Why the needless and remorseless violence?
The video clip of alleged Maute gang members smashing statues, tearing pictures of the saints and of the Pope and finally setting a Catholic Church ablaze have gone viral. And many are outraged. Many are incensed.
But the gangsters committed the outrage precisely to goad us into an angry response – for which they are apparently very well prepared. Meaningful action calls on the resources of that brand of reflexivity characteristic of modernity. Things just do not happen. We seize on them; study them and then direct our actions accordingly. What may come about as a matter of chance becomes the template for plan and design.
The frightful violence that shows itself in the way harmless statues are flung down, trampled upon and smashed and in the torching of a place of worship is the conjugal partner of the intolerance that breeds fundamentalist militancy.
Fundamentalists are convinced that modernity has had a corrupting influence on "the truth". And so they will be enemies of modernity and intolerant of any of its manifestations. There will be no accommodation of other views – whether these be political ideologies, philosophical worldviews or religions – because it is precisely pluralism that is, to them, the unforgivable culprit.
For one thing, the pluralism with which the 21st century seems to have reconciled itself threatens "ontological security" – a big term to suggest the security in one's being when traditions are in place, when repetition makes everything familiar, when places, positions and roles are not mixed up so that the established order remains unperturbed.
Militant fundamentalists want this security that they feel has been snatched from them and denied them by the champions and the prophets of pluralism. They are militant – destructively and murderously so, many times, because they have given up on the world listening to them, except when they do something dramatic like decapitate hostages, burn hospitals and rouse a sleepy town like Marawi and putting the whole nation on edge!
Quest for stability
Fundamentalism seeks foundations – and for Muslim and Christian fundamentalists alike, this will mean the basic texts of the Scriptures – the Bible and the Qur'an. And since it is precisely the "interpretations" of modernity that have spoilt the pristine purity of these foundational – Divine – texts, then fundamentalists reject all interpretation, no matter how impossible a hermeneutic venture that might be!
But what the fundamentalist seeks is something we must all heed, because it is something common to our quest: stability.
When, one day, marriage is the union of man and woman, and the next, it can become as permanent a union of two men or of two women, where men were assured that some roles were theirs in society and women's roles were different, and they wake up to a world where it really makes no difference whether it is a man or a woman who pilots the plain or commands an entire division or regiment, the experience of the rug pulled from beneath one's feet becomes terribly unnerving.
This is by no means an apologia for Maute. They committed crimes and their professed "allegiance" to one of the most destructive and remorseless organizations the world has ever known – ISIS (or DAESH) does not make things any better for them.
But it should help to understand with more reflection why phenomena like these have become disturbingly commonplace in many parts of the world and now, God forbid, in the Philippines. – Rappler.com
The author is vice president of the Cagayan State University and Dean, Graduate School of Law, San Beda College.