Who owns the concept of “human rights”? Is it the United Nations? Is it the Commission on Human Rights (CHR)? Is it Chito Gascon? Is it the Yellowtards? If we are to believe certain “thought leaders”, it seems everyone but ordinary Filipinos are “human rights” advocates.
They are overdue for a reality check. Just within sight and earshot of most ordinary Filipinos are “human rights violations” galore. That obnoxious neighbour who belts out “My Way” on his karaoke at three in the morning? The tricycles and jeepneys that respectively putt-putt and roar past us while spewing corrosive fumes into our faces? Those cretins who, oblivious to the surrounding people who were there first, help themselves to the buffet table? No, sir. We are not allowed to complain about them because all that buffoonery is just part of the “Filipino experience”. No big deal, right?
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If we cannot solve small instances of “human rights” abuse, what hope do we have of solving the big-ticket items?
“Human rights” is just a high-nosed brand slapped on common decency that people should have learned in kindergarten. To the latte-sipping Starbucks set, it is a fashion statement to be dropped at chi chi powows and “polite” conversation. Therein lies the disconnect between what ordinary Filipinos see and what the chattering classes tweeting from their Ivory Towers profess.
Violence is made out to be “un-Filipino” by many of these lactose-addicted village kids. Yet if they bother to look over and outside the walls of their fortified residential enclaves, they will find that Filipinos actually prefer violent solutions to their many issues. The way ordinary Filipino motorists muscle their way through traffic is a case in point. Philippine roads are microcosms of Philippine society. There are rules, but they are so shoddily- and inconsistently-enforced that everyone takes matters into their own hands. You won’t get anywhere in Manila unless you are good at projecting power to surrounding motorists in the form of aggressive lane-changing and tailgating, flashing headlights, and blasting your horn. Philippine roads are a jungle and, it seems, Filipinos are perfectly fine with that.
Consider then the big assumptions that Inquirer columnist Rina Jimenez-David makes about the Filipino mindset — that, she thinks, Filipinos prefer that the government spend their money more on “social works” and less on “violent” solutions. She expresses this dubious assumption in her recent lament on President Rodrigo’s proposed budget for 2018…
Human rights group Karapatan describes this budget as a “war chest against the Filipino people.” The plan for a P3.7-trillion budget, the group says, is to use most of the funds for its counterinsurgency program Oplan Kapayapaan, as well as for the state’s “bloody war on drugs.” Says Karapatan: “Both programs are designed to inflict further State terror and violence on the poor, while public funding for social programs on housing, education, and health services have been or are practically rendered nonexistent.”
Jimenez-David laps up a certain “human rights” group’s screeching indictment of the proposed national budget using emotionally-laden words like “bloody”, “state terror”, and “against the poor” to echo the din of fear-mongering over Duterte’s different approach to dealing with the Philippine situation.
Consider that and then, honestly, think about your own sense of powerlessness over the banal injustice of Philippine society. Who hasn’t at least once fantasized about calling in an air strike on their neighbourhood karaoke singers’ houses? Who hasn’t fantasized about taking out a bazooka and blowing off the road a drug-crazed jeepney or bus driver who had just almost forced you onto a kerb? Who hasn’t once wished they could make that millennial who just walked in front of their spot in a queue while scrolling through her Facebook timeline eat her iPhone for lunch? Who hasn’t, for years on end, wondered in amazement why blatant pork barrel thievery in Congress was not simply dealt with by abolishing that whole insitutionalised crime syndicate?
Then stop to think why Filipinos have just about had it with “peaceful options” and those hipster solutions that require cops and soldiers hamstrung by “human rights” rhetoric to fix Manila’s traffic mess, Mindanao’s terrorist infestation, and the Philippines’ overall culture of crime armed with no more than their best Closeup smiles. As evident in the way ordinary Filipinos drive, it is a safe bet to assume Filipinos have better ideas in mind around how to fix those problems.
The Philippines’ hipster peaceniks have lost the battle for the heart of the Filipino. That’s just the way democracy and the “free market of ideas” that is today’s media landscape works. The statistics that drive who wins in a democracy and the memetic jungle that shapes the winners and losers of the public relations game are mere algorithms of the system we had signed up to as part of our aspirations to be beings of free will. There is no moral or immoral in a democracy and in the media landscape. There are only those who survive and win in the game on the basis of which pitch captures the popular sentiment. Those who lose may throw tantrums and be all crybaby about their loss. But how one behaves when one loses — or when one wins, for that matter — is also a personal choice.
It’s simple, really. If we want Filipinos to regain their faith in the ol’ “human rights” school of thought, its proponents need to get better at selling it in the free market. The “morality” of an idea is not an entitlement to victory. Not in a “democracy” and not in a society where “freedom of speech” is guaranteed.
benign0 is the Webmaster of GetRealPhilippines.com.