Power and villainy
Somewhere it is written that evil is boring. It is rather predictable. It is never creative. This is the reason tyrants or villains seem to copy each other’s ways and end up making heroes or martyrs of the people they oppress. The cruel share in the impulse to eliminate all who stand in their way, never thinking twice, never considering that a humbling, conciliatory response to the ones through whom they feel tormented might be their opportunity for redemption.
What if Herod had not been proud and vain in the face of the Christ-child? What if he had been sincere when he told the Magi that he needed to know where the Child is so that he himself could visit and do him homage? Herod’s problem was that he allowed himself to be afflicted with the delusion of grandeur, which more often than not worsens into a delusion of omnipotence. In his hubris, Herod decreed the execution of every boy in Bethlehem who was two years old or younger. Blind to his lack of omniscience, he never realized that Divine Providence had arranged the escape of the Christ-child together with his mother, Mary and his foster-father, Joseph to Egypt.
The Jewish historian Josephus records that Herod, who was so enamored of power, had his own son Antipas slaughtered to get rid of a rival to the throne of Jerusalem died of divine judgment after having suffered burning fever, ulcerated entrails, foul discharges, convulsions,
stench, among other illnesses and discomforts. The exiled Christ-child eventually returned to Israel and started a public ministry in which, to paraphrase Saint Peter, He was anointed with the Holy Spirit and power, and went around doing good and healing all who were under the power of the devil. We do not know what would have happened if Herod had received the Christ-child not as a pretender to the throne but as a rightful king of kings, but the faithful understand without making a wild guess: Herod would not have come to a tragic, ignominous end.
President Rodrigo Duterte has made scapegoats for the country’s ills of those who suffer substance abuse disorders who are in quite a different story compared with the hardened criminals who maintain an global illegal narcotics trade network. Lumped together with the presidential scapegoats are mere suspects, children, and others who have died in his lethal anti-drug crackdown without due process; those who insist on due process; public servants and citizens who insist on human rights; peoples of faith who argue that the giving and taking of human life are prerogatives of God alone; politicians who are calling him to account for the foibles of his leadership.
What if he accepted those who are suffering and resisting him as signs that many things are not right with his governance? The trouble is that he with his closest co-workers are behaving like a tyrant and his factotums. They have become quite incapable of receiving opposition as participation in government and as legitimate politics. Every hue and cry from the grassroots — be it about the death of innocents, police brutality, rising costs of commodities, disrespect for the Constitution and the rule of law, poor quality and dearth of rice, or the recycling of despotic political families — is dismissed as propaganda in aid of the overthrow of the government. So the administration’s response has been characteristically draconian, and that will only increasingly frustrate those who differ from the squad cheering Malacañang on as if everything is okay. When this denial of problems and paranoia eventually blow up in the faces of the President and his yes-men, they will realize they have been warned, several times. The people cry out because their suffering is real. Power holders who trivialize their constituents’ groans as political griping will realize too late how they have set themselves up to be swept aside as soon as justice like a mighty river flows (and it will).
They will affirm the irony of villainy: preoccupation with power is positively correlated to eventual loss of power.
God exists, and He casts down the mighty from their thrones and lifts up the lowly. Of this the Blessed Virgin Mary whose Holy Name we celebrate today assures us.
The latest prophecy came from Bishop Emeritus Deogratias Iñiguez of Caloocan. “We must now gather to condemn this sorrowful state of our politics that uses state powers to perpetuate itself. Neutrality is wickedness. And to be Christian is to stand for and speak the truth. It is time for moral courage. We need leaders to lead others to the truth to the proper reactions that [will] take place,” the bishop said. “The Duterte administration has blanketed the country in a moral crisis, bending the rule of law to fit one people’s whim, attempting to silence the opposition and displaying callousness toward the plight of the poor. Let there be no doubt: The impending arrest of Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV, one of this government’s staunchest critics, without basis and with clear malice, is the President’s attempt to strike a final death blow to dissent, democracy and to our nation’s moral fiber.”
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