Blogwatch Presents: A Modest Proposal on Campus Forums and Symposiums

This past Sept. 17, Secretary Florencio Abad was a guest speaker at a forum on the 2015 Budget, held in the University of the Philippines College of Economics. As accounts would have it, members of the STAND UP organization blocked off most exits to the forum save for one, where Sec. Abad chose to exit. The members of STAND UP then surrounded Abad, and by the account of Anakbayan chairperson Vencer Crisostomo, started pelting Abad with placards and coins. One was even close enough to grab Abad by the collar.

In the days that have followed, statements from all sides of the incident flew like kwitis on New Year’s Eve, with all involved parties alleging improper behavior in varying degrees. Earlier this week, the UP University Student Council held a fact-finding commission, where all sides involved were given the chance to provide details and input on the incident. Unfortunately, all of them miss discussing a most crucial question, one which I will discuss shortly.

STAND UP posted a statement recently, deploring the alleged fact that the forum allotted only an astonishing five minutes for the open forum, and that the questions submitted were filtered to exclude riveting, provocative questions. (Not that it mattered to STAND UP, since they firmly and resolutely claim to know and believe in their position, in no uncertain terms. That, and they refused to go inside the venue anyway) Assuming the allegation to be true, it means that others who may have genuinely yearned to get more information from Sec. Abad – such as what he had for breakfast, or what his favorite shoe size is, or if he prefers nuts plain or salted – were blatantly and unceremoniously denied their right to ask for, and receive, such relevant information.

And so, to answer the unasked question of how to avoid the curtailment of the forum audience’s intrinsic natural rights to have their questions answered, I modestly propose to implement, as a requirement for all future forums and symposiums held in all academic institutions of higher learning throughout the country, a mandatory “Question Your Guest” (or “QuYoG” for short) period before the conclusion of all forums and symposiums.

The mechanics of this proposal are simple enough: The initial portions of a forum or symposium shall be held as normal, with all guest speakers given ample time to share and develop their points. Once the speakers have finished, then the QuYoG period begins. Each attendee must be given unlimited time to ask any question he or she desires, and if the guest does not provide an response which the asking party deems acceptable, then the asking attendee is free to pelt the guest with any non-lethal object on hand and hurl insults at the guest , until a sufficiently satisfactory answer is given. The QuYoG shall continue indefinitely until all forum attendees have been satisfied with the responses given.

This idea comes to me from the realization that at its core, the crowd that waited for Abad outside the forum venue are merely truth-seekers and just want to spread their message of enlightenment and higher thinking. The QuYoG method is the perfect means to facilitate higher thinking; by physically reinforcing the wisdom of the crowd unto guest speakers who are presumably well-known and influential, we truly democratize the marketplace of ideas, where the majority will *always* win in a discussion, having the superior numbers to easily beat back opposing members of the audience should a scuffle break out.

Moreover, this realization reminded me of another group that has met with great success in the Middle East, receiving international recognition and acclaim for their no-nonsense methods for gaining the consensus: they simply behead people who disagree, or who otherwise choose not to adopt the group’s positions. In fact, this campaign has been so successful that this absolutely brilliant group has announced plans to export their ideas and methods to neighboring countries, so they too can experience this revolutionary method of intellectual discourse.

Now understandably, we cannot implement that level of discourse here just yet. After all, despite our desire for greater wisdom, we still have to deal with the right to life and all other sorts of petty little things we listed down in that thing – I think it was called the 1987 Constitution or something like that. In any event, I believe the QuYoG is an acceptable adaptation of the same brilliant principle, with the added benefit of avoiding potential air-strikes from so-called “free” countries that just don’t “get it.”

Democratizing discourse and avoiding air-strikes aren’t the only advantages of the QuYoG. In fact the QuYoG has several clear advantages over the current method of holding forums and symposiums, including, but not limited to:

  1. It serves as a great wake-up activity for both the guests and the audience alike, after a series of lengthy lectures (after all, who wouldn’t wake up to a 10-peso coin to the face?);
  2. It gives audience members the chance to practice their throwing skills, in case they need to utilize this skill for other endeavors;
  3. Similarly, it’s an excellent opportunity for the guests to get some cardio going by working a step-and-dodge routine while still answering questions – an exercise in thinking on their feet, if you will;
  4. It’s a great way to reuse discarded paper, bottles, cans, and even broken dinnerware; and
  5. It will encourage smart scheduling on the part of the guests, as knowing that such a QuYoG can take hours, maybe even days will force them to clear up their schedule to accommodate this amazingly advanced intellectual exercise.

Nonetheless, I expect this proposal to be met with some resistance over the potential for escalating violence. I can assure you, dear readers, that this will not be the case. I contacted noted psychologist Dr. Harleen Frances Quinzell, M.D., and, after describing the scheme, she assured me that escalation was unlikely from a psychological standpoint, though she declined to give specifics. She did, however, mention that she was keen on visiting the Philippines when such a scheme is implemented so she could observe and perhaps even participate in such forums. She added that her boyfriend – she didn’t give a name, but called him “Mr. J” – would also be thrilled at the idea, and might suggest that he adopt it in a future symposium (her exact words were “mass murder,” but I assumed this was just their metaphor for wowing a crowd).

So let’s forget about this namby-pamby talk about dignity and respect. Let’s do away with all this talk about the so-called academic freedom, and intelligent and peaceful discourse. Let’s ignore those outmoded concepts of free speech and expression. In fact, let’s discard all notions of taking the high road in the same vein as the activists of yore such as Lean Alejandro. Let’s not wallow in these liberal bourgeois values, nor allow the ruling class to contain our unrest through sterile debate! This is the 21st Century! This is the time for a new brand of activism!

Itaguyod ang QuYoG!

This article was originally published on the Philippine Online Chronicles: http://thepoc.net/index.php/a-modest-proposal-on-campus-forums-and-symposiums/

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