Monday, December 14, 2009

Another Perspective on the Maguindanao Massacre

The November massacre in Mindanao was a disaster waiting to happen partly because it was the logical outcome of President Arroyo's tactics of obtaining political support. It was a case of the chickens coming home to roost. So why does she pretend to be shocked? President Arroyo epitomizes the culture of corruption in country by having allowed her allies, the Ampatuan clan, to acquire their inordinate wealth via the plunder of public funds and to build up an illegal arsenal of diverted high-power military weapons which enabled them to slaughter their political opponents and accompanying journalists with anticipated impunity. All this in exchange for delivering the votes from Maguindanao Province which is ruled by this family.

Yet might there not have been an additional underlying factor that threw even more kerosene on this fire? I'm referring to a particular cultural mix of West and East. In this case, the West is the Spanish heritage of machismo (popularly referred to in the Philippines as "guns, goons, and gold") which along with private armies predominates not only in this country but in parts of Latin America as well. The East is the Muslim / Arab tradition in this predominantly Islamic part of the Philippines (the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao), of rido, i.e. clan tribal rivalry, warfare and vengeance. Add to this the devaluation of life of the "other" which is common to both societies along with the hair-trigger amok temperament that prevails here, plus the aforementioned corruption of public officials that is so widespread throughout the nation as a whole, and you have one volatile brew.

In other words, were it not for this particular cocktail of cultural influences, I think that even taking into account that one side was the ruling dynasty in this locale, the power struggle with the victims, the Mangudadatu clan (who ironically are inter-related with the Ampatuans) might have turned out differently. I further believe that when the final historical chapter is written on this tragedy, the blend of violent mores in this locale deserves to be taken into consideration (and this is not to diminish their personal responsibility for their actions) as a contributing ingredient that helped to harden the Amputuans into the sociopaths that they eventually became.


Alan said...

I am one of a very few English speakers who know where "run amok" comes from. It's mistakenly rendered "amuck" -- or maybe the latter also existed independently.

You actually have direct experience. What does it mean -- that everybody's allowed to go nuts all the time, with no restraints?

Secular Guy said...

I think "amuck" in this sense is the American spelling of the word, which (and I should have specified in my post) means to spontaneously go on a murderous frenzy, usually with a knife. It's not that people here are "allowed" run amok. It just happens, and very often among "nice guys" (it's usually men) who you would never suspect would blow up this way.

Often it's triggered by the high rate of alcohol consumption here and / or by an argument. My wife, a child psychologist, hypothesizes that the root cause might be the repressed upbringing in the Filipino /Malay culture.