Adjusting to Duterte and Trump
PRESIDENT Duterte and US President Donald Trump are prime examples of a new crop of leaders who have barged into power and are imposing their ideas and will on their respective publics.
Mr. Duterte is like a feudal warlord who likes to bark at people. He reserves special venom for those who criticize him, however muted and mild the criticism.
For example, after Duterte’s “war” on drugs got underway and many drug suspects got killed, then US President Barack Obama counseled him, as an ally, to “do it the right way.”
That short piece of advice earned Obama a barrage of curses from Duterte. The latest to receive a Duterte bouquet of swear words is Colombian ex-President Cesar Gaviria for warning our president of the perils of waging a “war” on drugs. Duterte called Gaviria an “idiot.”
Mr. Duterte promised to “metamorphose” after his inauguration but evidently he’s unable to change or reform himself. God, he says, created him that way and if we have any problems with that, we should blame God.
Duterte is a tough cookie and he wants us to accept him as such. He’s not going to change for us; we will have to change for him. He wants more than 100 million people to change for one person instead of one person to change for 100 million people.
President Trump isn’t much different. He wants the American people to like him as he is. He’s also tough-talking and in many ways has child-like traits, like always wanting to have his way, trading insult for insult, and using Twitter as a teenager would. Can you imagine, the president of the most powerful nation posting Twitter messages like a petulant youngster?
The childish behavior of both men may be excusable. Even Duterte’s swearing might be forgiven, as his aides request the public.
But the bullying habits of both men ought to be condemned. They behave like party-crashers terrorizing and traumatizing the party-goers with undisguised glee. There’s nothing accidental about their behavior, it’s all intentional. They mean to bully and terrorize.
Mr. Duterte’s cursing is meant to scare people. He intends to browbeat and subdue everyone in his presence and path. Trump doesn’t curse but he comes on strong as well, giving the distinct impression that he wants to win all his battles and people had better get out of his way.
Both presidents act like spoiled brats. Duterte throws temper tantrums at the slightest, even unintended, provocation. Trump barged onto the scene with a certain recklessness, lacking or disdaining rudimentary diplomacy. Both are like the proverbial bull in a china shop, at risk of smashing everything in their way.
What signifies this new kind of approach to government? Ideally, presidents are expected to act with dignity, composure, statesmanship, and decorum. Neither Duterte nor Trump has so far displayed any of these traits.
Their main weapon of persuasion is a bullying bent that doesn’t rely on reason but rather on intimidation. They would rather crash and burn than persuade and unify. And they’re not the least apologetic for their behavior and tactics. They rarely, if ever, take back whatever deplorable things they’ve said or done.
These leaders have brought with them to office a paradigm that dates back to ancient times when muscle and might were all that mattered. Reason doesn’t count to them. They don’t give others a chance to reason with them. It’s all push, push, push. It’s very feudal and they intend to make it work for them.
Will the Filipinos and the Americans learn to adjust to the bullying or will they rebel against it?
*** Tantrum Ergo. When GMA-7 news anchors end their evening broadcasts they tell the audience their news contains no bias or lies. Does that imply that the other channel(s) are biased or that they lie?