After three years worth of statements unleashed on the populace by none other than Pres. Rodrigo Duterte (you may throw in his minions as garnishing), what conclusions have I made so far?
The statements, for what they were worth in whipping up the Devil’s brew, were undeniably red carpet material, box-office-facepalm in the main.
What triggers my curiosity, though, is how these statements were made to look like attempts to simply confuse, or cough up smokescreens, when they could very well be crafted in such cunning a manner as to change the way people think.
In other words: is there an ideology behind these statements? A kind of credo woven between-the-lines? Are we being made to swallow his ideas like some sort of bitter pill?
All one has to do is listen closely. There’s an underlying and largely central message behind the verbal anarchy: that human rights are excrement, and human dignity a feeble concept people can do without.
If true, who or what is behind this line of attack?
It’s one thing to lie. But to toe the line at the risk of sounding either ill-advised, ludicrous, or even dim-witted is another.
Take for example U.S. President Donald Trump’s statement on the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. In this quote, he consigned the man’s right to life to mere economic considerations:
“Right now we have oil prices in great shape. I’m not going to destroy the world economy and I’m not going to destroy the economy for our country by being foolish with Saudi Arabia […]“If we broke with them, I think your oil prices would go through the roof. I’ve kept them down, they’ve helped me keep them down.”
But then you say, is there really anything worthwhile to expect from the likes of Donald Trump? The guy’s a moron, plain and simple.
To convince him to speak and act otherwise will be like trying to force the Russian dictator Joseph Stalin from dropping his idea of murder as the final solution: “Death is the solution to all problems. No man, no problem.”
But is Trump really a moron? Or is he simply mouthing a script that is all-too-familiar to despots everywhere?
Beleaguered Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro, charged by the country’s ousted chief prosecutor of a little over 8,000 deaths which allegedly occurred between 2015 and 2017, is no stranger to the laughable and ridiculous. He, in fact, has obvious talent for it.
In one of his outrageous statements, Maduro went on to explain how a teenager could end up setting off a killing spree simply by watching the Hollywood blockbuster, Spiderman 3:
“This boy who at 14 is carrying a 9 mm pistol has his brain full of thousands of hours of broadcast series in which people kill people. These days we are watching Spider-Man 3 … It is one of the series that young children most like.”
These words and others besides seem to have sprung from Adolf Hitler’s “Dictatorship for Dummies” handbook, or more popularly known as Mein Kampf.
“Make the lie big. Make it simple. Keep saying it, and eventually people will believe it.”
No doubt, Spiderman is larger than life. Ask Perry White.
This pandemic of mediocrity, if at all it’s simply mediocrity, seemed to have breached the borders of history to lay claim on the bodies and tongues of our current-day leaders.
As it is the spokesman’s job to justify the Philippines’ recent fall from grace (read: membership in the International Criminal Court or ICC), Malacañang spokesperson Atty. Salvador Panelo claimed that the country was never a member of the ICC, and that the organization, at least in his overly imaginative mind, had never existed.
“The President’s staunchest critics and vocal detractors are at it again lambasting the supposed withdrawal of the Philippines from the Rome Statute and necessarily from the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court (ICC) […] The Philippines cannot leave that which it has never joined in the first place. Our position on the matter remains clear, unequivocal and inflexible: The Philippines never became a State Party to the Rome Statute which created the ICC. As far as we are concerned, this tribunal is non-existent and its actions a futile exercise” (Genalyn Kabiling quoting Atty. Salvador Panelo, “Palace insists PH never became a member of ICC, says tribunal ‘non-existent,’” Manila Bulletin, March 17, 2019).
One huge fat lie, for certain, made in the tradition of Holocaust deniers. The Human Rights Watch speaks of the ICC as “a court of last resort for the prosecution of serious international crimes, including genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity. Its treaty, the Rome Statute, was adopted in July 1998. The court began work in 2003, following ad hoc tribunals set up in the 1990s to deal with atrocity crimes committed in the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda.”
But then, that’s Atty. Salvador Panelo, the lawyer whose job was to defend the Ampatuan family from the charge of murdering 58 individuals in Shariff Aguak, Maguindanao on Nov. 27, 2009, more than half of whom were members of the press.
To expect something even remotely profound from this man is like expecting a dung beetle to one day turn into an eagle. The sheer impossibility of that happening can be mind-boggling to the average, pay-per-cuss DDS.
But then Department of Foreign Affairs secretary and former newspaper publisher Teddy Boy Locsin comes along and, while confirming that the ICC does exist and the Philippines was a signatory to the Rome Statute (take that, Atty. Panelo!), accuses the same organization of “weaponizing human rights”.
“When the ICC weaponized human rights to defend the drug trade, we got out pronto […] We got into ICC to accommodate our beloved colleague, Miriam Defensor Santiago, who tragically never assumed her seat,” (Xianne Arcangel and Alyssa Rola, “DFA chief: ICC weaponizes human rights to defend illegal drug trade,” CNN Phils, March 18, 2019).
In the same CNN Phils. report, Senate President Vicente “Tito” Sotto III was quoted as saying, “Was there anything good that happened involving the ICC? Was the country able to benefit from it? Nothing.”
While Sen. Sotto’s words may ring true to many (the ICC having experienced serious setbacks in the past which led to leaders charged with crimes against humanity to continue their rule, dodging prison terms), it makes very little sense for these leaders—one whose reputation remains paramount—to simply toss caution to the winds. I mean, what would their neighbors say?
And toss it out the window for what? An eight-figure paycheck? The promise of a better government post in the future? Couching the answers in too simplistic terms defeats the purpose of grasping the underlying gains in exchange for public folly.
Not that I have high hopes for the likes of Sen. Sotto and Atty. Panelo. They’re the embodiment of mercury in retrograde.
But Teddy Boy Locsin? Too exceptionally brilliant that I’m always ready to pardon his middle-finger antics if only to marvel at his prose?
A close second to the late National Artist for Literature Cirilo Bautista’s columns in the Panorama, Locsin’s writings in Today newspaper were a mainstay in my daily reading list during my early days in journalism. But after having thrown his lot with Duterte, I guess the time has come to outgrow my heroes.
Jessica Zafra’s obituary to her former mentor said it best: “For a long time I have felt like a child whose beloved parent has dementia. I have watched as the sharp, shining intellect I had admired and respected was corrupted, dulled, and reduced to smearing excrement on the walls […] He has one last thing to teach me: that loyalty has its limits. Mine ends when literature and history are twisted to justify the unjustifiable.”
These roles, of toeing the “official” line and mimicking Malacañang’s Fentanyl-induced hallucinations, hardly seem too odd when viewed from the perspective of a fascist.
To quote from George Orwell’s dystopian novel 1984, “War is peace, freedom is slavery, ignorance is strength.” That, my dear reader, is unadulterated fascist dogma.
If history has taught us anything, there is a method to fascist madness, a design and mode of structure hidden behind the dilly and the dally—an anti-intellectual bedrock, if you will—which allows fascism to thrive wherever the mind is caught between Showtime and bouts with mental catalepsy.
This message—at once subliminal yet highly deliberate—takes advantage of the alleged dithering receptivity of the general populace. Hitler knew this and designed his speeches and public statements to conform to the ever-widening neighborhood of non-thinkers.
In Hitler’s book, Mein Kampf, he wrote: “The receptivity of the masses is very limited, their intelligence is small, but their power of forgetting is enormous. In consequence of these facts, all effective propaganda must be limited to a very few points and must harp on these in slogans until the last member of the public understands what you want him to understand by your slogan.”
Duterte’s political dispensation sums up the message to three simple claims: that journalism is a crime, human rights is a defense of felony and addiction, and Duterte alone must enjoy freedom of expression. *Roll of the eyes*
Hitler himself summarized this strategy in the same book: “To conquer a nation, first disarm its citizens.” What better way to defuse the populace’s restlessness than to methodically confuse them at every chance the dictator gets.
This is accomplished by interposing the violence needed to keep the populace from feeling aggravated. “The very first essential for success is a perpetually constant and regular employment of violence.”
In short, keep them at the edge of their seats. Dead, if possible; if not, then reeling like a headless chicken would do.
This is where the knuckle meets the jaw: the rationalization as to why some Filipinos continue to praise Duterte’s administration regardless of the threat to their lives.
Hitler was of the opinion that people inevitably imitate what they fear. “The great strength of the totalitarian state is that it forces those who fear it to imitate it.”
Imitate in such a way as to toe the line, do an impression of their leader, replicate both this administration’s way of perceiving things and the manner by which these ideas are spread: through lies and violent, vulgar language.
All because they could not find it in themselves to defy those in power. All because defying the powers that be means one must be able to think for himself. Quite the chore when the average Filipino must juggle two to three jobs a day to make ends meet.
What we are witnessing, in fact, is the continuous birthing and spread of fascist doctrine of anti-human dignity and anti-human rights through terror tactics.
This, by all measures, stands as the science behind fascism, to the end that all, by reason of fear, are left with little choice but to swallow, repeat, and thereafter, believe the slogans.
Straight from the Nazi Führer’s handbook.
Is there a way to undo the damage wrought by terror and fascist thought? I believe there is.
If Hitler believed that a non-thinking populace offers a tyrannical government room to grow, then it is highly likely that opening the minds of the citizenry could stop the rising tide of suppression.
Teachers, writers, journalists, artists, thinkers: there ought to be a way for the thinking throng to get in the middle of the obscurantist’s meddling with facts and attempts to narrow down everything into “he said, she said”.
Philosopher Bertrand Russell made this startling observation into what is stopping victims of fascism from moving forward:
“Dogmatists the world over believe that although truth is known to them, others will be led into false beliefs provided they are allowed to hear the arguments of both sides. This is a view which leads to one or another of two misfortunes: either one set of dogmatists conquers the world and prohibits all new ideas, or, what is worse, rival dogmatists conquer different regions and preach the gospel of hate against each other […] The first makes civilization static, the second tends to destroy it completely. Against both, the teacher should be the main safeguard” (Bertrand Russell, “The Function of a Teacher,” Bertrand Russell: Unpopular Essays, Routledge, London Rev. Ed. 1985, p. 128).
In short, a teacher must, in the final analysis, explain the context of things in order for people to take sides. By weaving the facts together to form a bigger, truthful picture, however frightening, the latter will now have reason to draw the line.
I think therefore I am, the idea proposed by the French philosopher René Descartes, was as much an existential question in the 17th-century as it was in the 20th-century.
Today, in the 21st century, one must think for himself in order to survive and push back the fangs of fascism. As Descartes himself foresaw the future, “It is not enough to have a good mind; the main thing is to use it well.” G