Sunday, December 21, 2003

Napakasakit, Kuya Eddie

Pastor Eddie Villanueva of the Jesus is Lord church, will be running for president. As of presstime, he is "99% sure" of it. No doubt, it's a "Christ-centered" government he's batting for, and those who know me know how much that prospect frightens me.

Pontifex Maximus, Carnifex Maximus
There are few distinctions between a "God-Centered" government and a totalitarian state.

"God-centered" governments tend to favor structure over innovation, universal conformity over even the most necessary ferment. These governments are hard to dialogue with, as they come to the negotiating table with the idea that they alone are right. Governments like this are just as concerned with statistics as their totalitarian counterparts. They add one more question to the pile that their own analysts, administrators and spin people have to answer, and that question is usually "How many people have we saved?" Yes: saved by making life horribly inconvenient if not impossible for apostates, heretics, atheists, gays, lesbians, women, and irreverent scholars, journalists and just about anyone who disagrees with "God-Centered Policy."

These governments tend to flourish (as all other governments do) when the populations they administer are small, homogenous, favorably disposed to them. For example, Vatican City. But what happens when the population is not small, nor homogenous, nor favorably disposed to the status quo? As an extreme case, you get the Taliban-run Afghanistan.

Paranoia and Propaganda
One glaring, shared characteristic of the "God-centered" government and the totalitarian state is this: given enough time, and a vocal and educated heterogenous population somewhat conscious of its rights, the emphasis of government policy moves farther and farther away from effective administration and moves closer and to the management of perceived internal and external threats.

Internal Dissent and External Influence
As all deviance and civil dissent, indeed all sin, arise from the possibility, the idea, of living a lifestyle or taking actions not approved by the ruling party (in this case, those who "speak for God"), the rulers of our "God-centered" government will be keen to police the very thoughts of the ruled. After all, ideas are threats. They don't care for the fact that in the desire to do things differently lie the seeds of invention, of change, of art, and maybe even humanity. They will want to have a stranglehold on education ("Let us put God back in the schools!" "We don't teach evolution here!"), denying it to some sectors (women in Taliban-run Afghanistan,for example) and giving a horribly slanted version of it (the jihad factories in Pakistan*) to others.

Contact with "Secular America/Europe/Japan, et cetera" will have to be regulated, lest those impious foreigners make too much headway disseminating their godless ideas among the ruled population. News will have to be censored. Films will have to be sanitized, as some topics of importance will become taboo. And the Internet will eventually have to go (owning an unregistered computer is a crime in SLORC**-run Myanmar).

Everybody Loses
When a government is too busy participating in witchhunts, (as totalitarian and "God-centered" governments are bound to be) it channels a ridiculously large amount of resources into its self-preservation mechanisms-- the army, the Iraqi Republican Guard, the KGB, the religious police, Hitler Youth, et cetera-- to the deteriment of agriculture, industry, education, culture, sports, social services, et cetera. The nation sinks deeper into fiscal, if not physical, hell and gets left behind by the rest of the world. Meanwhile the people close to the centers of power ride around in luxury cars...

Mayhaps a "Christ-centered" government will be kinder than its totalitarian cousins to its dissidents, its philosophers, homosexuals and conscientious objectors than, say, the Taliban. But give it time. Governments always find a way to inflict novel forms of repression where the more traditional forms (physical torture, for example) are shunned. People can find ways to skirt the spirit of the law (Mortal or Divine) while adhering to its letter.

*while Pakistan is not wholly a religion-run state, the mullahs enjoy a lot of clout. Hmmm. Much like the not-so-Catholic Republic of the Philippines with its religious power-blocs...

**SLORC= Strategic Law and Order Ruling Council.

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