NODES and LINKS to form the idea of a hierarchical network. Take for example, the concept of family which is tangentially related to the Pinoy Big Brother craze. A family is a collection of nodes and links -- the family members and their hopefully loving relationships with each other. Families may be aggregated into clans, tribes, and nations, all in a highly complex, interacting network of human beings and their institutions.

The nature of the LINKS in such a human network has recently fascinated me because I have formed the opinion that these LINKS can only be MEMES. Readers of this blog may recall that I have several times used the word meme (which rhymes with dream, NOT the Pilipino word for sleep which is ironically spelt exactly the same way but pronounced meh-meh with a glottal stop.) and associated it with the concept of an infectious idea. But not all memes are "ideas" per se, although all ideas are memes.

For example, love, which is the powerful meme that binds the nodes of a human family together, is not purely an idea, but is at least partially emotional. And what would one make of language?

Language is a powerful, powerful meme. For it is more than just mental and emotional, it is physical, cultural, robust, universal and perhaps even "hard-wired" into the species DNA. Language is the deep ancestral memory. Think of how old the English words are you are reading now -- what a secret life they have led through history in the lives of their hosts -- all the human beings who have spoken this particular language from time lost to sight or imagination.

We may think it is we who make language. But Shakespeare, I think proved it otherwise. There is this theory, bardolatrous no doubt, that William Shakespeare's works are what shaped what we in the Anglosphere now consider "human nature" -- that it was his language and his portrayal of wholly imagined (well maybe not wholly) characters that determines what we today consider "good" and "bad" and any adjective in between at any level of human interaction because he had already predicted and created human characters that would indeed come to be -- in every corner of the English-thinking world, and in all the rich variety he had imagined and encompassed. Yup. That's radical bardolatry.

It is the language that chooses us, not the other way around. It is the meme that controls the brain, not vice-versa. The Anglosphere "created" what one might call the Philippine "noosphere" when, upon the arrival of America on these shores in a war of colonial conquest (which sentimentalists might regard better as a benevolent assimilation, though the birth was bloody), she finally taught the Filipinos a Western language: English. This was a thing the Spanish Taliban never did for the Filipinos in 350 years of Hispanic colonial rule, which was quintessentially theocratic, and not entirely brutal as some would have it. But it was not a progressive reign. Quite the opposite.

It was the steady policy of the Spanish regime, from the very beginning to its dying gasp in the late Nineteenth Century, to intentionally withold the teaching of the Spanish language to the indio natives. That is why the national hero is Jose Rizal, who was the best among the group of Spanish mestizos and wealthy indios in the late Nineteenth Century that by dint of luck and some liberalization in Espana, managed to learn Spanish and finally discover Rome, Greece, America! Dr. Jose Rizal, who studied also in Spain, Germany and England, wrote 50 volumes of novels, essays, letters, drama, poetry, scientific treatises, and travel journals, whereas the next most prolific writer, Marcelo H. del Pilar has a slim 2 volumes. But they both wrote in Spanish, and Rizal died -- was executed by the frailocracy for his incendiary novels -- in 1896, when the Philippines was but a glimmer in MacKinley's eye.

But the arrival of America, as an old friend and now famous blogger once put it, "was like a thunderclap to awaken the sleepers of the centuries." Virtually the first thing the Americans did was to teach every single Filipino their own language. It was a great gift, that my own grandfather received when, as a young man of sixteen or seventeen, he met a strange and excitable young American zoologist, a certain Dean Conant Worcester of Ann Arbor, Michigan, who was in those days looking for some cold spot in the middle of Luzon Island because his boss, William Howard Taft was dying of the heat in Manila -- all four hundred pounds of the future President of the United States and Supreme Court Chief Justice, then Chairman of the Philippine Commission and later the colony's first civilian governor. (But I shall have to tell the story of that young zoologist, who was to play a big but largely unknown part in the history of this First Iraq, and his further adventures, at another time.)

Within less than half a generation, Spanish as a language was dead in the Archipelago. Never having found a home in the ordinary people, there is little love lost for Spanish today except among the cognoscenti. That is because of the aggressive colonial educational program that made English proficiency nearly 100% by the time that colonial rule ended in 1946. It was in English that most Filipinos learned about Spain! And about Rome, Greece, France, Italy, England, America. About Magellan and King Felipe after whom we were named. About mathematics and physics and economics. It was America that truly connected the Filipinos to civilization. Not of course that they could not have done so themselves had they not been colonized. But that is what happened in history.

That is why those who wonder why it is that we can never seem to escape America, need only look at the language in which they have phrased the question, and the fact that it is the language in which they think even hateful thoughts against this "Anglosphere."

I find this strange, even as I understand the impetus to be unique. I too hate Shakespeare with an agonistic rage for having beaten me to the writing of Macbeth and Hamlet and King Lear!

Or this about the curious sexual paradoxes of the human male, that seems to explain something about Pinoy Big Brother--

Sonnet 129
Th'expense of spirit in a waste of shame
Is lust in action; and, till action, lust
Is perjured, murdr'rous, bloody, full of blame.
Savage, extreme, rude, cruel, not to trust;
Enjoyed no sooner but despised straight;
Past reason hunted, and no sooner had,
Past reason hated as swallowed bait
On purpose laid to make the taker mad;
Mad in pursuit, and in possession so;
Had, having, and in quest to have, extreme;
A bliss in proof, and proved, a very woe,
Before, a joy proposed; behind, a dream.
All this the world well knows, yet none knows well
To shun the heaven that leads men to this hell.

UPDATE: Filipino bloggers may be interested in reading a book by James C. Bennett of Albion's Seedlings entitled, The Anglosphere Challenge. Check it out folks! Haven't read it, but I will publish your reviews and comments on it. About half of it is available on-line, the author informs me.


Rizalist said...

It is bright and hazy in the Archipelago.
There is no begging bowl here,
We are bardolaters not monks...

Rizalist said...

I posted this comment at Albion's Seedlings in reply to Jim Bennet's piece there.

Dear Jim,

My greetings and thanks for this unexpected attention.

Glad you brought up the business of radical Islamism and the global war on terror. The Philippines is, to the Southeast of Asia, what Israel is to the Middle East of Eurasia. This is true in more ways than one, and perhaps will become important as the front develops in the Sulu-Sulawesi Sea and its bordering archipelagos composed of Indonesia, Malaysia and the southern Philippines, which is under pressure from Jemaah Islamiyah and Abu Sayyaf groups. Indonesia is the most populous Mulsim nation on the planet. Malaysia perhaps the most Western and progressive Muslim country (despite a certain petulance). And of course there is the Philippines (population 87 million), the only Christian (Catholic+Protestant) country among 600,000,000 Muslims and Buddhists and Hindus (eg Thailand and Bali). But it's oldest university, the Royal Pontifical University of Sto Tomas is older than Harvard University (though that may be its only redeeming quality today.)

Let me give you another parallel between modern Philippines and modern Israel that has the Anglosphere as a common pivot point. In the Middle East, the West, but specifically Great Britain helped to bring the Jews back from Diaspora in creating the state of Israel (Sept. 11, 1922?) But the Filipinos have been in Diaspora TO the West since 300 Filipino sailors jumped ship in New Orleans in 1762, deserting a galleon that had just come from Manila to Acapulco and was on her way back to Spain. (They didn't want go there!) The descendants of those Filipino pioneers in America, intermarried and and are hardly recognizable as such, but they formed a historical association that exists to this day to attest to that singular fact. Some Filipinos were in America before there was USA in 1776.. And continuous emigrations to Hawaii and California has been underway for well over a century. Filipinos have fought in all of America's wars of the 20th century, and the 21st, both as Filipinos and as Americans. A flower grows in Babylon, and it is watered in part by blood that came from this other Archipelago of the Anglosphere.

I should point out finally that the First Republic of the Philippines is the OLDEST Anglospheric Democracy in Asia. It was founded on June 12, 1898 when Emilio Aguinaldo read the Philippine Declaration of Independence in Kawit Cavite, and first displayed the national flag to the martial tunes of what would become the national anthem. The First Republic ended, as far as America was concerned on December 30, 1898, just six months later, in the Treaty of Paris of 1898. Spain sold the Philippines, her possession of 350 years to America for US $20,000,000, which indeed kept her till 1946. This resulted in the famous characterization of the Philippines as having spent "350 years in a Spanish Convent and 50 in Hollywood." There was also the matter of the unacknowledge "Philippine-American War" but I shan't get into that unpleasantry for now.

Note however that Australia became independent of the UK only on January 1, 1901. New Zealand followed suit on 26 Sept 1907. And Sun Yatsen's Chinese democratic experiment began on Double Ten 1911. All other nations of this region became democratic only after World War II.
July 4, 1946 is commemorated nowadays as Philippine-American Friendship Day , to recall the restoration of the First Republic, which celebrated its First Centenary on June 12, 1998. The fireworks on Manila Bay rivalled its famous sunset...

I think that it is the Democracy that we have today -- such as it is -- that constitutes a "notional connection" at least with America, but I know it goes beyond that. There is also "Hollywood" which accelerated cultural assimilation such that what used to take centuries was accomplished in decades. The stunning thing is, Filipinos feel more at home in America than in the Philippines. Victor Davis Hanson relates seeing Filipinos demonstrating with placards as the US military was abandoning Clark Air Base and Subic Naval Base in the wake of Mount Pinatubo's eruption. These read: "Yankee go home! Take me with you!" Four million of them live in America. They are doctors, nurses, lawyers, soldiers...Americans.

Regarding nominal membership in the Anglosphere, I was only addressing my own stated definition of the notion. Under that definition such membership is not a conscious choice. It was simply that there is no significant, literate mental life in the Philippines, no thoughful activity that isnt somehow conducted "in English". That is not a choice. It is simply the historical condition that resulted from the default of Spanish. By the way, there is a lot of vernacular writing and broadcasting. But the idiom is English!

We are "orphans" only in the sense that we are not "claimed" by any of the Anglospheric antecedents that created Hollywood in the middle of Maphilindostan. We were "given" independence in 1946 in the historical narrative of the Anglosphere as told by Americans. That's debatable to me for how could America misunderstand what was going on in 1898 when she herself had given Empire its first push into oblivion in 1776 and ignited the idea of Nationalism yet became Albion's most successful scion?.

But in the end, it cannot be denied that the Anglosphere's nodes are individual human beings whatever higher hierarchies of association might be defined. What connects these nodes are values and ideas and principles with English names that sound the same to them all -- in their hearts. By the way, in my definition, these values, ideas and principles can be good or evil. I am a realist in that sense about the "Anglosphere" which has a noble side and a perfidious side as well.

I am content to be a member of another sphere -- HUMANITY'S ARISTOCRACY OF THE MIND

Thanks for the citation
Rizalist in the other Archipelago
Philippine Commentary

Senor Enrique said...

Rizalist’s essay, Orphans of the Anglosphere, including his reply to James Bennett’s piece as posted at Albion’s Seedlings are edifying—a wealth of information. His reference to the English language as “America’s great gift to us,” as well as its profound influence on the Filipino psyche is evocative; whereas his assertion that language is a powerful meme is both intriguing and insightful. Development of language, as we know, has its roots with our primitive forefathers assigning meaning to their vocalizations by common agreement. Linguists would later on explain that it’s through our use of languages that we’re able to describe reality, which in turn define how we perceive the world, as well as our individual role in the greater scheme of things.

And as we understand our world, we also fulfill our universal need to feel secure and lead balanced lives.

Now, although Rizalist may not consider it a bona fide meme, I’d like to throw spirituality into the mix. I do so to illustrate my take on Anglosphere and how the American public in particular responds to technological advances.

Firstly, on the latter: That whenever a new technological innovation is introduced to the American society, according to social theorists, the public at first resists, and then eventually seeks a counterbalance. And most often it is spirituality they would resort to—in their quest to sustain a balanced life in the midst of this technological intrusions.

One of the more prominent instances of how it happened in America was during the turn of the 20th century: Facilitated by her technologically-advanced warships and armaments, America pursued her imperialistic conquests while back home, in lock-step, there emerged the New Thought movement as spearheaded by Phineas Parkhurst Quimby. It is a philosophical-religious school of thought that emphasizes belief in the universal presence of a creative energy, or God within the world and within all people.

I’m not certain just how many Americans actually subscribed to this school of thought during its inception, but from my understanding, it was the American people who pressured the U.S. government into negotiations with the Filipino insurgents. Supposedly, a smuggled dispatch from the Philippines to Hong Kong found its way and got published in a Chicago newspaper—it depicted acts of atrocities in the Philippines committed by the U.S. troops. The American public, made aware for the first time of imperialism’s dark side, rose up in protest and demanded an immediate end to the war (Rizalist can further enlighten us on this particular episode).

This New Thought movement, in retrospect, exemplifies the concept of high tech/high touch as a co-evolution of technology and culture (as introduced by John Naisbitt in his 1982 book, Megatrends, inspired by Alvin Toffler’s ‘70s book, Future Shock). Mr. Naisbitt claims that high touch is an important counterbalance to the ever-accelerating pace of technological change. His argument is based on the interplay between the introduction of technology and human responses to it.

In his enumerations, Mr. Naisbitt cited the timing of Yoga’s introduction to America, which was in lock-step with the beginning of television’s encroachment into the American households. That Yoga and other constructive melding of Eastern and Western mysticisms had counterbalancing effects at the time television was introduced and later on gained acceptance in American society. Television, as we know it, became one of the most pervasive technological achievements to this day.

And as we now enjoy our online global interactive networks—as predicted by social theorists such as Marshall McLuhan, Alvin Toffler, John Naisbitt, George Orwell, Aldous Huxley, and Buckminster Fuller—we also become witnesses to the immense technological properties being amassed by our world’s superpowers. And since most are members of the so-called Anglosphere, I am immediately reminded of a remarkable point raised by Alan Watts (American author and philosopher, a proponent of Zen in America) dating back to the ‘60s which in part claims:

"Inability to accept the mystic experience is more than an intellectual handicap. Lack of awareness of the basic unity of organism and environment is a serious and dangerous hallucination. For in a civilization equipped with immense technological power, the sense of alienation between man and nature leads to the use of technology in a hostile spirit—to the "conquest" of nature instead of intelligent co-operation with nature."

With these in mind, I am led to ask the following questions about Anglosphere: Was the invasion of Iraq attributable to such alienation; prompting the use of technology in a hostile spirit? If so, is Anglosphere so awe-struck by the dizzying speed of its own technological innovations that it may be unconsciously promoting alienation (or separatism) within its ranks? Is the oft-times alluded to cabal in the White House administration a micro version of Anglospheric hegemony? And is the exclusion of the Philippines from Anglosphere a not-so-subtle hint of xenophobia?

Apparently, at the moment, Anglosphere raises more questions than it answers. In fairness, perhaps, I ought to invest $50.00 for a copy of James C. Bennett’s The Anglosphere Challenge to gain a more comprehensive understanding of its true intent and purpose in the 21st century.

But until then, like Rizalist, I am content to be a member of another sphere. However, in my case, any not conceived out of fear will suffice.


New Thought Movement

John Naisbitt

Alan Watts

I’ve also posted this opinion on my site:

I apologize for the lengthy delay in my response,

Eric aka senor Enrique