To conclude an exciting semester, PSS member and Assistant Professor of Sociology (UP Diliman) Gina Gatarin wrote an open letter to her students in Sociology 10 (Nation, Self and Citizenship). We are reposting her open letter here.
Another academic year is now about to end. It has been both a challenge and a pleasure to facilitate a semester of exploration, analysis and debates on the different issues associated with being a Filipino. As I’ve told the class during the start of the course, Socio 10 will not give any definition or set of guidelines of what it means to be a “good” Filipino. It will not be preaching about a singular path or school of thought on how to assess and change the pressing conditions of our country.
We might lament this fact that despite all the heated discussions we had in the class partly due to the intense topics we have talked about and partly due to the very hot summer days we have endured given the full swing implementation of the academic calendar shift in UP, we cannot provide definitive and categorical answers in addressing the human condition. That is perhaps a pressing question that sociology is facing – the capacity to provide practical solutions to social injustice, inequality and all the dehumanizing experiences of living in the contemporary world caught in contradictions of excess and lack, of everything instant and the enduring burden of waiting for change to happen, of having more questions and figuring out how reality could be made negotiable.
It might be very frustrating but the exercise of the sociological imagination could perhaps send us some hope. From the very personal and everyday encounter that we could lose our life, limbs and/or property anytime just by walking around the streets of Manila, the notion of commitment to the betterment of the nation becomes a perhaps very heroic stand to take. I remember the time I boarded the plane to Manila from Amsterdam some three years ago after graduate school. Whether real or imagined, there was massive fear and anxiety on “coming home” given the stark differences of living in Europe and here. There was a realization that being a Filipino could be a love and hate journey.
As you have reflected in your autobiographies, your lives are an essential element of the change we are aspiring for. Now that we face the same problems which are seemingly of eternal recurrence – political dynasties, rampant poverty, gender discrimination, commodified education, “care drain” due to migration, historical revisionism, a dangerous lack of a critical collective memory and so on, the call for a new generation of volunteers and activists who would live and stand given the tides of neoliberal policies robbing us our human rights and our future becomes an enormous responsibility. With this, I hope that wherever you’ll be, you’ll be agents who are capable of applying the sociological imagination in your lives, especially to your choices. As future engineers,scientists, architects, artists, researchers, media practitioners and experts in your own respective fields, your choices are crucial in the making and the un-making of possibilities for the betterment of the Philippines. This is the last and enduring assignment Socio 10 is leaving you in facing the burden of being a sensible and productive member of society. As Milan Kundera reflecting on the philosopher Nietzsche’s notion of the eternal return in his novel The Unbearable Lightness of Being “(t)he heavier the burden, the closer our lives come to the earth, the more real and truthful they become.”
Thank you for the fun semester. I hope all your dreams will come true.