Tuesday, August 9, 2011


The Controversial CCP Exhibit: Freedom of Expression?

I'm not going to post a picture of the controversial exhibition at the CCP because it is offensive to my Roman Catholic religion.

Here is what I think of the matter -

If the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP) were a private venue, it would have been fine. But since the CCP is a public venue, the argument stands - in this particular instance, this is not freedom of expression.

I am not arguing absolutely here. This exhibition is not something proper to our individual right to freedom of expression, in this particular instance, not because the artist is not free to express his or her creativity, in whatever craft or medium he or she chooses. Indeed any artist should be absolutely free to convey to our general appreciation whatever message, offensive or otherwise, is being carried by his or her artwork.

It is not proper to our individual right to freedom of expression not in the sense that the artist is not free to practice.

- selah -

We should as a society be free to be able to appreciate even the most provocative forms of art.

It is not proper not in the manner that it was expressed (though it is completely offensive to my religious sensibilities) but because it is not an expression that is relevant to the place where the exhibition is taking place.

The limited welcome of this form of art in Filipino society is hugely disproportionate to the scope and prestige of its actual venue, the CCP. Therefore, it is a freedom irresponsibly exercised.

To claim freedom of expression here - as is - without due respect to the freedom of others is to misconstrue the fundamental nature of human freedom.

All our freedoms have responsibilities attached to them. Every individual right is protected by a corresponding universal civic duty. In this instance, the freedom being expressed is irresponsible and therefore, an anathema to itself.

The artist is free to express his or her art form but in a venue more in keeping to that particular form of art (if he or she can find one) and this in order to preserve the public good which in this case is the general morality of the Filipino public (i.e. that prevailing sense of sanity that makes possible the flourishing of our wonderfully distinct Filipino culture).

It is this very morality that compels me to respect the artist's own individual freedom, at least in my own judgment about the matter, while preserving also the good of the Filipino public at large; a morality I draw from the strength of my Roman Catholic faith out of the love I have in God and in Jesus Christ; a morality I am sure I share in common with all our fellow citizens who like me, also find strength in the practice of any honorable human religion.

It could have been the right exhibit at the right venue. But it is the wrong exhibit in the wrong venue. It should be removed.

Finally, all passions aside, we should use this opportunity to learn from the matter and transform this untoward incident into a winning instance for our culture (in the strengthening of individual rights) and for our Republic (in the bettering of our common freedoms).

The Chicken and the Egg

"What came first the chicken or the egg?"

This very old trick question we can reframe in the context of this particular post as -

"What came first the freedom or the responsibility?"

Ok so, what came first, the chicken or the egg?

None. Since both the chicken and the egg represents a cycle of life where each one guarantees the existence of the other. This cycle is established on a timeless truth - a first principle.

The trick is to stop asking the question and start understanding the truth that exists in principle outside of the question.

Life can never be inimical to life.

Our freedom (like our life) is by nature, a human good. So we human beings insticntively reach out for it. Because it is a good, it is vulnerable to become corrupted.

Herein lies the conundrum. Because our freedom when it is corrupted stops the cycle.

Like the chicken and the egg question, freedom as a common human need is the safeguard of human responsibility.

In a society that is just, human freedom is understood to be authentic.

To live with false freedoms is to live the trick in the question instead of the truth that exists outside of it; the truth we must constantly strive to reach every moment, every day, despite of our constant asking; the truth seems to hide in plain sight.

Freedom without responsibility becomes an anathema to itself.

It leads to action without accountability, destroys the progress of liberty in any society, and uproots the moral foundations of any economy.

Mabuhay ang Pilipinas! God bless us all.

Freedom that is free is free indeed.

Common Human Needs