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Thread: Mahathir questions Filipino-style democracy

  1. #301
    Hope is an accumulation of decisions

    By: John Nery - @jnery_newsstand Philippine Daily Inquirer / 05:09 AM December 26, 2017

    "Your Program on Nonviolent Sanctions at Harvard has always aroused much interest but also skepticism. Much of the skepticism about nonviolent methods was swept away by the success of the Filipino people in obtaining elections, in unveiling the fraudulent methods to distort the popular verdict, and finally in ousting Marcos in February 1986. How do you explain this shift?"

    In 1986 and 1987, Gene Sharp, one of the principal theorists of nonviolent resistance and the director of the Program on Nonviolent Sanctions in Conflict and Defense at Harvard University?s Center for International Affairs at the time, gave a wide-ranging interview to Afif Safieh, then a visiting scholar in Harvard.

    His answer to the introductory question attempts an overview of the Edsa Revolution; it is largely accurate, and still makes for bracing reading:

    "The Philippines struggle had a number of distinct features. It was a very good example of the withdrawal of the pillars of power. The Filipino people withdrew legitimacy from the regime when it became clear that the elections were a fraud. There were plans for economic resistance and noncooperation against the supporters of Marcos. Diplomats abroad began resigning. The population became nonviolently defiant. Finally, a major part of the army and its officers in effect went on strike. They did not turn their guns in the other direction or bomb the presidential palace. They went on strike and said that they were doing it nonviolently. So the army itself was taken away. Then the church called on people to demonstrate and protect the soldiers nonviolently. The civilian population formed vast barricades of human bodies surrounding the mutinous officers and soldiers, in a case that probably has no historical precedent: the nonviolent civilians protected the army. Finally Marcos was left with very little power. You take away the sources of power and the man who was formerly a tyrant becomes just an old man. His choice was not whether to remain in power, his only choice was how he was to leave. And so he left semi-gracefully."

    "That teaches us a great political lesson: that all repressive systems, all governments, legitimate or otherwise, all tyrannies, all foreign occupations are able to continue only because they receive the support of those they rule. Even foreign occupiers are supported by their own people, and frequently receive international support. If you can withdraw those sources of power, then the regime is threatened."

    The military rebels did in fact conduct one airstrike against the presidential palace; helicopter gunships belonging to the strike wing that had defected to the rebels strafed Malaca?ang Palace, to send an unmistakable signal.

    The delegitimizing of the Marcos administration began years before the fraudulent elections of 1986, when millions of people turned out to take part in the funeral of the assassinated Ninoy Aquino, in 1983. The opposition won a third of the seats in Ferdinand Marcos? National Assembly in 1984. The economic crisis of 1983-1985 worsened public perception of the Marcoses. (But the economic noncooperation campaign, targeted against companies run by Marcos' cronies, began only about a week before people took to Edsa.)

    Part of the army did go "on strike," so to speak, but only because the Reform the Armed Forces Movement's attempt to seize power through a coup was found out, and the rebels repaired to Camp Aguinaldo to make a last stand.

    Sharp, however, did get the other details, and the larger perspective, right. It was a long struggle to withdraw the sources of power of the Marcos regime.

    But one crucial factor that was not mentioned in this overview, and indeed in other historical surveys, is all-important. Hardly anyone then thought that Marcos - powerful, intelligent, disciplined - would in fact be overthrown. People just did what they thought needed to be done: show up at the Aquino home and then in Sto. Domingo Church to look at the opposition leader?s remains; join marches and rallies despite the truncheons and the tear gas; flood Ayala Avenue in Makati City with confetti every Friday; vote for opposition candidates for parliament; go to Edsa, as Jaime Cardinal Sin had urged everyone, to protect the military rebels. People did this, without thinking whether the protest action of the moment would "work."

    The odds were stacked against the people who fought against Marcos - until, suddenly, in a matter of hours in February 1986, they weren't. The downfall of Marcos wasn?t inevitable, until an accumulation of millions of personal decisions made it so.

  2. #302
    Morality in politics

    By: Fr. Nono Alfonso SJ - @inquirerdotnet Philippine Daily Inquirer / 05:18 AM January 04, 2018

    "Oh, East is East, and West is West, and never the twain shall meet!" writes Rudyard Kipling in "The Ballad of East and West."

    That seems an apt description of the politics in the Philippines. On one side, we have the government and its "diehard" supporters, and on the other, the so-called ?destabilizers,? made up of the opposition party and sectors of the church, media and civil society. And it appears that a wedge has been placed between the camps, and this divide has gotten worse by the day. Indeed, with so much toxicity in the air, can the twain ever meet?

    Jonathan Haidt, specialist in moral and political psychology, faced the same question in the quagmire that is American politics. In "The Righteous Mind: Why Good People are divided by Politics and Religion," he shares insights from his investigation of the moral divide between the liberals and conservatives in the United States. We like to believe that we are moral and ethical in our political stances, but Haidt offers these sobering "principles in moral psychology."

    First insight: Our sense of morality is first of all about emotions. We think, according to Haidt, that our morality is founded on reason, but most of it is instinctual. We just supply the reason to justify our moral sense, proving David Hume?s point that ?reason is a slave to the passions.? As an example, Haidt asks: What is wrong with someone who uses the national flag as a mop in the privacy of his home? Although he is not harming anyone, deep down we believe he has committed something immoral, though we can't put a finger on it. This is why we always fail when we try to reason with someone on the other side of the political line, even with our prodigious command of facts, logic and reason. ?Intuitions,? as Haidt says, ?come first, reason second.? If we are therefore to win over anyone in a moral argument, advises Haidt, we must learn first to enter his world, and understand where he is coming from.

    Second insight: Morality is always complex. It encompasses human rights, but is also cognizant of cultural norms and standards. Americans, for example, are very sensitive about autonomy and freedom, and will fight for these. But other cultures, like in the East, also value community and spirituality. "The righteous mind," Haidt says, "is like a tongue with six taste receptors." In reality, however, we deal with political and moral issues simplistically when there is always a lot to consider. The drug problem, for instance, is not so much a peace and order issue as a health and economic problem. Again, we need to be open to the other and to his worldview if we are to solve our moral and political problems as a nation.

    Final insight: Morality binds and blinds. We are genetically "groupish," according to Haidt. Darwin proposed that the fittest survived, but in our evolutionary history, we needed to belong to a group in order to survive and thrive. That has been the function of our group identities; but the downside is that this can blind us to other groups. Observe how our politics has reduced us to warring tribes once again. Haidt writes: ?Morality binds and blinds. It binds us into ideological teams that fight each other as though the fate of the world depended on our side winning each battle. It blinds us to the fact that each team is composed of good people who have something important to say.? The way out is rather obvious: to recognize that we belong to one big group that is humanity. We are groupish, but why not recognize everyone, each group, as part of that bigger group to which we all belong?

    Haidt writes: "We may spend most of our waking hours advancing our own interests, but we all have the capacity to transcend self interest and become simply part of a whole. It's not just a capacity; it?s the portal to many of life's most cherished experiences."

    Kipling actually ends his poem with hope. There is reconciliation between the native Kamal and the British Soldier: "But there is neither East nor West, Border, nor Breed, nor Birth, When two strong men stand face to face, though they come from the ends of the earth!"

    * * *

    Fr. Nono Alfonso, SJ, is a board member of John J. Carroll Institute on Church and Social Issues, and the executive director of Jesuit Communications.

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