TURNING POINT: Misplaced Empathies

NAAWAN, Misamis Oriental (MindaNews / 14 Aug) – “If I were in his shoes I would have done the same thing.”

This was the common reaction to a video footage showing Mayor Herbert Bautista of Quezon City slapping a suspected drug dealer apprehended in a buy-bust operation in the metropolis last week. The incident has turned viral in the social media.

As usual, Mayor Duterte of Davao City was not content of doing the same thing, that is, by simply slapping the suspect: he wanted to throw and feed him to the fish in Davao Gulf to close the issue once and for all.

Expectedly and as obliged, particularly that the incident had caught the eyes of the nation, the Commission on Human Rights had to enter into the picture. As always, it was castigated by many for its interference and protective stance on suspects of alleged criminal activities.

The kind of empathies and attitude in our midst betrays a preference for a government of bravados or macho men over a government of law. Many wanted a Duterte solution to lawlessness by obliterating all the scum of the earth – drug dealers and pushers, kidnapers and carnapers, common thieves and bank robbers, rice smugglers and pyramid scammers, rapists and plunderers, and the like.

Apparently, the people are tired of the slow grinding justice system of the country that often favors the rich and the politically entrenched. They want quick solutions. They want blood to flow immediately.

The admiration, however, of such lawless solution to lawlessness that comes from many who value freedom, comfort and peace in society is sickening and sad. Despair may make people aggressive, forgetful and negligent; and that is why history repeats itself for them. By and large, history is replete with events whereby those who condoned and allowed violence and other extrajudicial measures to secure their own safety and comfort had become themselves eventual victims of their own misdeed.

Whatever its weaknesses, we ought to be proud as a people of the democracy we have acquired through the sacrifices and suffering of our forebears. Our responsibility is to protect and secure this heritage and not squander it by thoughtless whims. To appreciate our advantage, we should look around and observe how many people in different parts of the world are struggling and are still dying to have just an iota of what we already enjoy. Certainly, there are limitations in the way our systems and our leaders work. But this should not throw us to despair, hopelessness and paralysis. Democracy is not a fixed state of affair to attain but a dynamic flux of change to experience. Ours then is to work together for that change to make a difference.

Yielding to immediate gratification will lead anyone nowhere. Psychology and psychiatry tell us so. Success is for those who eschew the temptation of immediate satisfaction in favor of one that is more rewarding, lasting and sustainable. And they exert efforts to observe the rules and submit themselves to the processes that make the system work.

A civilized society maintains itself is by establishing and enforcing rules to govern the behaviors and the relationships of its members. Indeed, the society is called “civilized” because the members observe and protect these rules almost naturally like a biological drive. This becomes part of the “collective unconscious” of society, a cultural habit arrived primarily through continuing education, discipline and value nurturing of the members across generations.

It cannot be gainsaid that the reward for disciplined compliance is a peaceful, an orderly and a productive community.

(MindaViews is the opinion section of MindaNews. William R. Adan, Ph.D., was a research and extension worker, professor and the first chancellor of the Mindanao State University at Naawan, Misamis Oriental. He was a British Council fellow and trained in 1994 at Sheffield University, United Kingdom, on Participatory Planning and Environmentally Responsible Development. Upon retirement, he served as national consultant to the ADB-DENR project on integrated coastal resource management. He is the immediate past president of the MSU Alumni Association.)