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Musing about the Miracle on Cell #7: Subjugated Voices

 

Set in South Korea, Miracle on Cell #7 narrates the tale of a mentally-challenged man (dad) who raised his daughter alone. The story hinges on a false accusation on dad molesting and murdering a school girl and being sent to prison. The school girl happens to be the daughter of a commissioner of the police making (in)justice swift as written confessions were forced and an admission court was done through threat against dad’s daughter. The story ends with the father suffering from a death penalty and, after several years, the acquisition from the crime during a re-trial where the dad is represented by his now grown up daughter. Bittersweet and hilarious, the movie is sure to stir the viewer’s emotions. I’m writing this just after watching the film.

Nevertheless, a mentally-challenged person being churned by the wheels of justice with no one paying any heed to his condition is something worth looking at. These realities in the world needs to be given voice or recognition by those who can. This is where social scientific research comes in, I believe.

A state imposes it’s version of justice through it’s judiciary and penalizing institutions such as the police, the courts and prisons. In a world where impersonal relations dominate personal relations, institutions view people as numbers or as variables to be moved around and disciplined as they please. This does not prevent agents within the institution to develop deep relationships but they are nevertheless conditioned or coerced to follow a pattern and to implement justice ‘equally’ to all those who fell within their processes — a glaring fact in the movie where the prisoners are called via their numbers instead of their names, hit or threatened at will or treated as cattle just passing through by national lawyers who is ‘just doing their job’ and believes any effort ‘does not make a difference’.

We can hardly blame these institutions for behaving in this manner because of the volume of prisoners and the desire to make sure that justice brings no one an unfair advantage. Nevertheless, a mentally-challenged person being churned by the wheels of justice with no one paying any heed to his condition is something worth looking at. I wonder if a discourse on people with special cases have not pervaded the justice system yet during that time or that the justice system is moved by informal yet effective power is wielded by formal authorities opening up venues for abuses. One thing is for sure: there are instances or social realities that the court is blind about. These realities in the world needs to be given voice or recognition by those who can. This is where social scientific research comes in, I believe.

Post-Enlightenment society prefer knowledge derived from science or scientific endeavors and would criticize common sense or tradition as a less valuable source of ways to navigate the world. As a privileged discourse or way of thinking, it has the responsibility to make sure that those who cannot be heard be given a chance to be heard. Similar to the situation of the dad where his condition has been taken advantage of by extracting a false admission or that he was badly beaten by the police commissioner, segments of our society suffer from the same marginalization albeit from different oppressors and in a more systemic way. Farmers, despite their best efforts, do not own the land that they till or workers are not given their proper wages. Persons of all gender but especially women are victims of rape. Indigenous people suffer homogenization of their culture into the mainstream. These realities may escape the ‘gaps’ of those institutions and without the formalization of knowledge about them (or their own collective struggle) institutions will not be able to adopt to accommodate these subjugated voices.

As a privileged discourse or way of thinking, it [science] has the responsibility to make sure that those who cannot be heard be given a chance to be heard

The connection is thus very simple. There are stories that need formalization because they escape the paradigms of reality of certain institutions. These stories are stories of real people that suffer from structural and personal problems that would require their concerted action and consciousness raising in order to undo. If the social sciences do not take a stand on these issues, the cracks would remain or worse, the data that they’ve made would only strengthen the cracks.

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Yvan Ysmael Yonaha (@YvanYonaha) is a Development Practitioner, Technology Enthusiast and Productivity Buff. Yvan holds an AB Degree in Sociology from UP Diliman. He is a former instructor in the Department of Social Science for the Pamantasan ng Lungsod ng Marikina, and currently works for Ateneo de Manila University as a formator of the Office of Social Concern and Involvement.