Vivos Voco*: Necropolitics and Liberalism’s Rhetoric of Redemption


bu-op-icons-sarahWhere autocrats rule, they call on the living.

How do contemporary forms of subjugation operate? For over two decades, the (Focauldian) critique of biopolitics has gained currency in explaining modern forms of subjugation. Biopolitics involves the control of an entire population through subjection of bodies under disciplinary apparatuses in order to reproduce global monopoly capitalism. Given the rapacious nature of the system, however, the account of biopwer fails to explain how and why governments deploy contradictory modes of governmentality, i.e., dictatorship and democracy.**

Who still remembers the straight out messianic-millenarian spirit that shaped George Bush’s domestic politics and foreign policy, and “America’s War on Terror” in the aftermath of 9-11? How do we account for the current genocide inflicted upon Palestinians by the US backed Israeli occupation of Gaza? Can we find good reason for President Aquino’s forceful defence of the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) in his national address on the SC decision declaring DAP unconstitutional? How much have we heard about the human rights violations suffered by the farmworkers in Hacienda Luisita since Aquino’s campaign for change in 2010 dominated mainstream mass media?


What do the victims of America’s War on Terror, Israel’s genocide in Gaza, and the Cojuanco-Aquino’s control over Hacienda Luisita have in common? The conditions of their existence nullify legal categories such as sovereignty, nation, democracy, general will, and people. Necropolitics (Mbembe) reduces people to bare life and subjects them to the power of death through technologies of destruction that make inscriptions of disciplinary mechanisms on the body look lame. The creation of death-worlds in which populations and homelands are subjected to annihilation is none other than necropolitics.

Bush’s National Security Strategy (September 2002)*** catapulted preventive wars to official state doctrine. This has given imperialist America the license to act unconstrained by international law whenever and wherever it is “necessary.” The ruling elite of America created the phony Iraq threat to reenergize its millenarian creed and the fatal right-wing myth of America’s destiny to reign supreme over all other nations. Apart from the discourse of American exceptionalism, the consent for war is clinched through the rhetoric of redemption.

A war between good and evil is supposedly raging. America partakes in this warfare as a redeemer nation. From this plot, it follows that a strong sense of messianic national faith is necessary for moral victory; and to set the world free from all evil. This is how a population is biopolitically targeted and mobilized by their governments to accept its necropolitical impositions elsewhere.

The US backed Israeli genocide of the Palestinians is not immune from neo-conservative evangelical myths. They tend to excuse fascistic commands that exact death on a population. The second coming of Christ, the Messiah, so the necropolitical myth goes, is anchored on the reclamation of Israel from the Palestinians. This internal propaganda overlooks and justifies control over resources and military bases for which wars are carried out.

The imaginary claim of the US being the global police force responsible for the maintenance of global peace and the “export of democracy” in places where it does not exist cannot be dismissed as “merely ideological.” It has, for the longest time, used this line of thinking for military expansion worldwide. The power of ideology lies in its capacity to turn beliefs into consequences. To dismiss America’s messianism or Israel’s big claim on the Messiah’s second coming as lies that merely cover up capitalist economic plunder is to assume that imperialist masters know better than their vulgar and barbaric ideas demonstrate. They don’t. This is why the politics of anti-imperialism is necessarily a struggle for a just economic system and a humane system of ideas/thought.

The US backed Aquino regime has been successful in maintaining a media blackout on the grim conditions of farm workers in Hacienda Luisita. Ugnayan ng Magsasaka sa Asyenda’s (UMA)status on its facebook wall bears repeating:

“Unknown to most of the 52 survivors and relatives of victims who filed the complaints – criminal charges against perpetrators of the 2004#HaciendaLuisita massacre were dismissed in 2010, during the very first year of BS Aquino’s term as President. Today, more human rights violations are piling up in Hacienda Luisita. A farmer leader was murdered last November. Burning of farmhuts and homes, destruction of crops, and looting of farm animals and tools have become common occurrence. Farmers are mauled, serioulsy injured, nabbed and detained in a series of incidents involving private security men, police and the military. Even the DAR has been directly involved in evicting tillers and destroying crops using government equipment and resources. Another questionable eviction notice was issued to farmers only last week, stating that a cooperative farm hut will be destroyed by the DAR today, July 27, a Sunday – a day before#SONA2014.

#SONA2014 & #HaciendaLuisita: What happened to BS Aquino’s promises?”

Necropolitics and Liberalism

If the Aquino regime’s stance on Hacienda Luisita after the SC ruling on redistribution is anything to go by, this administration is not even a reform government.

Of late, the nation got wind of the the President’s exercise of unlimited discretionary powers through the Executive’s Dibursement Acceleration Program (DAP). Staunch critics of this program have succeeded in explaining this so-called “stimulus package” as yet another mechanism invented in the interest of bureaucrat capitalism or reaping profits from one’s position in the government bureaucracy.

Economists critical of the Aquino regime argue that the amount of Aquino’s DAP is too small for a stimulus program from which an extensive and immediate economic impact is expected. The U.S. stimulus package makes up 20%-30% of its GNP and 4%-7% of its GDP. Aquino’s DAP was a non-stimulus package that was only 0.5% of the GDP from 2011-2013.****

This line is reinforced by the agit-prop disseminated in community meetings, mobile patrol teams in various cities, and online. DAP can’t be a stimulus package and it is exposed as the following: 1) DAP as Aquino’s pork barrel; 2) DAP as funds used to bribe senators for the impeachment of Renato Corona (who was chief justice when the SC ruling on the redistribution of Hacienda Luisita was made; 3) DAP as funds stolen from social services.

Apologies for DAP which include its intention to address pipeline problems and issues of absorptive capacity after Congress has approved the GAA are offered to highlight the technicalities behind an unconstitutional act that was implemented “in good faith.” They are easily trounced by the anti-Aquino agit-prop line on DAP cited above. After all, it will not be easy to dispute people’s first-hand experience of poverty amidst rising prices of basic consumer goods and the lack of access to basic social services. The movement against the Aquino regime has effectively captured the mass line that reflects the experience of the Filipino masses, and transformed the same into an oppositional discourse of empowerment.

The political survival of the Aquino regime is hinged on its maintenance of the status quo, a condition that is fraught with graft and corruption, severe poverty, militarization in the countryside, and police-aided demolitions in urban centers. Has Aquino’s Liberal Party gone fascist? He now faces an impeachment case for culpable violation of the constitution and betrayal of public trust. Will this oppositional move push the Aquino regime to take off its liberal mask and show us more of its fascistic bent?

The “clash of civilizations” or those so-called culture wars waged in the name of religion, ethnicity, and gender are argued by liberals as the only possible conflict scenarios in our contemporary world. The solution lies in governments’ capacity to manage risks and for civil society to cultivate inclusive and democratic cultural practices. Many were sold to these postal ideas (the end of class struggle and redistributive justice as the basis of post-politics) until the financial crash that began in 2008. The Occupy Movement in Europe and North America has raised the struggle for economic justice anew. Meanwhile, postmodern epigones are still busy trying to make sense of the imperialist economic work on fads and bubbles, and how these might contribute to civil society’s various political campaigns for intelligent networks that integrate vital social services such as information and communication.

Post-politics largely draws from the ideology of liberalism to reinforce neoliberalism’s manufacture of ‘useful beliefs in changing times.’ The discourse of post-politics has been the substance of capitalist parliamentarism in capitalist formations and pro-imperialist reformism in the global south. Adherents are quick to ward off revolutionary currents and label them obstinate, outmoded, and terrorist. In a world where democracies are defined by the IMF-WB’s Structural Adjustment Programs (SAPs), reformist liberals also carry the task of forestalling agitation and opposition when democratic rituals shrink to sheer executions of austerity plans.

“Austerity measures” is decidedly one of the most criminal euphemisms ever invented. The term lends technicality to scandalous corruption by government officials resulting in budget cuts that have proven to be fatal to the survival of peoples. Austerity measures are the same policies that bloat government budget for military spending and debt servicing. In his SONA, Aquino is bound to speak highly of his administration as a staunch imperialist lackey. Proof of which is his budget for military spending and debt servicing.

Let us brace ourselves for the spectacle of the head of state boasting about how he has pimped Filipinos to foreign capital; and how he has used our taxes to help big business raise its margin of profit through public-private partnerships (PPPs). Expect despicable coreographed applauses from his allies in congress at every turn. Don’t be surprised to hear the president talk about his administration’s contribution to the ‘cultivation of democracy in a sovereign nation.’ Ninoy Aquino loves to think of himself as a sovereign subject only insofar as he subjects national sovereignty at the service of American Imperialism.

Police reinforcement and the construction of barricades along Commonwealth Avenue, on the one hand, and the Aquino regime’s disposition on Peace Negotiations with its “rebel enemies,” on the other, also speak of the two contradictory modes of governmentality: democracy and dictatorship. On the people’s right to freedom of assembly, this “liberal” regime has this to say: “Resist us so we can crush you!” In its refusal to sit with the NDFP on the Comprehensive Agreement on Socio-Economic Reforms (CASER) to address the roots of the armed conflict; and its injunction for the NPA to give up its struggle for national liberation so that the peace talks may resume, the Aquino regime is actually saying “Peace talks with us so we can crush you!” The MILF knows this just as well.

It is interesting how defenders of President Aquino paint him as the JFK of Philippine politics. “He may not be perfect but he is the best so far.” Lest we forget, it was JFK in tandem with Robert S. McNamara who turned US foreign policy toward the direction of the criminally militaristic. His years as president of the US coincided with the years that spawned the foundations for resuming the national liberation struggle in the Philippines.

National liberation movements in third world nations hold fast to their anti-imperialist, anti-fascist struggle that pretty much make up the class politics it upholds since the post-war retooling of US Imperialism. These social movements in South America, Africa, and Asia face the task of fulfilling the promise of liberation for which their peoples fought and won against their colonial masters right before US Imperialism colonized them anew.

Their wager for socialism has been well under way long before the current and brave turn to communist philosophizing and book-writing. The challenge that national liberation struggles and the communist turn in philosophy and social theory pose against the necropolitical rule of oligarchs who enjoy total immunity for their crimes is as humbling and rousing as the combined elements of the music of the Internationale.

Where autocrats kill, the living fight back and struggle to construct another world.(

SONA Article for my Blood Rush column in Bulatlat

*”I call on the living.”
**Neferti X.M. Tadiar. Death-by-Death. In Kontra-Gahum: Academics Against Political Killings. Rolando Tolentino and Sarah S. Raymundo eds. Quezon City: Ibon Foundation Inc.
***My discussion on US Global War strategy owes much from the essay “The Faith that Supports U.S. Violence: Comparative Reflections on the Arrogance of Empire by Herbert P. Bix shared by Dr. Siao Campoamor when consulted on the topic.
**** From the 2014 Midyear Birdtalk, July 19, 2014, UP College of Education.

Sarah Raymundo is a full-time faculty at the University of the Philippines-Center for International Studies (UP-CIS Diliman) and a member of the National Executive Board of the All U.P. Academic Employees Union. She is the current National Treasurer of the Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT) and the External Vice Chair of the Philppine Anti-Impeiralist Studies (PAIS). She is also a member of the Editorial Board of Interface: A Journal for Social Movements.

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