Monthly Archives: August 2013

Justice Resists Simplicity

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Last Friday, August 16, 2013, DLSU Pilosopo held this big lecture on the philosophy of justice aptly entitled “Sword & Scales.” I was up bright and early so I can register and get a decent seat in the Teresa Yuchenco Auditorium. The lecture was divided among three speakers: Atty. Christopher Cruz, Dr. Jeanne Peracullo, and Dr. Adriatico Bolaños. They each gave different perspectives on the philosophy of law and justice and they were quite interesting, although I think I speak for everyone when I say that there were times when the terms got too technical.

First to speak was Atty. Cruz. His discussion was all about the Philosophical nature of law. Early in his talk, he said something that really caught my attention; something I also believe is true. He said, “Where law ends, tyranny begins.” That short sentence is really enough to show that the law really is necessary to keep us from acting like uncivilized mongrels towards each other.  Atty Cruz gave us a little bit of background of lawmaking and why it was needed in society. His talk focused on justice in context of the law, and how it changes depending on the culture or group of people. He says that laws are embedded in our society, we were born into it, and it is present in our lives until we reach our graves, but even after then, it exists to maintain harmony between people.

The second speaker was none other than my INTFILO professor, Dr. Peracullo. Her topic piqued my interest because it was about how the Apocalypse was the end to all our worldly sufferings. She approached this topic using the video game Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Survivor 2, and the book of Revelations. I was actually quite glad when I heard familiar names such as Plato, Buddha, Sartre, etc. during her talk.

What I got from her talk is that the Apocalypse or Judgment day is ultimately caused by our absolute freedom to make a choice. She used Sartre’s concept of the “inevitability of choice” to show that in key points of our lives and in our civilization as a whole, we will have to make decisions, and we must be ready to stand by the repercussions of these decisions. She used characters from Devil Survivor 2 to illustrate this inevitability of choice. She also claimed that these video games are like critiques of our contemporary society. That the actions we make as projected individuals in the RPG also reflect what choices we would probably make in real life.

I was actually quite impressed that our prof managed to incorporate different aspects into her discussion, and yet still tied it up neatly by relating it all to justice. Law, in a way limits our “absolute freedom” by curbing the possible choices we get to make. Does this mean that by pursuing justice through law, we are dooming ourselves to a life of inauthentic existence? No, I don’t think so.

The last speaker, Dr. Bolaños, used something called Critical Theory to assess justice in the perspective of the individual in the society. To be completely honest, I kept spacing out and did not understand much of his discussion because it was filled with technical terminologies that I did not quite understand. What I got from his talk was that norms in our society are the foundation of our laws, and therefore justice. I dare not go into much into detailing his topic because I really do not know much about it.

In conclusion, I think that Justice, much like Truth, is generally constructed; by us, the society, and the norms and cultures we live by. Justice also resists simplicity. It is impossible to look at it from just one point of view. It can be seen under many different perspectives, even Philosophical ones. We must understand what impact the different laws and the notion of justice have in our lives. Is justice just getting even with another person, or is it so much more? That I’m afraid is up to us to decide for ourselves

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I See, But I Do Not Observe: My MCAD Experience

(Please excuse the obscure Sherlock reference in my title. I could not think of a better one lol)

Before I begin, I would like to prove that I did in fact go to the exhibit. Here is an existential selfie.

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If my face turned you off, here is another picture. This one is of my blockmates and I in front of one of the exhibits.

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Anyway, enough of the existential pictures. Time to get down to business.

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We wake up every morning by waking up by opening our eyes and seeing our bedroom ceiling. But what does it mean to actually “see?” It’s funny how a simple word can have such a deep and varied meaning. The Oxford Dictionary of English partially defines it as “to perceive with the eyes,” “become aware of something from observation, ” and also ” to experience or witness an event or situation.” But again these definitions explain just part of the total experience we call “seeing.” For me, “seeing” something isn’t just an limited to an ocular experience. For example, bats can “see” using echolocation. It’s more than just our brains’ interpretation of the light bouncing off of objects and onto our retinas. It’s more of acknowledging something’s existence, giving it meaning, and reacting appropriately to it. “Seeing,” for me, is observation + perception + reaction.

The heavy rain that morning didn’t do well to set up my mood for the day. I didn’t feel like going to the MCAD anymore because it would mean that I had to walk through the flooded streets of Taft whilst toting an umbrella around. To be totally honest, the exhibit at the Museum of Contemporary Art and Design (MCAD) underwhelmed me. I was led by false pretense from the posts I had seen on their Tumblr account. I was expecting to see grandiose displays of dystopian contemporary art. Instead, I saw photographs and various video installations. It was not what I was expecting at all, so I felt a bit let down. I walked into the MCAD, and a huge space in the middle was empty and I was like “is this it?” However, the ambiance was relaxing because the place was so cold and quiet. I swear I could hear my footsteps echoing in the building as I walked towards some of the other exhibits.

I spent about an hour and fifteen minutes in the museum – longer than I had expected, really. I was very bored during my stay in the museum. Also very cold. I could see the amusement and wonder in the faces of my companions, while most of the other people were just chatting with their peers.  I did not feel the appeal of the video installations. I thought museums were about physical, tangible objects on display. I was wrong, apparently. About forty-five minutes in, I started to feel hungry. This made me feel more disinterested in the exhibit. There were only two installations that really caught my attention, Dialogues on Discrepancy by Piyasak Ausup:

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and the series of buildings printed on newspaper by Pattara Chanruechachai:

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The first one made me feel sad for the people surrounding the demolished building. I felt so sorry for them, thinking that the building was their home and now they have nowhere to live. This was how I analyzed the picture, I was so shocked when Miss revealed to us that the people in hijabs were actually photoshopped onto the picture. It made me feel like a fool, having believed that those people were actually from that place, but at the same time amazed at the artist for thinking of that concept. The mere fact that the picture impressed upon me a feeling of sorrow for something that didn’t actually happen or exist made me question what else in that exhibit was deceiving my initial impression of it.

As it turned out, there was an entire series of photographs that fooled me all along. The three photographs of the buildings were the first thing I saw upon entering the museum. But it wasn’t until the guide pointed it out that I noticed they were actually printed on newspaper. I was like:

tennant ohhhhhh

I thought they were just photos of regular buildings printed in grayscale and mounted on the wall. When asked what we thought it meant, I thought that it was representing how the media was “covering up” the ugliness of the society. I felt like I saw the pictures, but never really understood why they were like that. I saw them for their façade, not for what they truly mean. As the title of my post would suggest, I saw, but did not observe. 

I left the exhibit 20 minutes before my next class in Yuchenco. It was still gloomy and raining outside, the burgur I had purchased from McDo did not fully satisfy my hunger. I looked around while I was walking back to Taft. Seeing the contrast between the super posh SDA and its surrounding area made me think. The SDA felt like a safe place, it was as if it was separated from the poverty just outside its doors. But upon leaving the place, it was like being thrust upon a different world. It was hot despite the rain, the road was muddy, people were busy walking towards their destination. It made me wonder if Utopia is truly possible here in the Philippines, or do we just have to construct enough safe houses in society to make it feel like the dystopia doesn’t exist. Could the exhibit’s tagline, Dystopia now, Utopia never actually be true?

Let’s say for a moment that I was an artist who had to put up a piece of work for the MCAD. Let’s say that they commissioned me to make an artwork that would represent what “seeing” really was. For one thing, the artwork would look like it was drawn by a 5-year old. For another thing, it would probably look something like this:

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“Seeing” is a multileveled and multifaceted thing. One perspective could be totally different from another, and some people may “see” thing deeper than others. I interpret “seeing” as a hierarchal inverted pyramid, kind of like Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. You cannot proceed to the next “deeper” level without going through the preceding one.

The most basic “seeing” involves just perception – acknowledging the thing’s existence by placing it on the foreground of your attention. To see at this stage would be to believe the thing exists in your perspective. The next level would be understanding what that thing is. This is to dig deeper and find out more information about the thing by observing it or using the other senses. Next, would be valuing the thing. What does the thing mean to you? Here, you examine how the thing affects how you feel, how you think, etc. After that would be action. What would you do with the thing? Now that you know how it affects you, what will you do in response? After going through those levels, only then can one “see” the thing in totality. I made the drawing 3-Dimensional because other people may look at the same thing, but “see” a different side on a completely different level.

Seeing is something we all take for granted. It is something we do not tend to dwell on because it is such a basic component in our lives. Seeing is how we make sense of our world, it would be silly to think so little of something that means so much to us as human beings.

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