Time now to revisit a rewording of an old Chinese proverb that he who seeks power by riding the back of a tiger always ends up inside. It is an adage for dangerous times, a moral lesson worth pondering as we stand in the cusp of uncertainty.
The late American president, John F. Kennedy, used the aphorism to refer to Communism in the period of the cold war. The presidential candidate Rodrigo Duterte has openly gotten the support of Maoist communists here; or at least, his camp has not denied reports of it.
This ideology has always been here somewhere in the back of people’s mind. Politicians pay taxes to the New People’s Army to campaign in certain far-off territories. But it is hardly the tiger we refer to. For if we weigh the totality of the Philippine body-politic, the communists are far outnumbered by their enemies.
And it may be the case that the communists are the ones who ride the tiger by openly backing Duterte, not the other way around.
Duterte has openly attacked the oligarchy. This attack is more show than anything else. He, too, is a member of the oligarchy. That he is a poor man is an obvious lie.
The fact that he has promised to pardon corrupt officials currently now in jail, their assets frozen, is more than sufficient proof he will put down only those oligarchy who oppose him and his backers.
Marcos did the same thing. This adventurous enterprise would lead to economic disaster, misery and the rebirth of corruption worse than ever before. But we are used to this. It is not insurmountable. This short upheaval in the oligarchy and the inevitable economic crisis it will lead to are not the totality of the tiger Duterte rides.
The tiger is violence and murder. Duterte has validated this as an instrument of state policy. If one establishes a secret network of torturers and assassins to pursue state goals, one unleashes a tiger that can only be nominally controlled.
He did not invent death squads. Death squads have always been here, where we have lived in the fringes of a secret world of violence. Remember Fr. Rudy Romano. We live inside a culture of violence. Violence and death are like a garden Rody Duterte and many – not all – of his followers tend and water as much as they can. One can only wonder if they realize what they are doing. One can only wonder if they have ever looked beyond their gated subdivisions into the slums where the culture of violence is more starkly real and deadly.
And Duterte’s followers, too, will realize how he who rides the tiger always ends up inside. Inside the tiger that is. For the tiger of violence does not grow and then just stay where it is. It grows rather quickly and would have an unquenchable thirst, a monstrous hunger. It seeks incessantly to procreate with everything bad that is all about it. They too shall get f….d!
But the thing we must do is to not ride the tiger at all.
We must only watch those who ride from a bit of distance. Here we must continue to live by our faith in a fundamental common good: We shall do no harm! We shall do no evil! We shall not kill or accept its legitimacy. Inside and beyond the momentary practice of this current election, this must not be changed, only strengthened, by the fate of any one man. This is our political stand!
We will find, as the dust settles after everything, how we were not alone doing this. There were too many of us for the tiger to consume. We are a sleeping giant that only dangerous tigers can awaken, now as ever before.
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