Monday, May 25, 2009

Book Blockade Update

"One should never underestimate the collective fury of book lovers when their book supply is threatened."  -Robin Hemley 

I am pleased to report that President Arroyo of the Philippines, in the face of a "torrent of criticism" from around the world, has ordered the Philippine Department of Finance to end the imposition of taxes on imported books that violates the UNESCO Florence Agreement. (See here for my initial blog post about this and here for Robin Hemley's follow-up article.)

To anyone with a cynical attitude about armchair activism, Facebook causes, and the like:  some of that "torrent" came from effective mobilization of social networking.  The Filipino community at home and abroad blogged about this, talked about this, wrote about this, got in touch with each other on Facebook about this, and after venting their opinions with each other across the seas - an important part of the process - sprang into action by sharing ideas about what to do, exchanging links / ways to contact people in authority, generating emails to the President and UNESCO, writing letters and articles, and making phone calls. 

It's a new day.  As Hemley writes, "Together, Filipino book lovers have performed what I consider a miracle in less than a month's time."  People across the world are watching each other and helping each other.  The blogosphere and the laptop can create or perpetuate movement.  Let's keep using these connections and communication technologies to support and add to the good work being done in the field. I've written this before:  even a small effort or act can make a difference!


Appendix - E-mails we sent to the President:

"Dear Madam President, If you care about the development of our people as individuals and as a society, you will STOP the corrupt practices of our Bureau of Customs.  By HOLDING BOOKS FOR RANSOM, they are violating a U.N. treaty we ratified and have honored for decades. Please show that you are worthy of your office and of service to our country by taking action against this SHAMEFUL book blockade by a bureau known around the world for being among the most corrupt in existence. We must show the world that Filipinos are not the ignorant, corrupt kind of people our customs officials represent.  With thanks and love of country, [T.]"

"Dear President Macapagal Arroyo, as an attorney and an American married to a Filipina I am deeply disappointed and outraged by the book blockade being enforced by Philippine customs officials.  I know from being married to my wife that Philippine women are intelligent, strong, and principled.  Perhaps you can bring some of those qualities to bear on the actions I hope you will take against this kind of corruption.  The word is being spread internationally, to journalists and on Facebook. We'll be watching eagerly for you to do right by your people.  Sincerely, [Husband of T.]"


Click here for another story about access to books  a kid with an ad-hoc library of banned books in his locker...


Robin Hemley said...

Well put, T! I find this whole thing so inspiring -- I hope this might be the beginning of other such movements to bring about positive social change in the RP and elsewhere. I certainly wouldn't have thought anything like this possible only a month ago.

Brian said...

Brava! Bravo! Keep up the good work at home in the US and at home in the Philippines!