President Duterte: a matter of faith
By Joe America
Faith is not truth. It is confidence and commitment.
If ever there were a case study to prove the point, it would be the 75% satisfaction level for President Duterte.
What are the components of faith? An emotional need for community, purpose and hope.
Organized faiths promote a set of rules, often found in a book, accompanied by lessons as to how the faith is to be applied in life. Preachers are the teachers. There is a moral righteousness attached to the faith which cannot be challenged. To challenge is to disbelieve, to be a heathen. It is to promote disobedience and chaos and place at risk the community, the purpose and the hope.
People of faith tend to resist knowledge that conflicts with their rules or beliefs. If they change, it is in little, non-threatening steps.
Democracy is not a faith. It does not fight knowledge, but promotes it. Democracy sees argument as constructive, as a way to seek knowledge and create a commonly accepted direction.
President Duterte represents a faith, not a functioning branch of Philippine democracy. His administration is opposed to debate and knowledge. He demands obedience and allegiance, and his ministers (secretaries spokesmen, and captured legislators) and mercenaries (trolls) suppress complaints and the knowledge attached to them.
Here are some examples of how the Duterte Administration rejects knowledge in favor of faith.
- The war on drugs. The faithful see a necessary elimination of threats to social well-being caused by drugs and crime. They are deaf to the understanding that most critics ACCEPT the need to control drugs. Critics are opposed to human rights violations. The truth . . . the knowledge . . . is that killings are taking place with no due process that would confirm or deny the guilt of the victims. This is a violation of the Constitutional provisions protecting citizens. The faithful reject this knowledge. On faith that the ends will be good, and there is no collateral damage (like creating a generation of kids prone to violence as their preferred solution).
- Senator De Lima. The faithful see the necessary prosecution of an evil woman who seeks to persecute their leader. The truth is that the Senator is a woman of considerable professional experience and integrity. She also has a job to do, granted by the Constitution, and took an oath to do that job to serve the people. The faithful have gone beyond politics to make up vicious stories and fake evidence. It is reminiscent of the Salem witch hunts, and other emotional religious persecutions.
- China. The faithful see a bold pivot toward the most influential nation in Asia, the nation that can make the Philippines productive and rich. The benefits may come to be true. The gains are in the future. But the pivot denies the laws in place to protect Philippine sovereignty, the most prominent being the Constitution and the recent UN arbitration ruling. And it places at risk the sea-based resources (fish and minerals) that could make the Philippines more secure or even wealthy. The faithful deny the laws, and the losses.
- Behavior. The non-faithful see a rude and crude man, a diplomatic disaster who has denigrated the Philippines by cursing at the leaders of other lands, most prominently the United States and European Union, who shames them as Filipinos, and who has brought the economy to the brink of ruin. The faithful see a brave and manly man who stands up to the entitled who have delivered nothing to them, personally, in their lifetimes. For once, they can walk tall. To them, President Duterte is doing what is necessary to break through the chains of corruption and abuse that have bound the nation to failure. Duterte is hope, and he is courage. Well, the truth is that the Duterte Administration operates on the basis of power and favor, just like the predecessor administrations, and we do not yet know what the results will be. Without question, the Philippines is looked upon suspiciously by former friends, and many wonder why insults are needed. Without question, the stability and assurance that investors prefer are gone. The faithful don’t care.
We could cite more examples, but I think the point is clear. The faithful are in some kind of emotional denial. Because their needs are emotional, it is impossible to reason with them.
Argument would be welcome under democratic principles, for disagreements are a part of the process. A constructive response to a complaint would be to answer it. But what we get is an emotional response. A faith-based rejection of complaints. The person doing the complaining gets threatened as a devious person seeking to undermine the faith, where the state is merely standing in as the proxy for the faith.
What we are witnessing is not a political fight within democracy. It is a fight between knowledge and faith.
The Duterte Administration has a powerful organization. It has priests who interpret President Duterte’s messages and missionaries who carry out the work of converting or demonizing the non-faithful. It has a vast congregation, adoring followers who consider objection heresy, not opinion. Allegiance is based on faith, not knowledge.
The congregation does not yet have a temple, but when it does, it will be built in Davao.
I’ve stopped talking with most Duterte supporters because their emotional dedication is so confident, their commitment so unshakable, that it is futile to engage. They are not fully sentient humans, in my view. They have closed off the parts of the brain where knowledge ought to flow in.
What is peculiar to me is that many Filipinos seem to be practicing two religions at the same time. One is Christian or Muslim, and the other is Duterte. Both are faith driven. And what is extra peculiar to me is that many Christian and Muslim officals, representatives of their faith, are also practicing a second faith. It bends my mind and conjures up the term “flabbergasting”. Or bizarre. Or absurd.
The Duterte faith promotes an emotional bonding, a kind of spiritual cleansing. But not truth. It is based on commitment and confidence. Not knowledge.
The choir is shrill, ear-splitting.
It’s almost enough to incite one to shout a “Glory hallelujia!” and fly off into a spiritual frenzy of tongues.
Or get on a fast plane out of an island asylum that denies knowledge and truth, and along with it, decency. Where faith has turned brutal and the values we cherish . . . intelligence, honesty, honor, and dignity . . . are being replaced by ignorance, lies, power, and violence.