Monthly Archives: October 2016

On Park Geun-Hye and BFFs

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So there have been a lot of revelations regarding the current Korean president, Park Geun-Hye and her crony who people suspect has been involved in many of her actions as president of the country. To quickly summarize, it has been proven that a close confidante who has never been elected into any public position has been advising the president on several issues. This person has also been linked to allegations of influence peddling and corruption. This cause quite the concern, since it’s very unclear how much of the president’s actions and inaction have been due to this person, and what’s even more concerning is the president’s attempted proposal to change the country’s constitution and abolish presidential term limits.

Several Korean news sites and blogs have more detailed explanations of the scandal, but depending on how conspiratorial one is, it can range from people dismissing the whole thing to a politician confiding to a friend to a puppet leader sharing national secrets to a charismatic cult leader-like master manipulator. I’ve talked to several people who lean more towards the manipulative angle because the president has isolated herself from her siblings at a young age since her father’s assassination, and that her confidante’s father is a bit of an odd character himself, a pastor of sorts who’s been married several times. I tend to think that Koreans seem to be particularly vulnerable to falling for charismatic manipulation like religious leaders, etc. It’s anecdotal, but I’ve seen it happen too often.

Protests are scheduled to happen this weekend, and there has been a bipartisan effort to look into the scandal. There have been calls for impeachment, but I personally think it would be hard to prove that the president abused her power to the extent that allows for impeachment. I’m hoping that the scandal would finally remove her party from power. The Saenuri Party, always promising economic gains, has done nothing but enriched Korean conglomerates and has failed to improve the lives of most of the Korean people. The middle class has not expanded, salaries have stagnated, and life in the country, especially in Seoul, is still as expensive as ever.

However, I believe people loyal to the party due to regional ties will continue to keep the party in power next elections. Right now, members of the party are cunningly turning against their leader in hopes of isolating the damage to her, justifiably or unjustifiably so. What worries me is that the forces in all of these are not new. Just like what I believe drew the current president to her friend is something common to many Koreans, vulnerability to charismatic manipulation. What got her into power is something all too common as well: regionalism and a longing for a leader like her father, the late dictator and strong man Park Chung-hee. People are quick to forgive and forget strong men for their authoritarian abuses in favor of economic and military gain. I see it happen in the Philippines with Duterte and Filipinos looking for a leader like the late president Ferdinand Marcos. I see it in the United States as well, with Americans trying to make a Putin-like leader out of Donald Trump. For states that are so modern, much to what I fear is our detriment, we are all still vulnerable to these primitive political trends.

It’s moments like these that I’m glad that our Prime Minister is such a pleasant, level-headed guy in comparison. Of course he might come across as goofy, chasing after Internet traffic like a child sometimes, but in a room full of world leaders, there’s no one else I’d rather be led by. I don’t normally write about Canadian politics because Canadian politics tend to be boring. But boring is good. Normal government functions should be scandal-free. Thank goodness Canadian politics is oh so boring!

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Killing Catholics

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The problem with Twitter is that it’s a vortex that gets you sucked in to arguments where you’re trying to convince people who have no interest in being convinced. This happened to me last night for the better part of an hour, arguing about the Philippines and their outrageous leader, President Duterte. The last time I visited the Philippines was 2011. Back then, like many people, the country’s problem with poverty is quite apparent. But the problem is not only that. At the time, I also noted that the country had a tendency to elect leaders based on populist appeal, with several people banking either on their celebrity appeal or regional political dynasties. I also noticed that there is not much concern about the separation of church and state, and thus some, if not the majority of people, don’t mind if religiously-inspired policies affect them negatively. So last night, I ended up arguing based on the Filipino Catholic background, the pretense of doing the purge for law and order, and the two-tiered justice system when it comes to Filipinos and their worship of celebrities.

I always found it very ironic that the only Catholic country in the Philippines would openly insult the leader of the Roman Catholic Church, the representative of Christ in the planet. By condoning the extrajudicial killings, the president and his followers are going against the very teaching of Jesus Christ. Love thy neighbors, thou shalt not kill, etc. I’m not a theological expert, but I always thought that one of the foundations of the Catholic Church is the concept of forgiveness. And while many of the president’s supporters are quick to defend him and forgive him for his brashness and errors as a leader, they don’t extend that same spirit of forgiveness to victims of the killings. It would seem that the country is not as religious as many people would have you believe. After all, why would the country elect and give high approval ratings to a person who promised to kill several people and so far has made good on that promise. Duterte on his campaign had two major political goals: A) kill thousands of drug dealers and users and B) reform the country into federalism in order to spread the country’s wealth and resources among its different regions. So far, he’s only killed people. Killing people is not only against the Catholic Church, it also won’t put food on people’s plate.

Now, the president claims that he is doing things for law and order. He even mused about instating martial law to quell lawlessness. Forgetting the abuse of the Marcos regime and the horrors of martial law, his supporters say that martial law wouldn’t be a bad idea; after all, it is well within his rights in the Philippine constitution as the leader of the country. Looking at the Philippine constitution, it is well within his rights. Article VII, Section 18 states that he may take command of all armed forces and suspend habeas corpus to prevent or suppress lawless violence. That’s well and good. But the last time I checked, the Philippines is still quite orderly. There is no lawless violence. In fact, it is the president who is encouraging lawlessness with statements like, “Please feel free to call us, the police or do it yourself if you have the fun… you have my support. Shoot him (the accused) and I’ll give you a medal.” Article III, Section 1 of the Philippine Bill of Rights states that “No person shall be deprived of life, liberty, or property without due process of law, nor shall any person be denied the equal protection of the laws.” Yet, people conveniently shrug when people get shot without spending their time in court, examining evidence of their guilt, or facing their accusers. There is nothing lawful about this anti-drug campaign. And as for people saying that the murder are done by phantom “killers” and not by the government or the police, and that the president regrets such extrajudicial killings, let me quote that again, “Please feel free to call us, the police or do it yourself if you have the fun… you have my support. Shoot him (the accused) and I’ll give you a medal.”

When arguing these things, I got accused of being prejudiced against the Philippines, of seeing the country as some sort of backwards banana republic and not a sophisticated metropolitan society. The problem with prejudice is that it also applies to the poor and those with drug history. The killings only seem to apply to the poor. Doing a quick search on Google, it’s not that difficult to find Filipino celebrities with histories of drug abuse. I doubt if they would be affected by this anti-drug campaign. No one is gunning for them. Drug use is often brought on by poverty. And the prejudice against the poor leads to the rather nonchalant local attitude towards the killings. Crimes against the pretty people on this page (https://kami.com.ph/29157-filipino-celebrities-involved-illegal-drugs.html) would elicit national outrage, but there’s not so much outrage when the victims are poor, young drug users and their families have to deal with the aftermath.

The most inane argument I get is that I’m not a true Filipino; I’m not in the country and thus have no say in such things. I am not familiar with their problems. True, but I am also unfamiliar with the problems of impoverished family members of drug users. While my opinions might insult Duterte’s supporters, the unfortunate consequence of supporting Duterte is the murder of people. Their opinions and support kills people. One does not need to be a Filipino citizen to realize this. You don’t need to be in the Philippines to see the hypocrisy in regards to Duterte versus religion, the law, and prejudice. The thing is, I actually have high hopes for the country. There are even some things that I agree with Duterte about (his stance on contraception and birth control for one. And I actually think federalism would benefit the country. ). But this zeal for a strong man worries me. Civilization and law evolved as such. First there was the literal strong man in very primitive groups. This was the man who could physically implement his personal view of law and order in his small community. Then came more democratic tribes; this was when communities established rules and mores, and power was not centralized into one figure. Perhaps there was a council of elders and influential members of the community. Later on, law and order became more complex, and we now have the many checks and balances of current systems in different countries. This devolution to needing a strongman leader is a sign of a more basic urge, a return to a primitive way of looking at things, a need for simplistic solutions to more sophisticated, nuanced problems. This is not the Philippines moving forward.

Of course, with Twitter and the Internet, I find myself arguing against unmovable converts. The same goes with Trump supporters and proponents of Brexit. Ironic that in a platform which allows for the free access to different opinions, we all tend to gravitate to information and “facts” which reflect our own opinions. Perhaps, at the risk of sounding arrogant, this is Duterte’s supporters and the Dunning-Kruger effect.

And speaking of the Dunning-Kruger effect, but I believe true Canadians are immune to the Dunning-Kruger effect. It’s not that Canadians are smarter than the average person, but compared to our southern neighbors, we’re not as adamant with our opinions. We tend to be more pliable. Just as Catholics have an enduring place in their hearts for guilt, Canadians have an enduring place in their hearts for self-doubt. It is the part of us that says, “I believe this, but maybe I’m wrong.” So with that in mind, maybe I’m wrong about the Philippines. But for now, it looks like a total disaster.

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This Election is Draining Me.

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We are twenty-six days before the US elections and it couldn’t come soon enough. It’s been dominating the news and my Twitter feed so much that it’s virtually inescapable. Even on CBC.ca, it’s right there on the front page. As a Canadian living in South Korea, this shouldn’t affect me so, but it’s been one of the biggest concerns that I engage in online. It has been everything, and I can’t wait for it to be over.

It is disappointing that otherwise intelligent people are brought to a position to defend what are otherwise indefensible positions and thus bringing legitimacy to ideas which would normally have been dismissed. And what’s scary is the rate to what new issues and scandals are being brought up and how people have seemingly just accepted them as the new normal. Right now, the hot button issue is the GOP candidate’s behavior towards women, specifically sexual allegations leveled against him. But it wasn’t that long time ago when he was involved in fat-shaming people, making light of military veterans, not paying his taxes, spouting hatred towards Muslims, etc. I don’t even hear him or other people talk about his initial plans to erect a wall along the Mexican border anymore. It’s like all of these things have been accepted, their offensive barbs have been dulled, because a newer and shinier scandal is blinding everyone at the moment. The perpetual shock, disdain, and disappointment at scandals, followed by the bewilderment and frustration listening to what I would like to believe are more intelligent people than me defend his positions has become really tiring.

I’m a political junkie. I love talking about the law and politics. And it is disappointing that the level of discourse has gotten so low and ignorance has been so normalized, that some people are even attacking the very basic concept of a defendant having access to a lawyer that would advocate for him. And instead of being ridiculed and suffering consequences for making facetious arguments, “experts” are rewarded by being given more media coverage. Alex Jones and Roger Stone have become part of the political discourse. Alex Jones is claiming that President Barrack Obama and Hillary Clinton are literally demons. Why even concern yourself with issues like education, police culture, and geopolitical events, when fanciful paranoia can get you just as much political media legs? It’s a damned shame.

What I fear is that even after the elections, even if Hillary wins, the poison that was infused in the media and political culture will linger far beyond 2016. Politics has become dirtier, party lines will be even more divided, and the discourse regarding race, religion, sex, etc. will be even more hateful. This is the election that made political discourse dumb, and has turned “straight talk” into blatant bigotry. The Tea Party movement began in 2009, and though it has waned since then, the American people are still feeling the damage it has done, especially in the way the Senate and the House of Representatives conduct its business. I fear that even if the Republicans suffer due to a down ballot effect, this movement fueled by Trump’s rhetoric and his supporters’ machinations will have a far more longer and insidious effect in our collective culture.

The elections can’t come soon enough.

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Like Movember with Drawings

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Sorry Inktober. I love the spirit, but I just draw way too slow. I do draw regularly though, so does that does that count?

I wish I could be one of those people that draw everywhere, carrying around their drawing pads and doing life studies or doodling on the fly. I’ve always admired Robert Crumb and have enjoyed his series of drawings on paper place mats. They’re genius. He’d come up with funny scenes while waiting for him meal to arrive. Unfortunately, I just don’t have the creative will to do so. Also, I blame my phone. That piece of tech with all of the world’s knowledge right at my fingertips is just way too distracting. I guess that’s why things like Inktober are even more important now than ever. It reminds people to just sit down and draw.

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