More radical governance
The election of Emmanuel Macron as the new President of France afforded a sigh of relief, not only among the French majority who voted for him but also among many nations of Europe and the world. From global commentaries aside from the French, the sigh of relief came because the spirit of protectionism and ultra-conservatism that defined Brexit and the election of Donald Trump did not overwhelm France as well.
Truly, terrorism has succeeded to an extent that its advocates did not expect when they began it all. Imagine, whole nations are running scared, scuttling progressive ideas and programs in exchange for isolationism as though walls along borders or stringent immigration policies can stop people from making the world a more intimate village.
Yes, the fear of terrorism is justified, but the approach to it that the United States, for example, is taking exacerbates the fear, not reduces it. It is not the determined terrorist that is stopped at the border because that terrorist is not dissuaded by immigration rules. Terrorists who are willing to die for their causes, perverse or noble, will not be stopped by walls.
Terrorists want to inflict terror more than destruction because terror affects everyone while destruction affects a smaller number. Fear, then, is the victory of terrorism. Then, hate is its second victory. Fear paralyze while hate while hate produces motivation for more terrorism.
But, perhaps, the worst impact of fear and hate is the depression of dreams and aspirations. They make people think small and smaller, unable to handle dreams and visions, and effectively stagnate human creativity – except for ideas on how to be even more defensive and to be more destructive. Yes, terrorism is real and destructive. But the fear of it can drive others to become all the more vulnerable to it.
There is another reason, though, for the fear that runs deep in many places. It is mostly resentment at the economic inequality that persists in the world. This inequality is not new. It has always been there. However, many people in different societies have found ways to reduce the gap and share more in the benefits of national resources and productive economies. The rest of the world, then, sees that the gap can be lessened, that the benefits can be shared and enjoyed by more, and they will not accept anymore what was then the only way of the world – the monopoly of wealth and opportunity.
Fear of terrorism combined with resentment from inequity make a powerful combination for change, the kind that accepts more authoritarianism, more conservatism. People just want change and the more moderate or civil manner is deemed inadequate. They insist on change now, not tomorrow. And only a strong, centralized power can cut through red tape. It can also cut through any law – and that’s the danger.
There have been attempts to put the Philippines in the same light as Brexit and Donald Trump’s election. It must be because of the outspoken character of Rodrigo Duterte, how he does not conform to long accepted protocol, and the colorful language he uses (the translation from the vernacular to English makes it even more so). There are distinctive differences, though, and lumping the Philippines with Great Britain and America is not unfair in the political world but really, truly inaccurate.
There was, indeed, fear and hate that littered the presidential campaign, and the months that immediately followed, but they were not because of terrorism or border issues. There was a fear of illegal drugs and their pitiful, sometimes vicious, impact on local communities. It was a fear not read and felt very well by the powers that be before the Duterte administration and that shortcoming was politically fatal. It is a fear that even today is not appreciated by those who oppose Duterte and his war against drugs. But Duterte read it then, reads it now, and reaps popular support despite the most constant local and international criticism against his anti-drug campaign. His campaign may be flawed, but no one has offered anything sensible to convince 80% of the people otherwise.
More importantly, at least as far as I see it, the misery (I assume there is plenty of resentment, too) of the poor and their desire for change must have been well understood by Duterte as well. Then, too, was the frustration of the general populace regarding the red tape of bureaucracy and the attendant corruption. These propelled a passionate belief that Duterte, with his controversial personality, can actually temper or reform the absolute dominance of the elite and the incorrigible character of the bureaucracy.
All these fears and aspirations of a great number combined in the last presidential elections to find resonance with the controversial personality we have in Rodrigo Duterte. Now, as President, the resonance is far greater than the votes he gathered in May 2016, still an “excellent” approval and trust rating nine months after. In England, the latest local elections solidified support for the thin edge that Brexit initially had over the Remain forces. And in the US, 96% of those who voted to Trump still believe in him. All these expressions of support are despite the negativities that have accompanied these controversial leaderships.
I do not believe that the world can long sustain belief and support for a fearful environment, one that is driven by active insecurity more than exhilarating vision. But the trends of the world are clear indications that strategic threats make it easy to fall back on a traditional mindset that has always been centered on central, authoritarian rule. The advent of democracy and liberal principles is not only exciting and expansive, but the global human DNA is still heavily wired to a history that is the opposite.
The journey to a new consciousness will be reflected first and foremost in the reduction of massive poverty, the lingering consequence of traditional elitist governance. In the Philippines, we fall behind in this aspect, and the clear majority of our people are still predisposed to accept more rocking of the boat.
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