Wednesday, April 28, 2010

No Country For Strangers

Ephemere gives a solid answer from her point-of-view as someone from this country to The Bibliophile Stalker's post (with references to the subsequent open letter to him, and his response to that open letter). An excerpt from No Country For Strangers:

I will not say: no foreigners allowed. That is a rather horrible thing to say considering an overwhelming tendency here to welcome foreigners with open arms and bend over backwards for them, at the cost of discriminating against our fellow Filipinos. It is a statement that assumes we have the power to say such a thing and enforce such a rule when we, well, don't. "No foreigners allowed" is a fantasy -- a short-sighted, narrow-minded, twisted fantasy, but a fantasy nonetheless.

Instead I will say: this is no country for strangers. This is not a people that can be known by observation alone, without the risk of actual engagement. This is no land where you can set yourself apart and then delude yourself with claims that comprehension naturally comes with high-minded goals and noble intentions to enlighten a system whose only fundamental flaw is ignorance of your ways. This is not a place that needs more foreigners coming in to visit, then taking away with them their misconceptions and their privileged judgments -- because we have been misrepresented enough, not just in the international community but also amongst ourselves, and false categorizations and claims about who we are and where we came from and where we should go are unneeded and shouldn't be welcomed.

This is a place where one must know rage to know sight. I wrote, somewhat recently: "[S]ometimes rage is useful. Sometimes anger is necessary. Sometimes you need a great and brutal force to drive ugly and hidden secrets into the light; sometimes self-satisfaction and complacency cannot be worn down gradually, but must be wrenched apart. Sometimes fear is the only edge that will compel you to walk a difficult and unfamiliar path. Sometimes you can't just politely ask rotting structures to make way for the construction of new ones. You have to knock them down. Burn them to the ground." I believe this is as true of the writing of fiction as it is of development policy, or economic research, or the study of Philippine institutions.

So (and I address this now to the theoretical audience of those on the other, privileged end of the inequality) if you, as a white person, are afraid of writing about us: then be afraid.

2 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

The purpose of writing fiction is not to comprehend. World literature has numerous examples of authors writing about foreign cultures.

7:50 PM  
Blogger pgenrestories said...

@Anonymous: Thank you for taking the time to make a comment here, Anonymous. I see, though, that your comment is directed at the essay writer, Ephemere. May I direct you to post your comment on her site, if you wish to engage her and the others who have made comments in a discussion? The link is in the blog entry. Thank you.

8:27 PM  

Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home