[Newspoint] Living upside down
There seems to me every reason to feel unnerved these days; it feels as though things have been turned upside down. But numerous others don’t seem to mind. Could it be age?
I myself belong to a naturally thinning minority, an all-senior minority who have lived through and seen or otherwise known enough to feel unnerved indeed, seniors whose grimmest collective memories are of the war (which I missed) and Martial Law (which I didn’t).
As it happens, it’s precisely for our age and those memories that we are looked upon, even sneered at, as passé, behind the times, as if life did not proceed from progenitor to progeny, and history from past to present to future; as if life and history stopped once their mortal time stopped.
The sneerers’ self-contradictory argument is Rodrigo Duterte himself, the President himself, a very senior citizen himself; in fact he belongs in history himself, not just by age – he’s 71 – but as a character in scenes not unllike those that precisely left us traumatized.
Duterte is thought new by those too young to have lived life long enough; he is thought, on the other hand, suitable by those who, I imagine, have managed to live life easily enough in the worst of times.
But Duterte a fresh breath of air? It’s an absolute joke. Just listen to him; he speaks a profane, demeaning, and bellicose language, a language that mocks every norm of civility and decency. If that reflects authenticity, as his adorers say, then virtue itself has been turned on its head. And that’s where perhaps lies the twisted sense of freshness ascribed to him.
Out of incredulity, desperate hopes were raised that this was all a campaign stunt, one that proved to work for the moment, and these hopes were buoyed by a promise by the president-elect himself of a “self-metamorphosis”.
If any metamorphosis has at all transpired, it’s not any change in character – he is in fact looking more and more like he’s set in it, unable to help himself; rather, what has transpired is a change from dreadful promise to dreadful fulfillment.
Duterte, in other words, has moved beyond words – although that is not to say he has stopped foul-mouthing and being threatening. In less than 3 months in office, he has gone from, to take one particular promise, “I will kill you” to netting about 2,000 drug dealers and users, and some mistaken targets killed on his inspiration or authority, if not on his orders.
A war on drugs has in fact been the centerpiece of both his campaign platform and his agenda of government, although it now looks more like the only trick the pony knows. In any case, his style – impulsive and imperious, very much in the character of the dynastic patriarch that he himself is (a daughter is mayor in their native Davao City, a son her own vice-mayor) – has necessarily defined every facet and course of his administration.
Shortcutting the judicial process in the anti-drug campaign is just one case, although it’s the one that has been provoking the most criticisms. And when the United Nations expressed alarm over it, Duterte verbally savaged its secretary general, Ban Ki-moon, and threatened to take the Philippines out of his organization. Over the same issue, he did the same thing to the president of the United States, Barack Obama, although his resentment toward Americans is confessedly singular and more deep-rooted.
“I’m anti-West; I hate the Americans,” Duterte has declared, citing cases of colonial atrocities at the turn of the 20th century.
On the other hand, for all its intrusions on waters declared by a UN international arbitral court to be part of the Philippine territory, China is indulged. So as not to provoke the intruders themselves, Duterte has decided to pull out the Filipinos from the joint force patrolling those waters and leave the job to the Americans.
Diplomacy is thus taken out of its very essence, and conducted mutually exclusively.
The favor to China appears, moreover, to extend to its local surrogates, the communist party and its New People’s Army. With them, Duterte has made a deal for a ceasefire on terms much more relaxed than laid down by previous administrations: the other side does not have to give up its arms; neither does it have to stop collecting revolutionary tax from the communities in which it holds sway; it also gets all its comrades in government prisons freed.
Patriotism has suffered the same perverted fate as diplomacy; Duterte is burying the plundering, murdering dictator Ferdinand Marcos as a hero. He is such a Marcos idolater he has himself betrayed a taste for Martial Law.
But, without having to declare Martial Law, Duterte has managed to undermine freedom enough. His freedom-of-information proclamation, with its 166 restrictions, makes freedom the exception and suppression the rule.
Duterte is not simply different; he is upside-down different. And, only naturally, he throws us off who are accustomed to living right side up. – Rappler.com