ART and CULTURE are outcomes of the interaction between people and their environment/reality. Art and culture also become part of other people’s environment/reality.
If there is blasphemous art, ask what is in the artist’s environment/reality that triggers such blasphemy. Ask also what it is in the offended party’s environment/reality that causes that party to take offense. Dare to ask: if there were no “spiritual authority,” would there be blasphemy? If a Supreme Being exists independently of authority, do we need interpreters for that Being? Does that Being need protection? What is Blasphemy?
If there is corruption in high places, ask what is in the corrupt person’s environment/reality that triggers corrupt deeds. Ask also what it is in the offended party’s environment/reality that caused that party to take offense. Dare to ask: if there were no such thing as “public money,” would there be corruption?
If my child does not agree with my set of values and principles, ask what is in the child’s environment/reality that triggers such disagreement. Ask also what it is in my environment/reality that causes me to take offense. Dare to ask: do I expect my child to think and feel the way I do?
INTENTIONS are not crimes. Normally, one cannot be imprisoned for intentions, only for ACTS. Intentions can be GUESSED AT and CRITICIZED but this is all noise. What is the actual ACT?
When someone does something that offends me, I ask if that was the intent. Does a thief steal in order to offend me? Or is the offense I feel an effect of the loss of something I value?
When someone vandalizes an icon sacred to me, did the vandal intend to offend me? Or is the offense the effect of knowing that what I value is not valued in the same way by everyone?
If an offense taken is PURELY INTERNAL – meaning, emotional and mental, with no damage to property, life or limb – what is the crime? What is the loss? Reputation? Credibility? Authority? Peace of mind? Who is responsible for such inner states? What external transactions are affected? Will I lose business?
(Note that people do SHARE an internal reality – this is basically what CULTURE is, a shared internal reality or interpretation of external realities that manifests as attitudes, norms, morals, laws, and material creations such as art and tools. This sharing can be so rooted that people come to believe this as factual, true, and unarguably good.
But it is not necessarily so. Not all things in a culture are productive or beneficial. In fact, many things in a given culture are counter-productive. Dare to ask: what in my culture is counter-productive?)
COMMUNICATION MEDIA frame and amplify selected parts of reality. Dare to ask: if media did not expose something, how much outrage would there be? Dare to ask: what is the intent of media organizations? If I do something stupid and this is captured and broadcast by media, who benefits from the amplified stupidity?
FREEDOM is a strange concept. Freedom from what? All thoughts and acts have natural consequences. Are these consequences what I wish to be free of?
If something I do offends another, even if that is not my intent, would I be free of their outrage?
If I steal food to feed a hungry child, even if it is an inhumane society I live in that allows such inequity to exist, would I be free from persecution by that unjust society’s police?
If I offend an authority’s sense of authority, would I be free from that authority’s reaction?
It seems that REAL freedom from anything depends on my possessing the POWER to enforce the desired “freedom”.
Do I have the POWER to enforce my “freedom” or do I need another “authority” to enforce it for me?
To accept an authority is to invest my personal power in that authority. Dare to ask: what authorities do I really need? What authorities or institutions do I need to enforce the freedoms I cannot enforce myself? Dare to ask: what personal powers do I have to enforce my personal freedoms?
Dare to ask: what freedoms do I want to enact that may be taken as offenses by other people? Can I live with their reactions? Do they have the power to make my life miserable? What can I do about that?
Unusual pet indeed.
Last posting we posed broad definitions of Peace, Sustainability, Systems, Culture, Education and Schooling and suggested that Education for a Culture of Peace = Education for a Culture of Sustainability.
In other words, Peace = Global Cooling!
Now we imagine (larundiwa) in broad and extremely optimistic strokes what this equation might mean in terms of a “Cool School”. If schooling is our deliberate attempt to develop and reproduce a sustainable, peaceful culture, what would it be like? Many of the suggestions here are already in practice but the attitude is “intawon, walay lain, sige na lang” rather than a deliberate and dignified “ito ang tama, ayusin natin ito”.
1. Bagay sa kinalalagyan. Principles of indigenous housing using present-day technology are applied to school structures. Design with local materials to suit local conditions. Minimize imported materials. Structures serve as models for sustainable housing and, in disaster-prone areas, are designed to transform into communal shelters for refugees.
2. Walking Distance from students’ and teachers’ homes. Serves as part of Health, Socio-Civics, Math, Language, Space & Time Management, etc. Low/No fuel needed.
3. Edible Route. A natural variety of subsistence vegetables and fruits is planted, tended, and harvested along the way. This models Home Economics, Bio-Sciences, Food Production & Security, and Health.
4. All lessons begin with the senses. Use objects, experience and out-of-school life – as a starting point for Math, Science, Language, etc. How much rice do you eat? What does your father earn? How far do you walk to school and what do you see on the way? The more we use our senses, the less books and materials we will need.
1. Masarap Puntahan. It is a place of Pleasure-Meaning-Challenge, where appreciating, learning about, and changing the world for the better is a progressive, engaging game.
2. Person- and Community-Oriented. Teachers know their students well, and vice-versa. Student-led and project-driven activities abound. Parents are also considered teacher-learners.
(Related to school size - “The Tipping Point” author Malcolm Gladwell suggests that a human can handle up to only about 150 more-than-hi-hello relationships.)
3. Proactivity. Curriculum and class schedule details are tailor-fit to community needs. Credit and build upon what students already know from practice in their own homes. Teach-learn (tearn) how people are valuable to their own community, as against our present system of training people to be assets for employment with “American Dream” white collar/stable job aspirations, which is the direction we are generally still stuck with.
4. Historical Continuity and Cultural Therapy. Tearn how we who are alive are part of a continuing process of (r)evolution. The implicit sentiment of our official school approach to history is that the revolution ended and now we can get down to earning a living, and that’s that - the colonizer’s perspective. Conscious effort is applied to balancing our underdog colonial history (tinalo’t sinakop ng dayuhan) by studying how we can take control of ourselves and our lives. Inner direction, Loob-Palabas.
5. Make Progress Obvious. Start with a Big Picture idea of the school-year’s objectives. Use student-maintained charting systems for them to graph their individual and group’s progress through the learning game.
6. Real Needs. Tie-up practical schooling outputs to personal goals (for example, if our rice field yields so much grain, we buy celphones and laptops).
7. Leadership Training Integration: Game/School Leaders are allowed more responsibility as a privilege, and are assigned a higher-level of training. (For example, the math leader studies bookkeeping and accounting in order to be the class treasurer.) Balance competition-with-others with competition-with-self. Develop measures of progress based on innate capacity and real conditions rather than on an alien compliance-based framework.
8. Conflict Resolution. Take advantage of conflicts to drill non-legalistic styles of resolution. Assemble a council of elders and hold public discussions. Go for amicable, win-win settlements. Use perspective lensing methods (such as “6 Hats” – we do have indigenous counterparts to this popular tool).
1. Poetic mind. School methods take advantage of, rather than suppress, our natural strength in kinesthetic, concrete, non-verbal, non-linear thinking. Teachers are expert at using metaphors and figures of speech to stimulate essential understandings.
2. Allow symbols to emerge. The world is already full of imposed symbols. School is a space where symbols that are relevant to students and their communities are brought out rather preempted by having “official” ones imposed. The invention of is a “high skill”, and a great diagnostic aid for knowing one’s student and for improving curricular directions. (Example, draw a flag for a country with lots of food.)
3. Superheroes. School is where mythical beings are allowed to discover and strengthen themselves. Empower students and teachers alike in practical matters – time management, design of project-driven and student-led activities, team-teaching and planning for complementary academic objectives (such as write a poem or draw about leaf structure). School shows how beings with different powers working together in Bayanihan can do great things.
4. Sense of Mission. Big Picture thinking puts all the details of learning into perspective. What is the learner’s mission? What is learning for? (I see the term “globally-competitive” in mission statements etched on school walls all over the country. Apparently this has been mis-interpreted to mean “locally-unemployable.”)
5. Elders. Schools are where elders and their successors meet. Recognize and “certify” local experts (hilot, luto, tanim, tahi, etc.) and involve them as skill demonstrators-mentors. This dignifies folk wisdom and allows it to evolve with the youth. This also allows the elders to learn new things without embarrassing them in a classroom setting.
6. Money. This is among the most widely-used yet least understood symbols. Schools are a perfect laboratory for experimenting with non-mainstream forms of currency and value-exchange. There are too many factors beyond our control when it comes to money, and we depend too much on its use. School can help make local economies stronger by getting learners to play with value- and resource-based exchange systems. After all. don’t we like to say “money isn’t everything”?
1. Homework harmonizes learning with the home. This is one way to maximize the home as a laboratory and to allow the “trickle up” of lifestyle management technology from youth to household.
2. Unitive rather than Divisive Spirituality. Silent Contemplation, Filipino Martial Arts, Conscious Breathing exercises – these are examples of spiritual/ritual practices that can help avoid the debilitating effects of dogmatic and authority-oriented religion and ritual. Allow learners to invent and/or share their own various forms of gratitude and celebration rituals. Free spiritual expression from suppression and prescription. Interestingly enough, as our colonial history shows, insistence on religious doctrine is used to “break the spirit” rather than strengthen it – or else the Indios would probably have gained independence much sooner. In general, the less external authority there is, the more internal autonomy becomes necessary – and this eventually manifests as Kagandahang-Loob, Pagkukusa, and PakikipagKapwa-Tao.
3. Uses radiant note-taking. Salundiwa, concept-, mind-, web-mapping, thinking on paper, directed doodling, metaphorms. . . there are so many mental tools – including our native languages - available to us that match the way we naturally think more closely than correct English. Although English is fine as a second language, its study shouldn’t prevent us from working with and articulating complex ideas even before we master English. Radiant articulation methods lead to Systemic and Big Picture thinking which are essential for integrity, sustainability, compassion and non-colonial spirituality, and for realizing how one’s well-being is part of the well-being of the systems one is part of.
There are many other things a Cool School might need to be in order to serve the cause of peace and sustainability, and obviously these things will probably not happen in isolation. We all need to understand our roles and responsibilities in the evolution of peaceful and sustainable culture. In the end, we are all of a system, and need to work together. It won’t happen if we keep trying to control each other. Decentralize, Empower, Have Fun!
Download SiningBayan: The Art of Nation-Building from www.blafi.org. If there are any ideas or terms you want clarified, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Education for a culture of Peace is synonymous with education for a culture of Sustainability.
What is Peace?
Peace isn’t just an absence of war – if it was, then all we’d have to do is die or drug everybody into global indifference. Peace isn’t a destination or a goal. It is a path, a way. We don’t arrive at Peace, we travel through life in peace. It is an attitude, a mindset that manifests as peaceful relationships and exchanges of energy and resources. Peace is based on sustainable relationships.
What is Sustainability?
Sustainability is the ability of something – a relationship, a family, a business, a nation, an ecosystem, etc. - to sustain itself, to endure, to survive over the long-term in a state of dynamic equilibrium. Like other ideals (democracy, love, prosperity, etc.), sustainability is not quite a destination or a goal. It is more of a balancing act between systems, whether they are personal, social, political, economic, or environmental systems.
The major imbalance we are faced with today concerns the two big systems of Nature and the Manmade World. “Global Warming” is one of the handles we use to think about this imbalance. Other names for imbalances such as “Food Security”, “Energy Crisis”, “Unemployment”, “Poverty”, and the like inevitably lead us back to the “MOTHER OF ALL IMBALANCES” caused by our Manmade World’s dancing to a different tune than the one Nature is dancing to.
What are Systems?
“System” is a way of looking at things as integrated wholes made of interrelated parts. We can consider practically anything as a system – an atom, a molecule, a rock, a flower, a cat, a man, a family, a barangay, a nation, a forest, an ocean, a planet, a galaxy, and so on.
Systems Theory suggests that a system is generally composed of five parts:
1. Sources – where things come from: food, water, air, energy, love and affection, etc.
2. Sinks – where things end up as waste and pollution: garbage dumps get solid waste, air gets carbon dioxide, water gets mine tailings, the body retains toxins from food, the mind retains faulty thinking from faulty education, etc.
3. Flows – the rates at which things are regenerated and consumed and dumped in sinks. When the flow of eating is greater than the flow of food production, for example, then we’re in trouble.
4. Stocks – the quantities of things in store at a given moment: contents of a warehouse, goods on shelves, water in a tank, books in a library, fish in the sea, etc.
5. Feedback Loops – the mechanisms by which changes are tracked in order to trigger appropriate responses. Normally, for example, when we feel hunger, we eat, and when we feel full, we stop. When this feedback loop is damaged or is ignored or unperceived – then we continue to eat, and our system goes out-of-balance and we get too fat.
In general, we can say that a system is sustainable or healthy when sources and stocks are not depleted by consumption flows, and when sinks are not overloaded or are converted into sources and stocks (think ‘recycling’). This can only happen when the system elements pay attention to and act on feedback loops.
A disruption of peace and order suggests that some societal feedback loop has been ignored and its corresponding imbalance is demanding retribution. Either that or some sneaky entity is manipulating people to produce disruption in order to justify that same sneaky entity’s self-serving actions, e.g. “you guys fight and I’ll sell you the guns and train you how to use them… and then I’ll help establish order and lend you money because I care”.
What is Education?
“Education in the largest sense is any act or experience that has a formative effect on the mind, character or physical ability of an individual. In its technical sense, education is the process by which society deliberately transmits its accumulated knowledge, skills, and values from one generation to another… the word education is derived from educare (Latin) ‘bring up’, which is related to educere ‘bring out’, ‘bring forth what is within’, ‘bring out potential’ and ducere, ‘to lead’.
Schooling is society’s attempt to systematically reproduce a culture it perceives as pro-survival and pro-prosperity. Schooling is always successful at reproducing culture, but not necessarily at producing pro-survival and pro-prosperity culture - or else we wouldn’t have unemployment and runaway inflation and wars. (On second thought maybe such negative outcomes do surface in somebody else’s books as pro-survival, pro-prosperity entries!) Other educational systems such as the family, advertising, mass media and religion may not be as deliberate or conscious as schooling, but all are equally successful at reproducing culture, for better or for worse.
What is Culture?
The broad sense of Culture may be defined as the interplay between Man (as in “Tao” and not just “lalake”), Man’s Technology (including our mental tools), and Nature.
What then would be Education for Peace?
From the above definitions any effort to “lead out” a culture of peace has to include the development or uncovering (opposite of “envelopment”) of the human being’s innate sensitivity to systems and sustainability – generally ignored in favor of hyper-specialization and employment market considerations, both of which are necessary up to a certain point, but obviously unsustainable given present-day conditions brought about precisely because of narrow-focus and linear mindsets. In short, we are educating for profit, not for sustainability, not for peace.
The good news is that we are naturally harmony-oriented, cooperative and prone to empathy. We even have a word for “it” - Bayanihan. When it comes to sustainable human development, we are naturals!
Just did a workshop session for a class of Bhutanese environmental educator-managers hosted by PAIBARE, Maharlika-based training NGO run by Ms. Jenny Catindig.
Shared salundiwa - pang salo ng diwa. In Dzonkha, the Bhutanese language, that's samcha zung. Thought/essence/spirit catcher, mind-mapping, concept-webbing.
Wrote a verse based on a bit of info from their farmers relating bamboo and rain. The more water a bamboo segment holds, the less rain is to be expected. The bigger the diameter of the bamboo, the more rain... that, plus the fact that almost everyone in Bhutan does archery... gave birth to this "quickie:"
when the bamboo is full of tears
the rain will not fall
where the bamboo grows round
the river is full
the bamboo is rain
the bamboo is river
the bamboo is life
the bamboo is my bow
my spirit is the arrow
where the bamboo grows
there do I go
Then I got them to write it in the Sanskrit-like alphabet and spell it out in "english" letters. Then we sang it using 1 note. Parang Buddhist chant ang dating. Then with two notes. Then with a three-note melody. Then with variations.
Voila, a new Bhutan folksong was born!
What is music? Convenient definition: organized sound.
This may be a cold and simplistic way of describing something that moves us to the high heavens but it’s accurate and flexible enough to accommodate the whole range of music from most popular to the weirdest compositions.
Music is extremely mathematical, emotional, abstract, and concrete. This may sound like a mass of unresolvable contradictions but consider -
Mathematical: music is measurable, quantifiable, predictable and repeatable, just like a science project.
Emotional: music can make you laugh, it can make you cry, it can bring you down, it can get you high… spontaneity mixed with predictability leads one to surprises.
Abstract: music is form unfolding over time, transitory, vibratory, non-verbal, ethereal.
Concrete: is sensed and experienced, performed and produced with the body.
It is work and play, rest and unrest, sacred and profane, sound and silence.
The human ability to produce music, appreciate it and perform it is indeed remarkable. A key to appreciating its importance to human beings is the fact that the musical parts of us come into play even before we are born.
The rhythms that give us life – heartbeat, pulse, movement, temperature, biochemical high- and low-tides ---- all these elements, in harmony, an orchestra of anatomical sound – this is the sea we float in prior to the singing of our first anguished aria as we make our grand entrance onto the stage of, well, life.
No wonder we do music. It’s what we are. We can’t help it. All these cycles and patterns, connections and variations, structures and developments, not to mention sounds…
The machine that makes us walk and run and dance is the same machine that is fueled by rhythm. No small wonder that dance and music are joined at the hip.
The ability to detect changes in patterns warns us of danger in predator-filled jungles as well as deepens our enjoyment of changes in musical movement.
The module that we use to detect emotional messages in speech is the same one we use for following melodies.
The invention of music demands the creation of new connections and relationships within a broad set of parameters: tone, volume, timbre, rhythm, accent, tempo, etc. Our organizing and synthesizing powers work with sound before they work with words and numbers. In fact, the ability to work with sound comes before the ability to work with words and numbers.
Does this mean that the word, number, science, management and engineering mental muscles that we seem to value so highly are built on musical muscle? Scientists suspect so but then scientists need to be suspicious of everything. That’s why they keep discovering things such as: consistent exposure to music specially during early childhood stimulates brain synergy. Brain parts are led to work together in harmony and grow connections that eventually lead to more efficient overall functioning.
We hear before we see. The part of us that detects vibration is older than the part of us that discerns shape and color. It is harder to communicate with the vibration-impaired than with the visually-challenged. Mahirap makitungo sa taong bingi, manhid, at walang pakiramdam. Bad vibes pare.
Evolution is said to favor the next generation. This theory is ratified by the fact that when we communicate with babies we automatically sing, swing and sway and bounce.
Music is necessary for the survival of the species. It shapes the organism by stimulating connectivity and integration. Music makes us human, and being human is also what makes us capable of doing music.
We can experience and articulate things that cannot be described with words.
We can construct abstract patterns and make them available to other people.
We can imagine new and better sound connections and relationships, and make them unfold before our very ears.
We can compose - have visions and make them real to people other than ourselves.
On National Artistry
Madalas na akong ma-tawag na “National Artist” kahit ‘di (pa) ako nagagawaran nang pormal. Masarap ang pakiramdam sapagka’t ito’y katibayan na may nakukuhang halaga ang taumbayan sa aking buhay, diwa at gawa.
Sadyang may limitasyon ang award. Ang antas ng kamalayan at pangangailangan ng nagbibigay ng kahit anong award ang siyang nagiging batayan ng kung sino ang inaabutan ng award. Maraming karapat-dapat kilalanin at bigyang-pugay, mga kilala’t ‘di-kilala. Nguni’t, tulad ng isda sa dagat, ‘di lahat ang nakikita, at kung mag kasamang salapi ang award, ‘di lahat maaambunan.
On the National Artist Award
Sa proseso ng pagpili ng NA, ako’y bulate lamang, nandoon sa ilalim bilang facilitator sa unang pilian. (Isip ko nga "patay, 'di ako puedeng inominate dahil facilitator ako." Sabi naman ng kaibigan "bata ka pa, mauuna yung matanda".) May musician pa doon sa basement ng proseso. Ewan kung bakit nawala. Baka di type ng mga nasa iitaas na palapag ang trabaho ng mga unang napili. Baka may problema sa budget at may kailangang tanggalin. Who knows.
Ako, nais kong magawaran nito dahil may kasamang economic benefits na makapag-bibigay-buhay sa mga proyekto. Kung patay na ako, wala na akong magagawang proyekto.
Tanggap ko na kahit na sino ang magawaran ng NA Award, laging may ‘di masisiyahan, subali't, sana naman, mas-marami ang masisiyahan.
Sa latest round ng NA Awards mukhang maraming ‘di nasisiyahan, lalong-lalo na sa sirkulo ng mandiriwa na aking kinikilusan. Ang sagot ko lamang sa mga text ay “gumawa kaya tayo ng sariling award.”
Bakit? Sapagka’t kapag ang damdamin at opinyon ng mga ‘di nasisiyahan ay ‘di kayang sakupin ng nagbibigay ng NA Awards, kahit ano’ng mangyari, ‘di talaga ito masasakop. May sarili silang agenda. Kung ‘di nasasakop ang agenda ng mga ‘di nasisiyahan, e di gumawa ng sariling award. Hindi naman maaaring “baguhin natin sila” – e kung tayo ang baguhin?
Inaalay ko nga ang salitang Mandiriwa para sa award, kung nanaisin. Mandiriwa: isang kumikilos sa larangan ng diwa, at ipinagdiriwang ang Dakilang Malikhain na nasa bawa’t nilalang. (Ginawa ko ang salitang ito para sa mga SiningBayan Workshop na ginagawa namin sa Bagong Lumad Artists Foundation, Inc.)
Kapag mas marami ang award, mas masaya! Kaya kayang mamahagi ng award na walang poot, inggit, pagkukulang, pulitikahan, at iba pang nakasisirang resulta? Popondohan kaya ng NCCA ang isang award na puro mandiriwa ang pumipili sa kapwa-mandiriwa? Magandang inter-komiti project ito!
Bakit isa lang?
Siguro kung walang cash involved, mas maraming award ang puedeng ipamigay. Kung may sponsor, ok lang. Pumapangit nga lang ang trophy kasi linalagyan ng pangalan ng kumpanya o produkto na ‘di maganda ang pagka-layout. Nagmumukhang advertisement.
Tanong ko talaga ito – economics aside, bakit tag-isa lang ang “Pambansang ________”? National Artist for Cinema, isa lang. National Hero, isa lang. National Bird, isa lang. Yung One Town One Product nga, isa lang. Paano tayo magiging malikhain at diverse tulad ng likas nating kakayahan kung laging isa lang ang ine-encourage?
Di kaya divisive ang award, lalung-lalo na kapag debatable, subjective, at qualitative ang larangan (tulad ng sining at nasyonalismo) ng award? Buti kung, tulad ng boxing at karera at lotto, may malinaw na panalo't talo.
Maraming mandiriwang gumagawa ng maganda na kaunti lang ang nakikinabang, at marami ring gumagawa ng magandang marami ang nakikinabang. Masmahirap ang ikalawa dahil may kasamang marketing effort. Baka dapat may NA for Marketing?
May mandiriwang walang ginagawang orihinal pero masigasig mag-organisa. Baka dapat may NA for Organization?
May mandiriwang gumagawa ng weird at di masakyan ng masang Noypi, pero hinihirang sa larangan ng akademiya. Baka dapat may NA for Exploration?
Ano ba talaga ang importante?
Response ng kaibigang anthropologist:
was talking with my friend about this today. first time i heard Philippine society being called "credentialist" - Filipinos clamor for awards more than people from other societies do.
but each culture/society has its own standards of status and prestige, often coinciding with material benefits. but even when they don't, markers of prestige play a big role. the basic function is to set certain people apart from the rest of society - f.k.a. (fancily known as) social stratification or inequality. haha.
so quite rightly, if we want to change the world, turn it into a system of relationships that values differences in creativity, then maybe we have to stop setting some people apart based on standards that depend on the same system that fuels inequality (and silences creativity). how to appreciate each other without promoting inequality (differential access to stuff that matter).
maybe the superstar, megastar, star for all seasons, diamond star, concert king and queen awards given to celebrities is a reflection of this egalitarian approach! haha i actually don't know for sure if i'm kidding or not.
On the last day of the National Commission for Culture and the Arts' window for membership applications to its committees I faxed in my application Music Committee upon the prodding of mentor Prof. Jun de Leon. What's in this for me, I wondered. An adventure, at least, whispered the optimistic angel. Headaches, growled the other angel.
My application made it in. I attended my first meeting and got elected vice-chair to Ka Jun's chairmanship. A few weeks later he resigned (!) and I became chairman-by-default of the Music Committee.