The Philippines’ myth of sovereignty
I was so fortunate to have had a very motivating history teacher in the last years of high school. Sovereignty was one of his favorite subjects. Luckily there is Wikipedia and Peter Watson’s book “Ideas” to refresh some events and concepts.
Sovereignty might have a precise definition in international legislation, but the meaning changed over time and the emotional meaning, the taste and color of the word, can differ a lot between individuals.
1. A Little history and definitions
1.1 – Magellan’s time. In Europe the Church had a booming business in selling tickets for the best seats in heaven. 70% of the wealth in France belonged to the Church, 50% in Germany. The Pope and cardinals lived a heavenly life on earth. Luther attacked these abnormalities and wanted to get back to the essence of Christianity and he became very successful. Most classical feudal ruler didn’t like this as they were anointed by the representative of Christ, the Pope, their powers inherited and God-given. Luther’s movement was very successful in the more developed cities of the German speaking part of Europe (Dutch was still considered as German). Charles V, the Holy Roman (= Germany and +/- Italy) Emperor and King of Spain, and especially his son Philips, didn’t like this. The Church reacted with its contra-reformation and inquisition. The Roman Empire fighting mainly internal religious wars ended with the Peace of Augsburg in 1555 and its principle:
“CUIUS REGIO, EIUS RELIGIO” or “Whose realm, his religion”, meaning that the religion (Catholic or Lutheran) of the ruler was to dictate the religion of those ruled. This became the general rule in Europe. People who did not agree could leave the realm peacefully with or without their belongings. (And those that couldn’t find any suitable place, the fanatic Anabaptists and Puritans went to America.)
For the first time, the ruler more important than the Pope. For the first time people could decide for themselves where to live. Lutherans could listen and talk directly to God without an intermediary. Before people had very deterministic views (as in the Philippines today?), a fatalistic acceptance of control from above.
1.2 – But the sword was used to support the faith – or was it in the fight for the possessions of the opponent? (As ISIS is attacking non-believers and aiming for oil wealth with the immense oil reserves of the Saudi keepers of Mecca and Medina at the horizon); 30 years of the bloodiest wars ever were ended in the PEACE OF WESTPHALIA, signed in 1648.
The Westphalian sovereignty, or each nation-state having full control over its territory and domestic affairs, was initiated. Borders were defined in detail, no dotted lines of subjection. It has 3 principles:
a. The principle of the sovereignty of states and the fundamental right of political self-determination.
b. The principle of legal equality between states.
c. The principle of non-intervention of one state in the internal affairs of another state.
Previously, many people had overlapping, sometimes conflicting political and religious allegiances. Now the inhabitants of a given state were understood to be subject first to the laws of their respective state authority, not to the claims of any other entity. (As in the Philippines we have to listen to Rome via our Bishops and priest, to our local warlord, as OFW to the laws or our guest country and the remaining loyalty – if any – is for our nation.)
– States come in different definitions as city states, nation states, unions . . . in different sizes from a few thousand citizens up to 1.2 billion citizens . . . in different regimes, democratic, autocratic, theocratic, inherited kingdoms . . .
– Intervention is a continuum, from unsolicited aid, past dialogue, advising, meddling, and dictating, up to imposing things by force. Individual definitions and color of all these words might differ.
– Non-intervention means borders are needed to control people, capital, goods, services, ideas, beliefs, religions, new ideas, information . . .
– Internal affairs covers all aspects of life, political, financial, economic, cultural (arts, sports, media, entertainment . . . ), religious, scientific, environmental, prosperity and freedom.
1.3 Fast forward up to the 19th century and the ROMANTIC NATION STATE.
After Waterloo, the main concern of the victorious nations was to prevent a new popular revolution. the old ways were restored all over and Kingdoms were reestablished, except for Germany and Italy that remained fragmented in many small states. But the German youth and middle class did feel as one people and didn’t want to be split by capricious princes. The unity of the German people governed as one nation became a very romantic theme. Other countries, too, wanted to strengthen their unity. Education systems were put in place to service the national cause. Histories was rewritten to emphasis the historical uniqueness of the nation. This cultural nationalism had a downside, too; it strengthened racism, “We are the best” (= “The others are inferior”). With Darwin all prerogatives that had been “God given” became a need to prove the “survival of the fittest”.
These were the romantic national feelings that Rizal discovered in Europe and “We as developed Filipinos should be an equal part of the proud nation of Spain”. Later it evolved in “We can be a proud nation on our own”. But this was the opposite to the old deterministic views the Spanish friars taught for centuries: “God decides, only the church has direct access to God, and so we tell you what to do”.
This also implied that we as a proud nation can do better than the others, therefore we need full sovereignty. We are the best, we will take all decisions, and so nobody else should meddle with our affairs. Ouch Americans, ouch Japanese, ouch the church still doesn’t understand, ouch our own dynasties . . .
2. UPWARDS, Limitations of Sovereignty
Globalization and supranational institutions resulted in a lot of delegated sovereignty in many fields, some explicit, specified in contracts, some implicit. In many instances decisions affecting us are taken outside the Philippines. Examples:
1. Civil society in all its diversity, including internet, informal groups such as grassroots organizations, informal private sector associations such as sports associations or Greenpeace, human rights associations, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), religious organizations, trade unions, chambers of commerce, universities and research institutes, the media. . .
The Philippines cannot decide on Basketball rules, Facebook content, NGO agenda’s, sacraments or CNN news items.
2. Economic and financial, including World Bank and IMF, rating agencies, multinationals, trade union organizations, consumer groups. . .
The Philippines cannot dictate Moody’s and Standard & Poor’s credit ratings, Toyota’s investment policies or Coca Cola’s marketing strategy.
3. Political, including Defense Coalitions, ASEAN, UN. . .
The Philippines cannot dictate what troops the US sends for training, custom tariffs with Asean countries or UN ISO norms and environmental conventions.
All the above have an impact on the Filipino culture, economy and political agenda, directly and indirectly. Not aligning with international practices can come at a very high cost. The Islands are no islands for thoughts or fashion. The question is “Does more upwards delegation make the Filipinos happier?”
3. DOWNWARDS LIMITATIONS TO Sovereignty
In other instances decisions affecting us are not taken on the national level, sovereignty has been (is being) delegated to lower levels.
3.1. According a management principle, decisions should be taken at the lowest possible level. Many things only affecting a Barangay should be decided only by the Barangay . Same for the municipality, the province, the region, the federated (Bansamoro) state.
3.2. Sovereignty and federalism
The US Constitution, reinforced by the Tenth Amendment, states that the federal government possesses only those powers delegated to it by the states or the people, but also admitted powers by implication.
The more we move in the direction of federalism, the more can be delegate downwards and the less relevant becomes “national sovereignty”.
3.3 “Less State” movements argue for a minimal state and to leave maximal freedom to the citizens. They believe that the “invisible hand” will solve problems better than any state bureaucracy.4. Conclusions
I would very much appreciate it if the “No meddling in our affairs” people such as Miriam, leftist groups, and some bloggers . . . would be a little more specific and more consistent. Identity politics are important in all spheres of life, also political. But people have to understand that they are the bosses, that as such they have common rights and responsibilities. To identify with “We” it is important to identify “They” too, but this does not mean that “They” always have to be the enemy.
Sovereignty is about making your own decisions and national sovereignty is about national decisions. Politics is the main factory of national decisions. But we tend to vote for actors, the opposite of decision makers, experts in following a script with the guidance of a stage manager, or we vote for news anchors, experts in a plastic smile and reading autocues, or military men just following their line of command, or dynastic people by definition biased for their own sovereign family estate.
Sovereignty presumes a nation with a strong independent decision making factory.
The romantic nation state with its absolute sovereignty was a fashionable concept of Rizal’s era. Today we should envision and prepare for the coming century with different global networks, for the conception of ideas, for the execution and for control, ideas in many different spheres of life. Cyber-attacks, very mobile borderless terrorist attacks, direct democracy, Google (and NSA) knowing it all, global mobility . . .
Nation states and sovereignty will become fossil words.
Some additional thoughts regarding sovereignty as bullet points:
4.1 Pleading for more sovereignty can be a healthy sign of nationalism. But too much of a good thing, chauvinism, is bad.
4.2 We did accept that Human Rights are above our sovereignty. Can outsiders also interfere when there are obvious and severe violations of universal accepted Human Rights? Failed States need external interference to safeguard the population.
4.3 Foreign aid meddles with our internal affairs but is generally accepted. It is very awkward to criticize a gift. But in some cases gifts can be harmful, creating mendicancy, not aligned with our culture, conditional gifts. . .
4.4 Stability is the exception, chronic conflicts and change are the natural state of affairs.
4.5 Ebola and sovereignty, ISIS and sovereignty, 2008 financial collapse and sovereignty, climate change and sovereignty, designer babies and sovereignty . . . the list of issues is endless.
4.6 Of course the US interferes in Filipino affairs as they do in Germany, France, Canada and the rest of the world.