Isang pagninilay-nilay

Ang nakaraan ay tila pilit natin binabaon sa limot at muli lamang naaalala dahil pula ito sa kalendaryo. Tinuturo man sa eskuwela’y di nito nabubuhay ang silakbo ng pagmamahal sa bayan. Tulad ng isang larawan, unti-unting kumukupas sa alaala ang rebolusyon at mga kabayanihang nagawa noon. Nagiging palaisipan kung ano nga bang pinaglaban nila. Simpleng kalayaan mula sa banyagang mananakop? Ang karapatang magkaroon ng sariling pagkakakilanlan? Ang makawala sa pagkakagapos?

Subalit isang kabalintunaang ngayo’y nakagapos pa rin. Sa kalbaryong pasan araw-araw. Sa kamay ng mga mamumunong pansariling interes ang inuuna. Sa materyalismong pag-iisip. Sa pagsunod sa dikta ng lipunang kinabibilangan.

Huwad na kalayaan nga ba ang mayroon tayo?

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Series of Unfortunate Events

There’s the suicide bombing at Manchester after Ariana Grande’s concert.
And then the Maute terrorist group attacks Marawi.
And then double bombing occurs in Jakarta.
And then another one in Kabul; and let’s not forget, this happened to Saint Petersburg, too.
And then Duterte declares Martial Law in Mindanao.
And then we have Mocha Uson’s symbolism hoopla.
And then online trolls, fake news, and mindless social media postings continue on.
And then Trump wants to pull out of the Paris Agreement.
And then we learn that the Nickelodeon theme park in Coron is pushing through.
And then a gunman wreaks havoc at Resorts World.
 
It’s a crazy, crazy, crazy world.
 
And yet we see a glimpse of hope and kindness, and beauty in humanity.
 
From the One Love Manchester benefit concert that would aid victims and families affected by the Manchester bombing.
From Muslims protecting Christians from the Maute terrorists.
From noble groups and individuals quietly doing their part to attend to the needs of Marawi evacuees.
From Indonesians defying terror with their, “we are not afraid” message.
From truth seekers, those making their stand for what is right, and citizens who are not afraid to question the government.
From 146 other countries which ratified the Paris Agreement.
From environmentalists defending our oceans and the planet.
 
From people who strive to be human.

Why do people do the things that they do?

Dr. Robert B. Cialdini’s book, “Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion” brilliantly explains factors that affect the decisions that we make. Below is a summary in a question and answer form.

  1. Why did I buy the more expensive pair of shoes? The automatic, fixed-action pattern made you think that higher price reflects higher quality.
  2. Why do people announce the good and bad news together? It could lessen the perception of how bad the bad news is. The contrast principle affects the way we see the difference between two things. This is also the reason why it’s easier to say yes to a lesser request.
  3. Why do we feel indebted to someone who gave something or did something for us? The rule of reciprocation says that we should try to repay what another person has provided us. The rule is overpowering, enforces uninvited debts, and can trigger unfair exchanges.
  4. Why can’t we get rid of initiation rights and why are military trainers always mean? These are not acts of sadism. These are acts of group survival that also promote cohesiveness. “Persons who go through a great deal of trouble or pain to attain something tend to value it more highly than persons who attain the same thing with a minimum effort (Elliot Aronson and Judson Mills).”
  5. Why is it easy to go with the flow or follow the crowd? We have the tendency to assume that an action is more correct if others are doing it. Especially in times of uncertainty, we rely on social proof. We normally look around at the actions of others for clues.
  6. Why are there a lot of sports fanatics? Why do we always feel “proud” as a Filipino when a fellow Pinoy wins something or does something great? “All things being equal, you root for your own sex, your own culture, your own locality… Whomever you root for represents you; and when he wins, you win (Isaac Asimov).” Likewise, positive association encourages us to name-drop or to claim that we know or we’re friends with a famous or successful person.
  7. Why do we willingly submit to authority? We are trained from birth that obedience to proper authority is right and disobedience is wrong. The mere command of a higher authority trumps apparent senselessness, harmfulness, injustice, or usual moral standards of a certain act because information from a recognized authority can provide us a valuable shortcut for deciding how to act in a situation.
  8. Why do we eat the “forbidden fruit”? With psychological reactance, we show strong tendency to react against restrictions on our freedoms and the tendency to want what has been banned.
  9. Why do scarce cookies taste better? This perception is an emotional arousal that flows from scarcity influences.
  10. Why do we depend on isolated piece of information even if it could lead us to stupid mistakes? For the sake of efficiency, we must sometimes retreat from the time-consuming, sophisticated, fully informed brand of decision making to a more automatic, primitive, single-feature type of responding.

Politics Classics in Introspection

History is a complete repeat of what was.

What’s happening to our country? What’s happening to the world? What’s happening to humanity? We usually ask these questions and history may hold the answers. Well in my case, reading “50 Politics Classics” by Tom Butler-Bowdon gave me a bit of understanding of the nuances of politics – a topic I’m not a big fan of. But according to Aristotle, man is by nature a political animal so I guess I have no escape.

Politics is all about power. In an ideal world, keeping it in the balance will result to utopia. But that is challenging and even impossible to achieve. Because we’re dealing with humans here. And humans are difficult to predict and to control. So we are left with constant power struggles. A continuous experimentation of some sort on what system could best work in the society.

For Fukuyama, liberal democracy, characterized by open society and equal rights, works best. I share Karl Marx and Friedrich Engel’s belief that a classless state where all means of production and property are shared among all citizens is ideal but knowing man’s selfish nature, this eventually would crumble. Thomas Hobbes also supposed that man is instinctively mean and so I don’t think Emma Goldman’s faith in anarchism, the philosophy of the sovereignty of the individual, will work. In this case, Hobbes putting forward that authoritarianism leading to order and physical protection at the expense of loss of freedom, makes sense.

The purpose of the state is to achieve the happiness and elevation of its citizens (Aristotle, “Politics”). Democratic Philippines haven’t quite achieved that just yet. But let’s not put all the blame on the government. The price we pay for living in freedom is the expectation of personal responsibility as stated by Karl Popper. Zakaria said that democracy contribute to long-term stability and yet we remain poor. Thanks to failed political institutions ran by corrupt politicians.

The quest for an ideal state constantly lead to roadblocks and now I understand how totalitarian movements rise. Hannah Arendt explains that they get their power from a claim to be the expressions of “inevitable” forces of nature or history. Compared to these forces, the individual life means little, and so is dispensable. Sounds a bit like President Duterte’s war on drugs, isn’t it?

Solzhenitsyn, who wrote, “The Gulag Archipelago,” an account of the horror of Stalin’s regime, state that all the evil of the twentieth century is possible everywhere on earth. But if it’s any consolation, totalitarianism tends to be short-lived.

Tyranny results to revolutions but despite the best intentions, most revolutions simply substitute one ruling class for another (George Orwell, “Animal Farm”). And in the words of Machiavelli, whatever form of government a state chooses, it always seems to become corrupted given enough time. Because power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely (Lord Acton, “Essays on Freedom and Power”).

The political, economic, and moral struggles throughout history continue to the present day. The battle cry of Gandhi, Nelson Mandela, and Martin Luther King for equality and justice would have to go on in the today’s fight against racism and discrimination.

Women empowerment is on the rise but somehow we’re still stuck in the backward notion that women should spend their time looking for love instead of gaining the impact that their abilities should award them (Mary Wollstonecraft, “A Vindication of the Rights of Woman”).

In “No Logo: Taking Aim at the Brand Bullies,” Naomi Klein said that we are citizens, not consumers. And yet to feed our appetite to consume, sweatshops abound in several countries and according to Upton Sinclair, this is a “passing stage” which any industrializing country goes through.

Indeed, history is a complete repeat of what was. Same issues. Same struggles. Same state. We try to be better. We fail. We try and then fail again, committing the same mistakes. Ultimately, it is in trying that gives meaning and purpose to life. And this should give us the courage to continue on.

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Being Human

The security guard opened the door forcing a smile. “Good morning, ma’am/sir,” he said. People pass by not hearing nor seeing him. Not a word. Not a glance. Not an acknowledgement of his existence.

Inside the elevator, herds keep to themselves. No eye contact. Phones serving as blanket for the awkward silence. Well, not just in the elevator. Everywhere. While walking, in the restaurant, in conversations. Everyone bowed down, almost like praying or meditating.

Folks being helped never saying, “Thank you.” “Thanks,” “sorry” and “excuse me” have gone extinct, so it seems.

How about a smile? Beware, it can be taken suspiciously.

When eyes meet, both immediately have to look away. Stare longer and you might get a frown or a “What are you looking at?!”

I suppose it has always been like this. Minding your own business. Never talking to strangers. Practically keeping to yourself. But I find it odd being human these days.

Mad World

“When I despair, I remember that all through history the way of truth and love has always won. There have been tyrants, and murderers, and for a time they can seem invincible, but in the end they always fall. Think of it. Always.” Gandhi (film), 1982

This is another movie that made me cry. Like when I watched To Kill a Mockingbird (1962) and asked, “What happened to kindness?

Life is cruel. People are cruel. War in its pointlessness is inevitable. Fueled by violence, and hate, and fear. Haven’t we learned from history? Lives being reduced to mere numbers? It’s madness!

And then I saw 12 Angry Men (1957), the story of 12 jury members deliberating the guilt or acquittal of a defendant. Made me think of how our biases shape the way we judge other people. And these judgements can’t always be accurate. So in the current war against drugs in the Philippines leading to the death of suspected drug users/pushers, should I be okay with the judgement that they are deserving of this fate? Does the end really justify the means? All life is supposed to be sacred. But what do I know.

It’s a mad, mad world. Leaders making dumb decisions. Capitalists continuously thrashing the planet. Religion being used to wreak havoc. People blindly going with the flow. It’s scary what humanity is turning into. And I can’t wait for the way of truth and love to prevail real soon.