We all have bad experiences dealing with other people. Some of those experiences make us wish we could just take a gun and shoot whoever had caused those bad experiences. But we don’t because there are also consequences for doing so.
Perhaps in the case of the Philippines, presidential candidate Rodrigo Duterte and what he’s seemingly (on the surface) achieved for Davao prove that the benefits could potentially outweigh the consequences of vigilantism. For argument’s sake, let’s say Davao City is, indeed, a great city because of Duterte’s style. The question is: Will the same approach lead to the same results at a national level under a Duterte presidency?
That remains to be seen.
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Think of it this way. When you’re transporting an atomic bomb that could decisively end a war with one blast, you wouldn’t want a reckless sociopath piloting the plane. Rather you’d choose a pilot with a level head and a professional demeanor who could fly the bomber and drop its deadly payload on its target safely.
Key insight to note here is the way the soundness of the entire set-up rests entirely on a single pillar: Duterte’s wild-wild-West rule. In short, the vigilante-style justice system on a national scale proposed in Duterte’s campaign platform is flawed by design because Duterte himself is its potential single point of failure. Any engineer or risk management expert will tell you that supporting a critical capability (such as an entire nation’s law enforcement mechanism) with a system that can fail by yanking out a single component is absolutely unacceptable.
Yet, people will still argue that we need to take small steps before we can realise our grand vision of a just society within the framework of a modern and coherent approach to law enforcement and criminal justice. In saying that, they propose that one of those first steps is to apply this “temporary” solution of first resorting to vigilantism to restore that level of peace and order that seems to elude Filipinos.
Thing is, the jeepney too was once one of those “temporary” solutions to a lack of a coherent public transport system in the Philippines at the end of World War II. Well, guess what: To this day, the Philippines still lacks a coherent and modern public transport system. Where that modern system should have been, the jeepney still reigns as the country’s “King of the Road”. The promise of the long-term solution replacing the “temporary” solution never materialised. Today, the country’s jeepney infestation remains one of its biggest and most intractable social problems.
As Albert Einstein say…
You can’t solve a problem using the same thinking that created it.
If we think vigilantism is a great temporary solution for the Philippines’ galloping crime problem, think again. More specifically think again differently.
At 70 years of age, Duterte is an old fart pitching old idiotic ideas to the Philippines’ intellectually-challenged electorate. And all the bobotante voters are eating it all up. Temporary solutions just won’t cut it in an age where there is an abundance of technological tools to help us come up with the right thinking and, out of that, the right solutions.
The Philippines will never catch up with the truly great countries of the world if its people remain addicted to temporary short-term solutions. All it can do is keep from falling further behind.
The trouble with us is this addiction to smallness of thinking seems to be cultural in nature. Indeed, it all comes back to our heritage of smallness — our fondness for tingi-tingi effort over projects that involve grand visions…
Because we cannot unite for the large effort, even the small effort is increasingly beyond us. There is less to learn in our schools, but even this little is protested by our young as too hard. The falling line on the graph of effort is, alas, a recurring pattern in our history. Our artifacts but repeat a refrain of decline and fall, which wouldn’t be so sad if there had been a summit decline from, but the evidence is that we start small and end small without ever having scaled any peaks. Used only to the small effort, we are not, as a result, capable of the sustained effort and lose momentum fast. We have a term for it: ningas cogon.
Go to any exhibit of Philippine artifacts and the items that from our “cultural heritage” but confirm three theories about us, which should be stated again.
First: that the Filipino works best on small scale–tiny figurines, small pots, filigree work in gold or silver, decorative arabesques. The deduction here is that we feel adequate to the challenge of the small, but are cowed by the challenge of the big.
It is quite evident then that rampant crime is not really the problem. It is but a mere symptom of a deeper malaise that grips Philippine society. The real problem with the Philippines lies in the way Filipinos think. The only way Duterte’s precious vigilantism will cure that root cultural problem is if he points his thugs’ guns at stupid people — most specially the stupid people who support him.
benign0 is the Webmaster of GetRealPhilippines.com.