Archive for October, 2018

Halloween is coming

Salvador Panelo (cropped)with no escape, and tomorrow, Daylight Savings Time ends. Yesterday afternoon, I walked through a sunny Munich with 17 degrees temperature. Was it climate change or was it just the Föhn wind? Föhn also means hair-dryer in German, so you get an idea of what kind of wind the alpine Föhn is. Hair-dryers mean risk of baldness so I avoid them. I can sing, but I am not running for the Senate. Which does not mean Sen-eight, even if the opposition has 8 candidates. And even if the Latin word is derived from senex, meaning old man, and is related to senile, I think Enrile is way too old now.

But he is indeed scary, while Panelo is at least funny, like a dancing skeleton can be truly hilarious. Back to Halloween. A Celtic feast after the harvest. The Celts believed that the spirit world opened during the shift to winter, and offered food to the spirits to propitiate them. The people of the Alps have all their cows in the shed by then, having driven them all down the mountains by October. Some Alpine people have the superstition that the spirit world opens around New Year, starting with Christmas and ending with Three Kings Day, when the good spirits win against the evil.

The Schiachperchten (the ugly spirits, roughly translated) look shaggy and act rough while the Schönperchten (the beautiful spirits, roughly speaking) look shiny. Some of the evil spirits are called Krampuses, some say that Krampus is St. Nicholas’ sidekick who punishes bad children. Could Duterte be the Krampus come to punish bad Filipinos, an ugly spirit from the other world? Will he, pockfaced Calida and skeleton Panelo return to the netherworld when Enrile goes there? Was it simply Filipino karma that after a President named Benigno, a maligno would come to rule?

Shall the cycle come to another turn when the beautiful spirits, led by a beautiful Vice President, drive out the evil ones and end the reign of the Pangit? They already have been partly driven out of Facebook, so they may found a new place called PangitBook if they want. It would not matter at all. The cycles are: good/evil, Yin/Yang, Apollonian/Dionysian, democracy/tyranny, justice/injustice. Tag-araw, tag-ulan are not only the sunny and the rainy season, it is a Filipino movie and a song. Greeks went from Apollonian rationality to Dionysian excess. Filipinos love tragedy and comedy.

Though the recent events in Filipino courts and assemblies are either both or neither, somehow. Inspite of the social media commentary that follows the events like the chorus of a Greek play. Inspite of the philosophers, some bearded and half-Persian, making their comments on matters, this play is not a tragedy equal to Aeschylus’ The Persians. And even if some politicians in it look like frogs, it is not a comedy equal to Aristophanes’ The Frogs. It is reality, even if it is surreal. Possibly though, I am misled. The Philippines could be on the verge of creating new paradigms.

Albayalde says the Philippines may be the first country to win a drug war. With action men like the Tulfos and Robin Padilla, it could be possible! And inspite of the EU now certifying Dengvaxia, how do we know if Persida Acosta was not right? How do we know that the PNP was unjust in killing? And isn’t Calida a genius in redefining basic questions of existence and non-existence? Finally, the Philippines could be at the forefront of a revolution of knowledge, the greatest ever since Socrates. And the infallible, incorrigible Teddy Boy Locsin. But first, Halloween must pass. Trick or treat?

Irineo B. R. Salazar
München, 27 October 2018

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Set in Stone

Volcanic stonesis what many a Filipino thought or sentiment seems to be. A certain stubbornness in sticking to one’s opinions is even seen as a virtue. In certain circles even arguing against all common sense. Whether one is PAO Persida Acosta insisting that as a lawyer, she knows that Dengvaxia kills, or whether one is Solicitor General Calida maintaining that not being able to find Trillanes’ amnesty application means it never existed. Inspite of footage, testimonies and other indications that it did. Probably a Filipino trickster will have respect for Calida’s grin while defending the obvious untruth.

Truth versus Power

Because that could be seen as higher intelligence than Acosta’s believing the nonsense she states. But that would mean that truth matters little, only power and winning – not learning anything. Because learning means having doubts, making mistakes, verifying assumptions and a lot more. That seems to be seen as a weakness in the Philippines. Or why are unverified drug lists published? That is dangerous in a country were even criticizing the government is now seen as destabilizing. But the chickens have come home to roost. The culture always saw words as instruments of power.

In a passive-aggressive culture (link), criticism can be two-faced as innuendo is used for “attack”. Like the part of an iceberg above the water is smaller than what is below, the facts being discussed are sometimes not what is really meant. Criticism of policies CAN indeed mean “destabilization”. Why? Because whether Filipinos cooperate with someone or not can depend a lot on petty moods. Whether the person is liked or not. Dislike for whatever reason can lead to howling condemnation like the one experienced by President Benigno Aquino III for far less mistakes than Duterte made.

Confrontation with certain types of Filipinos are of course to be avoided, as there are not only the passive-aggressive but also the vindictive types. President Duterte towards De Lima, Sereno and Trillanes. Hinting he would destroy “a female official” just after he started (link) – but for what? Simply for pointing out the obvious about him, for investigating extrajudicial killings? That is a culture were face is far more important than the truth, very obviously. Were being wrong is not the issue, even if everybody knows it somehow – being told one is wrong is what destroys ones esteem.

Truth to Power

Black Box Thinking (link) is a book about learning from mistakes. There are a few examples in the book which show when incapability to speak truth to power leads to fatal mistakes. Co-pilots who are too diplomatic in telling the pilot something critical. Nurses not assertive enough to doctors. Due to inborn “respect” for rank – misplaced in situations were seconds can mean life or death. There can of course be power that refuses to accept any version of reality except their own. That can be dangerous to them, as they can execute or fire those “against” them but not escape from reality.

This is especially true in modern situations where reality is complex and hard to intuitively “see”. That is why seat of the pants leaders like Philippine mayors have difficulty in national settings.  Someone who lives in a city can get a “feel” for it without even being mayor: I can “feel” Munich. Mayors will talk to different people and compare what they see with what they are told and then they can balance their picture, decide and immediately see the results. No need for anyone to tell. Better if, but if the culture is one of face and power (link) better not be “shaimed” (sic) too much.

Well, I did think that Duterte was a good leader originally, because of his “listening tours” (link) at a time when President Aquino was criticized heavily for being insensitive to the common people. But was he? Possibly he also had a hard time, as Filipino culture sees criticism as form of attack. Probably even his statement that the people are his boss was the worst thing he could have done. Filipino bosses can be demanding to the point of unfairness, many Filipinos prefer foreign bosses. Some people probably thought they could nitpick on practically anything, thus abusing democracy.

Powerful Truth

A recent article by Dr. Gideon Lasco on The Scholar as a Rebel (link) does stress the importance of challenging received wisdom as an essential aspect of learning: the best thinkers of their day were called “revolutionary” precisely because they helped build their societies upon ideas — ideas that were nurtured in universities, and viewed as rebellious at the time of their inception. Of course not every trollish social media commenter who says “ugok ka” and “mali iyan” is a useful “rebel”. Dissent must be based on proper reasoning – even if it may come from a new and fresh angle.

Criticism of the policies of a leader does not have to mean disrespecting the authority of a leader.  Protests are a necessary corrective to smugness that can weaken a ruling group after some time. Unfortunately the Philippines is still built on face and power, not on ideas, so sophistry rules. Dengvaxia might be OK, but that can’t be, it is yellow as eggyolk, just like the new MRT wagons! The mentality still “be like”: “look at Panot! Poe lectured that WEAKLING about Mamasapano! Our Digong deals with critics quickly!” Actually, mistakes that happened in every administration could have been used as opportunities to learn how to improve the system as a whole – not in finding a culprit. Even the question “why EJKs” could have been an opportunity to learn, as the reason might have been “police investigations too inefficient, courts too slow, customs too porous”. Yet the culture loves finding a culprit or culprits and punishing them in whatever way possible. Those perceived as weak often become the culprits and those perceived as strong assign blame. Truth would make everyone more powerful. But the perspective of many is so short-sighted.

Irineo B. R. Salazar
München, 12 October 2018

 

 

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Red Oktoberfest Horse

Oktoberfest-Kutscherdoesn’t exist, just by itself. There is Red Horse, but that beer may not be served at the Oktoberfest. Only beers brewed in Munich, as tradition dictates. But the Oktoberfest starts in September, why? Because the weather is still somewhat better then is what I know, as long as it ends in October, OK. Or passt scho, as Bavarians say. That’s OK is what it more or less means. No need to look further. Red October, or the October revolution, wasn’t really in October either. It was on October 25, 1917 in Russia and on November 7, 1917 – by the Gregorian calendar which most of Europe was using.

Reds turned Red October into Red November when they chose to switch to Gregorian in 1918. Greeks finally decided to go Gregorian in 1919 – for civil purposes. Christmas and Easter still differ for Russians and Greeks, this I know. Why should Orthodox bishops follow a calendar that was decreed by a Roman Catholic Pope? Gregory XIII, to be exact, way back in 1582, had reformed the Julian calendar, decreed by Julius Caesar in 46 B.C. – both being the Pontifex Maximus. These priests defined the calendar in ancient Rome, but sometimes misused that power for politics.

Weder-Weder and Seasons

Even Julius Caesar made the year of his third consulship 446 days long in the year of his reform. Being Pontifex Maximus and Consul was like being President and Supreme Court Chief Justice. Might be an idea for Duterte when CJ Castro retires. But even in Roman times, the additional days to adjust the calendar to the seasons (or political weder-weder) were done after February, like now. Except that February was the last month, and September – October – November – December were really still the seventh, eighth, ninth and tenth months, respectively. After Julius and Augustus.

Almost 16 hundred years later, the 365.25 days used to compute leap years every 4 years proved to be slightly inaccurate. Easter got colder and colder. 365.2425 days is inaccurate every 3000+ years. Pretty accurate though for a Catholic Church that still refused to believe Galileo – at least officially. But on the other hand accepted strong beer as a valid substitute for food during the Lenten season. There is the story that Bavarian monks sent beer all the way to Rome and it was no longer fresh when it arrived, so the Vatican approved it. In reality it is almost as strong as Filipino Red Horse.

Per centum

8% alcohol is what I have found for Red Horse, while the Lenten beers of Munich called Salvator, Maximator, Triumphator etc. have around 7.5%. Oktoberfest beer “only” has 6.4% – not inflation, alcohol percentage. Regular beer like Augustiner Helles has 5.2%, which looks like a little less. Unfortunately, whether we talk about alcohol percentage or inflation, small differences are big. Four half liter mugs of Augustiner Helles make you way less drunk than two liters of Augustiner in the Oktoberfest tent of the same name. Lenten Penance is two liters of Maximator – same brewery.

No October Horse is sacrificed to mark the end of the agricultural season during the Oktoberfest. That was in ancient Rome. There are brewery horses pulling carriages with beer barrels on them during the opening ceremony, but most “tents” are huge wooden pavillions nowadays with tanks and pipes for their beer. The Augustiner “tent” does still use 200 liter barrels though, traditionally. And still the Oktoberfest has a lot in common with other harvest and autumn festivals in Bavaria. Entire oxen roasted, with name and weight indicated, are most remiscent of sacrifice in one “tent”.

Sacrifice

Someone doubted whether one could roast such a large animal in one piece, wouldn’t it take days? After all, lechon takes around six hours if I remember correctly, turkey or goose like three hours. But I have seen that they cut off meat from the outside going inwards, much like with shawarma. Same with gyros or döner, the Greek and Turkish versions of Lebanese shawarma, respectively. Only Greek gyros is pork though, but ancient Greeks were known to sacrifice bulls etc. to Gods. Ancient Greek comedies made fun of the fact that most of the meat was grilled and eaten by people.

So before gyros, there was souvlaki – or similar. But I don’t think that the Greek attitude to sacrifice was imported to Bavaria by King Otto, first King of modern Greece, a Bavarian prince. The Greeks disliked him. Coach Otto Rehhagel was liked, as he helped the Greeks win the 2002 European Cup. Sometime afterwards the Euro crisis came, and Angela Merkel became a new hate figure in Greece. Somewhat like “Panot” aka President Aquino in the Philippines two years ago – for much less than the sacrifices – human and monetary, not animal – they have to endure today under “Lodi” Duterte.

Red Oktoberfest

never existed either, but there was a “Bavarian Soviet Republic” for a short while in Spring of 1919. The house of Wittelsbach, a truly old political dynasty, ruled Bavaria from 1180 until Nov. 7, 1918, when the Free State of Bavaria was declared. A right-wing nationalistic aristocrat killed its founder, a Social Democrat, on Feb. 21, 1919. The Social Democrats managed to get a government together by March 7, but it was so weak that by April, a Communist Republic was declared by somewhat crazy anarchists. A week later, Communists led by three Russian migrants loyal to Lenin took over.

There is a legacy of beer from that short-lived “republic”: the “Russnmaß” or Russian stein which mixes wheat beer (as opposed to beer from malt and hops) with sweet lemonade. Seems the Russn or “Russians” which the common people called all the Communists liked that sweet and sober mix. Didn’t help much. The democratic government had fled to Bamberg and got help from right-wing volunteer paramilitaries, the Freikorps, while the Communists quickly formed an own “Red Army”. Munich was reconquered by early May, democracy restored but true power was with the Right.

Extremists and democrats

Many of those in the Freikorps later became prominent Nazis (link) though some former members of the “Red Army” became Nazis also. Four years later, Hitler attempted a right-wing coup (link). Extremists from left and right clashed in the streets of the Weimar Republic, weakening democracy. Hitler himself got rid of most of the left wing of his Nazi party in the night of the Long Knives (link) in 1934. Non-extremist, meaning non-violent political parties did not stand a chance in those years, even if two became the major right-wing and left-wing democratic parties of postwar Germany.

Democracy is finally about taming our savage desire to hurt the other side, an agreement to deal with conflicts in a civilized, rule-based manner. Just like rule of law is about taming our desire to take revenge – or to just punish those we dislike for whatever reason. We can be very nasty inside. Especially when hungry. So it is better not to go hunting for Red October Horses to be sacrificed. Better sacrifice pigs, cows or oxen, eat them like Greeks or Bavarians, or the Ifugao during kanyaw. Drink Red Horse or Russian beermix. Lenten beer, yellowish Helles, or Cerveza Negra. Prosper!


Romans, Greeks, Filipinos, Bavarians, Russians. Pigs, cows, horses and oxen. Beer and festivals. Politics and calendars. Revolution and sacrifice. Inflation and drunkenness. Soccer and festivals. Greeks sticking to Roman calendars. Communists adopting Roman Catholic calendars. Bogeymen. Christian Popes adopting the title of a pagan priest of ancient Rome. Lodis. Octo = VIII, not X. Finally, just one horse at the Oktoberfest start carries the mascot of Munich, a young lady in a cape. Which lady will be on the Philippine October horse? Smiling, very short, or sharp-chinned? Who?

Irineo B. R. Salazar
München, 2 October 2018

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