The Limits of Academic Civility

By the Congress of Teachers/Educators for Nationalism and Democracy

October 11, 2006
Posted by Bulatlat

“Academic freedom” exists among the faculty of the University to some extent because, within our limited sphere of action and thought, all of its members are considered approximately equal in their possession of power or lack thereof. A situation in which a military man talks to an academic cannot exactly be characterized as a propitious and equal academic encounter. One is trained to impose order by force, while the other advances knowledge by thinking “disorderly” thoughts. One is an expert on human extermination, while the typical representative of the latter hardly knows heads or tails of the business of killing people. The authoritarian culture of the military is completely antithetical to the ideal culture of the University. The beauty of the University is not the fact that we can simply think or fantasize whatever we want to, but that we can actually think against the ruling ideas of the dominant groups and classes in society and still be protected to some extent by our intransigent and impudent claim to “academic freedom.”

“Academic freedom” is imperiled not by a “surplus” of oppositional and critical thought but precisely when the dominant political regime attempts to turn the university into a naked tool for the perpetuation of its power and when it seeks to expel, punish or curb the defiant voices of protest within the academe by means of McCarthyite witch-hunting.

The most serious threat to scientific thought and the spirit of inquiry is not the act of throwing eggs at government functionaries or generals in rare moments of rage. Rather, it is posed by the all too common occurrence of faculty members being reduced to fanatical functionaries and court poets of the powers-that-be. The latter type of “academic” is also known to develop grandiose ideas of his own significance, power and even intellect in direct proportion to the amount of money stashed away in his bank account. In the final analysis, they are just paid hacks with professorial pretensions who do not deserve even the most civil intellectual treatment in the academic context. They should just quit the academe and take jobs in the field of advertising and political slogan-writing instead. When we become tired of their mantras, we even have the right to say to them, “Sell your voodoo ointments somewhere else! We can’t pay you for them.”

The “egging” of AFP Chief of Staff, Gen. Hermogenes Esperon, Jr., at UP Diliman has become a convenient pretext for some professorial state jesters to call for a crackdown on activists and activism on the Diliman campus. Gen. Esperon, also known as the “Hello, Garci General” is the head and representative of an institution which has been widely condemned if not reviled, both nationally and internationally for its evident role in the systematic murder of hundreds of activists, journalists, intellectuals and priests. These murders were and are still being accomplished with the utmost brazenness and impunity on the part of the perpetrators. The irony today is that those who pelted Esperon with eggs and mud at the UP Faculty Center are themselves being accused of having acted with “impunity”!

How can anything be more absurd than bearing down upon some harmless egg throwers when the real culprits, criminals and rotten eggs are left unpunished for their crimes against society. Such an eventuality would surrender justice to mere form. Have we already forgotten the “Garci tapes”? Have we forgotten the tragic fates of Karen Empeño and Sherlyn Cadapan? Were they given the proper “academic civility”  by their military abductors? Do we forget the daily indignities and humiliating poverty that we suffer in order that our politicians, generals and their professorial jesters can swim up to their necks in the taxes we pay? Shame on us if we have forgotten all this. Because it means that we have lost the power to be angry at what is happening outside of our campus and have likewise become totally incapable of understanding the sources of the anger seething within it. Even we, who live and breath the life of teachers and students to our very core, have the right to be angry at the travesties of justice we daily see before our eyes.

There are indeed limits to academic civility and these are where the struggles for real social justice begin. Posted by Bulatlat

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