Enemies of Intellectual Freedom

Jose Maria Sison

July 19, 1961

“If our University is to remain the bulwark of academic freedom in the country, its advocates should now identify with the antagonistic forces that seek to undermine, bend or crush it.

For quite some time the University of the Philippines as bulwark of Academic Freedom has been under fire. Between now and ten or twenty years or even more, it shall be subjected to more severe tests. We can easily make this claim because it seems that a tradition of progress has not yet been firmly established as contraposed to a tradition of tradition. Also because definitely and surely Academic Freedom has not yet come to grips in an overt and most decisive manner with an enemy, more covert than that one already exposed and identified by Dr. Jose Rizal, by the Revolution of 1896 and by the grand Unexpurgated Rizalist tradition. There will still come a time when level memories of the Great Plebeian, Andres Bonifacio, and the Great Nationalist, Claro M. recto will stir into greater action the usually coy academic community in the face of the suppressive measures taken against the reception of certain which these heroes would particularly wish to sweep the youth of the land in a massive release of democracy from the death-hold of a reactionary few.

If our university is to remain the bulwark of Academic Freedom in the country, its advocates should now identify clearly the antagonistic forces that seek to undermine, bend or crush it. To know these is to be alert and certainly leads to the consolidation of progressive elements in the university and to the ensuring of the stable spheres of Academic Freedom. Otherwise, if we fail to do so now and when another crisis does occur, our own surprise would lead immediately to confusion in our ranks and alienation, and minimally it would lead many of us into inaction—an active factor no matter what the inactive individual may say about himself.

Conveniently, these antagonistic forces can be identified as, first,the anti-progressive and second, the pseudo-progressive. These are the most formidable enemies. We come to identify these only because we can learn positively in particular and broad ways their operations in known situations. Knowing one’s enemies for valid and already experienced reasons would lead to an objective ability to look forward and more importantly to meet them in our day-to-day lives. It would also serve to explode naivete as well as surprised rigidity. These forces possess the most awesome and insidious machinery beside the state itself

I. The anti-progressive force

Let us examine the first antagonist. Why is it called “anti-progressive”? It is done so, both in terms of doctrine and real process.Doctrinally, this force denies the idea of progress; it sharply resents
the principle of Academic Freedom born of the Enlightenment. To this force belongs the mind that is basically of an eschatological predisposition. It is the frame of mind which is ever on the look-out for the anti-Christ and the Day of Judgment to cap off all suffering requisite for heavenly bliss. Essentially, this kind of consciousness is geared to the cliff, to the end. In the determination to keep the tension of fear and faith, of finitude and wishful infinity, it was always staved off the progressive influence of science and the sense of social continuity. However, no matter what “progressiveness” can be ascribed now to the ideology or belief in its dire allowances to the scientific movement, it cannot be taken lightly that it still basically contradicts and meddles with scientific endeavor whenever it chooses to. The classic case of Galileo has recently been repeated in Rome. A scientist delving into the secrets of the development of a human embryo has been restrained
and prevented by the Pope from furthering his research. There are many kinds of sacerdotal intervention; but briefly, the final resort is always the impository notion that one has to choose between the world and the other world. It is not being forgotten here, though, that there are even priests who engage in scientific work: but it is not also being forgotten that their purpose is to curb the philosophy of science propaganda-wise mostly.

While the church should be harmless because it even avows to have contempt for worldly power, even for the rational and scientific method, it is extremely dangerous because it has organization and a hypocritical worldly power to maneuver and enforce a narrow set of dogmas in our country. Because it is the most numerous church by the grace of Spanish Colonialism, it can impose its will very easily. In their helpless babyhood, seventy-five per cent of the citizenry have been baptized as a matter of communal requirement. The church is endowed with all the facilities—tax-free schools, publications, the pulpit in every parish, lay action clubs, hatchet politicians and so on and so forth—to influence public opinion before any progressive idea can sift through holy censorship. Ordinarily only about two per cent of the people tightly support the church but they have the resources and “respectability” to determine mass reaction.

As a factor offering and assuming a body of beliefs and thoughts, the church towers mostly all over the land. At least, it looms large enough on an equal footing with the state in their legal separateness.

However, during casual times—when the contradiction between the church as an autocratic entity and the state as a supposedly popular and democratic entity does not become intensified on some burning issue—it has always been well and convenient for so many persons wishing to hold government positions to assume the front of piety. There have been several instances when candidates for the highest political positions scandalously woo the sponsorship of the church hierarchy. Of course, support from the pulpit comes to return for certain concessions. With regard to the specific issue of Academic Freedom. it is very pertinent to cite the fact that the hierarchy usually has the biggest hand in the appointment of the secretary of education. Why? the indoctrination machine of the church has to be preserved and expanded. So lately sectarian universities and colleges have been blooming all around, tax-free. The Rizal Law has been allowed to be circumvented and haughty, false Filipinos are on the increase through these friar institutions. Furthermore, one should mark well that sectarian schools cater generally to the most economically powerful segment of the population.

Now, should it be a surprise if the bogey of Communism is raised against the university from Contress or from the City Hall of Quezon City? Is the secular and relatively free character of the university offering too much competition to a holy educational network? Why is the bogey of Communism being hitched to “godlessness”? Who are these complainants? They are persons clearly identified with church interests. Within the university, who are they who would betray the university? There is no need to mark them out with tar and feathers; they are very much recognizable even if one does not trace directly their typewriters to those below a sacristy and their funds to Sunday collections. While a chapel stands here and its student and faculty organizations are lording it over here number-wise, what more do they want? There are several possibilities—a pious curriculum, a department of religion, a beatific president and so on and so forth. Egad, the University of the Philippines is a secular and liberal institution as ensured by the Constitution and by the blood of heroes buffeted by the devil that was the feudal oneness of church and state.

The medieval menace more often works insidiously, however. A very recent and very classic example can be cited here. Only last academic year, the lady chairman and vice-chairman of a discipline committee succeeded in fixing the content of a new course according to their holy leanings. These ladies are ardent admirers of Cardinal Newman, Gilson, G. K. Chesterton, Maritain, Dawson and the like. Above all, St. Thomas Aquinas.

Perhaps this kind of infiltration is the most dangerous and imminent one on the campus right now. Every intelligent university student should ever be alert against it. Otherwise, he might still inherit the wind—“loaded” courses.

Conclusively, in real and economic terms, the church remains an anti-progressive force in the most outright fashion. The notorious friar lands continue to withhold true and effective social progress.
Aside from these, it maintains profit-making schools, air-conditioned convents, churches, jewelry and a mountain of piety. It prefers to preserve its parasitic role in society. As it spawns in the status quo, it is always suspicious of any attempt to reform it. It is reactionary. It shares rights and respectability with the biggest property-owners—the landlords, high bureaucrats and the comprador clique. It enjoys a symbolic relationship with them. They are its most generous patrons
while it offers them moral protection.

II. The pseudo-progressive force

Let us confront the second antagonist. Why is it called pseudo progressive? It is done so, because it pretends and appears to be progressive whereas in the long view it is not. Because it misleads,
through advertising techniques, that it leads the Philippines to progress under its economic domination and political insinuations. This “pseudo-progressive” force has to a large extent succeeded in making the Filipino people think that it has been solely or chiefly responsible for any Philippine progress, in intellectual and in real or economic terms While the sight of its possessions, its efficiency and furbished gimmicks may lead Filipinos to subservient and dependent attitudes, the real fact is that the foreign force has made progress for itself, exploitative progress and such progress competes with and by its monopoly operations withholds whatever progress Filipinos can make for themselves in their own country. This foreign force can only skim the cream and whatever share our countrymen may have from its enterprises here and exploitation of our natural resources constitutes mere crumbs.

It is very important to note that the materials recently placed under investigation for being Communist or Communistic have a high and strong nationalist character and temper. It is to be expected that attempts will continuously be made to suppress “seditious” writings and thereby stifle Academic Freedom eventually. As nationalism keeps on becoming stronger, the bogey of Communism,— the most convenient bogey of them all—will be raised frantically and desperately. Soon there will be the day when our nationalism measures up and can stand up to what we call the pseudo-progressive force. As of now, nationalism as a revolutionary towards social progress and a wider democracy is moving forward mostly in silence. As the needs of the people—of economic independence and social equity—continues to push the issue of nationalism into its proper power, the worst is to be expected from imperialist reaction.

Right now, within the university, it seems dangerous to be called a nationalist. Everytime a nationalist appears within the ranks of the intelligentsia, he is placed under surveillance and it is seen to it that his “nationalism” is a simple case of sinophobia. If his national vision goes beyond Binondo and Chinatown and it is also noted that his is critical of American economic policies, he becomes a marked man; he is called an “anti-American,” though how much he loves the American
people and is critical only of American policies. Illogically, he is necessarily tagged as “anti-Filipino” and “Communist” all at the same time.

Only the relentless and fearless stand of the late Senator Claro M. Recto and a few men of staunch hearts have kept the issue of nationalism burning as it should. There was once a time when mass
organization could effectively carry the issue of nationalism; that was even the time when the Parity Amendment had not yet marred our Constitution. But, unfortunately behind-the-scenes proposals were made by Americans to President Roxas to emasculate this nationalist force so that the Parity Amendment could get through—otherwise he would not get the much-needed war damage payments. (Is this what one gets for dying for Americans?)

As superficially taken up by lesser politicians, Nationalism has appeared only to be an attempt of the Filipino to get hold of the distributive system of the battered economy. Or, an attempt to beg for a
bigger export quota from the same old Mother America. Or, an attempt to have a few Americans firms here accede to tricky transfers to a few Filipinos. Here it seems nationalism is stopping and the anti-nationalists are gaining: they are also beating the dream that is just for “pride” that we wish to transform American private ownership. But, in fact we are even more than proud to have our nationalism applied in the way that a Filipino family operates a multi-million marketing firm that markets American products mostly. However, even as we open to be interested mainly in gaining the marketing system and are more than willing to be swamped with American products. The Chinese flagrantly keep dummies and the Japanese are moving in with American sponsorship. But the needs of the people will continue to generate a strong clamor for nationalization. Soon its opposition to imperialism will become stronger and stronger. And the youth in the university would have to stand on the grounds of Academic Freedom.

Perhaps, the propaganda-wise pseudo-progressive force would invoke with the highest pitch its Thomasite and Peace Corps contributions to the Philippines. And, at the most, it would lay claim to the whole development of liberalism and academic freedom in the Philippines.

That should not weaken the determination of the Filipino people to make their rightful demands. In return of Greek gifts, the Americans extracted tremendously from our resources. Their liberal policy was incidental to the commercial and economic interests of America. Of necessity the she had to adopt soft policies ingratiatingly purposive contrast with the previous colonialist, Spain, that had a rough and rusty style. Besides, she had to make her products sell by teaching English and importing North American communication patterns.

It would be a betrayal of Dr. Rizal, the Lunas, Lopez Jaena, and all the patriots, from the ilustrado class to say that we owe all to America the spirit of liberalism here. We owe it to them compatriots who had gained their sense of freedom from the Spanish liberals and all the diverse free minds of Europe during their stay there. America could not have done other than insure effectively its economic and political hold over the Philippines. They are the masters of public relations.

As conclusion to this critique, the connectibility of theses forces antagonistic ultimately to Academic Freedom should be pointed out. They are complimentary; they have well developed this historical relationship in our country. The church is the most solid facade and static rallying point of native anti-nationalist elements. And imperialism has transformed itself with it and equally does not show its ugly head openly. The meeting ground of these anti-progressive and pseudo-progressive forces is oftentimes the State itself with its willing, bribed and buttressed bureaucracy.