Religion and ethnicity are incidental, in plenty of cases

The other passengers and I were waiting for one more individual before we could finally go on our way. Everybody was growing restless. Outside our vehicle, the scorching noon-time sun was painful to the eyes. Still, I watched the stream of people outside which I suppose is what people seated in the front do. So I was doing that and then– the two young men, barkers, standing near the headlights and who were just talking the last I saw them suddenly broke into a fight. My heart jumped up my throat. I was travelling alone and in a city that’s a melting pot of armed groups. I feared that any second they’d bring out guns from somewhere the way they were grabbing at each other’s necks. Should I stay put or get out at the driver’s side? Things happened quickly. In a minute, the area swarmed with more men who tried to break up the two young men. But they were bent to get at the other. Finally the men were able to get them to the back of the parking area which was when my breathing returned to normal. When we left, they were still in a heated discussion.

Thinking about the incident during the trip, I realized that nutrition, the lack of, may have played a significant part. Think diabetics experiencing erratic sugar levels. The men are Moro and Muslims and since it was Ramadan, on a fast. I have been amazed and curious from observation of Muslims during Ramadan here– they continue to do normal amount of work. But wouldn’t common sense tell you that with less food going in, energy usage need to be conserved. In short, less food and drinks means one has to cut back on physical work, physical movement, and the like. Otherwise, the body is put under extraordinary strain.

I then typed up a message to someone I knew: minsan, sa kakulangan lang talaga ng sugar sa katawan dahil sa pag-fasting nila ang dahilan kung bakit madaling uminit 🙂

‘Moro’ and ‘Muslim’ are over-rated, often cited as the reason native people in this region are violent or hot-blooded. But as it turns out there are other factors why people would become violent, in this case, perhaps, nutrition. What this points to is that the Moro as well as the Muslims, setting aside religion and ethnicity, are, simply, human beings, and just like the rest of the specie, we show our fangs when our stomachs and brains are drained of food and nutrition. And the reality for this specie is, only a few do get to become saints out of fasting. The majority grow temporary horns (I’m in this category which is why I don’t fast so much from food during Lent. I fast in other ways though like staying still and becoming quiet which is very hard to do).

I guess the solution there is that when we have to fast from food and drinks our entire waking hours, we take care to avoid situations in which our biological vulnerabilities could take over our rational thinking (the ability to think rationally requires adequate and right nutrition hence food, just observe nutritionally-deprived school children).

Which brings me to ask, what is the poverty incidence level in the poorest areas of this region (eg. ARMM)? In other words, imagine going on a decades-long fast.

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Moving onward to relevance

Communism was ideologically an economics-based movement whose objective was creation of a classless society of abundance…Why did it fail? In the most general terms, it failed because it opposed two strong human impulses: to be free (in expressing opinions and doing what one likes) and to own property… It increasingly failed to provide economic advancement largely because the nature of technological progress changed: from large centralized network industries to much more decentralized innovations. Communism could not innovate in practically anything that required for success acquiescence of consumers. It thus provided tanks but no ball-point pens, spacecraft but no toilet paper… Will it come back? We cannot tell it for sure, but today the chances of a comeback of non-private property and centralized coordination of economic activity seem nil. Capitalism, defined as private property of capital, wage labor and decentralized coordination, is for the first time in human history the only economic system that exists across the globe. It could be monopoly capitalism, state capitalism or competitive capitalism, but the principles of private ownerships are as accepted in China as in the United States.

The above is from Branko Milanovic’ blog post A Secular Religion That Lasted One Century that I first read through Duncan Green’s article here at WordPress. It was written in the wake of Fidel Castro’s death.

Similarly, the Business Mirror two days ago ran a news article, Duterte’s Anti-US Rhetoric Not Enough For Communist Rebels in which, quoting the group’s regional commander and spokesperson, it said

The guerrillas would not simply surrender their firearms unless their major demands are not met, including social and economic reforms, land reform and an industrialization program that favor the poor, who make up about a fourth of more than 100 million Filipinos.

But that’s exactly the problem. Who was it who said words without action is self indulgence? Because that’s what their fight has been, to a large extent. Tanks but no ballpoint pens, spacecraft but no toilet paper.

Didn’t we like to see the communists teach farmers innovative farming practices or assist in generating stock, storing, and promoting native seeds and varieties, on top of conducting literacy classes for farmers and their families as well as teach young people how to grow our own food? I would’ve liked to see them lobby local governments to help broker more equitable land lease arrangements between owners and tenants. I would’ve liked to see them influence local governments to put resources where it’s needed the most. I would’ve liked to see them lead in the preservation and protection of the natural environment which they know intimately, it being their “homes”. I would’ve liked them to put up models of people-managed enterprises that rural folks can start with. One can’t just sit back in the mountains and harp demands from the population. Do the thing one is demanding for. Show that it can be done. Or at least try.

There are those in Congress elected from party lists affiliated with communism. But for me their voices have not rung out loud often and enough for the poor and marginalized. They have become mainstreamed into a congress preferring sensationalized (hence high visibility) shortsighted stop-gap measures. The first day that Ronnie Dayan was presented in Congress was also the day the policy on the first 1000 days of child nutrition (there are many Filipino children still who are stunted and undernourished) was scheduled to be heard. A former colleague attended. The discussion was however derailed because some of the policymakers assigned to the committee went to listen to the other side- to get a glimpse of Ronnie Dayan (how gorgeous was he to catch a formidable Senator’s attention?) and eavesdrop on what they could of the alleged affair! Child nutrition is not as sexy and intriguing, apparently.

A classless society. It cannot be attained at least in this world. But we can narrow the gap. Arms, killings, fanaticism, terrorism, extremism, shortsightedness won’t do it. Globalization and technology are this century’s more relevant and powerful tools. But in order that these will benefit the masa, education first. In this, we have much catching up to do. It’s the 21st century, still huge swathes of our citizens – voters – remain illiterate hence easily swayed by opportunists, propagandists, and smooth talkers.

“Why I am not Charlie”

“I support free speech… I abhor the killings. I mourn the dead. (But) I am not Charlie.”

a paper bird

imagesThere is no “but” about what happened at Charlie Hebdo yesterday. Some people published some cartoons, and some other people killed them for it.  Words and pictures can be beautiful or vile, pleasing or enraging, inspiring or offensive; but they exist on a different plane from physical violence, whether you want to call that plane spirit or imagination or culture, and to meet them with violence is an offense against the spirit and imagination and culture that distinguish humans. Nothing mitigates this monstrosity. There will be time to analyze why the killers did it, time to parse their backgrounds, their ideologies, their beliefs, time for sociologists and psychologists to add to understanding. There will be explanations, and the explanations will be important, but explanations aren’t the same as excuses. Words don’t kill, they must not be met by killing, and they will not make the killers’ culpability go away.

To abhor what was done to the victims, though, is not…

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