Lessons in History

Lessons in History

Gallic leader Vercingetorix presents himself to Julius Caesar to throw down his arms at his conqueror’s feet in a painting by Lionel Royer. It was after his victory at the Battle of Zela against Pharmaces II of Pontus that Caesar wrote his immortal words “veni, vidi, vici” in a letter to the Roman Senate.

Veni, vidi, vici. (I came; I saw: I conquered)

— Julius Caesar

ALMOST a quarter of the 21st century has passed and even though it may be too early for us to say, the global events that we have lived through have already made this century as dramatic as the previous one. Probably in the annals of history its beginnings will be remembered for the global challenges that characterized them, such as the economic crisis, climate change and Covid-19.

If we look back, we can see two endemic evils that our democracies have suffered from and that somehow may yet resurface: terrorism and populism. It is no exaggeration to state the need to carefully study their causes and consequences, at least if we want this century to be less violent than the one that preceded it.

As we all know, populism involves a political approach that strives to appeal to ordinary people who feel that their concerns are disregarded by established elite groups while terrorism—domestic or international—incorporates the unlawful use of force or violence against persons or property to intimidate or coerce a government or its citizens to further certain political or social objectives.

The nature of these two phenomena—how they influence democracies and how they intend to impose their own worldviews—draw their philosophical inspiration from some of the writings of Fyodor Dostoevsky, Friedrich Nietzsche and Jean-Paul Sartre. These three philosophical icons are considered advocates of totalitarianism and as such, they help in perpetuating populism and terrorism in the post-truth era.

But little do people know that nihilism causes both phenomena to share common traits with totalitarianism, as strange as this may seem.

According to Dostoevsky, nihilism is the belief that all values are baseless and that nothing can be known or communicated: “It is often associated with extreme pessimism and a radical skepticism that condemns existence. A true nihilist would believe in nothing, have no loyalties, and no purpose other than, perhaps, an impulse to destroy.”

The Russian philosopher adds that a nihilist believes that he is above all societal morals and values, that he is self-contained and can create his own moral code—his attitude of revolt against society, God, and himself. Dostoyevsky also uses the character of Raskolnikov to counteract the doctrines of Russian nihilism.

On the other hand, Nietzsche describes the state of nihilism as the idea that life has no meaning or value—cannot be avoided since people must go through it, as frightening and lonely as that will be.

Lastly, Sartre, as one of the great moral philosophers of the last century, takes to the definition of the Oxford English Dictionary of nihilism: “Total rejection . . . of all religious and moral principles, in the belief that life is meaningless. If Sartre believes that “there is no purpose to existence,” it is in the sense that life has no meaning derived from outside humanity, but only the meaning that we ourselves give it.

OUR beloved President Rodrigo Duterte said we owe a debt of gratitude to China for the vaccines it donated and sold to the country, but he quickly added that this did not mean he would yield Philippine sovereignty over the country’s exclusive economic zone(s) in the West Philippine Sea (WPS) to Beijing.

But we agree to our honorable lawmakers and some Duterte critics that contrary to the chief executive’s pronouncement about disputes with China in the WPS, it is in truth China which owes the Philippines because it is continually encroaching into our territory, particularly our EEZ, and in doing so, it has been destroying or has already destroyed much of our marine resources.

China appears to be trying to show it is a good friend but at the same time it is also abusing this friendship with us and our government.

Do friends prevent their friends from having a livelihood by stopping them from fishing? Do friends steal food from the mouth of their friends?

Simply said, the situation can be simply analogized as “the left hand not knowing what the right hand is doing.”

And do friends steal the property of their friends?

China has started reclaiming land to build artificial islands at seven reefs within our country’s EEZ, and Beijing has turned them into military outposts with airstrips, barracks, ports and missile silos.

Duterte lamented Beijing’s continued rejection of the arbitral award in 2016 that invalidated China’s sweeping claims to the South China Sea. He blamed the administration of his predecessor, Benigno S. Aquino III, specifically then foreign affairs secretary Albert Del Rosario, for the “retreat” from Panatag and the loss of other reefs to China.

That could be so—but what is he going to do now?

It’s like you’re blaming your daughter was raped because the guardian you hired did not do his job of protecting her; so with you onboard, will you just stand by and watch the rapists rape her again?

The Philippines at this point is like a former whore who was sold by her previous patrons, but she now has a new one and should this new patron ignore the fact that there are plans to sell our country again to others greedy of its wealth and resources?

Just asking . . .

LESSONS in history have shown us that powerful nations do not stop by merely ruling their people because kingdoms and empires like Assyria, Egypt, Persia, Carthage and Rome in ancient times and France, Germany, Spain, England and even America today in our century have tried to colonize parts of the world or if not, exercise their influence on smaller countries.

China is no different from Rome or America. They try to secretly impose hegemony across the world while appearing to be the helpful brother that we all would want to have. (AI/MTVN)

Leave a Reply