COMMENTARY: Hikmat Sharquiyyah (Thoughts of the Eastbound)

QUEZON CITY (MindaNews / 05 January) — Traditions come from different perspectives. Each one seeing the world from that  person’s lens or angle. This has been the challenge of scholars, writing from their own lens and at times unable to see the world from another worldview.

When you see academics and historians write, you may notice several peculiarities. They may write in the tradition of their mentors, or they may write in the genre of their discipline, as the ode normally goes “History is written in the eyes of the victors.”

Academic writing has been always viewed from the vantage point of western standards and concepts and have fairly established notions of how writing is done and how writing should be presented. However structured this may be, the critique is it shall always be from a western perspective, hence does not speak of the people’s soul.

There are scholars and intellectuals who now journey in an alternative path, one that refuses notions that have become bandwagon in nature, identities that are imagined and imposed and thus history rewritten to fit the imposed perspective, with scholars joining the bandwagon in order to be part of the victor’s label and in the process being included in the “labelization process.”

What we have failed to realize, is writing from the margins and in the eyes of the east as we truly are, should start as an intellectual discipline. Many of us, after being schooled in the universities continue to write and quote from the west as a proof of intellectual development and forget to dive into the much ancient and deeper sea of wisdom of the east. And because the vantage point of academic credential is the western standards, there is a void in the continuing process of accepting the historical and narrative notions of identity.

Coming from a tradition of eastern scholarship is a challenge for many of our intellectuals and members of the academe. Many prefer the rabblings of Foucault, or Heidegger, or even Nietzsche than embrace the simplicity of Lao Tzu, the directness of Buddha, the common sense of the Dalai lama or the spirituality of Rumi. This in itself is a problem for the philosophers and intellectuals of this country who continue to bask in the thoughts of the west as a way of expressing themselves.

We are a globalized knowledge-based economy, which means there is osmosis of knowledge, but it seems our thinkers have chosen to absorb knowledge instead of generating homegrown knowledge based on our innate Philosophical nature, the east. Is there a way we can slowly wean ourselves from Gharbzadeghi (westoxification) and slowly swim in the sea of Sharqhegi  (easthood) to fully own our identity and not assume what others impugn on us.

Realization is a gift that takes time. May we hope to see that intellectual salvation and hence philosophical freedom can come from the west who seeks to impose its worldview. May we find the answers to and become philosophically whole again.

(MindaViews is the opinion section of MindaNews. “Hikmat Sharquiyyah” means “Thoughts of the Eastbound.” Yusuf Roque Santos Morales, PhD is the Focal Person in Charge of the Bureau on Peace and Conflict Resolution of the National Commission on Muslim Filipinos.  He is a Professor of Islamic Studies, Sociology and Strategic Research and adviser of the Al-Qalam Institute for Muslim Identities in Southeast Asia. Morales is a Senior Fellow of the Philippine Institute for Peace Violence and Terrorism Research and the Institute for Comparative and Advanced Studies)