If This is A Filipino

Jose Rizal is the Philippines’ national hero. Some say he is an American-invented hero, but I still believe that the honors accorded to him are well-deserved. He died for love of country — which is probably a hell of a lot more that I can muster. He is a nationalist and a polymath and his work and whole life is something that a lot of  of his countrymen can emulate. Sad to say, they do not. (photo from Wikipedia)

 

Jewish writer and concentration camp survivor, Primo Levi once wrote a book called “If This is A Man”. The title came from this poem:

You who live safe
In your warm houses,
You who find, returning in the evening,
Hot food and friendly faces:
Consider if this is a man
Who works in the mud
Who does not know peace
Who fights for a scrap of bread
Who dies because of a yes or a no.
Consider if this is a woman,
Without hair and without name
With no more strength to remember,
Her eyes empty and her womb cold
Like a frog in winter.
Meditate that this came about:
I commend these words to you.
Carve them in your hearts
At home, in the street,
Going to bed, rising;
Repeat them to your children,
Or may your house fall apart,
May illness impede you,
May your children turn their faces from you.

 

It is a heartbreaking poem, for it compares a free person with someone who is locked up in a concentration camp. The most powerful words in this piece are these: “meditate that these came about”.

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Why am I writing about concentration camps and that archaic event called holocaust (which is being denied by a lot of people who disagree with Israel’s occupation of Palestine — holocaust did happen, my dears, which is not to say Palestinian occupation is a fiction, those two are not mutually exclusive; it is heartbreaking when victims close their eyes to the humanity of others) ?

The Philippine president once said that it’s okay to kill drug addicts and criminals because they are not humans. It is an outrageous thing to say; but which Filipinos (or at least the 16 million who voted for Duterte; note: there are currently over 100 million Filipinos) totally love.

They love the president, despite his bad mouth, shoddy accomplishments, crooked and squabbling deputies, and his very vocal support for violence to solve the country’s problems (number one of which is drugs — according to him, whether that is supported by facts is another matter).

Filipinos love him — the recent survey shows over 80% approves of his presidency.

They love him and his policies enough to wish other fellow Filipinos who disagree  total ill will. For example, the social media is replete with Duterte supporters who will post statements that you deserve to be raped or killed or your family massacred if you point  out how morally wrong the president’s pronouncements are.

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Which brings me to the title of this post: If this a Filipino …

…. would I want to be one?

…. would I be proud to call a country that produces such people as my own?

…. would I want to go back?

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What is frustrating, what makes me feel more sadness than anger towards fellow Filipinos who voted for Duterte is how willing they are to dig their own graves.

Talking to them is like talking to an addict who consciously knows that it is ingesting poison — i.e. Duterte supporters’ willingness to sacrifice innocent lives for this so-called war against drugs — when someone loses one’s moral fiber by supporting a policy that reduces innocent human lives to collateral damage, that is poison. (And please, they are aware that not all who are killed in OPLAN Tokhang are drug pushers,  just like not all who were killed in the Marawi airstrikes were terrorists.)

Despite this, they are willing to ingest poison because the option of stopping (for them) would be more painful.

Oh well,  I know I have the alternative of leaving the Philippines if (when?) it gets fucked up; a lot of the 16 million Filipinos won’t.

And that probably makes me sound unpatriotic but, fuck, I am beginning to  disbelieve Jose Rizal and all those heroes that think our country is worth fighting for — 16 million Filipinos just showed that I am probably not one of them (insert sad emoji here).

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Dreaming of Dictatorships

It must be my disposition, but I am vehemently against the notion of authoritarian rule. Which is (maybe) somewhat hypocritical of me, because I am now living, working in  and enjoying the comforts of a country with such a form of government (what can be more authoritarian than an absolute monarchy?).

democracy

Recently, my country has decided to elect as president a man who espouses his preference for a more “dictatorial” style of management. It has perplexed the “intellectual” segments of my country, we in our so-called ivory towers, who are removed from the daily toils and travails of the hoi polloi.

But hey, once upon a time (a little less than 6 months ago, in fact), I was part of the hoi polloi.  I was suffering the daily hell of MRT/LRT, the woes of Metro Manila traffic, the fragmented public health care system, the epal faces of politicians as pictured in those ubiquitous tarpaulins … Just six months ago, I was bemoaning all that was wrong with Pnoy’s government.

And then I left.

(And I found that I can’t vote in this country I have fled to because I was late for the registration — but that’s  another story.)

Deep in my guts, I knew it was only a matter of time that someone like Rodrigo Duterte would win as president of the Philippines. We are a country who elected Erap, after  all — and in a landslide win, at that.

We are a country who believes the social media machine of the Marcoses that is popularizing the revisionist idea that Martial Law was God’s gift to the Philippines. (ha ha, it was a gift that left me with a debt to be paid to foreign lending agencies until 2025!)

We are a country whose children do not know who Apolinario Mabini is, let alone that he was paralyzed.

We are a country whose people leave. That includes me, of course.

Once upon a time, in 1982 —   Marcos was still in power and Ninoy was still alive; when the peso was plummeting and the economy was in shambles; when thousands of would-be youth leaders have either been “salvaged”, tortured or disappeared,   a certain US Secretary of State was rumored to have said this: “The Philippines is a nation of 40 million cowards and one son-of-a-bitch.”

Well, George Schultz, it is now 2016, and the Philippines is a nation of 100 million people. I do not know if Mr. Duterte will prove to be a son-of-a-bitch (whatever that term may mean), but a lot of us are still cowards (or lazy … or deluded … or all of the above).

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Intergenerational Discord or Creative Destructions

 

It is a rite of passage to hate (at some point in one’s life) the people who brought oneself into this world:

Kids will hate their parents. 

And here are the examples:

….. Romeo and Juliet, the Montagues and Capulets being the “malaking hadlang” (great barrier) keeping them from enjoying their teenage romance,

…. Luke Skywalker (being a Jedi, he did try to manage to channel his hatred to more productive pursuits — like mastering his lightsaber),

…. Tony Stark, we all know Iron Man had a typical love/hate relationship with Howard, which proves that the law of physics saying that two similar electric charges will repel each other, is true

…. even Harry Potter, at some point in book 6, did not like his daddy, having found out that James used to be a toerag bully to Snape.

Knowing that our kids will hate us someday does not keep us off from procreating … and populating this already over-populated world with our minions, our genetic progenies, our shots at immortality.

This human propensity towards masochism (I mean how else can you describe a person who will willingly bring forth the seed of its own destruction?), a masochism that is tolerated because of vanity and narcissism (hello! parents, like god, want to create creatures in their own image!), does make the world more interesting.

As Joseph Schumpeter has so insightfully put it: capitalism is an exercise on creative destruction. Parenthood (I would imagine) is even more so.

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So, going back to my initial insight and the reason I wrote this post:  I have this  feeling that the American people will vote for Donald Trump; and the Filipino people will vote for Rodrigo Duterte for the same reason that a teenager keeps doing the things his/her parents advise him not to.

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Readings Lists:

http://www.vox.com/2015/12/1/9828086/donald-trump-

mediahttp://www.interaksyon.com/article/120949/editorial–tangina-this

http://archives.newsbreak-knowledge.ph/2005/12/05/guns-and-gold/

http://www.zoominfo.com/p/Joel-Brillantes/189440967

http://lumadsatagum.blogspot.com/2005/03/way-kurat-implicated-in-plot-to-kill.html

http://www.digitaljournal.com/article/300423

https://www.hrw.org/news/2009/04/06/philippines-dismantle-davao-death-squad