[Newspoint] Searching history for culprits
How far back through history need we go in our search for clues to what may be wrong with us? And how much fault can be found there that will convince us that we are ourselves blameless?
Indeed, so much of that sort of excavating, yet so little diagnostic self-disembowelment, is going on that the sense is propagated that we’re all children of ill fortune. That, I must say, is the most ridiculous sense of copout I’ve heard.
At any rate, as with just about anything, you only have to insist on it to be able to turn up the culprits you’re looking for in history. The culture of patronage on which the society operates is itself rooted and also refined in history; it goes back half a millennium to the Spanish times or, again, if you insist, even further back to our own pre-colonial, closed-class system.
For his own purposes, in any case, Rodrigo Duterte himself stops at the turn of the 20thcentury, and focuses on two incidents in the United States’ colonial campaign, two massacres that have provoked in him an avowed hatred of the Americans, one victimizing Moros in Jolo, in the south, the other Visayans of Balangiga, in Samar, central Philippines. The latter, though, would seem the one that has left the more fatal impression on him – if you could believe moviemakers and Freudian clinicians.
The officer in command in Balangiga was Jacob Hurd Smith. He made a reputation for indiscriminate brutality during the Indian Wars, and carried on with it in the war against Spain, which earned the Americans our islands as spoils, and was court-martialed for his atrocities in the Philippines.
I wonder what tricks “Monster Jake” (as the American press labeled him) played on Duterte’s psyche to make him hate the Americans with such a passion he has threatened to steer his nation away from the US and the rest of the West (“I’m anti-West”), diplomatically and commercially, and closer toward China and Russia (“They are waiting for me”).
Run by authoritarian regimes, Russia and China are known to hound their emigrant dissenters to the ends of the earth and also, like the Americans, to exploit their weaker diplomatic partners. A singular example is China’s belligerent disregard of an international arbitral court verdict affirming our territorial jurisdiction over the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea from the opposite perspective). This is glossed over by Duterte, apparently because it does not fit into his narrative.
But his point in the case of the US, however one-sided, cannot be disputed. Indeed, for all their avowals for democracy, the Americans have paid little more than lip service to it; they have simply picked up from where their colonialist predecessors left off and continued to sponsor elitist leadership and profit from the lopsided distribution of opportunities resulting from it.
But, then, as a critic of colonial patronage – and what a spiteful critic he is! – Duterte himself lacks the standing. A dynastic patriarch in his native Davao City, he has carried his patron’s mentality into the presidency in ways that have looked very worrisome indeed lately; he has been lavishing his sponsorship on the police and the army particularly.
As he surveys history to find fault that will excuse himself, Duterte has also ignored the 14 years of murder, torture, and plunder under the dictatorship of Ferdinand Marcos only a generation ago (1972-1986); again, it does not suit him, being himself a Marcos admirer, to bring it up; in fact, he quietly prepares to give Marcos a hero’s burial.
Allied now with Duterte, the Marcos partisans could not have been more pleased, naturally. The millennials among them in particular, too young as they are to have any firsthand memory of Martial Law, are themselves made to feel guilt-free; for their own pretext, they have laid the blame on the generation before them, for its failure to make them see Martial Law for what it truthfully was, thus opening history to doctoring.
I’d be the first from that generation to admit to that default. But to heap all blame on us only portrays our successors to be so short on patriotic fervor and initiative and moral discernment – not to say deficient in the simple sense of human curiosity – that they have allowed themselves to be kept in the dark about the time in their nation’s recent past in which freedom was dead.
Need one yet be taught that history is there to learn from, not escape from? – Rappler.com