Globalization and Indigenous Culture
[Table of Contents]

Suggestions Regarding the Borderless State of Indigenous Culture in the Process of Globalization

Leslie E. BAUZON

1. Introduction

My first word is to extend my warmest congratulations to the Institute for Japanese Culture and Classics of Kokugakuin University on the occasion of its 40th Anniversary. This is an important milestone in the institutional life of the Institute as it fulfills its highminded mission of catalyzing nationwide interest in the study of Japanese culture and classics, and in highlighting the rich cultural heritage and creativity of the Japanese people. I sincerely extend my felicitations to Professor Abe for his able leadership in maintaining the academic excellence of the Institute. Moreover, I would like to express my deepest gratitude to the Organizing Committee headed by Professor Inoue and to all the members for successfully putting this timely Symposium together.

The aptly chosen theme of this 40th Anniversary Memorial Symposium is "Globalization and Indigenous Culture." It has been said that large segments of the population of Asia in particular, especially the cultural communities --- otherwise known as the ethnic minorities in the various regions of Asia-Pacific --- have been marginalized or even neglected. Consequently, they are left out of the range of our intellectual understanding and attention.

There are many more reasons for this unfortunate development. It has been said that our education in Asia, dominated and molded by Western influences, have also misoriented our vision of ourselves. And we have been guilty of overemphasis in one area and comparative neglect of the other. In this light, I see as commendable the objective of this Memorial Symposium to correct this flaw and focus attention to the indigenous cultures of Asia in particular and how globalization, understood in this gathering as "the weakening or disappearance of borders between nations, societies, and ethnic groups [Inoue, 4], is impacting on them. The theme of this Symposium underscores our recognition of the fact that the marginalized small cultural communities, with their rich and varied cultural history, cannot and should not be neglected. The pressing demand for national unity and development in the countries where they are found makes it imperative for us to take up willingly this challenge of trying to understand their conditions in this "Information Age."

The indigenous inhabitants of Asia and their cultures indeed face the onslaughts of modern civilization, a process that actually started with the advent of Western colonialism in my country the Philippines in particular, and Southeast Asia in general, during the 16th century. In reality, they have been acculturating themselves continuously for generations and even centuries, although they could have conceivably extinguished themselves on their own power had some of them continued unabated with their deadly vendettas and inter-ethnic wars. Apparently, though, they have built-in cultural reflexes that enable them to somehow adjust to the changes taking place around them and therefore manage to survive with their basic customs and folkways essentially intact. There is no denying that changes are taking place within the indigenous societies and cultures of Southeast Asia, but any effort to integrate them into the mainstream of Southeast Asian life must give proper consideration to their folk beliefs, values, way of life, folk literature and modes of thinking so that disruptions, or even their extinction, can be avoided. The richness of their cultures and their creativity as peoples belonging to the races and nations must be highlighted instead of discussing them solely in the context of their conflicts and wars and thus erasing stereotyped attitudes about them being dreadful, barbaric and filthy.

The indigenous inhabitants of Southeast Asia in my part of the world mirror Southeast Asian culture and society at the time when there was no Western colonization or even Islamization in the region. As such. they form part of the precious cultural heritage of the countries and peoples of Southeast Asia. These rain-drenched and sunburnt members of the South-east Asian national communities, who have managed to eke out a living on margins of existence for so long due to governmental neglect and apathy, and who have been the victims of progress and development that benefited only the dominant ethnic groups. Moreover. they have been subjected to discrimination and cheating by those claiming cultural superiority. The indigenous cultures and inhabitants must be helped socially and economically but their customs and traditions should be respected in order to preserve the integrity as a cultural legacy to the future generations of Southeast Asians.

Academic gatherings like this Symposium today will foster awareness and understanding of the indigenous cultural communities of Southeast Asia in particular and Asia in general, and will serve as a cementing force of society, enabling us to identify what the essential policies are to bring about a reconciliation of differing views regarding the cultural minorities and the cultural majorities, and thereby disallow the disintegration of the nations of Southeast Asia. The unity of these nations will be brought about and maintained.

There is of course the danger of letting the study of indigenous cultures and cultural communities to be seen out of context as a separatist concept that will weaken national unity along the Southeast Asians concerned. On the other hand, if we allow the dominant cultures and societies to claim superiority and predominance as the only culture, then we also endanger national unity by threatening the decimation of the small groups and small cultural communities that also constitute the foundation and the bedrock of the national tapestry of the Southeast Asian countries.

Everybody must maintain identity but they must unite and work as part of the whole. Each society in Southeast Asia will be a colonialistic society if the only dominant culture prevails. The Southeast Asian peoples or those in the majority must accept the essentiality of their respective minority cultural heritages. Underneath the overlay of the dominant culture there are the sound foundation of compatible elements of the non-majority culture which they should identify and recognize, and which they should value. I am delighted that this Symposium appeals to the indigenous South-east Asian soul, because this soul has a quality of its own. It has the right to exist and to contribute equally to the development of a true Southeast Asian culture and identity.

The minority indigenous cultures and groups must be recognized on the basis of equality and equity. This is the reason that it is so essential to have gatherings of this nature and thus contribute toward reflecting the true picture of Southeast Asian society in particular and Asian society in general in the past and at present so that the Southeast Asian peoples can truly project the course that they wish to take to improve their quality of life and to bring the Southeast Asians to play their rightful role in the Asia-Pacific region and in the world at large. Through the studies that this Symposium fosters, we will help the Southeast Asians know who they are, what they are, where they came from, and where they must go to find their destiny. After discovering themselves, they can establish their identity and build their nations together.

It is of course relevant to remember that ethnic cultural diversity has been a historical fact of life in Southeast Asia, and will remain so for decades to come despite the advent of the "Information Age." This can be seen in the traditional "hill-valley" division among the inhabitants of Southeast Asia, and the factual dichotomy between those who live a sedentary life pursuing agriculture, catching fish, or engaging in entrepreneur-ship in contrast to those living in the uplands who are always on the march in pursuit of the game animals and engaged in shifting cultivation. among the inhabitants of the Southeast Asian maritime world.

The hill tribes and the indigenous upland inhabitants, not to mention the Muslims of such countries like the Philippines and Thailand, have come to be considered as outsiders by those claiming ethnic and cultural dominance in the lowlands. This social division has become unqualified in the course of the decades, nay generations, and the attitudes of majority peoples are reflected in the insulting words they use to describe those in the minority communities. There is a wide gulf separating the cultures of those in the majority and those in the minority, even if the latter are living within the borders of the nation-states where the dominant societies live. No congruency of interests, obligations, in other words, identity, has taken place between the majority groups and the minority groups, mainly because the prejudices of the majority societies are so deep-seated that it has been difficult to arrive at a common consensus about how to reconcile the interests of the majority-controlled states and the indigenous peoples and cultural communities. In the absence of a more democratic process of government and the absence of an equitable lowland-upland, majority-minority relationship. it comes as no surprise that secessionist movements and rebellions have taken place in contemporary Southeast Asian history, notably in the Philippines, Malaysia and Burma. In Indonesia and in Thailand and in the other countries, there is always the possibility of similar movements and outbreaks occurring. From this perspective, the problems of multiculturalism, despite the trend toward globalization engendered by the spectacular advances in information technology will be difficult to resolve. Such ethnic-minority related problems have great importance and results for the countries of Southeast Asia because they are often politically disintegrative. That is to say, they frequently lead to secessionism and revolts by the ethnic minorities, thereby preventing the attainment of national unity.

2. Specific comments

A. Prof. Inoue's paper.

I would like to give my comments at this point regarding the papers presented by our three panelists earlier today. First on the paper of Professor Inoue, I must say at the outset that I found his presentation extremely interesting. Professor Inoue gave a succinct discussion of what the "Information Age" is all about; of what globalization means and how it is distinguished from internationalization; of how religion is being globalized in this Information Age in a way characterized by what he refers to as the "weakening or disappearance of borders between nations, societies, and ethnic groups"; of how religious organization is undergoing change because of, or as a result of, this process of globalization, pointing out the appearance of what is referred to as the concept of a "multinational religion" as exemplified by the Soka Gakkai --- which by the way has a national organization in my country the Philippines; of the adjustments that religion is undergoing in terms of doctrine, ritual, and activities, resulting in the emergence of what Professor Inoue calls the Phenomenon of "neo-syncretism"; and finally of the transformation of the "intellectual environment" within which religion operates on a global scale. He concludes by remarking that "Globalization makes it inevitable that the form of missionary activities, human relationships, and the content of religious information communicated will be transformed. The most important point then, may be to emphasize that the nature of the globalization process itself needs to be more widely perceived and understood by more people, particularly those of its aspects which threaten to generate negative results for our societies."

Based on the foregoing summary I just made regarding Professor Inoue's paper, I have some questions as well as observations to make. First, at what historical juncture did this process of the globalization of religion begin? I think that Professor Inoue must clarify this matter in greater detail, although I seem to gather from his remarks particularly on page 4 of his paper that the globalization of religion is largely a function of the Information Age that he describes in the first part of his study. It must be pointed out though that the particular religious traditions of Islam and Christianity in effect globalized themselves, at least in my country, as early as the 14th and 16th centuries respectively while at the same time undergoing "Philippinization" by which they kept their global face while acquiring a local character.

Second, how has religious globalization, patterned after the vision of cultural globalization, weakened or caused the disappearance of borders between nations, societies and ethnic groups? I would like to request Professor Inoue to amplify this matter more concretely. My own knowledge of Southeast Asian Studies is that it was precisely the cultural globalization associated with European colonial advance in Southeast Asia that gave rise to the territorial limits of most of the nation-states in the region as we know them today. For example, the Spaniards who colonized the Philippines for 333 years, delineated the territorial boundaries of the Archipelago and gave structural unity to the Filipino population. The Dutch, the British and the French initiated and accomplished a similar process in Indonesia, Malaysia and Laos respectively, even as they left their own cultural imprints on these countries.

Third, to what extent has the globalization of religion, not to mention the impact of Westernization, modernization, industrialization and the spread of the Information Age, contributed toward the emergence of the stable phenomena of fundamentalism and millenarianism? For example in the Philippines, hardline Muslim Pilipinos have became militant and aggressive in defending Islam because of what they perceive to be the encroachment into from their world by overzealous and intolerant Christian proselytizers both the global Roman Catholic and Protestant churches. This is not to mention the evangelical labor undertaken by the new and globalizing religions. The emergence of hardline Islamic fundamentalists is aggravating the already tension-filled and conflict-ridden situation between the dominant Christian population and the minority Muslim population in Southern Philippines. The Muslims live in a world culturally distinct from the Manila-centered Christian world, and there is no congruency of identity between the two worlds. Hence the existence of an armed secessionist struggle in Mindanao led by the Moro National Liberation Front.

On the other hand, in Malaysia, where global Islam is regarded as the principal mark and bedrock of Malay identity, the resurgence of the Islamic fundamentalists has led to communal conflicts with Indian Malaysians especially in 1978-1979. The aggressive efforts of the fundamentalists to establish an Islamic state in Malaysia may lead again to the outbreak of communal conflicts between the Malays and the Indians, and thereby undermine the political stability and economic progress achieved under the present secular Malaysian state under Prime Minister Mohammed Mahathir.

As for millenarianism, based on the Philippine experience, the global tradition of Christianity in particular, as part of the Spanish colonial package, appears to have contributed toward the springing up of millenarian groups in rural areas across the Philippine Archipelago. Iberian colonialism and instances of Christian missionary heavy handedness in dealing with the Pilipino population led to social, political and economic imbalances in Philippine society. thereby becoming a fertile breeding ground for millenarian movements. The global Roman Catholic Church failed to understand why millenarianism has sprung up and, under Spanish rule. it worked side by side with the colonial administrators in applying the military solution to quell them, even if millenarian groups like the Cofradia de San Jose (Confraternity of St. Joseph ), analyzed in an excellent paper by a Japanese scholar, Prof. Setsuho lkehata of the Tokyo University of Foreign Studies, were not revolutionaries but were merely living a life of piety and prayerfulness in mystical Mt. Banahaw in Southern Luzon. This mountain is to this day regarded as sacred and is called the New Jerusalem where Jesus Christ will stage His Second Coming. Today. the hierarchy of the global Christian Church, while no longer advocating the military solution toward such groups, excoriates with tongues of fire the modern millenarian movements in Mt. Banahaw and elsewhere, notably the Philippine Benevolent Missionaries Association that has withdrawn to the island of Dinagat in North-eastern Mindanao, calling the island its "Holy Land."

And fourth, what in your own view, Professor Inoue, are the aspects of globalization which threaten to generate negative results for our societies? My own view, based on the Philippine experience, is that globalization has virtually wiped out and deculturated one of the indigenous hunter-gatherer groups in the Philippines, the Negritos, who used to be widely distributed in the upland forested areas of the Philippines. Their decline is correlated to the deforestation of the Philippine mountains due to unabated legal and illegal logging to satisfy the needs of First World countries, as well as due to agricultural settlement occasioned by the rapidly increasing Pilipino population. Today, the dwindling numbers of the Negritos can be found only in a few places, such as Surigao province in North-eastern Mindanao, where they are locally known by their self-ascription as Mamanwas or "People of the Forest. " Elsewhere in Mindanao, the B'laans and the T'bolis of South Cotabato are similarly threatened with extinction because of the intrusion of a multinational corporation called Dole Philippines into their ancestral domains for purposes of pineapple and banana production for export to the United States and to Japan.

B. Prof. Tsao's Paper

Regarding the paper of Professor Tsao, I must say that I found it to be a revealing account of the situation in Taiwan regarding indigenous languages and cultures. There are close parallels between the Taiwanese case and the Philippine case, particularly in connection with the language problem. The language problem has always been one of the most vexing problems facing Philippine society. Pilipino intellectuals, deeply concerned with nationalism and what its character and content should be, debate emotionally among themselves the question of what language to use in writing about their culture and in carrying on the task of building the nation.

The problem of a common language is indeed a formidable one. This nation of 68 million inhabitants has a babel of tongues. The linguistic diversity is reflected in the fact that the languages spoken in the country are generally classified into 75 main linguistic groups. although 90 percent of the Filipino people speak only eight of these major languages. The insular nature of the Philippines has contributed in no small measure toward aggravating linguistic diversity among the Filipinos. Moreover, the stratified character of Philippine society has served to accentuate this real situation of linguistic regionalism. The problem of a common language is particularly acute among the Filipinos belonging to the eight major ethnolinguistic groups because their regional feelings regarding political questions and especially about the language issue adhere to the physical outlines where such groups are located.

Compounding this reality of linguistic diversity is the situation wherein a foreign language, English, was imposed by American colonizers early this country. Inasmuch as English contributed to the rise in the level of literacy among the Filipinos, and because the language provided a window to liberal Western ideas, English soon became the common language in the governmental, professional, commercial and diplomatic domains. The ability to speak English became the mark of intelligence. To speak in English was considered class (that is, high class), while to speak in the local vernacular was considered bakya (literally, "wooden shoe," therefore low class). The rise in the prestige of English became an effective obstacle toward the development of a common national tongue. I know for a fact that many private schools. especially those which were regarded as exclusive social enclaves. required their students to use English in and out of the classroom, and they were penalized if caught using the native language.

I do have a few questions to ask Professor Tsao. What are the practical difficulties encountered by Taiwan toward transforming the Taiwanese vision of seeing the people speak with one autochthonous tongue into reality while at the same time preserving the indigenous ethnic languages and preventing them from extinction? What efforts are being done by socially responsible Taiwanese academicians toward indigenous cultural and linguistic preservation? And is anything being done to mediate the conflicts among the ethnic groups themselves so that they can present a united front in undertaking programs for the preservation of their respective indigenous languages? I will greatly appreciate Professor Tsao's shedding light on these matters.

C. Prof. Cheu's Paper

Lastly, but not the least, I would like to pose several questions to Professor Cheu regarding his presentation on the effects of global culture on the Malay community of Malaysia and by way of highlighting the dynamics and dilemmas facing the Malay family as a result of the rapid economic development of Malaysia.

1. What has been the population growth rate of Malaysia since independence, and how has this affected residential space vertically and horizontally?

2. How has urbanization led to the colonization of new physical areas?

3. What has been the impact of the New Economic Policy (1971-1990) toward Malaysian industrialization?

4. What is the rate of annual COP growth since independence and what measures have been adopted by the government to create income equality? Is the Second Outline Perspective Plan ( 1991-2000 ) making a difference in economic progress?

5. What measures have been implemented by the Malaysian government to increase literacy rates and thereby widen the base for the manpower needs of the country?

6. What policy did the government pursue with regard to education at the tertiary level at home and abroad, and at what scale did the government provide boarding schools? How did the boarding schools undermine the traditional basis of Malay family life?

7. What measures did the government adopt to change the fundamental economic lifestyle of the bumiputras (ethnic Malays )?

8. What conditions led to the emergence of the phenomenon of legal and illegal foreign labor in Malaysia and to what extent has this impacted on Malay society?

9. How extensive and deep have the lepak (idling) syndrome, the bohsia (sex for a fee by young women) problem, drug abuse, infanticide, alcoholism and AIDS become, and what impact are these social and personal ills having on the Malay family and on the country?

10. What measures are being taken by the state to provide counseling and institutionalized support to assist individuals and families adjust to the rapid pace of change taking place in Malaysia?

11. Would you say that the Malaysian government itself, because of its direct intervention, stimulation, planning and engineering, has been responsible for the dramatic, peaceful, and socio-economic changes in Malaysia, and therefore has been responsible for what you noted on page 10 of your paper as the instability of the Malay family and community, and the erosion of the absolute values in traditional culture?

12. And finally, what role is Islam playing right now at the constitutional-political level, the spiritual- cultural level, and at the rational-intellectual level. in order to counter the negative effects of Malaysian transformation on the family?

The answers to these questions I think will enable us to better understand Malaysia, to know better the factors affecting the Malay family, and to identify more accurately which is responsible for the erosion of values in the Malay family and community.

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$Date: 2001/05/15 05:58:52 $