Postcolonialism on CNN: Think Above

Sometimes, people mean well.  Sometimes, people passively (or submissively) accept definitions the West prescribes to ‘Other’ people.  Sometimes, those people are your own family members.


Earlier today, I checked with my mom to see if all of our relatives were okay in the motherland.  Typhoon Haiyan is documented as the strongest to date, and it has traveled right through the Philippines.  She reassured me everyone is okay, and then with the best intentions, emailed me this photo from CNN.  When I opened it, I felt that sensation similar to a stone dropping through your brain and down to the pit of your stomach.  There’s so much going on here that I won’t even go through and dissect the wording.  I am glad for those who can read with a critical eye and extract the message behind the words.

The problem is that people read this in a positive light.  We have so much work to do.  The idea of Filipinos as happy, noble savages is one that sadly perpetuates in this quote.  If that isn’t enough, it illustrates us as obedient and yielding – and totally capable of putting up with HUNDREDS of years of colonialism, missionization and Western imperialism.  But hey, that’s okay, because we’re resilient and we just shake it off and smile.  What an amazing ‘privilege‘.  Lucky that the typhoon devastates their homes and love one’s lives.  This message is pretty despicable, but what’s equally disappointing is that people unquestioningly welcome this image created of Filipinos.

I won’t blame ignorance, but I sure hope to help educate it.  When I brought this up to my mom, she got really defensive and scoffed at me, ‘with a chip on [my] shoulder’.  I juxtaposed the CNN quote with this American political cartoon from about half a century ago:


To me, the parallel is clear.  Here is historic colonialism: the entire race of the Philippines embodied in this puny character who is depicted as beat down, uncoordinated, undignified.  This image gives off a very strong ‘us’ vs. ‘them’ attitude, and doesn’t give the Filipino character a voice.  Enter: postcolonialism – the quote from CNN is written in a us/we format, speaking for and not from the perspective of Filipino people.  (If it is, in fact, authored by a Pin@y, then a paradigm shift is in order).

I can’t make it any more obvious that the CNN quote builds upon residual colonialist ideologies, therefore continuing contemporary postcolonialism.  The thing is, we are aware.  We are conscious.  Many of us were once programmed with a colonial mindset, and now more than ever I have encountered a push to DEcolonize.  This has been ongoing amongst generations, I’m sure, but now that I’ve started this process, I keep encountering more and more on the same journey.  As far as decolonization goes, complete rejection of our upbringings or reversion to complete indigeneity is unrealistic, as we (I) are (am) living in contemporary, urban conditions. But perhaps we can incorporate the indigenous mindset and use it to inform our guiding principles.  Striking this balance is where I think a lot of power/dynamism rests.  Let’s harness this energy and help lead others to critically confront postcolonialism, shall we?  Future generations will need it.  As for my mom, hopefully she comes to enlightenment as well.

Think above, y’all.


One thought on “Postcolonialism on CNN: Think Above

  1. Well written blog!

    I personally have mixed feelings about the disastrous event, reactions and considered resolutions to the situation. I would normally look for the root cause and there is one thing that could have made the situation a little less terrifying than how it turned out to be.

    The system. This in itself is a huge topic that we can talk about for weeks and we’ll still have a hard time figuring out how to crash the sh*t out of it. I wouldn’t just keep my eye on the motherland in itself but I would also involve the imperialistic system of the “first worlds” that has contaminated and jeopardized not only the country in itself but the minds of the people living with it. It has repressed and suppressed and has trashed all the possible instances where death could have been avoided. The system was lenient enough to manipulate their minds to be a fan of status quo while the birth and birth and be anti-birth control, hence, overpopulation. This made it harder to sustain a good command to the LGO’s (local government units) to make sure that they leave the area. What caused this? Lack of funds to make that happen and really, the government just don’t care–why would they when they make fat pockets out of being your typical corrupt official kissing asses of the united nations and other international organizations that are supposedly designed to help — but really manipulate and control.

    Filipinos are strong, resilient people. No question about that. They’ve gone through too much socio-economical and political insanity that they can get through anything like this. But they were born and raised to think that way and look at it at a positive note. This you cannot just blame it on them. For generations, we were pushed to think the way we think, and I bet your academic views are also what they are because of that. Which isn’t really bad at all. It’s a little late to play the blame game as well because if you look at what’s going on, people in control are giving more hassle than help to the victims.

    It’s the system that allows this. It’s the system that –not only in the Philippines– that has created this disaster. It’s not about how they judge the strength of the people because great strength can be measured in different perspectives. It’s how they use this so-called strength a brand instead of actually making it an action.

    There are several battles yet to win, this is just a great example of picking what to battle with and HOW it should be done rather than just assuming things are what they are.


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