Even as he was leaving the Philippines, Pope Francis continues to give ‘words of wisdom’ that are relevant to the lives of millions of Filipinos, but will be certainly misunderstood by many Catholics in the country.
In a press conference on his flight from Manila to Rome (read the whole transcript here), the Pontiff discussed the issues of ‘state terrorism’ and ‘ideological colonization’.
1. State Terrorism
Today, they don’t just discard the paper and what’s left over. We throw away people. And discrimination is a way of throwing away, these people are discarded. And it comes to mind a bit the image of the castes, no? This can’t go on. But today, throwing away seems normal. And you spoke of the luxurious hotel and then the shacks. In my diocese of Buenos Aires, there was all of the new area which is called Puerta Madero up to the train station and then the start of the “Villas Miserias,” the poor. One after another. And in this part there are 36 luxurious restaurants… And here there is hunger. One next to the other. And we have the tendency to get used to this, no? To this that… yes, yes, we’re here and there are those thrown away. This is poverty… But you’ve made me think about this state terrorism . This throwing away is exactly like terrorism.
For the average Filipino, ‘terrorism’ immediately conjures images of rebel groups in the countryside, particularly (and unfairly) those led and composed mainly of Muslims/Moros. But in the Pope’s definition, it seems that he is referring to widespread poverty and hunger amidst concentrated wealth, and inequality between the rich and the poor.
It is interesting why he chose the words ‘state terrorism’ (as an activist friend said, what the Pontiff described as such is more popularly known as ‘structural violence’.) Terrorism is appropriate as poverty, hunger, and inequality kills millions of people each day. But State? It seems that this points to the role of national governments in creating and continuing poverty through their policies and programs. (read more here, here, and here)
(Is it any coincidence he chose to say this after visiting the Philippines?)
2. Ideological Colonization
During the Synod, the African bishops lamented this: certain loans on certain conditions. I only say that which I have seen.. Why do they say ideological colonization? Because they take a real need of the people to have an opportunity to enter and make themselves strong with the children. But this is not new, the dictators of the last century did the same.
They colonized the people, but they wanted to do it. But how much suffering. Peoples must not lose their freedom. A people has its culture, its history. Every people has its own culture.
But when conditions are imposed by the colonizing empires they seek to make peoples forget their own identity and make them (all) equal.
Like ‘State Terrorism’, the Papal ‘Ideological Colonization’ refers to concepts familiar to Filipino activists under different names. For example, ‘Certain loans on certain conditions’ can certainly refer to foreign debts issued by institutions, such as the World Bank and Asia Development Bank ,which have been used to ‘pressure’ governments into ‘reforming’ our economy.
In the Philippines, ‘certain loans on certain conditions’ have led to us having the most expensive electricity in the whole of Asia, expensive basic food items and widespread hunger, continued large-scale mining which harms the environment, and less funds for social services in favor of foreign debt payment.
2.5 Is State Terrorism and Ideological Colonization linked?
It may be just coincidence that the two topics were discussed in the same press conference. But the two are certainly linked. ‘Certain loans’ have created conditions which allow corporations (and the wealthy few who own and control them) to become richer and richer at the expense of consumers. For example, the owners of MERALCO, Manila Water, and Maynilad get wealthier, while less and less of the average Filipino’s earnings are left after they pay their power and water bills.
But it is certainly not a coincidence that he chose to discuss after his visit to the Philippines. We are the perfect example of ‘State terrorism’. From 2008 to 2013, the combined wealth of the 40 richest Filipinos rose from $22.8 to $47.4 billion. But at the same time, the number of poor families has increased from 8.9 to 10.6 million (or 8 million individuals)
3. What Next?
Critics of my recent blog entry have said that people like me merely complain without offering solutions to social issues (ignoring the fact that many activists keep blogs in which the solutions that they are looking for can be found, such as here, here, and here)
But for the sake of these people, here are a few ways in which we can address ‘State terrorism’ and ‘Loans with conditions’:
This has always been part of the message of Pope Francis, and even local clergy like Cardinal Tagle. As I said earlier, the Papal visit is wasted if we did not learn anything from it, and treated like some massive street party instead. But of course, we should include different views and sources of information in our reflection. Otherwise, it will be like drinking from a steel drum full of stagnant water. No matter how much we stir it, the water will still be impure.
One can start by reading alternative news (as opposed to mainstream or corporate news, which was so shallow in analyzing the Papal visit) which expresses the views of those ‘in the peripheries’ in the words of Cardinal Tagle. Two of these are Bulatlat and Pinoy Weekly.
3.2 Learn from the masses
Pope Francis said that we must “learn to be evangelized with the poor” as a way to “mature… your commitment to help others”. This is one of the first lessons activists from comfortable backgrounds learn: much of what we know from our formal education is incompatible with reality, and consequently, irrelevant in the struggle to change system.
Those from the middle and upper classes automatically think that just because someone did not graduate from a university, he/she is stupid. They disregard the fact that in the struggle against poverty, it is the poor who are in the forefront, and thus, they are the ones with a wealth of experience.
Many activist organizations, especially those of students, conduct regular activities to be ‘evangelized with the poor’, from a short trip of several hours, to living in certain communities for days or even weeks.