Entry: Blogging, Subjectivity and Struggle November 25, 2007



< a reply to teo marasigan's entry >

   I would like to begin this essay in saying that "progressive" means many things to me: I do not believe in binary oppositions when it comes to politics.  As a passing "political scientist," one cannot contain ideologies and political practice to dichotomies, like "left/right" and "progressive/reactionary."  To be political is to struggle, and the complexity of struggle must be acknowledged to be beyond these dichotomies.  For all intents and purposes, politics is an amoeba.  As such, I do not consider myself "progressive" in the context of the complex, amorphous, complicated political system I acknowledge.  I take things in the spirit of synthesis: as my friends and instructors see it, I do not qualify in the dichotomous view of political ideology and political practice.

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   Which brings me to a question asked by Teo Marasigan: why would a "progressive" like myself invoke the ideas of Marshall McLuhan?  I would not rebuke or renounce my inclination to McLuhan because he's understood by many as a "conservative media imperialist."  My reading of the dialectic is not like the boxing match where the stronger ideology is the last man standing.  In the end, the thesis and the antithesis will have to synthesize: the changes that they encounter in a changing arena of struggle will change them.  As such, the struggle is different now compared to what it was.  The context is different.

   So what does blogging have to do with struggle and context?  A lot, but it begins with this statement: blogging is a struggle, and blogging is a context.  It is a struggle for identification in the context of information.  I don't want to dwell on the technicalities and the theory of "identity politics" (which I know so little of), but put simply, increasing differentiation has led to the individual - the subject - being the element of social struggle.  The whole is stronger than the sum of its parts, but without a part to complete the sum, the whole isn't what it is.

   I do acknowledge how blogging could be used as a means of struggle, if not because it already is.  Like I said before, there is no such thing as neutral information: anything from teenage ranting to political commentary is already situated politically.  "To not take sides" is already to take sides.  I don't like to write this statement down for all the probable allegations of hypocrisy that can be derived from it by people I know, but the motto of the College Editors Guild of the Philippines is right: "To write is already to choose."

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   As a means of struggle, there is no fence to sit on when it comes to blogging: writing and reading is to take a side.  When I choose to write about something, I take so many sides already: I take a side on what to write on, I take a side on what language I write in, and I take a side in my treatment of my topic.  The reason why I call myself an "antichrist of media" is because I basically corrupt the minds of people by taking a side, not concerned at all if this side is "right" or "wrong," or to where you can locate this side in a political dichotomy.  As an antichrist, I am subject to interpretation.

   This sounds too "postmodernist" for the taste of a radical progressive, but writing and reading is subjective.  To me, the objective reality of reading and writing is that it is done by subjects.  All subjects have points-of-view, biases, experiences and so on that influence the act of reading and writing.

   Elementary examples will suffice: this is not a technical treatise.

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   Let's begin with reading.  There is the objective reality of a book, and there's the subjective reality of a book.  There can be no biases or whatnot in saying that the objective reality of this book is that it's made of paper.  But there's a certain subjectivity in putting my biases into my perception of the book: I imagine the number of trees it took to make this paper out of 100% virgin pulp.  Yet as I read the contents of the book, subjectivity reveals itself: as I read, I also interpret.  My biases come into play: for example, I am biased towards reading classical English literature when it comes to leisurely reading.  Given a choice between Neil Gaiman, Bob Ong, and Miguel de Cervantes, I will choose Cervantes.  But it does not stop there: the fact that I'm reading Don Quixote will come the interpretation that I do not value local authors, or that I am very colonial-minded.

   So let's get on over with writing.  There's the objective reality of this keyboard, and there's the subjective reality of this keyboard.  The objective reality of this keyboard is that it is an object made out of plastic used to feed informantion into a computer.  Yet as I put my biases into this keyboard, I acknowledge it to be part of a hegemonic structure of neocolonialism through technology.  As I write, I also interpret.  My biases come into play: for example, I am biased towards English, and I prefer writing about inane things than serious things.  But it does not stop there: the fact that I'm blogging will come the interpretation that I'm either an Angst-filled twentysomething, or that I add to the hegemony of technology perpetuating unfair and inequitable class lines.

   I hope my examples are clear: what I'm trying to say is that there is objective reality out there.  But these objective realities are interpreted by subjects: as such, reality is both objective and subjective.  But on the whole - and I'm sticking my neck out for the proverbial guillotine here - human experience is subjective.

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   But let me get back on the more important point of blogging being a means of struggle.  There is nothing wrong with "blogging politically," if by that we write about the issues of the day.  But what is an "issue" and what is a "non-issue?"  To add to my idiosyncrasies, allow me to invoke a bit of Charles Taylor: issues written about are issues important to the subject.  The blog is subject-referring, from the reading aspect to the writing aspect.  We are all in different struggles that to combine them under the general term of "The Struggle" is futile.  Blogging as a means for propaganda is only part of the many struggles that there are in the Internet: the many struggles of people trying to identify themselves and to be identified by others.

   This is why I disagreed with Teo's discouragement of blogging among progressives: struggling does not - and should not - make distinctions.  Primary and secondary means of changing human society are just as they are: changing human society.  Disagreement is fundamental in struggle because it is struggle.  The expansion of the proverbial envelope of means and ends means that in a way, we should also expand our horizons in talking about what is there to change about the world, and how we should go about changing it.

   Everything is risky: surveillance being one of them.  I'm sure the government has already put me in a dossier of sorts because I'm quite vocal about my political opinions.  In fact, I look forward to the day when some police officer slaps on handcuffs on me for being a piddly critic of the President.  Being a blogger means being open to surveillance, that someone out there reads you.  There is no big difference between something written on paper and written on cyberspace, if you asked me.  "Critical blogging" is something that is hard to come by: I do not claim to be a critical blogger.

   Perhaps I'll go on in the future.  To be honest, it's been a while since I wrote an entry this long.

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