Can an iron fist create unity?
Understanding President Duterte #5
We humankinds are always in the business of drawing lines here and there. Some are spacial or geographic, maybe consisting of 9 dashes across a sea. Or perhaps there is a red line somewhere west of Panatag Shoal of which China should be very, very aware.
There are also lines in time, and we have crossed one and are heading toward another. The first was the election, signaling a changing of the guards and a stand-down by the Aquino Administration. The coming one is when President Duterte is sworn in and he will be fully accountable for his deeds. During campaign mode, he was not totally accountable. He was an exaggeration, bigger than life, full of pithy quotes and rash statements that threw everyone off balance.
The funniest thing in the world, cynically speaking, is to see the famed Duterte social media army turn apologist after the election. The election line moved them from offense to defense, as clearly as that half-court line in basketball establishes a team’s game play. The pot is blacker than the yellow kettle these days. Obnoxious thugs have now become “blind followers”. Amusing, no?
Well, I try not to use those labels, and I am confident that, among the 16 million people who put President Duterte in office, a great many are rational and good of heart. So we need to keep the thugs and trolls in perspective. They are not Duterte’s support base. They are his front line warriors. I’m more interested in what the full 16 million might be wanting out of this deal.
Do they want unity, do you suppose? Or is that just an ideal, a slogan, a feel-nice slice of apple pie that President Elect Duterte threw out for Filipino consumption right after the election? His words and deeds don’t always seem so unifying. He has offended priests and journalists and women and decency. He has coddled rebels and China and a guy named Marcos. While avoiding a lady named Robredo as if she were somehow a threat rather than a valuable resource.
The incoming Administration proposes to build unity by dividing the nation up into federated states. Is it just my mind that sees a contradiction here?
The founders of the nation certainly had unity in mind, which we can readily observe with a few cuts from the Constitution:
Preamble . . . to secure to ourselves and our posterity, the blessings of independence and democracy under the rule of law and a regime of truth, justice, freedom, love, equality, and peace . . .
Justice. Love. Equality. Peace. One does not achieve those ends by dividing and labeling and discriminating against people. Or insulting them. Or threatening them.
Section 4. The prime duty of the Government is to serve and protect the people. . . .
It does not say SOME of the people.
Section 5. The maintenance of peace and order, the protection of life, liberty, and property, and promotion of the general welfare are essential for the enjoyment by all the people of the blessings of democracy.
Well, there it is, in black and white. The word “all”. All of the people are promised the blessings of democracy through peace and order and qualities of life that we all cherish.
Unity is mandated by the Constitution, or if there are natural divisions, such as man and woman, the members of each group are assured equality of protection of life, liberty and property. Even journalists. Even blind yellow followers.
So unity is a Constitutional mandate in that we are ALL granted the blessings of democracy under the sovereign state. We have to be concerned, though, about how President Duterte hopes to provide this unity and sovereign togetherness. He seems to have so many people he doesn’t respect. Can he serve them?
I tend to think there are two ways of assuring unity:
One way is to demand it, the other to inspire it.
The demanding version would be that used by every knee-jerk autocrat since the beginning of time. Issue new rules that constrain freedom and punish those who go outside the rules. Support the iron fist by using propaganda and constraints on public information to re-define the truth.
China is good at this. Her citizens truly believe that the Philippines is the bad guy in the contest for the seas. Filipinos, those conniving, cheating dogs, are trying to take something from the Chinese people. The Philippines is insulting China and Chinese citizens by being disrespectful in filing a court case, and China, by damn, is wholly within her rights to use her military to right this egregious wrong done to the Chinese people.
Scary, isn’t it? That innocent people can be so manipulated, as the Chinese people are being manipulated.
Well, it is a choice, is it not? Whether or not the autocrat will try to redefine our context, our principles, our beliefs, our moral judgments, our rules and our deeds so that we all line up in a unified way behind the leader.
That’s rather a force fed unity wholly at odds with the democratic principles we prize, of honor and truth and transparency, of freedom to speak and worship get educated so we can compete for jobs; of non-discrimination; of trial before punishment,
The inspiring way would be that used by great democratic leaders throughout the ages. Service minded rather than control minded. Rational decision making based on information and open debate. Respect for minorities and people of faith. Opportunity, o’sweet opportunity, available for the hard working and earnest.
The people who voted for Mr. Duterte seem to think the Philippines needs an iron fist.
Perhaps they have never experienced anything but that kind of control from above, always being told what to do. Maybe they have never found inspiration in the Philippines. Inspiration, after all, makes people WANT accountability and to be disciplined, rather than shoving it off onto others.
I do fear that we have a bit of culture warp. The 16 million want the iron fist to make them whole. Most of the 84 million, I’d guess, want inspiration. They want to be served, and helped by government, so they can stand up on their own.
Was Mayor Duterte blowing smoke about unity? If not, what kind of unity are we in for?
The kind that 16 million want, because they know no different?
Or the kind that 84 million want, because there is opportunity attached? And hope. And inspiration.
There is even a chance that self-fulfillment will be attached. And discipline.