Heights Ateneo — The Official Literary and Artistic Publication and Organization of the Ateneo de Manila University

Neri shares how experience makes us political for others in the second HEIGHTS’ Creative Talks 2021

Kenzie Sy | Nov 21, 2021

In continuation of this year’s HEIGHTS Creative Talks, writer and lecturer Bernadette “Det” Neri tackled “We are Political Animals: Engaging the Political in Literature” last November 12, 2021. She highlights how culture influences people to become more political.

Pagpapakatao sa pakikipagkapwa-tao

Neri starts off her talk by emphasizing the importance of pagpapakatao sa pakikipagkapwa-tao. She mentions that humans have three important aspects, namely: emotion (the ability to feel physical emotions), cognition (ability to process thoughts and emotions), and action (ability to influence the culture and time a person is born into). Neri mentions that humans can also act upon society and history, alongside these three aspects.

For her, these aspects play a big role in culture and consequently in a person's art and style. Neri highlights the Philippines' "hetero-patriarchal" system as an example of how society has developed a culture that discriminates against people who do not conform to prevalent gender roles and stereotypes. “Kinakailangan tugunan ito dahil kung hindi tayo nakasusunod sa mga inaasahan sa atin ng ating lipunan, tayo ay didiskriminahin,” she said.

Further, people who face discrimination from the dominant hetero-patriarchal system in the country are already experiencing a political phenomenon. “‘Yun ang dahilan kung bakit tayo nagiging pulitikal,” she said.

Ugnayang Panlipunan

According to Neri, society has hierarchies that affect a person's livelihood, belief, ethnicity, gender, sexuality, and age, among others. “Napipilitan tayong makinig at sumunod sa katakdaan [ng lipunan],” Neri said, bringing her point forward in culture’s rules of what’s “acceptable” and “not acceptable”.

“Socialization becomes a part of ourselves and how we work,” Neri said. She cites being a part of the LGBTQ+ community in the workplace as an instance of existing hierarchies in society and prevailing discriminatory stereotypes. [Sa lipunan natin,] wala na ‘yung husay at talino mo kung bakla ka,” Neri said.

How does it happen? Who’s above it?

For Neri, people in positions of power cultivate these harmful and discriminatory norms in society. This manifests in relevant issues such as misinformation, lack of education, violence against indigenous people, among others. She believes it becomes a domino effect that begins with the people who hold the most power and wealth. Citing the prevalence of disinformation, she says: “Bakit napakalaganap ng fake news? Dahil sa mga internet trolls, maraming mga binabayaran.”

She also emphasizes the lack of accountability from the government regarding their human rights violations such as extrajudicial killings, and how the media failed to show the truth in terms of the number of people who died and were affected. Neri added that the government failed in their pandemic response, citing lack of budget for vaccinations and testing kits. Experiencing these failures make people more political.

Why we are political

The three aspects Neri cited — namely emotion, cognition, and action — are affected by culture and economy. Thus, they are no longer personal acts, but collective emotions of society.

Para sa nakararami, para sa isa’t isa, para sa kapwa,” Neri said. 

Ultimately, Neri believes that emotion, cognition, action, and experiences are all to empower other people. According to Neri, it all starts with acceptance, love, and respect for ourselves, and seeing oneself as equal to others. “Sa tuwing mayroon tayong kapwa na nahihirapan … gusto natin ipaglaban ang kanilang karapatan. Nagiging pulitikal tayo,” she said.

“Pagdama, pagtindig, pagkilos” are the most important actions that people should take to fight for a better society, according to Neri. In being political, people must empathize with the suffering and pain that their kapwa has been through, to stand up for themselves and for the people that they are fighting for, and to act the change they want to see in the world.

Fighting for a more just and fair society also creates a culture where we are our authentic selves. “Ang kultura ay nagiging parte sa paglikha ng ating sarili,” she said.

However, Neri asserts that the self is an extension of our lipunan, bayan, at kapwa and whatever we do ultimately affects other people. “Naging tayo lang ang ‘tayo’ dahil sa mga tao sa paligid natin,” Neri stated.

For Neri, there are intersections in people's personal experiences of discrimination, thus pushing people to fight for others' rights, aside from their own. These instances are ultimately reflected in the art that they create.

“We are political not for ourselves, but for others,” Neri affirmed.

Written by

Kenzie Sy

HEIGHTS Online Staffer, 2021-2022

Read their articles

Ready to have your work featured in HEIGHTS

We are calling for contributions for the next set of articles to be featured right in our next folio.
Interested? Come and submit your works today!

Contribute Now