Of Ninoys and Davids
I cannot help it. The parallelism is just too much. David against Goliath, Ninoy against Marcos, now a political anti-corruption activist versus a powerful dictator – Navalny against Putin. No match, people would say, like the Philippines against China in the Philippine Western Sea island-grabbing issue. And really, in the most realistic sense, it is a no-contest.
Except dynasties fall. Putin is not even a dynasty yet. His chances of falling are greater than those who have been in control for generations. And when powerful figures who want total control are pulled in by life itself, they simply die like any other mortal human being. Navalny in his mid-40s will most likely outlive Putin who is 20 years older – unless he is poisoned again or killed in a different way.
Dictators, authoritarians, or tyrants have one thing in common – they are human. That commonality prevents them from being absolutely unreachable. In fact, many of them in recorded history do not last to a ripe old age. A quickly remembered exception is Lee Kuan Yew who lived for 91 years. However, he wisely guided Singapore to a parliamentary democracy and turned over power in his early 70s.
This Alexei Navalny is something else. Yes, definitely, he carries some kind of death wish, not unlike Ninoy who knew the serious risks of coming home against the wishes of the conjugal dictatorship then. Navalny is alive today only by a stroke of luck, or destiny. He should have died as his assassins thought he would but life intervened. Now, he has returned to Russia prepared to die but not before sending a clear message to Vladimir Putin, the Russian people, and the rest of the world.
Navalny tells Putin, “I defy you with all your power.” Navalny tells the Russian people, “Never give up hope because Russians can be heroes, too.” And Navalny tells the rest of the world, “When a desperate need comes, when suffering approaches its last straw, someone will come to answer the collective cry.”
Of course, Vladimir Putin can easily get rid of Alexei Navalny. Unfortunately, Putin cannot rid Russians of their discontent. He can suppress expressions of this discontent, or he can try to transform it to popular support again. He has that option and the necessary tools to make it happen. There is still a fundamental pride among many Russians that they credit Putin for putting Russia again in a position of global power.
Unfortunately, the world is full of dictators who started out with the popular support of their people because they personified their liberator from a previous tyrant or unjust system. But invariably, what they said they will eradicate instead eradicated their own integrity and eventually swallowed them. There is so much evidence sustaining the truism that absolute power corrupts absolutely.
The pandemic has been used by many totalitarians to expand their power all the more. Emergencies demand quick decisions, as in war. Dictators thrive in disasters and calamities. In fact, many become popular because of a tumultuous atmosphere where fear and confusion seek the firm hand and quick mind of an authoritarian.
But the pandemic also upsets tyrants or totalitarians. Covid-19 is not only the first of its kind global pandemic, it also upset the whole apple cart. The economies of all countries suffered paralysis and major setbacks. Politics, too, still feels the sustained tremors of the pandemic. Take the example of a first-termer American president with a loyal and fanatical base yet could not get re-elected. He did not handle the pandemic well and, in his watch, saw 400,000 citizens die from Covid-19. He will not be the only political casualty before the pandemic is over.
Meanwhile, hot eyes are on Russia. The big drama is there, not so much that a Navalny can dislodge Putin anytime soon, but how he is used by the moment to set the stage for the eventual fall of a politician now in full control. The Davids of yore, the Ninoys of today, they are always a phenomenon worth monitoring. They are part of the mysteries in life that keep toppling the undefeatable. It is not as though they are that rare because history has quite a number of them. But when they arise, they were never expected, and never expected to end perfectly laid plans.
There is another Ninoy, another David, and this time many times more powerful. I speak of the young generations living today and the ones that will immediately follow them. Their consciousness, the way they think, feel, and process life is so radically different from the older ones, and so antithetical to the traditional lust for power and wealth of both politicians and corporate behemoths.
It is not that the young today are an angry lot that could disrupt political power, but they easily can if they want. And it is wise for controllers in politics and business not to provoke them because they are now the majority of mankind – and they have a universal mindset. With technology interconnecting humanity at such immediate and intimate levels, provocation can come from another territory, another country, yet trigger action somewhere else.
People in my generation have too few years to witness the most disruptive period of humanity thus far. We have already stepped into that era, but it is still quite early – just a toddler that is learning to use its faculties. Yet, the pattern is set and irreversible. What Davids and Ninoys had done as individuals will be what the young generations will do – but collectively this time, power multiplied. Thank goodness their fundamental energy is idealistic, and that makes me confident that all will be well. Not for dictators, though, because the pathway of the future is not favorable to those who want total control.
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