I hear you.
M. Edward Alexander
11

Well, those are good questions — some of them I ask myself. Perhaps consider the level of absolute loyalty Trump seems to get from his followers. It’s based on the reality that something’s definitely wrong. The problem is that Trump has been able to lead that perception of wrongness into a belief about what’s wrong & what the solutions are. It’s a trick. 1st, the idea that *income* inequality is the problem is (as the truth meters would say) mostly false. The actual problem is wealth inequality. And that’s a much harder problem to solve. But even the income inequality one is beyond what Trump is likely to accomplish.

Here, it was drugs. We actually have one of the lowest rates of drug use in Asia, but the moral disapproval of drugs is understandably extreme among the lower quintiles. Understandable in that with 20% of the population below the $2.50 per day poverty level and the next most prosperous 20% living in fear of falling back to that level of poverty, spending any money on drugs creates genuine moral outrage.

Also a very large portion of the people who do use drugs (in all this, “drugs” means meth) do so to fight off the exhaustion that comes w/ 18–20hrs of work day after day.

The solution — drug wars, w/ thousands of dead of course won’t work — is actually bringing people out of poverty. The previous administration was working on that as hard as the national budget would allow, but the necessary human development & capacity building necessary to break the cycle of generational poverty takes time. If Manila has 1,000,000 homeless squatters & the government manages to house 200,000 of them, that’s a real accomplishment. Unfortunately, that leaves 800,000 homeless feeling the gov’t is doing nothing about their situation. The true believers among the masa come from the 800,000.

But not all. Patronage politics is all most people here have ever known. The sad joke is that last election they were given the choice between long-term escape from poverty or a covered basketball court (a common item of grassroots patronage) and they chose the basketball court. But the important supporters are the dynastic oligarchy & warlords. They have had to lay low through the 6yr administration of Aquino and are ready to go back to business as usual.

Then there’s social media, which is “owned” by Marcos & on loan to Duterte.

The language about language is much overplayed. For the most part, even people here make jokes about how he needs “translators.” That is to say spin-doctors & keepers to walk back his outrageousness. The misogyny is exactly as it appears & everybody knows it. (There’s also racism…Duterte hates Obama because he’s black. Period. The rest of the anti American stuff he’s just trying to game the system and keep the heat off his human rights problem.)

The foul language also isn’t as normal or regional as people here generally make out. Putang inanang Pope & Putang inanang Obama were exactly targeted. It’s no small matter, believe me. The “your mother’s a whore” riff, spoken as he has spoken it is dire. I’ve lived here nearly 40yrs at all levels of society & can attest it’s not only outside what’s considered civil (even if just overheard from noisy drunks) & frequently called out, but also at the level he used it in those cases — well, let’s just say that many years ago I would sometimes use the phrase in anger & in one case had to hide out & work through intermediaries for over two days before I could return to my regular life without being in physical danger.

As for the killings & the media…what can I say? It’s all real. I live in a 2nd generation media household. News film built the house I live in. Provided me w/ work, raised a 3rd generation online media start up. My landlady — the widow of my cameraman friend — even tonight just came home (it’s 5am here) after a night at the crime scenes serving as fixer for a internationally famous photographer. Two stories she worked on are in major news publications tonight. Some nights she leaves her shoes on the porch — waiting to look for blood on the soles in the daylight.

The cops have lists & nightly quotas. If you follow the news in Manila, there are 12–13 people killed every night. It’s serious — about a thousand lives a month since he took office. The human suffering is impossible to address. Some mornings my landlady has come home hardly able to talk without weeping. A woman who’s lost all 3 of her sons one after the other. A single cremation or burial expenses equal her total income for most of a year — she has 3 sons to lay to rest — and they were the family breadwinners.

But you’re right, many of the ones who have lost the most continue to support him. He spoke to something they believed & changing that belief is a very hard row to hoe. Especially in light of his social media stars and army of paid trolls. People here are poor…a guy who has to be flat broke or take a job running half a dozen phony Facebook accounts loves Duterte because no Duterte, no money. Barangay Captains (think something part justice of the peace, part neighborhood constable) love him because, with everyone worried they might get put on a list, they can extract more loot from their neighborhood. They are also the source of ward-heeled votes.

Duterte delivers! He makes TV news more dramatic & entertaining. The police are visibly doing things (even if they’re wrong). The people get talked to in a tone something like that of a gangland boss — which they understand — unlike the technocrat-speak of the Aquino years. They see (useless, petty) results & experience a moderately disciplined life (which will only last so long as people remain afraid…based on my martial law experience, somewhere between 2 & 3yrs. Things will change. They’ll get worse. Whether we’re still a democracy by then remains to be seen. There are some politically foul machinations afoot…

It’s all about corruption; corruption corrupts and absolute corruption corrupts absolutely.

Though this is long enough to be a story, I’m leaving it here as a response for several reasons. For one thing, I’m way too familiar w/ war porn & poverty porn. If it bleeds it leads is not my cup of tea anymore. Therein may live part of the secret. I was out there with my boots on when I was young and poor. Blood, teargas, real bullets — when I wasn’t sure how I was going to eat tomorrow or next week — my ethical standards were lower and my willingness to take risks much higher. Poor people, hungry people, don’t have much time or energy for reflection. That’s a major factor in Duterte’s support. In a way, it’s already a tyranny of the majority — or actually of the largest plurality, but that’s a different story.

But mainly this is a response rather than a story because I don’t think there’s much readership on Medium breathlessly awaiting the next-most-detailed analysis of Filipino sociopolitical reality. The other thing is that I remain somewhat below the radar this way. The other other thing is that I’m too lazy to make the changes & do the editing an actual story deserves, so God have mercy on your eternal soul M. Edward Alexander, what you get is all 1st draft!

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