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Saturday, September 2, 2017

Building a Peaceful and Just Society Through the Politics of Change PART II

By Van Ybiernas

Successful revolutions breed a polity that replicated the wise, kind, and just kings of old. Unsuccessful ones breed a restive and angry society. Thus, if societies in, say the United States and the Philippines, are restive and angry ---a lot of opinion-makers called the Duterte victory in May 2016 as an “angry vote”--- then it stands to reason that the so-called “revolution” that bred that restive and angry society was a monumental failure. If that revolution was not a failure, then why are people restive and angry? In the context of the current Duterte Philippines, people are restive and angry ---they are not at peace--- because ours has become an unjust society. Crime is a symptom of an unjust society. More importantly, crime is a product of a failed leadership, as I have already pointed out. Crime emerges when kings stop being kings, when kings begin to be more concerned with power, wealth and family legacy than with delivering their people from injustice.

As a Filipino, you need to ask yourself: with the spate of killings happening in this country, well-documented and even hyped by local and international media, why is there no outrage from the people? Have the people of this country ---who have valiantly and unceasingly fought tyrants and foreign invaders, not always as one nation because the edification of the Filipino nation only began during the latter part of the 19th century--- suddenly lost their righteousness? Have they lost their sense of justice? Have they lost their morality?

Ladies and gentlemen, the Filipino people have not lost their senses! We have not lost our senses. What we have now is a realization that a war must be fought to regain our country from those who seek to destroy it through crime. And this war, like any war, is and will be bloody.

The spilling of blood needs to be contextualized because not all deaths are the same. The death of Jesus Christ’s mortal body because of crucifixion is not the same as the death of a jaywalker who was sideswiped by a rampaging passenger bus along the killer highway, Commonwealth Avenue here in Quezon City. Each death has a context. And precisely, the context of the death of drug pushers and users in the War on Drugs is simple: they are a scourge that must be cleansed before we become a just and peaceful society again.

I am sure all of you read and watch the news. You know that there is a report ---unverified and most probably exaggerated--- that there have been twelve thousand dead in the War on Drugs. If juxtaposed with the reported four million drug pusher/user surrenderees at the start of the Duterte administration, the casualty count is 1/3 of 1 percent, hardly the numbers you would expect in a genocidal campaign as some ill-informed people have put it. I think that it is a war that must be fought. Others disagree. Let the debate flow in our democratic society. But in the end, we will never become a just and peaceful society with the drug scourge around.

I am not God. I am not saying that the War on Drugs is ABSOLUTELY moral. What I am saying is that this is Duterte’s solution to this problem that has plagued the country for decades. And judging by the survey results and by my unscientific observation of public acclamation, I’d say the president is supported by the people. Let me reiterate: we will never be a just and peaceful society for so long as crime reigns supreme.

Of course, there is the problem of abuse in relation to the War on Drugs. This is the president’s problem. As I have already pointed out: kings fall when the people see that they have veered away from the righteous path. And in the context of today’s media and social media overloaded society, it will be harder than ever to mask failure in leadership. Just ask the previous president, who was once a very popular leader of the country. As his leadership ---actually, the lack thereof--- was unmasked, he became a kiss of death to his would-be successor in the May 2016 polls, especially after the latter sought to glorify the former’s term of office and vowed to continue it! Such is the problem when leadership detaches itself from the people they lead!

Now is not the time to say that Duterte is the best president the country has had. It is premature! Tides can turn very rapidly as his predecessor tragically learned. As late as 2014, President Benigno Aquino III was riding on the crest of popular support but when Mamasapano happened in January 2015, his fortunes nosedived abruptly and uncontrollably.

My point is simple: leadership is the key to building a just and peaceful society. Westerners would like to believe that moral, stable ---and impersonal--- institutions, not so much the leadership of individuals are key to the edification of a just and peaceful society. But there is a context ---which is often lost when they say this--- as to why they say this. History of the West has been a long history of leadership failure. They highlight a few notable leaders simply because they are a contrast to the multitude of inept leaders. Augustus Caesar’s profile is so prominent because of his successors like Nero and Caligula. Thomas Jefferson and Abraham Lincoln stand out vis-à-vis the other presidents who were underwhelming in terms of accomplishment while in office. It is because of this leadership failure why the West prefers to be guided by moral, stable, and impersonal institutions.

Another reason why they prefer moral, stable, and impersonal institutions over individual leadership is the preponderance of abuse by these leaders in history, especially since the power wielded by these Western rulers were absolute. Contrast this with the Philippine experience: ours has always been, since the pre-colonial period, a TRULY democratic society and government. Our pre-colonial leaders were elected by their constituents and were accountable to them in the best possible ways. Abusive leaders were either replaced or, more frequently, they were executed by their followers. Filipinos are not passive. We are opinionated. Too opinionated, in fact, that debates are not really ideal for us because, more often than not, it leads to fisticuffs or damaged friendships. Nagkakapersonalan sa debate. The point is, we are not blind followers, which is why democracy thrived here until colonial rule destroyed and replaced it with elitism. Elitism, as you probably know, is a reflection of the Western experience of monarchy and nobility: it is passed on within the family from generation to generation, even if the family member exhibits poor leadership traits. We call that political dynasty today.

As you will also note, we, as a people, are continuously struggling, not against political dynasty per se, but when political dynasty becomes inept and counter-productive. Clearly, a performing political dynasty can still be democratic if the people chose them to be leaders out of their own volition. Leadership is the key to building a just and peaceful society because Filipinos follow people, not an impersonal institution. They want a reasoned leadership. They want a responsive leadership. They want an effective leadership. Why? Because all they want is a just society. A society where everyone gets what they deserve. If you try to destroy society, you will know what your future ---actually, the absence of it--- will be. If you exhibit all the right qualities of leadership, you will be justly rewarded. The lazy cannot be rewarded, only the industrious. The enterprising and intrepid must be rewarded. The lethargic and unimaginative must reap the fruits of their failures. Let me reiterate: justice exists when everyone is where they need to be.

And with justice, people will have peace.

If we don’t have a just society, there will be an impetus for change under an enlightened, moral and visionary leadership. History is there to help alert us what we need to change in order for us to edify a just and peaceful society. I will let the political scientists tell us what this change ought to be. Sila ang nakakaalam ng lahat eh! Hahahaha. As a historian, my role is to remind society and its leaders that without justice, there will never be peace.

Good afternoon to all of us and Mabuhay ang Pilipinas! Mabuhay tayong lahat!

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