Making a Deal with the Devil: The Faustian Bargain
By Andrew Lim
When ancient man figured out that living in groups, specially large ones was more advantageous, he quickly learned how to make a deal- get something by giving up another.
The deal could be between two entities: a modus vivendi, or internally, with one’s conscience.
In German legend, Faust was an intellectual who made a deal with the devil: in exchange for his soul, he gets unlimited knowledge and pleasure.
Sometimes, I think the Filipino version of Faust is the foolish Catholic: I will do as I please during my time on earth (which includes committing evil in the pursuit of good), but ask for forgiveness at the end, because everyone is forgiven anyway.
It would be a lot of fun if we could develop an algorithm- if it was possible -that could compute how humans calibrate their interests and its valuation but let’s try it here.
In contemporary Philippine politics, forces in play can be understood by studying the types of deals they enter into. What follows is my analysis/opinions of the various players and the bargains they have made. Throw in yours.
I would not be surprised if President Duterte made a similar list in his mind pre-inauguration to keep these volatile forces in check and squarely in his camp.
Philippine Left (legal and underground) – Duterte dangled Cabinet jobs and a ceasefire and the Left bit. This effectively froze the most organized ideological grouping in the country. The new democratic space enticed them, as well as the opportunity to push Marxist agenda, and a chance to rest and regroup. But it could also be due to the opportunities for intelligence gathering – just think of how much intel those cabinet members and their staff can collect while on official duty.
VACC, diehard Duterte supporters– The ferocity of personalities like Uson and Jimenez is riveting. My view is that their advocacies are a way of quenching an unquenchable thirst for vengeance, since the pursuit for justice for the murders of their loved ones did not end well. In the same way abused children have a strong tendency to become abusers themselves if not treated, victims of violence can become unhinged, unaware they have turned into monsters themselves.
Father and son Pimentel– a brand name for integrity and anti-dictatorship in the Marcos era, but their moist eyes for federalization make them look the other way. Most likely, they believe this is the only chance federalization will ever get. Very interesting to probe this further, considering both are highly intelligent persons. How do they make the moral trade-offs, specially with regards to the Marcos burial?
Marcos, Arroyo blocs – Pretty straightforward motivations. Freedom from the arc of history that may be long but bends towards justice; wealth preservation, a chance to revise history.
Senators Sotto, Pacquiao, Gordon, Cayetano and other lawmakers– cafeteria Christians, I call them. Sotto is a stalwart of Couples for Christ, Pacquiao is a tabula rasa for any preacher. They pick and choose whatever doctrine suits them while blatantly ignoring others.
Business sector– For them, business continuity is the most important thing in the world; only when this is threatened can you expect resistance.
Those who voted for Duterte – It is the tragedy of the Philippines that a huge chunk of its population are woefully informed and ignorant. Ignorance leads to exploitation, poor information leads to poor decisions.
It was as if people were told last May 2016: “I will lead you to heaven but you have to hold my hand, pointy fingers and all, and come down with me to the dungeon.” And 16 million said yes.
Those who gave up their freedoms for a little more bread soon find out that they lose both, since they could not complain anymore about the lack of food as well. Ask the countries under the former Warsaw Pact alliance.
Fr Joel Tabora S.J. , president of Ateneo de Davao is a man you may characterize as having an intuitive feel for the eternal, and how it contrasts with the ephemeral. Formerly a staunch supporter of Duterte, he now believes, “… it is better to battle evil on the side of God, rather on the side of the evil one.”
In no uncertain terms:
“If I must choose between going to hell with President Duterte in pursuit of the war on drugs in the Philippines or going to heaven with Abp. Soc Villegas because neither he nor any of the Catholic Bishops of the Philippines “find pleasure in the death of anyone who dies” (cf. Ezekiel 18:32), I choose going to heaven with the CBCP, even if their company and their language is neither as colorful nor as entertaining as that of the President. “
In another blog post:
“We are called to do good, and avoid evil. Not to do evil to do good. We are called to protect life, not kill it. There is no politician who is God, and no party discipline that silences conscience. “
There are parallels with the US – amongst conservatives, Republicans and newly converted Trump supporters: we will look past the pussy grabbing, the racism, the conflicts of interest, the outright lies – if Trump delivers on the economy, or pushes back on culture issues like abortion, cuts back taxes, makes America feel safe. The difference is that what drives this is not ignorance or poor information, but desperation – e.g. the huge swaths of American industrial heartland gutted by automation and cheaper labor overseas.
When a man makes a deal, the character of that person and/or the intensity of his desperation reveals before your eyes.