The affirmation of cultural identity is a resistance to colonialism and neoliberalism that perpetuates the hegemonic culture. Glasgow (2019) criticized the hegemonic culture perpetuated by the mass media in that the dominant class who owns the media conditioned the economic base into binaries. This leads to what Zayani (2011) calls the issue of cultural standardization amid globalization.
Mass media has created damaging stereotypes for marginalized groups. American movies and TV shows lump all ethnicities in Asia as “Asian”, as if the people from numerous countries look the same.
Also, “black” characters were portrayed as villains/criminals, and the LGBT were always given comical roles or sad life. Although these stereotypes are now being challenged, it would take decades to undo the subconscious effect, mainly depicting women as the weaker sex in movies and TV shows.
Critics and scholars are becoming more critical of the fictional film depicting Western nations as heroes.
Filipinos are also victims of the hegemonic culture. In the colonial Philippines, the Filipinos learned to be ashamed of their race and skin color because the darker skin tone is at the opposing end of the racial binary.
More than 300 years of colonialism has made us the little Europe of Asia and has institutionalized slavery, patriarchy, and homophobia. The violent erasure of the pre colonial Philippine customs and traditions makes it more difficult for the Filipino to situate herself in the ASEAN.
Now, whitening products abound in supermarkets, and the marketing industry capitalizes on our insecurities on our darker skin tone. So, after one hundred years of freedom from the colonizers, the challenge is reclaiming the Filipino identity and promoting cultural pluralism in our country.
With its wider reach, the new media can challenge this hegemonic culture. Zayani (2011) points out that connectivity and the free flow of information have empowered marginalized communities. However, it also has “hegemonic inclinations which seek to instill conformity, perpetuate sameness, and efface difference” (p48). Good representation in movies matters because cultural annihilation or cultural homogeneity can be combated by promoting cultural diversity in the media.
Media Control and Ownership
Whoever controls the media controls what people see or do not see, and the oligopoly of globalized media producers and distributors is not suitable for cultural diversity.
Zayani (2011) points out that “state control over the media, rates of illiteracy, access to resources, and distribution of wealth” further limit the capacity of the ICT’s to allow cultural diversity (p51).
I want to highlight what Zayani (2011, p52) said that “fostering an environment that is tolerant of and conducive to cultural diversity is necessary for upholding democracy”. I would dare say that President Duterte’s massive effort to close ABS-CBN and Rappler is an attack on democracy, and it sends a chilling effect on journalists.
Here in Zamboanga del Norte in Mindanao, this issue is highlighted with the closing of ABS-CBN regional networks, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. The regional networks centered on regional news using our dialect, which allowed our community to have a sense of representation.
People watch regional news because they are more interested in what is happening in their immediate community. When the channel was closed by President Duterte, the “imperial Manila” was again the status quo, and the Mindanaoan faded in the background.
Thankfully, we are in the age of media convergence, and people can get their news from other sources aside from the top networks. The Local Government Unit of Zamboanga del Norte maximized their social media platforms and created an official Facebook page for COVID updates (Taskforce COVID 19: Zamboanga del Norte).
However, our province is one of the poorest in the Philippines, so there is limited ICT penetration in the far-flung areas because there is a poor internet signal.
When the state declares a silent war on its critiques, especially the journalists, what do media outfits do? To survive under the Duterte administration, the Philippine media has to tame its opinion or risk the wrath of the mercurial temper of the President.
I think that most media corporations who are privately owned will protect its interest and choose to survive as a company rather than face the same fate as ABS-CBN and Rappler. So, when it boils down to upholding the freedom of speech and protecting democracy versus its survival, most companies will choose survival.
Shah (2009) stressed that corporate interests influence the media because it survives on advertising. No matter how zealous and patriotic the journalists are against President Duterte’s attack on democracy, the corporate and the owner’s interests will prevail.
The author also pointed out that the media’s concentration of ownership or monopoly threatens democracy because they can decide what content is broadcasted and what is purposefully left out. The broadcast media benefits from the capitalist system, and it will prioritize profit because that is their survival.
That is understandable, but the concentration of ownership and media conglomerates pose a big problem because they can monopolize media. As Shah (2009) points out, ownership is not the problem; concentration of ownership is because ownership means power.
What makes it even more problematic is when big businesses own shares in the media. This results in conflicts of interests and political biases.
However, the new media, the internet, can level off the playing field. But it seems that traditional media and its capitalistic business model has also found their way into the internet as conglomerates and big companies like Google buy out smaller companies.
Literacy and Orality
Reading Walter Ong’s (1986) “Writing is a Technology That Restructures Thought” is eye-opening for me. The Philippines is culturally diverse, and there are so many spoken languages from all the tribes that cannot be easily converted into written language.
Writing in Bisaya, for example, is very difficult for me even when I am Bisaya. Before the K-12 curriculum, Bisaya was always a spoken language, and perhaps that is why I struggle so much when writing in Bisaya.
Being raised by my literate parents, I can only imagine how foreign writing and reading feel like. It must be mind-boggling for the illiterate to use a computer! Technologies transform the consciousness, and it can be “uplifting, at the same time that they are in a sense alienating” (p32). Ong further draws the difference between oral speakers and writers.
He reveals his bias towards written words because it gives us a chance for analysis and explanations as it is meant for the future. He argues that oral communication is for the present, transient, and is temporary.
However, unlike verbal communication, the text lacks the responsiveness and face to face discussions that can only be derived from face to face conversations. He criticized our overreliance on text stored in the computer, which eventually destroys our memory and weakens our minds.
The answers to questions no longer reside in our minds but the text and the computers. People, he said, are fundamentally argumentative, and that writing makes that more complicated.
Sound has a “special relationship to time unlike that of the other fields that register in human sensation”, and it cannot be paused because, without action, there is only silence (Ong 1986, p9-10). So, in an oral culture, recalling is challenging. That’s why rhythm and rhymes are essential because it is easier to recall.
Proverbs and sayings are good examples of how knowledge was passed on in these cultures. In the Philippines, we have “mga Kasabian”, or sayings often passed on from generations. Knowledge was passed down to generations through stories that relied heavily on the mnemonic pattern to recall quickly.
The age of Secondary Orality came with the development of Information and Communication Technology. It changed the dynamics of political debates as political figures can now address a much larger public than ever before.
This is beneficial for the public speaker because it is less arduous, but it takes away the chance for discussion. As Ong (1986, p70) points out, “the agonistic character of oral debates was replaced with a more genteel consciousness”. Ong (p. 70) notes that the “agonistic edge is deliberately kept dull” to give a sense of harmony and “closure” that is needed in technology mediated debates.
This sense of harmony and closure translates to hegemony because creating opposing binaries is convenient for the media. Writers rely on formulas that sell to the audience without regard for their effects on marginalized groups.
The author emphasized that the text cannot answer questions, and what is written will be there in the future. So, when an American dictionary defined Filipinos as maids, the definition remained unchallenged until the Filipino found its strength to register its dissent.
I believe such is the case for most marginalized sectors like the LGBT, the African-American, and women.
Popular Culture as Resistance
With the backdrop of globalization and cultural homogeneity, popular culture as resistance emerged as a medium to express opposition in regimes and the status quo.
The Arab Spring has shown the world that dissent can be registered in many creative ways that the state cannot censor. Poetry, graffiti, and the internet have helped tell stories and express views that the state would otherwise edit. Also, the “me too” movement against sexual violence, which took the world by storm, challenged not just regimes but the patriarchal status quo.
The American rappers who would talk about poverty, crime, and violence reveal a part of society that the dominant culture wants to oppress. Also, reggae music preached peace, love, and harmony.
It is somewhat fitting that Jose Rizal used books and literature to spark a revolution. Lately, I have seen journalists use photo captions and news headlines on social media to convey their criticism against President Duterte.
Perhaps the immediacy gives them more freedom to post without censorship. Ligo Sardines also used its social media to advocate for mass testing during the COVID-19 pandemic and even post satirical advertisements. Ben and Ben even wrote a protest song titled Kapangyarihan that I found moving.
I think that dissent can never be silenced and that resistance will find its way into popular culture because the new technologies give voice to everyone.