WHAT HAS HAPPENED to us? I hardly recognize the people we have become. Who are these spiteful, malicious netizens who sputter invective with every keypunch and whose contempt is now creeping into the real world? Who are these lovers of falsehood and obfuscation, these haters of objectivity and rational discussion — who are they? Are they the new breed of Pinoy? Is this the change that was promised? Are they now the norm?
My questions are echoed by folks who, like me, live by the standards of decency and morality that once mattered to everyone (so we thought). We now forlornly watch as those values are eroded by the untrammeled abuse of virtue, the exaltation of mediocrity, and the systematic manipulation of truth. At the mass level, this crusade is reportedly waged online by trolls who are amply compensated by the hour to vivisect “whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable, excellent or praiseworthy.” How can they stomach this? What mendacity of spirit motivates them to feed this gunk to sincere yet gullible compatriots? For a bag of silver? What a bunch of Judases.
What disturbs me is that so many swallow it. While it was Rodrigo Duterte who took cursing, boorishness, and his machismo-driven misogyny mainstream, evidently there was a latent pool of the same in enough Pinoys to cause widespread affirmation of his bravura. Did I say affirmation? No, I meant congratulation. As polite society shudders over the president’s recent pronouncements, this emergent sector heftily slaps Duterte on the back with metaphorical elbow digs and exaggerated winks at the priggishness of the #enemiesofchange.
What does your education matter and your breeding, all that time spent learning right from wrong, truth from falsehood, piety, hospitality, proper manners, courtesy, and the decent treatment of others? None of that has bearing, it seems, in this new climate of change. According to the “gamechangers,” truth is relative and it is determined by the majority – which, by the way, is now defined as “16.6 million.” (To nitpick over the difference between a “majority” and a “plurality” is to be puerile, so says a vocal sage of the 16.6M.) It is all right to be rude and crude as long as you are “honest,” and it is admirable to curry favor with China as long as you simultaneously insult the United States and Europe. That is how “independent foreign policy” is understood now. See, the glossary is changing too. You need to keep up; change is coming fast.
President Duterte reduces Filipino dignity to a cognitive divorce from foreign powers, even if this separation is achieved acrimoniously. To paraphrase Kipling,
If you can curse an erstwhile friend and keep their funding
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
And – which is more – you’ll be a Man, my son!
I disagree with that presidential definition. Filipino dignity is not earned by kicking sand in the strongman’s eye. It is demonstrated by standing toe to toe with that strongman and looking him in the eye, and compelling his gaze in solidarity and respect. As I understood it, we enjoyed that respect from the community of nations. But we are quickly losing it due to the crassness of our national leaders and the consistent international reportage that such behavior is “widely popular” at home.
The president’s bluster is having unintended violent consequences. There was that recent rally at the US Embassy where unruly militants were shockingly plowed through by a policeman who should have known better. And then there was this reported incident that I came across in a Facebook group yesterday:
If the 16.6M (read, majority) are serious about supporting an independent foreign policy that is genuinely pro-Filipino, then they should lead in major behavioral modification. For instance, stop the parroting of Western traditions such as Halloween trick or treating and Easter egg hunts that have no domestic indigenous parallels. Stop practices that promote classism, racism, sexism, and regionalism and begin to build a truly inclusive society. Stop patronizing local and foreign self-promoters who contribute absolutely nothing to culture but instead effectively “dumb down” the Filipino. Stop the manipulation of history and facts that perpetuate intellectual bondage and instead promote policies that emancipate the people from ignorance. Stop perpetuating the cult of celebrity in politics, entertainment, and society at large and instead empower the people to think for themselves. Then maybe Filipinos will understand what it means to be “an individual particle of sovereignty” and begin to use that power wisely.
This is how change can begin; I wonder, is this the change that the present leaders and their 16.6M want? If their conduct so far is a gauge, then I seriously doubt it.
I fear that, as President Duterte has so often said since July, “that was the campaign” — meaning, I assume, that certain promises he uttered then were meant to win him the presidency, not to be fulfilled. This is my sorrow. Because as he proceeds on his unintelligible, meandering, impulsive, often angry and incoherent path, his 16.6M follow him with applause and adulation, laughing at his dark jokes and racy expletives, approving without thinking.
While our grey dove of a nation bleeds.
Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable — if anything is excellent or praiseworthy — think about such things. — Philippians 4:8