We should be careful about how we assure ourselves of the righteousness of the “side” we take in the world order. Today’s scoundrels may be tomorrow’s saints; today’s heroes, tomorrow’s goats; and today’s winners possibly tomorrow’s losers. Raul Pangalangan of the Inquirer.net makes his judgment on the position the Philippines takes on the China Nobel Peace Prize “issue” quite clear in his latest piece:
“That lovely collection of rogues and cowards”—and Asia’s most democratic country now stands shoulder to shoulder with them all. For a country that takes pride in its “one brief shining moment” at Edsa 1, what we did last week showed that the moment has long lost its sheen.
I’m not sure what’s up with Pangalangan’s use of quotes in the above snippets as he makes no attribution of these words to any other person. By “lovely collection of rogues and cowards”, he is referring to the governments of some countries that joined China in boycotting the Nobel Prize ceremonies honouring dissident Liu Xiaobo in Oslo. These countries include Russia, Ukraine, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Venezuela, Cuba, Colombia, Tunisia, Iraq, Iran, Vietnam, Afghanistan, Kazakhstan, Serbia, Pakistan, Egypt, Morocco, and the Philippines.
First of all, enough has already been said about the Philippines’ presumption to judge rougish and cowardly behaviour, given our renowned track record for deeply-ingrained banal injustice. This is a point I highlight extensively in my book where I emphasise how (my boldface for emphasis)…
[…] in Philippine society, the unwritten (and ironically vastly more ingrained) cultural framework for guiding “proper” behaviour and conduct is itself convoluted, inconsistent, and unjust. Much of it lies outside the increasingly irrelevant Tradition-Religion Complex. Does this mean that Philippine society is inherently unjust? Maybe. It seems to be a theory that neatly explains a lot of paradoxes about Philippine society, among which is the famous paradox of our high Church services attendance back dropped against the virtually institutionalised corruption and passive-aggressive “immorality” that prevails.
Indeed, on one hand, we could say that perhaps we belong more amongst these “rogues” than in the company of winners of Nobel Peace Prizes. But then, on the other hand, consider how none of these countries listed by Pangalangan above pretends to be the saintly, “prayerful” and “blessed” society that inhabits the deluded self-perception of Filipinos. Pinoy nga naman talaga. The Philippines is still a misfit among “misfits”.
Second, the reality is that the “rogues” get all the chicks. Han Solo in the excellent movie The Empire Strikes Back was described by Princess Leia as a “scoundrel” before she kissed him. Let’s take a look at history’s famous “rogues”, shall we? The most famous and most worshipped rogue of all was none other than Jesus Christ. He was such a dangerous rogue to the Establishment, in fact, that he was successfully framed for “crimes” of “subversion” by the men-in-robes of the time and put to death. Recall too that it was a bunch of marauding “barbarians” that toppled the mighty Roman Empire, and the chieftains of those barbarian tribes of blonde and blue-eyed people would go on to descend a lineage of “royalty” that are the ancestors of today’s tabloid and celebrity magazine fodder.
Third, who are we calling “cowards”? Perhaps not all the countries in this set won wars, but they all put up a good fight, mounted innovative forms of warfare, and battled with conviction. I don’t think those are qualities that can be said to uderlie any initiative that Filipinos have been known to collectively effect. Indeed, as I highlighted in my article Manny Pacquiao’s compatriots – di naman pala papalag…
Our society is an INSULT to the outstanding soldiers we send to battle and the world-class boxing champs we and the rest of the world worship.
Even more laughable is how we see ourselves as aligned with the “free world” who supposedly would take up arms to fight for liberty, truth, and justice. Yet if there is anything in the way we conducted our 2004 participation in that ironic American incursion into Iraq that says anything about us, it is that we remain consistent with our limp-dicked ways…
Whether the Iraq War was a worthwhile undertaking or not is not the issue here. The issue is the reason (or rather lack of any deep reason) behind the participation of the Philippines in this war in the first place. […] The Philippines did not pull out of Iraq because there were no Weapons of Mass Destruction to be found. And it certainly did not pull out because it felt that its fundamental principles were being violated (there aren’t any to be violated in the first place). It pulled out because its Government wanted to shore up its popularity and present itself as a compassionate “partner of the people”. Good press and political survival, that’s what drives Government — a government that mirrors its constituents — a people who go to Church to exhibit form rather than experience the substance. A people who adorn the skin of its national symbol — the jeepney — while allowing engineering mediocrity to persist underneath it for 50 years. A people who are quick to slap the label of “Hero” on what is nothing more than a victim.
Indeed, placed alongside even these countries we presume to regard as miscreants, our nation of 100 million is a pygmy. The eminent Nick Joaquin had the following thoughts relevant to this matter in his famous piece A Heritage of Smallness:
Are we not confusing timidity for humility and making a virtue of what may be the worst of our vices? Is not our timorous clinging to smallness the bondage we must break if we are ever to inherit the earth and be free, independent, progressive? The small must ever be prey to the big. Aldous Huxley said that some people are born victims, or “murderers.” He came to the Philippines and thought us the “least original” of people. Is there not a relation between his two terms? Originality requires daring: the daring to destroy the obsolete, to annihilate the petty. It’s cold comfort to think we haven’t developed that kind of “murderer mentality.”
Do we chase the win or merely follow the “winners”?
It takes guts, vision, and imagination to do the earlier while it takes no more than a subscription to a tabloid or celebrity magazine to do the latter. We go for the easier way to feel like a winner. But then feeling like one and being one are two vastly different things. Take the song “My Way” by Frank Sinatra. It is a Filipino karaoke favourite. That’s because it is the easiest of songs to sing and you have got to be a real toad not to get that song right. The popularity of that song in the Pinoy karaoke circuit lies in its appeal as a safe bet. But in its title lies the biggest irony about us that most likely simply flies over the vacuous minds of the Filipino.