The security chief of Makati City mayor Binay was assassinated over the weekend. What’s par for the provinces is now afflicting the metropolis. A colleague was able to talk to a gas station attendant where the murder took place. According to him, the attendant, who witnessed the murder, is convinced it was a military-style rubout.
“Why?” I asked my colleague.
“The victim was tapped twice,” replied my colleague.
My colleague pointed to his head with the thumb-and-forefinger universal hand-sign for a gun: “Tap.” Then he pointed to his chest. “Tap.” then he quoted the eyewitness as saying the assassin calmly walked away…
Read Amando Doronila’s indictment of the President’s trip abroad (one wonders how he would have handled things had his diplomatic posting been approved) and his prediction that human rights will harm the administration more than the Garci issue ever could.
In other news:
Now if it’s true, why is the Philippine Ambassador to the USA coming home again? I don’t recall the previous ambassador going home so often. The papers are screaming that Bolante wants to sing like a canary and do a deal with the Americans, a visa being the price for his testimony. Reason enough to send the Philippine ambassador scurrying home for instructions.
Electioneering already? Government salaries to go up. Read how it’s done (electioneering) in Thailand.
PCGG remains defiant vs. Senate. Solicitor-General guardedly optimistic about the prospects of constitutional amendment cases before the Supreme Court.
Pope Benedict XVI delivered a lecture, Faith, Reason and the University: Memories and Reflections which has sparked protests in the Muslim world. Read a provisional translation that first appeared, and the official Vatican English translation.
The offending paragraphs seem to be these:
I was reminded of all this recently, when I read the edition by Professor Theodore Khoury (Monster) of part of the dialogue carried on – perhaps in 1391 in the winter barracks near Ankara – by the erudite Byzantine emperor Manuel II Paleologus and an educated Persian on the subject of Christianity and Islam, and the truth of both.
It was presumably the emperor himself who set down this dialogue, during the siege of Constantinople between 1394 and 1402; and this would explain why his arguments are given in greater detail than those of his Persian interlocutor.
The dialogue ranges widely over the structures of faith contained in the Bible and in the Qur’an, and deals especially with the image of God and of man, while necessarily returning repeatedly to the relationship between – as they were called – three “Laws” or “rules of life”: the Old Testament, the New Testament and the Qur’an.
It is not my intention to discuss this question in the present lecture; here I would like to discuss only one point – itself rather marginal to the dialogue as a whole – which, in the context of the issue of “faith and reason”, I found interesting and which can serve as the starting-point for my reflections on this issue.
In the seventh conversation [text unclear] edited by Professor Khoury, the emperor touches on the theme of the holy war. The emperor must have known that surah 2, 256 reads: “There is no compulsion in religion”.
According to the experts, this is one of the suras of the early period, when Mohammed was still powerless and under threat. But naturally the emperor also knew the instructions, developed later and recorded in the Qur’an, concerning holy war.
Without descending to details, such as the difference in treatment accorded to those who have the “Book” and the “infidels”, he addresses his interlocutor with a startling brusqueness on the central question about the relationship between religion and violence in general, saying: “Show me just what Mohammed brought that was new, and there you will find things only evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached”.
The emperor, after having expressed himself so forcefully, goes on to explain in detail the reasons why spreading the faith through violence is something unreasonable. Violence is incompatible with the nature of God and the nature of the soul. “God”, he says, “is not pleased by blood – and not acting reasonably … is contrary to God’s nature. Faith is born of the soul, not the body. Whoever would lead someone to faith needs the ability to speak well and to reason properly, without violence and threats… To convince a reasonable soul, one does not need a strong arm, or weapons of any kind, or any other means of threatening a person with death…”.
The decisive statement in this argument against violent conversion is this: not to act in accordance with reason is contrary to God’s nature. The editor, Theodore Khoury, observes: For the emperor, as a Byzantine shaped by Greek philosophy, this statement is self-evident.
But for Muslim teaching, God is absolutely transcendent. His will is not bound up with any of our categories, even that of rationality. Here Khoury quotes a work of the noted French Islamist R Arnaldez, who points out that Ibn Hazn went so far as to state that God is not bound even by his own word, and that nothing would oblige him to reveal the truth to us. Were it God’s will, we would even have to practise idolatry.
The Vatican first had a low-level cleric reject that the Pope’s speech was aimed at Islam. It was an address aimed at Christians and Western civilization. It wasn’t enough. On his first day in office, Tarciso Cardinal Bertone, the Secretary of State, released a statement (which Whispers in the Loggia thinks sounds like it was written by the Pope himself):
The position of the Pope on Islam is unequivocally that expressed in the conciliar document Nostra Aetate: “The Church regards with esteem also the Moslems. They adore the one God, living and subsisting in Himself; merciful and all- powerful, the Creator of heaven and earth, who has spoken to men; they take pains to submit wholeheartedly to even His inscrutable decrees, just as Abraham, with whom the faith of Islam takes pleasure in linking itself, submitted to God. Though they do not acknowledge Jesus as God, they revere Him as a prophet. They also honor Mary, His virgin Mother; at times they even call on her with devotion. In addition, they await the day of judgment when God will render their deserts to all those who have been raised up from the dead. Finally, they value the moral life and worship God especially through prayer, almsgiving and fasting” (n. 3).
(See the official text of the statement). But it wasn’t enough. The outcry was formidable. The Vatican Watcher says part of the diplomatic fallout is the probable cancellation of the Pope’s visit to Turkey. Churches have already been bombed.
Certainly, I don’t think there’s anything offensive in it to Muslims. But a colleague did point out that what the Pope intended to say, or really said, may be irrelevant. How much access, my colleague wondered, do Muslims who are now upset, have to the full text of the Pope’s address? A sound-bite taken out of context could have incendiary effects; and my colleague wondered if countries with tightly-controlled media, couldn’t have released snippets of the speech, to provoke public opinion and deflect it from their own unpopular regimes. The same blog (Vatican Watcher) takes a look at Muslims and the Pope from a PR point of view:
Even moderate Muslims on TV in the last few days have criticized the Pope for making such comments when he ought to know better rather than condemning their brethren for proving the West right with their stupid barbaric behavior. The biggest problem with moderate Islam is that they have no cohesive PR strategy. If moderate Islam is in fact serious about reining in the extremists and preventing Muslim youth from being recruited, its visibility is non-existent. Then so-called ‘moderates’ get on CNN and complain that the West ought to know better. Moderate Islam’s credibility with the West crumbles every single time it fails to face reality.
The question is then what ought to be Benedict’s strategy? Being upset at the idea that his remarks have caused offense is not the answer. He may really be upset, but Benedict is a brilliant man. He ought to know better that his remarks will be misinterpreted and cause the firestorm that they have. However, this does not mean that he should not make them. On the contrary, sugar coating his remarks would only make him appear weak and wishy-washy. Being firm is no crime, no matter how many people burn him in effigy.
This is one Pope who is willing to take the Catholic Church down the road of minority status and even persecution if necessary; on the other hand, his office can’t be separated from the historical image of past popes calling for Crusades; and intellectual and doctrinal rigor must be balanced by the diplomatic effects of what he says -even to an audience of the faithful.
Read Shaykh Riyad Nadwi, who read the papal speech in full, and distinguishes between what it says, and what neocons and others want it to say.
And And here’s media’s scroll of honor.
Christopher Hitchens on Tony Blair’s lack of eagerness to leave office -curious how the British electorate seems the least significant factor here.
Bong Austero says the Senate is digging its own grave. He makes a good point about the chamber abusing its powers to compel testimony and hold people in contempt. But what he doesn’t delve into, is how the Senate has its back to the wall. No administration since Quirino, Macapagal, and Marcos has been so hostile to the Senate. But it is a sign of the low quality of the present senate, that it’s instincts are to lash out instead of subtly matching wits.
On a trivial matter… I’d been hearing about the effort to unfurl the world’s biggest flag for some time. What irritated me about it was that the proportions of the flag, as illustrated, were all wrong. Mercifully, the National Historical Institute said as much.
Anyway the effort, to the regret of its backers, failed, but they looked on the bright side of things:
Officials of PG Tower Ministries International were unfazed.
“That was inevitable, God wanted it to happen. With its sheer size, it was seen all the way from heaven,” said Pastor Fred Merejilla. “If you noticed, the torn portion was shaped like a heart. God is trying to show us that he continues to love this country, and He showed this through this flag.”
…Three persons were hurt, including an 8-year-old boy, during a stampede. According to witnesses, people panicked after seeing a herd of cattle coming towards them….
Before the flag was torn, there was high drama at the base camp as spectators watched the wind form huge bulges on the flag while volunteers struggled to hold on.
Grace Galindez-Gupana, president of PG Tower Ministries International, went down on her knees in an emotional prayer and sobbed, pleading that God would stop the wind from blowing.
The Christian group, supported by a Manila-based producer of herbal food supplements, spent about P1 million to make the 2-hectare flag.
My column for today is Party assessments. It’s the main part of a lecture for the Philippine Historical Society’s seminar on the history of party politics to be held today.
Over on The Explainer blog, sources for last week’s episode on Neoconservatism and The Caliphate. Tomorrow’s show will take a look at Martial Law.
Today is also a sad day for me, my father’s eighth death anniversary. Please bear him in your thoughts. And to mark this anniversary, I thought I’d reproduce one of his essays.
Democracy -Direct and Representative
By Manuel L. Quezon, Jr.
Graphic Magazine, February 8, 1967
Is it necessary in a democracy for every citizen to be heard by all?
OVER 2000 years ago, Aristotle created the classical division of different forms of government into the categories of monarchy, aristocracy, and ochlocracy (which we today take to mean democracy), according to the number of rulers who governed. He also classified the possible perversions of each form of government: tyranny, oligarchy, and democracy (what we today call mob-rule). The Aristotelian classification, based principally on the Greek political experience, is still in currency today, even if its source is largely forgotten and true monarchies and aristocracies have almost disappeared.
Today, only that portion of his work dealing with democracy seems to have any great relevance. And it is precisely this aspect of Aristotle’s thought that gives rise to the greatest misunderstandings.
It is very doubtful whether what we call democracy today would be accepted as such by Aristotle or by any of the ancient Greeks. To the ancient Greeks, democracy meant direct democracy; to us it means representative democracy. Although Athens itself had representative bodies to deliberate occasionally on certain matters and make decisions and laws, the most important decisions as well as a good number of the lesser ones, were by right, decided on by a full assembly of citizens.
A system whereby a group of persons would be chosen to legislate and govern for the citizens so that the citizens themselves cannot directly participate in such activities, such as is the case with our contemporary system of representative government, would hardly have gained acceptance as democracy among the ancient Greeks. They would, however, probably recognize democratic elements in such a system.
Which is preferable, the direct democracy of the ancient Greeks or our contemporary form of representative democracy? The answer is not quite as simple as one might suppose. There is something to be said for both sides.
Democracy has, no doubt, undergone a certain amount of watering-down in its change from the direct to the representative variety. In other words, the phrase “rule by the many” has undergone a considerable change in meaning without, however, losing entirely its original sense. It is easy to find illustrations of the change. A recurrent phrase in modern democratic constitutions is that “the people do not deliberate except through their lawful representatives.” In Greek democracy, it was precisely the function of the full assembly of citizens to deliberate.
Again, the ordinary citizen cannot address today’s deliberative assembly (the legislature) unless invited to do so by that body; he can only reach its ears or its eyes indirectly, through the mails, the press, radio, or television-methods inconvenient and impractical for the average citizen. Moreover, due to the wide divergence of interests co-existing in today’s democracies, as in all present-day nations, unbalanced legislation regarding the various interests is much more likely to be enacted when those interests are not proportionally represented in the deliberative body, a situation that comes about easily when voters do not turn up at the polls in sufficient numbers.. In democratic ancient Greece, even if only a small number of those entitled to participate in the deliberative assembly turned up, the narrow range of interests existing within the State rendered unlikely the enactment of legislation prejudicial to portions of the population. The dangers of one-sidedness in modern legislation are recognized by the common constitutional provision aimed against discriminatory and class legislation.
The most telling difference between old direct democracy and the modern representative type, however, probably has to do with the citizen’s feeling of being able to influence public affairs. Self-rule, however vaguely or inaccurately it may be understood, cannot be separated from the idea of democracy. Direct democracy necessarily gives the citizen a feeling that he really can effectively influence legislation and government, that he is, at least potentially but very truly, his own ruler. In view of the fact that direct democracy is possible only in a very small country imbuing a citizen of today’s large representative democracy with like feelings is a big problem indeed. Certainly, the average citizen can hardly hope to sway legislation in a manner even approaching that in ancient Greece. A sense of futility arises from this situation. The individual frequently asks: “What can I do?” a question that expresses an attitude fatal to democracy.
Basic Ideas on Democracy Reviewed
The question then arises: Is representative democracy a democracy at all? Disregarding cynics, skeptics; and other enemies of democracy, I believe I must answer with a yes. Such a system can truly be a democracy, that is, unless the conditions for its existence are absent or are destroyed. The conditions I refer to do not involve any begging of the question. I am not saying that representative democracy is democracy if the conditions for democracy exist, meaning by those conditions the ones present in and constituting Greek direct democracy. That would indeed be begging the question. No, by “conditions for its existence,” I mean conditions commonly acknowledged as necessary for the existence of “representative democracy” whether or not this last system can be deemed true democracy.
I would say that provided a representative democracy as commonly understood be a reality, it is truly democratic. If in theory and in practice it corresponds with what is commonly understood as representative democracy, then, it is genuine.
To understand this clearly, it is necessary to return to basic ideas, even at the cost of being trite. Democracy is a form of government which, like any other form of government, must be capable of functioning as a government, otherwise the term would be meaningless. Under present circumstances, direct democracy in the ancient model cannot be a practical possibility for nations which number millions. It does not take intellectual effort to realize that a million citizens deliberating on laws and the activity of governing would not only be difficult, it would be impossible. And how many States have populations of only one million? It is not only huge populations, however, that render direct democracy impossible today. The modern State and its interests and activities have become bewilderingly complex, so that legislation on details of its operations could simply not be deliberated on, in the sense in which we used the word previously, by millions; only a limited few could possibly equip themselves with the requisite knowledge and experience. Again, even under the impossible supposition that all citizens were endowed with the requisite knowledge and experience, the pressures of modern living, which engage individuals in other fields of activity, would prevent participation by more than a relative few in such deliberations.
Direct democracy is then a practical impossibility today, except perhaps in some tiny city-state, perhaps a protectorate of some larger state or sustained economically by the latter.
Should we, therefore, conclude that democracy is logically impossible? No. Here it is necessary to go deeper into the notion of democracy, to discover its truly constituent elements. Is it necessary in a true democracy for the individual citizen to take part directly in legislation or in the running of the government? Must he actually be heard by all? Must he, all alone, actually exert decisive pressure or influence on legislation or government? If the answer to these questions were affirmative, then we would have to conclude that democracy did not exist even in ancient Greece. We know for certain that the general assembly of citizens did not include all citizens do not seem to have been a practical possibility even then. The citizens, however, who did attend the general assembly were representative of the views of the citizenry, so that decisions reached in the assembly reflected the general opinion and desire of the citizens; refinements might perhaps be introduced in the course of discussions, but such modifications would most likely be representative of the thinking of other citizens. Thus, although legally and in theory, the assembly was supposed to be composed of all citizens, thereby constituting a direct democracy, in actual fact the general assembly functioned as a representative assembly, differing from modern democratic assemblies only in that under the former systems every citizen had a right to sit, although he did not necessarily exercise this right. It is otherwise in modern assemblies. Besides, as was already pointed out, certain representative groups were explicitly chosen as such. Therefore, it is quite enough that the individual citizen participate in legislation and the running of government by choosing those who shall do so and who he believes reflect his views; in broad terms, they shall act for him in deliberative assemblies or in other government organs under their own initiative, enjoying a wide scope of action and judgment necessary for government to carry on intelligently and efficiently.
Requirements for a Truly Representative Government
It is obviously not necessary for the individual citizen to be heard actually by all. While the individual citizen has the right to speak out, there is no corresponding obligation on the part of his fellow citizens to listen, so long as they recognize his right to air his views without endangering the State or the common good. But the means to make a citizen heard should be made available to him.
It is true that under present conditions the individual seems lost in the crowd. It was not much different in the past. Unless he enjoyed wide support, the individual was likely to be a voice in the wilderness. Today, however, a small group can make itself heard in a manner out of all proportion to its size and strength. That was how Fascist groups made headway in the past and how Communist groups are making headway today. Modern circumstances, in fact, render more likely the danger of small minorities giving the impression of majorities, an impression difficult to project in the past.
The possibility of making himself head today increases the individual’s capacity to influence legislation. It is not necessary for him actually to do so; the possibility is enough. If an outstanding individual wishes to influence public life, he can do so today as in the past. However, just as the run-of-the-mill individual could not sway the general assembly of times past, he cannot hope to do so today.
What then are the requirements that make a representative form of government genuinely democratic? What are some of the means that can restore to a certain extent the advantages of direct democracy?
Because democracy is predicated on the rule of the majority, it is necessary that those who represent the citizenry be truly representative of the majority. Democracy is distinguished from mob rule in that the former respects the rights of minorities so long as they are not inimical to the rights of the majority. An adequate guarantee of minority rights should therefore be safeguarded as an essential ingredient.
Those elected or appointed to positions of responsibility in government must remain under the surveillance of those who place them in such positions, and be legally and practically -not just theoretically- accountable to the citizenry at stated maximum periods. Such a provision would render it unnecessary for the citizenry to resort to violence as a defense against bureaucratic tyranny and oppression.
Since a majority view can only be considered truly such if there is adequate and intelligent discussion of issues, facilities for such discussions must be preserved and expanded, surely not an impossibility in vie of present technical advances. Fundamental freedoms must be guaranteed and protected. Are these essentials present within modern representative democracies? They undoubtedly are, but in varying degrees. They are, therefore, truly democracies, although perhaps more or less imperfect.
They could be made to correspond more closely with the old ideal of direct democracy and this goal is already being pursued in some countries. The devices of the referendum and the recall are being revived in some countries to extend the power of the citizens beyond that of electing representatives and then calling them to account for any misdeeds. So is the element of initiative.
The pressure of public opinion is becoming an ever more powerful instrument of democracy, posing the great threat to democracy of representatives taking for public opinion. In the sense of the desire of the majority what is in reality only the view of a highly vocal minority as against the true majority.
As education advances and as the means made available by technology are increasingly utilized, a representative democracy approaching in practice the old direct democracy should be possible. Government today is more and more complex, a fact which tends to justify bureaucratization. It is one of the tasks, therefore, of the present age to put its knowledge to work and shove our system in the proper direction of democracy, the direction most consonant with and upholding the dignity of man under God. Let us do what we can to make our present system more and more effectively democratic.
The alternative, if we should fail, is horrible to contemplate. –#
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