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What We Can Do in the Age of Fascists

As the world watched the meteoric rise of eventual presidents Duterte and Trump, Filipinos could not shake the pair’s family resemblance. Both were seen as clowns who only lacked the ridiculous facial hair to complete the cartoon villain caricature. But, when Duterte cussed and bullied all the way into Malacañang, that should have been a clue to us that Trump would do a lot better than what the polls were saying.

Now that Trump has won despite all the ridicule and naysaying, there has been a lot of finger-pointing and self-flagellation among liberals and Democrats. Chiefly, we shouldn’t have been so smug, painting Trump supporters as racist inbreds.

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Frequent users of the SJW epithet were quick to blame progressives for being overly sensitive to the Trump campaign’s overt racism and misogyny. Anti-globalists with particular disdain for the United States pointed to “neoliberalism’s” neglect of the American working class. Political nihilists blamed Hillary’s being a corrupt Washington insider for failing to convince independents to vote against Trump.

It is true to some extent that odious self-righteousness is a turn off and does little to convince fence-sitters. But, just like Ken Bone, people who were on the fence about Trump and about the values he validated weren’t fence-sitters for lack of reasonable arguments for either side. Breaking down the Trump voter demographics, it is clear that his base was not full of people left behind by eight years of Obama.

The median yearly income for Trump voters is $72,000, above the $62,000 median for Clinton’s.  Singling out Trump’s poorer voters, only 14% earned less than $50,000. And, as Trump whipped up anti-immigrant sentiment, a Gallup study showed that his average voter was “no more likely to be unemployed or exposed to competition through trade or immigration.”

This false narrative of revenge-against-the-elites should remind Filipinos of the lie that the Duterte vote was an anti-elite, anti-oligarch vote. As with Trump, the wealthier you were, the more likely you would have been a Duterte voter. Rather than being victims of the Aquino administration’s “neoliberal” economics, Duterte’s supporters flourished more than their countrymen. Add to that, among Filipinos living abroad, Duterte and Marcos polled highest.

Rather than an uprising of the victims of capitalism and globalization, the wave of nativism and fascism sweeping the world: from Duterte to Brexit to Trump, is a backlash from the privileged classes: the male segment, in particular. It used to be that men could comfortably make misogynistic, homophobic, and racist comments without much pushback. Now, progressives can be relied upon to cast light on what used to be socially acceptable but bigoted behavior. In response, there is resistance from the privileged class against “political correctness,” which has now become shorthand for, “I’m not allowed to speak my mind about people outside my group.”

Progressives have been playing identity politics for much of the past ten years, and it has finally blown up in our faces. We forgot that the ruling class can also play identity politics, and play it they did.

We have to realize that though we think we are right to call out oppression, the other side, well-to-do (white) men, are still the ones in charge. And though we feel empowered as the momentum in the politics of language is on the side of progressives, politics itself is still largely out of the hands of the underprivileged, women, and people of color.

To be sure, moralizing has not worked. Even before the elections, Duterte critics unceasingly reminded Filipinos of the carnage he had wreaked on Davao and would wreak on the rest of the Philippines. Every day now, we see photos of people, generally poor, murdered in the streets. Over 4,000 Filipinos have been killed so far and his support has not wavered. And this is on top of Duterte’s misogynistic behavior. In the US, liberals constantly picked apart Trump’s misogyny and his supporters’ racism and racial resentment.

It may seem to many of us that state-sponsored killings, misogyny, and racism are self-evidently wrong, but 2016 should show us that, no, they are not. And, we should have known this from the start.

We were seduced by the religious certainty of moralizing. Yes, you can probably argue from many moral frameworks how homophobia is wrong or how vigilante justice is a net negative on our social institutions, but politics on either side is rarely about reason, but emotions.

Duterte’s key supporters are richer than their neighbors, and so are Trump’s. They are largely isolated from those most affected by murders and racism, respectively. As long as the oppressed remain hypotheticals to them, they will not empathize.

Like Harry Potter’s Dudley Dursley complaining about having 36 presents when he had 37 last year, the privileged classes are lashing out against having fewer words to say and, dare I say it, fewer pussies to grab. It doesn’t matter what you think is fair. If the privileged classes experience the insecurity of their status, they will reliably lash out in the way they have in electing Duterte and Trump.

Schadenfreudists have been satisified in calling liberals smug, and saying that Clinton/Roxas/Poe/etc. offered no alternative, while Trump/Duterte at least offered something new and different. And yet, schadenfreudists have offered no alternatives either.

So, what is left for progressives to do in the face of obvious oppression? If calling bigots bigots and fascists fascists does not work, do we just let Duterte call diplomats white monkeys and faggots (the more appropriate translation of “bakla” when said in contempt)? Do we just let him ogle the Vice President’s legs and cat-call reporters? Do we just let him threaten our right to due process? Do we just let American racists tell non-white citizens to go “home”?

I believe that there is room for multiple approaches. And though we shouldn’t stop pushing back against fascism and call it out when we see it, we must also recognize that it is not a given that our opponents share our values for fairness. This is a lesson we should have learned when we were on its receiving end from religious conservatives. They call contraception murder and secularism immoral. To them, these issues have consequences as heavy as heaven and hell. But, these concerns are incomprehensible to secular progressives.

Some people have called for constant dialogue, though I think that this is not as effective as it makes us feel better about “going high.” What is left to say on the matter of state-sponsored murders? What is left to say on the matter of barring Muslims from the US? I believe that the strongest argument against the fascistic urge, rather than play their winning strategy of populist dishonesty and demagoguery, is quiet perseverance.

We organize. We defend our institutions, our environment. We stop congratulating ourselves over recognizing our faults. We have to fight against the normalized fascism we already see in the Phlippines and will soon see in the United States. And, critically, we have to do better than Hillary Clinton. We have to do better than Mar Roxas or Grace Poe. We have to offer something better than status quo.

Trump’s and Duterte’s voters did not vote against a better future. They believed they were making the best choice available. And, I am sure both administrations will improve on the previous in some, perhaps many ways. Nevertheless, a vote for a fascist is a vote to define who gets to share and who does not in that better future.

Yes, quiet and continued perseverance is not sexy. It’s not noisy. And it’s not going to promise anything big by 2020 or 2022. But, as Martin Luther King, Jr. said, the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice. In the long view, the world is only getting better. Let’s not forget that over a million people more voted for Clinton than Trump and Duterte won by plurality, not by majority. We just have to make sure the world exists long enough for it to get even better.

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The President Asks, What If There is No God?

The President Asks, What If There is No God?

In a recent speech, President Rodrigo Duterte raised the question, “What if there is no God?” He asked this in light of criticism of his stance on the war on drugs and the reinstatement of the death penalty, particularly to those who argue that only God can take a person’s life.

As freethinkers and secularists, we applaud the President’s recognition in that speech that not all Filipinos believe in a god. This might be the first nod toward non-believers by any sitting Philippine President in history. He also raised the valid problem of suffering in a world supposedly designed by a benevolent god.

Perhaps the Filipino public might begin to ask themselves that question, “What if there is no God?” How differently would we organize our lives if there were no God? How would our values change as a society? How much importance would we place on social justice in this life, rather than postponing it to a supposed afterlife?

We believe that it is about time that non-believers were recognized as equal citizens in this Catholicism-dominated country. Despite the Constitutionally protected separation of Church and State, too many politicians have used their belief in God to justify their policies, with Senator Manny Pacquiao leading the charge.

However, we also decry the misuse of atheism and agnosticism to promote non sequitur conclusions. President Duterte raised the issue of God because he believed that the death penalty would be his answer to the absence of a god judging the living and the dead.

We disagree that imposing the death penalty follows from the lack of justice in an afterlife. On the contrary, the highly likely execution of innocent citizens would be exponentially more despicable in the absence of an afterlife. There is no undoing the execution of an innocent life. There is no consolation for the wrongfully executed. In the United States, whose system of criminal investigation is already much more advanced and scientific than the Philippines’, an estimated 4% of defendants on death row are still wrongfully convicted.

And even when we are certain of a person’s guilt, the application of the death penalty should take into account its probable disproportionate imposition on the poor since the drug trade is often a refuge for those abandoned by society to fend for themselves. There is also little evidence that the death penalty is an effective deterrent against crime, when it can also serve to escalate and perpetuate the cycle of violence.

If there is no God, if there is no afterlife, justice in this life is of supreme importance. There would be no God to sort out the dead. Only we can provide justice, and there is no justice without due process.

Posted in Advocacy, Featured, Organization, Politics, Religion, Society0 Comments

Dealing with Duterte Supporters | FF Podcast

Dealing with Duterte Supporters | FF Podcast

This week, we talk about dealing with Duterte supporters. We discuss the best ways to deal with political disagreements and whether it is right to judge people for political opinions.

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Duterte Catcalls | FF Podcast

Duterte Catcalls | FF Podcast

This week, Sharmila Parmanand joins us to talk about Duterte’s recent catcalling incident. We talk about freedom of expression and what we should expect from the President of the Philippines.

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FF Podcast 106 (Audio): Flores de los Alleged Criminals

FF Podcast 106 (Audio): Flores de los Alleged Criminals

FF Audio Podcast 106 - Flores de los Alleged Criminals

We talk about the suspected criminals paraded around in Batangas. We also discuss the basic right to due process and why it’s necessary for a functioning society.

You may also download the podcast file here.

Filipino Freethinkers Podcast (Audio) feed

Filipino Freethinkers Podcast (Audio) feed

Filipino Freethinkers Podcast (Audio) on iTunes

Filipino Freethinkers Podcast (Audio) on iTunes

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FF Podcast 104 (Audio): 2016 Elections Post-Mortem

FF Podcast 104 (Audio): 2016 Elections Post-Mortem

FF Podcast 104 (Audio): 2016 Elections Post-Mortem

This week, we talk about the results of the elections. We discuss “moving on” and the next steps for the Philippines during the new presidency.

You may also download the podcast file here.

Filipino Freethinkers Podcast (Audio) feed

Filipino Freethinkers Podcast (Audio) feed

Filipino Freethinkers Podcast (Audio) on iTunes

Filipino Freethinkers Podcast (Audio) on iTunes

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2016 Elections Post-Mortem | FF Podcast

2016 Elections Post-Mortem | FF Podcast

This week, we talk about the results of the elections. We discuss “moving on” and the next steps for the Philippines during the new presidency.

You may also download the podcast file here.

Filipino Freethinkers Podcast feed

Filipino Freethinkers Podcast feed

Filipino Freethinkers podcast on iTunes

Filipino Freethinkers podcast on iTunes

Posted in Media, Podcast, Politics, Society, Video0 Comments

Candidate Duterte and the New President Syndrome | FF Podcast

Candidate Duterte and the New President Syndrome | FF Podcast

This week, we wrap up our election series with Candidate Rodrigo Duterte. We lay it all out in this final episode before the elections. We also talk about the New President Syndrome and why participating in politics doesn’t end on election day.

 

Links
https://www.hrw.org/report/2009/04/06/you-can-die-any-time/death-squad-killings-mindanao
http://www.theguardian.com/global-development-professionals-network/2016/apr/18/the-war-on-drugs-has-failed-time-to-stop-fighting-and-start-thinking
http://opinion.inquirer.net/94123/ones-walk-away-davao
https://youtu.be/kuq_uf9vN_8?t=59m50s

You may also download the podcast file here.

Filipino Freethinkers Podcast feed

Filipino Freethinkers Podcast feed

Filipino Freethinkers podcast on iTunes

Filipino Freethinkers podcast on iTunes

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FF Podcast 102 (Audio): Candidate Poe and Strategic Voting

FF Podcast 102 (Audio): Candidate Poe and Strategic Voting

FF Podcast 102 (Audio): Candidate Poe and Strategic Voting

This week, we continue our series on presidential candidates with Grace Poe. We talk about whether her inexperience is an asset or a problem. We also talk about voting strategically.

You may also download the podcast file here.

Filipino Freethinkers Podcast (Audio) feed

Filipino Freethinkers Podcast (Audio) feed

Filipino Freethinkers Podcast (Audio) on iTunes

Filipino Freethinkers Podcast (Audio) on iTunes

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Candidate Poe and Strategic Voting | FF Podcast

Candidate Poe and Strategic Voting | FF Podcast

This week, we continue our series on presidential candidates with Grace Poe. We talk about whether her inexperience is an asset or a problem. We also talk about voting strategically.

You may also download the podcast file here.

Filipino Freethinkers Podcast feed

Filipino Freethinkers Podcast feed

Filipino Freethinkers podcast on iTunes

Filipino Freethinkers podcast on iTunes

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FF Podcast 101 (Audio): Candidate Roxas and Whether Voting Changes Anything

FF Podcast 101 (Audio): Candidate Roxas and Whether Voting Changes Anything

Filipino Freethinkers Audio Podcast 101

This week, we continue our series on presidential candidates with Candidate Mar Roxas. We discuss whether Mar of the same is better and whether voting even changes anything.

You may also download the podcast file here.

Filipino Freethinkers Podcast (Audio) feed

Filipino Freethinkers Podcast (Audio) feed

Filipino Freethinkers Podcast (Audio) on iTunes

Filipino Freethinkers Podcast (Audio) on iTunes

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Candidate Roxas and Whether Voting Changes Anything | FF Podcast

Candidate Roxas and Whether Voting Changes Anything | FF Podcast

This week, we continue our series on presidential candidates with Candidate Mar Roxas. We discuss whether Mar of the same is better and whether voting even changes anything.

You may also download the podcast file here.

Filipino Freethinkers Podcast feed

Filipino Freethinkers Podcast feed

Filipino Freethinkers podcast on iTunes

Filipino Freethinkers podcast on iTunes

Posted in Media, Podcast, Politics, Video0 Comments

Did Duterte Lie About Jacqueline Hamill?

Much has been said and is still being said about Mayor Rodrigo Duterte’s joke about his state of mind when he saw the dead body of ststage-taking victim, Jacqueline Hamill. I won’t talk about whether those jokes—said on at least two occasions and to different audiences—were indeed jokes. Rather, we shall be taking the mayor at his word as recorded in this video uploaded by Youtube user ‘Rody Duterte.’

It seems the mayor has some more explaining to do about the role he played during the events of the hostage crisis of August 1989.

Around the 9 minute mark of the video, the mayor says that, after the first exchange of gunfire with the prisoners had subsided, soldiers retrieved the near-dying bodies of the hostages from the first firefight with the prisoners. Hamill’s body, he says, was one of them and she eventually died and was covered.

The mayor says he lifted the sheet partially to look at Hamill’s dead body. What he saw, he says, drove him to rage—and to finally give up on the waiting game and go head-on with the assault, on his own if it came to it.

‘Kinuha ko yung uzi ko tapos tuloy-tuloy na ako. “O,” — referring to the soldiers — “sumunod kayo, ayaw niyo?” Tapos ako ang unang nag… I first did… I first…’

It was hard to make out what he says at this point but it was clear from his gesture what he meant.

‘Isang magasin. Inubos ko. Brrt. Ayun… Bakbakan na kami. Patay lahat.’

However, his narrative’s sequence of events do not match most reports at the time. Some members of the media were on the scene and their accounts say that there was a first apparent attempt by the hostage-takers to escape by using the hostages, including Hamill, as shields. This resulted in the first firefight and Hamill’s body was seen slumped and abandoned in the area previously occupied by the hostage-takers. Her body remained there for at least four more hours, as reported in The Age.

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A soldier walks over Jacqueline Hamill’s body after the prison assault. This contradicts Duterte’s claim that he saw the body and was motivated by this to lead the charge. (The Age, August 16, 1989)

It wasn’t until the conclusion of the second exchange of fire—the first and only assault on the compound—when the soldiers prevailed, killing all of the hostage-takers in their wake. Only then did they clear the way for the safe retrieval of bodies, and only then was the Australian’s body was recovered. A photo exists and appears to support this: of a member of the responding troops, walking over the still unretrieved body of Hamill.

Moreover, to take the mayor’s account of events at face value would put the leading negotiators and commanding officers in an awkward position. By the sounds of Duterte’s aggrieved hero narrative, the soldiers were forced into the assault, perhaps prematurely, by him.

If not Duterte, then either Congressman Jesus Dureza or Davao del Sur Governor Douglas Cagas has some explaining to do as to how the mayor’s brash actions ostensibly undermined their efforts. As reported in the Manila Standard,

‘Initial military reports said Hamill and the four other dead hostages were killed by inmates even before the assault was executed by combined elements from the Constabulary Metropolitan District Command of Davao City and the Special Reaction Force.

However, questions have been raised about Hamill’s death. An official autopsy report in Davao suggested that a military sniper’s bullet might have killed Hamill, who was hit in the back and died from loss of blood.’

According to most of these reports, Mayor Duterte could not have lifted the covers off the body of Hamill until after the assault.

And yet Mayor Duterte says differently.

Furthermore, far from being the hero, it seems as though he has a few more failures to answer for than just his rape remarks:

  • As mayor, was he responsible for the state of Davao Metrodiscom jail? The security lapses cited in the Manila Standard, along with the failed promise to transfer the prisoners were seen as two reasons that allowed and drove the hostage-takers to their actions.
  • Was the mayor in charge of the Davao Metrodiscom assault team?
  • And going back to the question we started with, is he aware that he contradicts many of the independent reports at the time, including a photograph, that say Hamill’s body was inaccessible until after the assault, at least four hours after she had been seen slumped and motionless on the compound grounds?

As I write this, versions of the story have started to surface. It is not only for the mayor to address them—to his credit, he implored members of the media to check their archives—but for the other personalities from the government’s side who were involved in the resolution of the incident to help settle some of the glaring inconsistencies.

Posted in Politics38 Comments

FF Podcast 100  (Audio): Candidate Binay and the Social Media Echo Chamber

FF Podcast 100 (Audio): Candidate Binay and the Social Media Echo Chamber

FF Podcast 100 (Audio): Candidate Binay and the Social Media Echo Chamber

This week, we continue our series on presidential candidates with Candidate Jejomar Binay. We talk about what we learned during our interview with him. We also discuss whether social media accurately portrays the national sentiment towards politics.

You may also download the podcast file here.

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Filipino Freethinkers Podcast (Audio) feed

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Filipino Freethinkers Podcast (Audio) on iTunes

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