MuseumMalacanan9714 23and how dare anyone doubt that! Especially if the ruler is a narcissist, hooked on being admired. Surely there have been benevolent rulers, no matter how they were called in the past. But there are two factors which kept rulers from seeing only their own interests – popular and ethical pressure.

Pressures upon rulers

Ethical pressure could be social standards as to how a good ruler should be – whether he was a Christian King in Medieval Europe, held at least theoretically to standards the Church set for him, or an Islamic Sultan especially in the Arab world, held to ideals of the Islamic religion, a Chinese Emperor held to Confucian ideals of a balanced and harmonious society, a Japanese Emperor bound by ancient rules of honor, or tribal leaders held to honor the memory of their ancestors.

Popular pressure would be groups of people seeking that they have their share within society. Whenever the natural balance, a certain satisfaction with how things are, was disturbed, history has shown that people eventually react – more often than not constructively if their voices are heard and especially if their needs are met. Aggressively if they are not heard and their needs are not met. Passive-aggressively if the channel of aggression is blocked – even to the point of social stagnation. The passive aggressivity was very obvious in Eastern Europe of the late 1980s, just before the anger at Communist repression finally boiled over – from Berlin to Bucharest. People simply did what they had to, were cynical about nearly everything. Nothing moved forward anymore as a result.

Golden Age coming?

Well, maybe I am wrong about the Philippines. It could well be that President Duterte is the future. That the country will return to a golden age, when rulers loved their people like strict fathers and the people loved them in return! Not like the “ungrateful” and “un-Filipino” reporter Pia Ranada Robles, who was let into Daddy Diggs entourage and still dared to criticize him, and when given the punishment she deserved, still dared ask and ask the Praetorian Guard of the Philippines WHY!?

Why isn’t the kind of question traditional authoritarians in the Philippines like. Why is like asking what the hell are you doing to them, challenging their authority. Everything is so very personal. That however keeps things from advancing. Because someone always has to be the scapegoat. Insufficient focus on fixing issues like for example the MRT 3, instead the current group of datus and rajas tries to pin the fault on the ousted yellow datus or rajas. To completely isolate from the society all those who are not on the side of the ruler. Which is what Marcos did during Martial Law.

The Rude Awakening

Yes, and what happened, finally. Much like the Communist rulers in Eastern Europe, the rulers of the Philippines in the 1980s usually got to hear what they wanted to hear. Their regimes imploded. Yet Duterte’s Philippines seems to not even need formal dictatorship and full censorship for that. The warning signs – political, economic, social – are there to see yet people choose to ignore them. There will be demonstrations again this weekend, in memory of the two million on EDSA in 1986. Yes, I only recently was reminded they were that many. But that desperate remembrance may fail. The comfortable illusion of a national barangay with a jovial chieftain which is at the same time as progressive as and orderly as Singapore, a kind of Malay Wakanda, is political shabu for many. In reality China surrounds it, mines its vibranium, and will give it overpriced loans. Still dreaming?

Irineo B. R. Salazar
München, 24 February 2018