Neither a bang nor a whimper

Two major incidents in the South China Sea last week. On Tuesday, the CSIS’ Asian Maritime Transparency Initiative reported China’s new point-defense fortifications on its artificial islands in the Spratlys. Then on Friday, news broke of a Chinese ship illegally seizing a US Navy underwater probe in Philippine waters. A lot of Read more…

So You Want to Contact Your Representative

So you’d like to ask your district representative and our senators to say NO to considering kids potential criminals, restoring the death penalty, and reversing the Sin Tax Law, among other issues. Well, it’s time to remind our lawmakers to listen to the people they’re supposed to be representing. Here’s Read more…

Defining Dictatorship

Last Friday, November 18, the family of the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos secreted his body into the Libingan ng mga Bayani (Heroes’ Cemetery) for a long-contested burial. The Philippine National Police and the country’s armed forces secured the area, and a chopper from the national air force flew the strongman’s Read more…

On law, or how we view it

I’ve been reading Peter Hessler’s Oracle Bones, a nonfiction work that’s part-memoir, part-journalism, part-travel writing about Hessler’s years in China. One of the more intriguing sections I’ve recently finished dealt with the government’s crackdown on Falun Gong, a health system-cum-religion that gained millions of believers in the 1990s. Many of these adherents had Read more…

On human rights and drug-related killings

I caught a really thought-provoking interview on human rights featuring the philosopher John Tasioulas recently. Being an (old) episode of the Philosophy Bites podcast, which caters to a general audience, the interview focused on a basic1 question: What are human rights?

Basic, but not simple, since “human rights” has become both a very charged term and, perhaps in some circles, one so overused as to have turned into a bit of a hollow buzzword. Which is why it’s notable how Tasioulas kicks off the interview by first dispelling the, shall we say, “special snowflake” air that has enveloped the concept: human rights are only one kind of rights, he asserts. Now this doesn’t undercut the importance of these rights, but it at least does away with the tunnel vision that they tend to inspire and situates them within a broader category of similar concepts that, he implies, are no less worthy of discussion.

But the dissolution of the term “human rights”‘ definite edges is, like I’ve said, something of a problem. So what distinguishes human rights from other kinds of rights? Tasioulas says: universality, these rights’ applicability throughout humanity.

This is the point I find most interesting, mostly because of personal experience. Ever since it became clear that our new president had won the post, there’s been a disturbing spike in drug-related extra-judicial killings. The number keeps ticking up to this day, and there’s been a lot of debate about the validity and ethics of these incidents.

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Who Lives, Who Dies, Who Tells These Stories: Orlando and Narratives of Trauma

“There are no words.”

There’s also no counting how many times I’ve said that in response to various facets of the Orlando shooting: first, the burst of reports; then the rising death toll; then the slow unraveling of each victim’s biography; and then, the aftermath, the responses — in forms both heartwarmingly compassionate and shamelessly opportunistic.

The extent and range of those responses isn’t surprising. Forty-nine people died and 53 were injured at a mass shooting in Pulse, a gay nightclub in Orlando. This is the deadliest mass shooting in US history, and the shooter targeted the LGBT+ community, a group that — despite significant progress in recent years — remains a minority in every sense of the term. Many members of the community have already spoken about how jarring, how traumatic this attack has been; many more have continued to speak about how subsequent responses have been disrespectful, exploitative, damaging, or unhelpful at best.

I found myself unable, somehow, to join those engaged in the former. So far, the most I’ve been able to do is retweet messages of support and guidelines for volunteers, because secondhand sentiments are the only things I felt comfortable posting about the matter. Let me be clear: 140 characters, no matter how many sets I retweet, will never be enough to articulate the grief, anger, and despair I feel about this attack. However, shameful as it is to say so right now, 140 characters are more than enough to be a potential breach in the illusion of safety that stems from being a straight-passing, low-key member of the community.  (more…)

The Problem of Scale

I’ve been awfully quiet lately, and that’s due, for the most part, to the nature of my current line of work. I’m immersed in one of the many campaign teams working towards the upcoming 2016 national and local elections, and confidentiality is among the defining attributes of my particular position. Read more…