A Filipina reader writes…

A Filipina reader writes… June 25, 2016

to commiserate and ask for prayers:

First of all, I must discharge my toadie duty with honor, and praise your reading of Shakespeare in Trump-speak.

I myself have not heard much from that public figure in question, and so this is one of the rare instances where reading the text feels a little flat for me. Your performance, however, left me hunched over the keyboard in an attempt to not LOL at work.

I have also been reading your column regarding Donald Trump, as well as your Shakespearean allusions with regards to disproving what Brutus spoke; and I am trying to wrap my mind around the magnitude of the follies surrounding him and Trumpkins. It seems to me that current linguistic conventions are becoming increasingly inadequate to speak of the events that are unfolding, not the least those that play out in your comboxes and in other cyber agoras.

And while in many respects I am a baffled onlooker, I take no glee in making my observations. You yourself know that what I have to deal with in my own country is not too dissimilar. I read your blog post regarding the president-elect with appreciation and sorrow, and though reading it makes my heart heavy I must thank you for writing it.

I hope I am not speaking out of turn when I say that I think both our countries are in the grips of fear and despair. The details are different, of course: yours is a great nation that now appears to be yielding to the darker traits that have unfortunately been unaddressed, if not actively glorified. Mine seems to be deteriorating into the unsurprising end of a colony gone awry.

The Philippines, as a country, has always been someone else’s idea: there was no legal nation before the first explorers arrived; just a bunch of tribes living on a bunch of islands. There is no guarantee that there would have been a country if we as a people had been left to ourselves. Political will and civic activity have never been our greatest strengths, and as a people we have failed to apply Christ’s teachings in these aspects of our lives.

So now as a country we have chosen to hand over the task of doing the hard work to someone who will “do what it takes” to make the problems go away. I’m afraid we are not too quick to see the problems with that kind of attitude. Alas, certain events from history may become more familiar to us in the future. I fear that I may have even greater reason to rely on aliases when participating in comboxes (which I also fear I may not do as frequently as before).

I must confess that I was a little annoyed at the title John Oliver decided to bestow upon the president-elect. Can popular media wait a bit before conferring him fiefdom over an entire region? He hasn’t even been sworn in yet! Grrr. And I suppose, should gay marriage and abortion ever be legalized in this country (you have seen the kind of respect the president-elect has for the Church) that sort of media narrative will change, to something along the lines of “OMG how come a dictator can recognize freedom of choice but our own free nation can’t?!” Etc, etc.)

I apologize for the length of this email. I suppose this has been a long-winded attempt at commiseration, and a meagre request for prayers. Please know that you and yours have mine as well.

P.S. Just in case, my Google-ing leads me to suppose Aryeh Cohen-Wade is a dude.

Thank you for writing. As a typical American, I am massively ignorant of the history of the Philippines, so I bow to your description of your country as “someone else’s idea”. I’ve never thought of it that way. That must be frustrating. Your new leader, of course, is horrifying and I’m sorry you will have to endure him. Here in America, I keep thinking “Sure the better angels of our nature will not allow a man like Trump to be elected.” But then I recall with trembling that Lincoln first used that phrase in a speech hoping to talk the Confederacy out of starting the bloodiest war in our history. So it ain’t over till it’s over.

Your remarks about Duterte the Strong Man remind me of Chesterton’s comments in The Everlasting Man.  He is writing to rebut H.G. Wells’ Whig history which see human evolution as an onward and upward affair from savagery to the Victorian Englishman and argues that things are not so simple as that:

It may be that in certain savage tribes the chief is called the Old Man and nobody is allowed to touch his spear or sit on his seat. It may be that in those cases he is surrounded with superstitious and traditional terrors; and it may be that in those cases, for all I know, he is despotic and tyrannical. But there is not a grain of evidence that primitive government was despotic and tyrannical. It may have been, of course, for it may have been anything or even nothing; it may not have existed at all. But the despotism in certain dingy and decayed tribes in the twentieth century does not prove that the first men were ruled despotically. It does not even suggest it; it does not even begin to hint at it. If there is one fact we really can prove, from the history that we really do know, it is that despotism can be a development, often a late development and very often indeed the end of societies that have been highly democratic. A despotism may almost be defined as a tired democracy. As fatigue falls on a community, the citizens are less inclined for that eternal vigilance which has truly been called the price of liberty; and they prefer to arm only one single sentinel to watch the city while they sleep. It is also true that they sometimes needed him for some sudden and militant act of reform; it is equally true that he often took advantage of being the strong man armed to be a tyrant like some of the Sultans of the East. But I cannot see why the Sultan should have appeared any earlier in history than many other human figures. On the contrary, the strong man armed obviously depends upon the superiority of his armour, and armament of that sort comes with more complex civilisation. One man may kill twenty with a machinegum; it is obviously less likely that he could do it with a piece of flint. As for the current cant about the strongest man ruling by force and fear, it is simply a nursery fairy-tale about a giant with a hundred hands. Twenty men could hold down the strongest strong man in any society, ancient or modern. Undoubtedly they might admire, in a romantic and poetical sense, the man who was really the strongest; but that is quite a different thing, and is as purely moral and even mystical as the admiration for the purest or the wisest. But the spirit that endures the mere cruelties and caprices of an established despot is the spirit of an ancient and settled and probably stiffened society, not the spirit of a new one. As his name implies, the Old Man is the ruler of an old humanity. It is far more probable that a primitive society was something like a pure democracy. To this day the comparatively simple agricultural communities are by far the purest democracies. Democracy is a thing which is always breaking down through the complexity of civilisation. Anyone who likes may state it by saying that democracy is the foe of civilisation. But he must remember that some of us really prefer democracy to civilisation, in the sense of preferring democracy to complexity. Anyhow, peasants tilling patches of their own land in a rough equality, and meeting to vote directly under a village tree, are the most truly self-governing of men.

This describes extremely well the decay of the Trumpkin.  It remains to be seen if it is the decay of the average American voter or if we can rally the energy and civic spirit necessary not to let this aspiring tyrant have the reins of power and nuclear launch codes.

I will certainly pray for your country.  Please pray for us. Meanwhile, remember this word of hope:

Who has measured the waters in the hollow of his hand
and marked off the heavens with a span,
enclosed the dust of the earth in a measure
and weighed the mountains in scales
and the hills in a balance?
¶ Who has directed the Spirit of the LORD,
or as his counselor has instructed him?
Whom did he consult for his enlightenment,
and who taught him the path of justice,
and taught him knowledge,
and showed him the way of understanding?
Behold, the nations are like a drop from a bucket,

and are accounted as the dust on the scales;
behold, he takes up the isles like fine dust.
Lebanon would not suffice for fuel,
nor are its beasts enough for a burnt offering.
All the nations are as nothing before him,
they are accounted by him as less than nothing and emptiness. (Is 40:12–17).

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