Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Scrambled eggs and Mao

Last September 22, Armed Forces of the Philippines chief General Hermogenes Esperon attended a symposium on "Untamed Conflict and Arrested Development: Finding a Way Out of the Vicious Cycle" at the University of the Philippines. This forum was sponsored by the Association of Political Science Majors.

On the way out the General and Professor Alex Magno were pelted with eggs. A woman army officer was hit in the face and the Prof had to lecture with a suit of scrambled eggs.

The protesters belonged to the STAND -UP and League of Filipino Students (LFS). These groups subscribe to a Maoist ideology. While all sorts of ideologies are tolerated on campus, violation of freedom of expression and academic freedom are not.

While I may believe that Prof Magno is entitled to his own opinions and that I think he is an apologist for Mrs Arroyo, this time I have to agree with him. In his "Philippine Star" column today he was saddened about the level of debate in the University of the Philippines. This egg throwing incident really shows that the level of debate in this university has sunk to new lows. Debate will have sunk below the level of the Dead Sea (pun intended!) if it is peppered with invectives and cliches. Alex Magno blames the ideologues at the College of Arts and Letters.

I have read Marx, Mao, Lenin and Ho Chi Minh and I know that they were clear thinkers. I really do not know if the one these students idolise is as clear headed as he believes he is. And I am referring to the High Priest in Utrecht. A cursory reading of the latest interview with him is hilarious. I had read his "Philippine Revolution" and appreciated the analysis. But this ageing ideologue has resorted to long worn communist cliches devoid of any new meaning. This is how low the level of debate has become.

Well I had an undergrad student who I had debated with before. He is of the Maoist persuasion. My thesis is that the social analysis of Marxist-Leninist thought is incompatible with the evolution of human nature as first proposed by Charles Darwin. And he resorted to cliches. But I had to tell him that ecological succession (a subject that some scientists believe is fantasy) is more predictable than Marx's prediction of the state withering away! We may be able to remediate Guimaras oil spill, but remediating the cliches used by leftists seems to be impossible. A good topic for academic debate would be "What could be the socialist ideal?" If China is our model, then capitalism is the ultimate socialist ideal. Singapore is probably the only true socialist state.

Ideas die and live in the university depending on how representative and coherent the ideas are not as how scrambled they may become. Sane minds at the UP have called for the reappraisal of what true academic freedom is. Paging the Chancellor!

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