Thursday, June 12, 2014

A Perspecitve on Gun Violence in the Philppines

In my other blog site "Towards a Rational America and an Enlightened Judaism", I recently wrote a post titled "Confronting America's Gun Obsession" in which I discussed the widespread  fixation in the U.S. on firearms and their associated violence.  The Philippines is also plagued with violence, and gun deaths are all too common here as well.  In fact while the actual rate of gun ownership in this country is less than in the U.S. (which is the highest in the world), the  homicide rate by firearms percent per 100,000 of  the population in the Philippines is 8.93 vs. 4.7 in the U.S.

Just open the local newspapers  and you will read of the numerous gun-related killings that take place daily,  especially in Metro-Manila.  As the above stats show, the percentage of such incidents far exceeds those in the U.S.   However, my impression is that there is a qualitative difference between the two countries when it comes to the type of culture that generates these shootings  in the first place. For example, as opposed to the imprecise wording of the U.S. Constitution about the  individual's so-called "right to bear arms, (the interpretation of which is often heatedly debated by Americans)  this right is clearly  limited in the Philippines: It's not  even constitutionally affirmed at all. And actually gun registration laws are strict (in theory anyway.  Due to corruption among officials and irresponsibility among the citizenry,  meaningful enforcement and compliance are  another matter.)

Another difference is that the usual choice of weapons for individuals here is handguns rather than assault weapons often favored in the U.S. Perhaps the latter are too expensive for the average individual to be able to afford in this third-world country.

Also in the Philippines unlike in the U.S.  where gun ownership is considered by many people as almost  a sacred  religion, there is no gun lobby or powerful pro-gun organization like the National Rifle Association along with its inordinate political power. Rather, the local preoccupations with guns  is likely the result of the machismo tradition handed down from the Spanish colonization period which lasted over 300 years and left an indelible mark on society.  This same type of attachment to such weaponry is also reflected in the culture of  Latin American countries which of course are also former colonies of Spain. However, to the extent that gun possession  here and in those other countries is considered a means of personal empowerment,  it's likely also a means of compensation for feelings of personal inadequacy, as may  well also be the case for gun fanatics in the U.S.

My other observation about gun violence here is that while many of these killings are randomly directed at strangers, such as in the commission another crime (e.g. robbery),  it seems that more of them are targeted  at those who are known to the attacker, including acquaintances, friends, and family members. The motive is often a hot-headed response to a real or imagined slight.  This oversensitivity  is usually the result of  personal narcissism which pervades the population here and is often compounded by alcohol consumption.  On the other hand, school shootings which are becoming increasingly common in America are almost unheard of in the Philippines.

But cold blooded murder is also common in this country, the targets for which are often politicians and journalists . The actual planners of these homicides don't have to dirty their hands by committing the act themselves. Hired killers are easy to come by and work cheap, a term which also describes  the overall regard in the Philippines for human life outside of one's family or circle of interest. Hence, taking the life of the "other" must be easy for these masterminds and hit men if they don't consider the victim as another person anyway.

As in any country, the roots of national character run deep in the Philippines. So it would take a sea change in society's mentality to overcome the destructiveness  that reigns in  this culture. And this behavior can only cease if the people  finally learn to respect each other as fellow human beings and to turn away from the love of violence, including  the  weapons that perpetuate it.