Friday, November 30, 2007

Di na natuto

This was what I wrote about Trillanes and his Oakwood mutineers four years ago. Sadly, most of what I said is still applicable. It's like he never learned.

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The trouble with messiahs
5 August 2003

People have been attributing the "messiah complex" to various people (mostly military) the most recent of which are the Oakwood mutineers. They say that PMA graduates, starting with Gringo Honasan's batch, feel that they ought to save the world and that they are the only ones who can do so.

Funny how public opinion changes and how quick it does nowadays. In a span of less than two weeks I've grown from admiring the mutineers to pitying them for their naivete to now being annoyed at their (and their benefactors') arrogance.

The "messiah complex" is part of this problem. Whether spurred by Gringo or not, these soldiers probably did have a little "air in their heads" to actually believe that they should (or could) save the Philippines from itself.

Not that there's anything wrong with that. Saving the country is of paramount importance as the PMA superintendent is quoted to have said. However, he was mistaken when he said that this messiah complex is necessary for soldiers who are tasked to protect the country. He seems to be referring to patriotism, which is something different.

What draws the line between patriotism and a "messiah complex" are two factors. One is the lengths to which someone will go to "save" us; the other is their idea of who should save us and how.

The former takes into account the extremity of the measures taken. While most people are willing to sit and talk things out, "messiahs" are apt to take to arms or declare "war" on whomever it is that gets their goat. Gringo and the Oakwood mutineers are like this, calling for a change in government 10 months before a perfectly legal national election. It's as if the rest of us weren't working on making this country better and that they were the only ones who cared.

But extreme measures are not enough to constitute a messiah complex, the attitude counts more. While real revolutionaries do advocate abrupt (sometimes violent) change, they are not "messiahs" because they believe in ideas more than in themselves. "Salvation" need not come from one person alone, but from ideas implemented by people working together.

The "messiah" expects to be right and expects other people to follow him, which was what the Oakwood mutineers seemed like. The arrogance with which they presented their "non-case" is amusing at best. It did not impress anyone, not even the easily excitable press, which increased their frustration. The "open letter to Trillanes" which circulated via email a week ago hit the nail on the head when it said "matagal na naming alam iyan."

The trouble was, these "messiahs" were right. There is corruption in government and it probably extends up to at least the defense secretary. What they didn't count on were people (like Dinky Soliman) who were offended at their lack of subtlety and blanket condemnation of everyone in and out of government.

Oo, tama sila, pero sila lang ba ang tama?

And in the end that's the trouble with messiahs. They tend to think that only they have the answers. But unlike Jesus who had his "Sermon on the Mount" (which was truly revolutionary at that time) the Oakwood mutineers just had Gringo's "National Recovery Program."

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