Philosopher-Kings Are Dead




I THINK our country's root problem is finally semantical. I noticed it this Christmas season, when the coup d'etat showed the way to Bethlehem. For, when the coup d'etat erupted and welcomed the birth of a revolutionist, there came talk of "the rebels' demands". However, you see, when you do a coup you don't present demands -- you do a coup!
   I just think this is an important issue because we really have to polish our semantics. Well, even if the confusion is being done on purpose by a laughing niche composed of the clever and powerful, at least we, the general public, should polish our own understanding of words -- all words. It's terrible.
   Although I think even personas up there are themselves confused about word-usage. The President herself stooped down to this habitual level when she called Honasan's men's invasion of certain buildings a "cowardly act". What? You hear it on the radio often with our broadcasters who themselves lack training in semantics. They say, for example, if you so much as begin to feel like going to the mountains to join the New People's Army you're being "cowardly". Well. I think that if this is not false semantics then it's overly complex semantics, since it could only mean something like this: "fight your fight within the system". Which should then read that other systems are cowardly. Which would finally be tantamount to an abuse of a word.
   I just think this awareness is necessary because it could leave even presidents and generals rattled during moments of crisis, all because of a lack of semantical training. I remember, for instance, the tag on the coup as a "rightist program" that demanded the installation of emergency powers for the president. Now, judging by the way things almost went, it was as though the government was here trying to protect itself from the rightists in the aftermath of the threat by simply becoming rightist itself. Jesus. Unwittingly, perhaps, but should us people with malicious heads really just consider the emergency powers asked as merely for those "economic reasons" and not for any impending coups? . . . On second thought, maybe it was truly just unfortunate to enact 'em powers at such a bad time, but Malacañang was saying it had to be imposed at once (read: rashly) in the light of prices threatening something utterly plutocratic. Which is funny, by the way, because . . . this government at the center of capitalism was here seeking to fight greed with something greedier. Centralized judgment! Plutocracy's father.
   A far worse slip was in one general's speaking about closing all media outlets to protect our democracy, purportedly because of these media outlets' possible coddling of enemies of the state. Quickly, semantics would read this to mean all media outlets as suspect, as being owned by either rightists or leftists, bent on destroying our democracy. Semantics would likewise read this further to mean democracy in the Philippines is solely for the center of the Center. Which should bear the responsibility of clarifying itself in the latest dictionaries, really.
   Then came the rumors about the death penalty comeback for such cases of rebellion as illustrated above. Rebellion. Which, to the rightists' and communists' vocabulary, would be to their position no less positive than words like "revolution" or "liberation". Punishable by death? May I here remember the President's earlier call for a "total war" with the Communists? Now, if "war" in that phrase was meant to be read as real war, then semantics would simply read the new death penalty to mean in its turn as "executions of prisoners of war," which would be quite anti-Geneva, wouldn't it? But of course we all know, if we know, that "war" there only really meant something like "I'm declaring war with the rats in my house, darn it," and so it wouldn't really be like War the way we thought it might have meant.
   I just think that if we are to attain peace at all in this country, it should first be by way of being comfortable with our lessons in semantics. What we really need in this country are probably more lawyers.

THEREFORE, I should disagree with the consensus about the coup's being a cowardly act. I think it was quite as bold as any "bold actress'" act.
   Because if you're a supposed genius of military science trying to kick ass with the best of economists in our capitalist government, that's bold business you're getting into I think. You're thinking big, calling yourself a better economist. I'll give you credit for that.
   So, if the coup was ever cowardly, it was because them RAM Boys were too shy to present their economic utopia to the people. Though, still, this would be consistent with Gringo's later pronouncement in TIME that only 10% of Filipinos are governance-conscious.
   Anyway, people called the coup rightist stuff. Only because it was anti-communist and militarist. But how does this jive with RAM's rumored jointure with the CPP-NPA? An end (justifying means) in the nationalization of corporations, the reeducation of the people towards the Nationalist Socialist (or Mussolini-inspired Fascist) work dictum, limiting capitalism to an exclusive party China-fashion, or limiting only the franchises and licenses (which wouldn't be too far from the status quo or the toppled Marcos' elite's capitalism), controlling prices to favor elements under the ruling party's favor, etc.? As I've suggested in this preceding sentence, where's the difference, in the final analysis? The real problem, really, was that nobody had a confirmed idea of what design of government the Tora-Tora Santa Clauses had in mind. Like the children of a faraway land during one December day, we were caught unawares by what looked like the batons of the princes of Herod, only this time the mission was vague.
   To paraphrase -- if the coup movers lacked anything basic aside from the power to win, it was I believe good, clear semantics. Which in certain languages is often referred to as eloquence.
   So, then -- as I would want to leave the issue now to keener minds -- suffice to let me here solely demand, finally, that national problems like the above should be firstly treated as mainly semantical (and even only secondarily emotional or psychological) problems. Oh, perhaps somebody should proceed now to write a firm law against such forms of semantical sabotage (whether done through a coup or a counter-statement against coup plotters) as enumerated above, if only because they seem to come from a kind of subliminal communist position. But I think it's always best to begin with the mere realization that words, for after all laws are written with words, really ought to be primarily semantical stuff rather than magical. With that awareness, perhaps, we may be able to leer at such statements as Cardinal Sin's "to seize power through a coup d'etat is a sin" -- which is partisan words-as-magic witchery, corruptible into "to practice power, abuse power, including religious power, is a sin," "to liberate oppressed Israelites by violent Moses-like means is a sin," and so on. Secondly, we should have presence of mind, for words should be products of thought and not the other way around, so as not to come out uttering such bullcrap as Senator Estrada's "I will never allow myself to be used by any organization backed by a foreign ideology, whether communist or American." For this alone he could be charged with inciting rebellion against Karl Popperian democracy and Smithian capitalism in favor of an indigenous Philippine monarchic system involving a gang of friends.
   So, as a way of closing this my essay of concern, let me just repeat, for the sake of the forgetful: what we need in this country are probably more lawyers. If only we can be like them!



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