Tag Archives: news

Human Rights Day, the Gabo Prize, Danica Mae and the murderers who go unpunished

10 December is International Human Rights Day. In the same week the Philippine Congress has been busy trying to bring back the death penalty. It is not simply a step back for the country of my birth – more like running backwards down a dark alley littered with shattered rocks and corpses, wearing no helmet and blindfolded. Since the current president, Rodrigo Duterte, came to power the country has been gripped with a madness that his most blind supporters continue to embrace.

I wrote “Danica Mae” in response to the state-sanctioned killings that have summarily ended the lives of nearly 6,000 people as of this writing. I wish it wasn’t necessary to write it. The translation – or re-vision – in English, along with two other poems I originally wrote in Filipino many years ago, got the attention of Mark Statman, the judge for the Gabo Prize for Literature in Translation and Multi-Lingual Texts. He says

“There is something beautifully and sadly dense about these poems, which the poet, Jim Pascual Agustin, himself has translated. I found myself returning to them because I found them at once mysterious and ordinary, describing what I can only think of as tragic events (in “Danica Mae,” the actual death of one child, in “Standing in Tagatay,” the learned careless callousness in the life of another). The final short poem, “The Long and Brief History of the Bald Old Man and the Busted Pot,¨ presents the reader with a different kind of tragedy, a view of a long life at its unhappy end. Not easy to want to read, these poems nonetheless demand it. That demand is what I think I want most from a poem.”

Lunch Ticket has featured the winning work in its latest issue, Winter/Spring 2017, edited by Arielle Silver. Here is a link to the Filipino version that I posted on this blog earlier.

gabo-prize-danica-mae-lunch-ticket

Please read the issue, leave a note to the editor, express your reaction somewhere, anywhere, should you find resonance in what is plaguing my country of birth today.

Some links for those who might wish to know more about what has been happening:

ABS-CBN NEWS ITEM

NEW YORK TIMES photo essay

HUMAN RIGHTS DAY OF PROTEST

NEVER AGAIN

iDefend

My hope is that you share this post far and wide. Perhaps those in power may read it and respond. Perhaps those who feel they have little power to change this tragic course may find courage and learn that they actually do wield something that no violator of rights can ever take away.

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Water Will No Longer Be Just Water

The news of what befell the people of Japan on Friday continues to shock us. It is a tragedy made worse with the threat of terrible nuclear meltdown – ah, nuclear energy, that “safest energy source” according to some.

In 1995 I wrote a poem (in both English and Filipino) about a tsunami that hit an island in my homeland. It would be nearly a decade later that the most devastating tsunami would strike many countries.

That poem was posted HERE in 2009.  The Filipino version is included in my book Baha-bahagdang Karupukan.


I Crushed Your Life, Get on With It

torture-cube

Original image from Amnesty International

No apologies.  No legal action.  Anything goes.  Whatever you did in the past is water under the bloody bridge.

US President Obama’s statements regarding the CIA’s treatment of “terrorism suspects” is simply disgusting however you look at it.  It is consistent with what previous US administrations have done in the past century to people within American borders and those living in different parts of the world.  Can you hear the sound of rattling bones?

It seems forgetting is a disease that quickly latches on even the most seemingly pro-human rights political leaders of the world.  Is the time for dreaming and hoping over?

Imagine if the same policy were used throughout the world.  Orwell’s Animal Farm comes to mind.

-o-

Obama accused of “condoning torture”

17 April 2009

US President Barack Obama has been accused of “condoning torture” following his announcement that CIA agents who used harsh interrogation techniques on terrorism suspects will not be prosecuted.

Amnesty International has called on the US administration to initiate criminal investigations and prosecutions of those responsible for carrying out acts of torture, including waterboarding, in its “war on terror”.

“President Obama’s statements in the last days have been very disappointing. In saying that no one will be held to account for committing acts of torture, the US administration is in effect condoning torture,” said Daniel Gorevan, of Amnesty International’s Counter Terror with Justice campaign.

“It’s saying that US personnel can commit acts of torture and the authorities will not take any action against them.

Read the rest of the Amnesty International article.
-o-


Walking to School

I browsed the Aljazeera English website today for the first time. They had a feature on the young students of Gaza as schools reopen after the Israeli bombardment.

I lingered on one photograph in the accompanying gallery. It wasn’t the one with rockets raining down UN schools, nor the one where people are running away screaming.

It was a photo of a young girl walking among the rubble of what looks like a classroom once. There is a charred metal skeleton of a desk on the right. Perhaps a blackboard once hung against the ashen wall.

Her dark, oversized jacket and pants merge with the burnt wall. Under her jacket she has a white shirt. It seems to glow in all that darkness. She must be not more than seven years of age, but looking down at her every step makes her seem much older. The fingers on her hand look like petals of a flower falling to the ground.

I sometimes look too much into things.

Here is a link to the photo.


Who Told You What

I can only imagine what it’s like in Gaza today, the 21st day of systematic bombing and intensified ground assault. I wouldn’t want to be a screaming child looking for my mother who is probably one of over a thousand dead.

Where I live it is the middle of summer in the Southern Hemisphere. The strong Southeaster winds are sweeping through this land, heeding no borders. This country I now call home is where the term Apartheid was born. A term that has been used to describe Israel’s treatment of Palestinians.

Read the rest of the article


Magicians and Bunnies in the Newsroom

Magicians are in a trade. They satisfy an audience’s craving for the fantastic, the impossible, the breathtaking. They know the best contraptions to use, the best colours of smoke to release, the slightest gesture to reveal and conceal at the precise moment. They suck you in a narrative of sorts, preparing and priming you for that special moment, and then a quick flourish and VOILA!

They know the tricks of the trade, so to speak.

Mainstream corporate media is in a trade. They are run with the intent to sell texts and images and, unlike the distant origins of journalism that strives to reveal the uncompromising truth, mainstream media aims to keep the status quo and not rock the boat of complacency. There are exceptions, of course, but in more recent times there have been fewer and fewer brave media people willing to risk their jobs and even their own lives by going against approved storylines and perspectives.

Those who put out “news” have many ways of revealing and concealing things. Some tricks are easy to spot as outright lies and fabrications. Some “news reports” are mere repetitions or muffled Amens to greater powers – political, corporate, religious, military, etc. – and, by mere repetition, are assumed to be facts by the less critical reader or “consumer” of news, details not meant to be questioned.

These types of media people view their readers as uncritical and feed them the same information from the same sources but spiced up or slightly changed to add some variety. Their positions remain the same.

It would be quite easy to pinpoint outright lies in a news article. Some tricks are more subtle and so we shall reveal just one of them for now.

In the aftermath of the historic “Throwing of the Shoes at Outgoing President Bush” – which to some people may seem a mundane and totally irrelevant event in world affairs – there has been an unprecedented flurry of activities from protest rallies in various parts of the world to show support for the reporter, proliferation of internet-based games depicting alternate scenarios, and numerous articles full of accurate or fictional information.


Read the rest of the article