True to form, self-described critics of the government of Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte have taken positions, presumably over the duration of this year’s summit of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) hosted in Manila, to aim their sniper scopes at the events. As snipers would do, they are putting every quip, gesture, and nuance of group dynamics in their crosshairs and have their little pinkies on the hair trigger ready to discharge their so-called “political commentary” of the hour.
Now this is where what defines intelligent commentary comes into question. Does the din of pedestrian sneering at every little triviality magnified by the paparazzi lenses of Opposition “commentary” count as intelligent commentary? To cite one example, Duterte’s acceding to the request of US President Donald Trump’s request for a song is today’s “trending topic” amongst the politically passionate. There is also that photo making the rounds of Duterte seemingly standing silently alone while other delegates of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation Forum (APEC) in Da Nang, Vietnam chit-chatted around him. There’s also chatter surrounding how much or how little Philippine “vice president” Leni Robdredo was allowed to participate in the week’s forum events.
Applying a bigger mind to take stock of these products of familiar small minds, one could simply just step back and ask the only really important question here:
This is, after all, southeast Asia. Different rules apply. Western delegates are guests of southeast Asian leaders and, specifically, guests of Duterte who, we shall recall, currently chairs the ASEAN. Perhaps this rather obvious fact — that this is southeast Asia — is something many Western liberal minds in politics, diplomacy, and journalism need to come to terms with. Everyone, perhaps, save for US President Donald Trump who seems perfectly at home amongst leaders of the so-called tiger cultures of the orient that was once subject to their cultural imperialism.
In Asia, people are generally more collectivist in thinking and behaviour and happily bow to authority in the interests of the collective. This, in fact, is something Filipinos who complain a lot about the traffic inconvenience caused by the ASEAN Forum is causing their individual interests should think about. Well, while we are on the topic, let’s talk about those individual interests then and ask this confronting questions: Have Filipino motorists earned the right to use these public roads to begin with? While pondering the answer to that question, consider common knowledge that most Filipino motorists acquired their license to do so fraudulently. It is this extremist and perverse approach to individualism espoused by many Filipinos that lead to the bloated sense of self-importance that is behind their predisposition to cheating. Cheating, as most are aware, results in immeasureable damage to collective interests. Filipinos experience the disastrous outcomes of cheating themselves of a well-oiled drivers’ licensing process everyday today. They have no right to complain.
“Human rights”, in that regard, are concepts that continue to be flubbed by Western liberal democracies on their former imperial assets in the orient even today. The trouble with the Philippine Opposition’s “thought leaders” is that they were indoctrinated in that concept and have lost all perspective that would have enabled their Western-educated but addled minds to undertake a balanced application of these concepts to the Asian setting. The key difference is that the Philippines has failed to succeed on its own terms on the back of its own true cultural character unlike its more successful former peers — Singapore, Malaysia, and Thailand — which have all zoomed ahead on the philosophical foundations laid by their respective authoritarian thought leaders. Thus, it is quite quaint to see cliques of noisy Filipino “activists” bandying around these trendy “liberal” ideas thinking it makes them look more, shall we say, “modern”. The elections in 2016 had proven that Filipinos no longer buy this school of thought and the Philippines’ Liberal Party and its confused liberal rhetoric proven to have failed on its lofty vintage-1980s promises.
The fact is, the only country in southeast Asia really bothered by “authoritarian” views is the Philippines. The others embrace it with eyes wide open and, at the risk of confusing correlation with causation, we see results that possibly validate that warm embrace.
It is within this context that it becomes easy to cut down to size the small-minded ideological platform of the Philippine Opposition as represented by the idiotic musings of their “thought leaders” on social media that surround this important occassion. Will the trivialities of Trump’s hair, Duterte’s silent confidence in solitude, his marital status with his current partner (and de facto Philippine First Lady), and the colourful language he uses in his public statements even be factors in the truly big-ticket items to be discussed by these heads of state over the coming week? The answer to that question merely highlights what a colossal waste of Internet bandwidth the Opposition commentary has become.
It took Filipinos several decades to finally realise that the eminent “professional activist” Renato Reyes was a total waste of traditional Filipino street “activism”. Perhaps 21st Century technology will help Filipinos come to the same realisation about Yellowtard “thought leaders” a lot faster than that.
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