MARGINALIA: The gulf between the science and practice of politics

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MAKATI CITY (MindaNews /3 June) – At the opening ceremony of the Philippine Political Science Association (PPSA) International Conference held last month in Cebu City, the keynote speech – “The Problem of a National(ist) Method” – was delivered by Prof. Dr. Patricio N. Abinales of the University of Hawaii at Manoa.

During the Open Forum, I asked the keynote speaker, thus:

“The Asian Institute of Management is located in the Philippines, training hundreds of managers here and abroad for many decades. Now, the PPSA is celebrating more than 50 decades of its existence. On the other hand, we all know the state of political management and governance in the country. My question is: what practical steps will you advise the PPSA to continue closing the gap, or relatively closing the gap, between the science and practice of politics in the Philippines?”

Eager as I was to listen to his answer, I was surprised to receive his extremely economical response which was something like this: “I will give you the answer in a karaoke tonight!”

Amused by his thrifty remark, I just remained silent afterward.

In Panel 2B “Reframing Justice” of the conference, a young lady professor from Keio University, Japan, presented a paper entitled, “The Multiplicity of Violence and Divided Political Perceptions by the Extrajudicial Killings: Why President Duterte Could be Popular in Muslim Mindanao.”

At the outset of her presentation, my impression was that she has undergone field research in areas of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao. In her presentation proper, however, she made the following points: (1) In the ARMM area, to have a rifle in every household is just normal; (2) The Muslim community is described as one which is composed of ‘Muhajirun’ and ‘Ansar’, and ‘Muhajirun’ means jihadists while ‘Ansar’ are those who help the jihadists; and (3) President Duterte’s federalism agenda is an example of political violence.

In the Open Forum, the lady moderator announced that she will only entertain two questions due to time constraint. Although I was raising my hand from the very beginning, a professor from Manila was recognized. After him, the lady moderator said that for the sake of gender equality, she will entertain a lady from the audience. But afterward, without any explanation, the moderator surprisingly broke her own rule and entertained another lady from the audience. I was about to say, “For the sake of gender equality, to entertain yet another male questioner – 2 males and 2 females – is just fair,” but I decided not to pursue.

If only given the chance to ask, I would have raised the following points:

Rifle in every household

“A cousin of my wife lives in Mamasapano (Maguindanao) and I know for a fact that there is not a single rifle in her house, nor in any of the five houses surrounding hers! Is your claim based on a reliable study? Have you really gone to every house in the whole ARMM area?

“If your claim is really true, then Babu Monera (an old lady resident of Mamasapano who momentarily became popular due to her interview by GMA News TV) could have used her rifle against the SAF heroes who enjoyed looting her small sari-sari store!

“Have you contemplated on the logical consequence of your claim in terms of loose firearms? Can you imagine the huge quantity of such hypothetical loose firearms and how the Philippine government could deal with it?”

‘Muhajirun’ means jihadists

“Madame Professor! Please show to us any Arabic-to-English dictionary which defines ‘Muhajirun’ as ‘jihadists’ or ‘those who perform jihad’.

“’Muhajirun’ means ‘emigrants’ and please do not confuse it with the word ‘mujahidun’ (those who perform jihad)!”

The fact is that the Muslim citizens of the Islamic State in Madinah were composed of the ‘Muhajirun’ – the emigrants from Makkah who were driven away from their homeland – and the ‘Ansar’ – literally, the ‘Helpers’ which refers to the Muslims of Madinah who helped and gave shelter to the oppressed ‘Muhajirun’.

Federalism equals political violence

“As I see it, federalism can be considered a form of political violence if and only if it is arbitrarily imposed on the entire nation without any referendum or similar process or processes. But it is not so, in the case of the present government’s federalism agenda.”

Besides, my take is that to view federalism as a form of political violence has the unintended tendency to overstretch the meaning of the word ‘violence’, and chances are, if everything is a form of violence, then the word ‘violence’ itself would be reduced to meaninglessness – a situation which may be regarded by some people as linguistically ‘violent’.

So is the concept of security in International Relations. When everything is securitized, this state of affairs renders empty elegance and unmeaning futility to the word ‘security’ itself.

In the closing session in which the names of the ten newly elected PPSA board of directors were announced after a secret balloting, I was imagining the crucial role of the association – the largest group of political scientists in the country – in trying to close the gap between the science and practice of politics.

The fact that blatantly inaccurate information such as ‘muhajirun equals mujahidun’ is disseminated in its annual international conference shows that closing this gap is indeed a herculean task on the part of PPSA.

[MindaViews is the opinion section of MindaNews. Mansoor L. Limba, PhD in International Relations, is a writer, educator, blogger, chess trainer, and translator (from Persian into English and Filipino) with tens of written and translation works to his credit on such subjects as international politics, history, political philosophy, intra-faith and interfaith relations, cultural heritage, Islamic finance, jurisprudence (fiqh), theology (‘ilm al-kalam), Qur’anic sciences and exegesis (tafsir), hadith, ethics, and mysticism. He can be reached at mlimba@diplomats.com, or http://www.mlimba.com and http://www.muslimandmoney.com.]

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