Category Archives: military

National Heroes and the Problems with the 5 Peso Coin and ‘Spoliarium.’

I’m not the best person to talk about Filipino heroes. There are names that Filipino children are taught and grew up knowing. Jose Rizal is the national hero of the Philippines. He was a member of the Filipino Propaganda movement against the Spanish occupation and the author of Noli Me Tangere and El filibusterismo. Andres Bonifacio was “The Father of the Philippine Revolution.” Marcelo del Pilar was one of the leaders of the Reform Movement in Spain. Apolinario Mabini was known as “The Brain of the Revolution.” And there are many others. From the earliest hero, Lapulapu, a chief who killed Magellan but also died in the Battle of Mactan, Filipinos made heroes from those who opposed the Spanish occupation, a period which lasted for 333 years. Even the first Filipino saint, St. Lorenzo Ruiz, was sent to Japan and eventually to his martyrdom due to a false accusation that he had murdered a Spaniard during the occupation.

The Philippines was also occupied by the US and the Japanese, but the Americans had a relatively less directly antagonistic and more complicated relationship with the Philippines despite a three-year strife. To this day, the US remains a partner and an ally of the country. As for the Japanese occupation, which Filipinos fought with the help of US support, figures like guerrilla leaders Luis Taruc, Terry Magtanggol, and Marcos Agustin are not as famous as the ones who led Filipinos against the Spanish.

So if there are better sources for Filipino heroes out there, what am I to write about? Well, I have a couple of bones to pick. The first one is with Emilio Aguinaldo, the man on the 5-peso coin. He was a veteran of several revolutionary wars and was officially the first and youngest president of the country, the First Philippine Republic, which lasted about two years before the break of the Philippine-American War. He was a brave and brilliant soldier and leader when he was younger. I will not take that away from him.

After his first capture by the Americans, he took an oath of allegiance to the United States. However, during this time, his former allies who fought the Spanish alongside him are still fighting what they see as colonial forces, who are this time the Americans. Andres Bonifacio instituted the Tagalog Republic which refused to recognize the government of Emilio Aguinaldo, especially since it now surrendered to the Americans. Bonifacio and his brother were captured and implicated in a crime allegedly done by those under Bonifacio’s command. In a sham trial with a jury filled with Aguinaldo’s advocates and a defense attorney that believes his client was not innocent, both Bonifacio brothers were found guilty and sentenced to death, but later to exile. This was later reversed back to execution.

Aguinaldo is also believed to have ordered the assassination of Antonio Luna, one of the most brilliant generals fighting against the Americans at the time. Luna was invited to a location via telegram sent by Aguinaldo for a meeting, only to be confronted by army officials he considered enemies once he arrived at the meeting location. Luna never received a telegram that the meeting with Aguinaldo was cancelled, if there ever was a telegram. He and his companions were slaughtered in a plaza in front of a church immediately after the failed meeting. After the death of Luna, Luna’s men were left demoralized and eventually surrendered to the Americans.

After the attack on Pearl Harbor, the Japanese invaded the Philippines. Aguinaldo famously sided with the Japanese and implored General Douglas MacArthur and the Americans to surrender to the Japanese. He naively believed that the Imperial Japanese Army would free the Philippines from American occupation and finally give them independence. Someone should’ve told him the meaning of “imperial.” This is the Japanese empire that enslaved people, did horrible experiments on prisoners, tortured POWs, and raped women in the countries they invaded. He later became part of what many considered a puppet government and discouraged guerrilla warfare, spreading anti-war and pro-Japanese propaganda. As much as I love current day Japan, the Imperial Japan of the past was disgusting. Aguinaldo must know what the Japanese were doing at the time and what they are capable of. He cannot be that naive. The Rape of Nanjing was in 1937, just a few years before the Japanese invasion of the Philippines in 1941.

Later, when the US defeated the Japanese and regained control of the country, Aguinaldo went into hiding and was later arrested as a Japanese collaborator. He would’ve spent his last days in prison if he wasn’t pardoned by Manuel Roxas, the country’s fifth president.

Now, despite his earlier actions as a revolutionary, doesn’t his later actions as a leader seem slimy and unprincipled? Jose Rizal and Andres Bonifacio bravely faced firing squads. I’m not sure if the older Emilio Aguinaldo would do the same. He seems more a conniving politician than a revolutionary. If it weren’t for the Americans, maybe the Philippines would still be a Japanese colony, all with the help of Aguinaldo. I wouldn’t want this man’s face in coins.

Another hero I have an issue with is Juan Luna, the celebrated Filipino artist. While I admire The Battle of Lepanto and think it’s a masterpiece, I’m frankly not a fan of Spoliarium. I think it was only elevated by the commendations of his friend Jose Rizal who compared the abuse and indignities suffered by gladiators under Roman rule to that of the Filipinos under the Spanish. As a piece, I do not find it exciting at all. Even the name is gibberish to me. I suspect it is made up the same way vomitoriums don’t really exist. I also find it odd to elevate him so much when most of his famous works are done in the European classic tradition with European themes; there’s not many that connect to the Philippines and the culture of the country. I’m not even sure if Jose Rizal’s interpretation of Spoliarium is Juan Luna’s intent or if it was just incidental.

Juan Luna was a bully, a serial wife abuser, and a double murderer. I think his success and being a pensionado got into his head and wouldn’t think twice to abuse his wife who he eventually shot dead through a door along with his mother-in-law in a fit of jealous rage. After being arrested and charged, he was acquitted on the grounds of crime of passion and temporary insanity; insanity over his wife’s unfounded infidelity. This was 1893 and misogyny was to be expected, but it still saddens me how women seemed to be so disposable back then. Now many artists are famously horrible to women or their muses. Auguste Rodin was not particularly good to Camille Claudel. But she was able to rise as a renowned artist herself and certainly didn’t die from gunshot wounds from Rodin.

What’s fascinating is that even after the double murder, Juan Luna was still able to continue his career and even be a part of the Philippine Revolution. This is like letting OJ continue his career successfully and even be elevated as a hero even after the murder of his ex-wife. There are better Filipino artists out there: Felix Resurreccion Hidalgo, Guillermo Tolentino, and Fernando Amorsolo. None of them are sociopaths.

No hero is perfect, of course; most of the US’s Founding Fathers kept slaves. But I think it would help to know some of the less known history of the Philippine’s heroes. I say this because I actually grew up hearing a lot about Juan Luna, not really knowing that he was such a despicable human being.

Lastly, while I have nothing negative to say about Jose Rizal, there’s an argument that Andres Bonifacio, “The Father of the Philippine Revolution” is more deserving of the title national hero. Rizal inspired Bonifacio in his revolution, but Philippine historian Renato Constantino argues that Rizal was a “United States-sponsored hero” who was against the Spanish occupation and already passed away before he could make any comments regarding the American occupation. Andres Bonifacio fought and lost in the Philippine-American War. Rizal had a more diplomatic approach to change while Andres Bonifacio was more radical and troublesome with occupiers, including the Americans. His guerrilla warfare could even be compared to that of Che Guevarra, famously assassinated by the CIA. Even at a young age, I thought that Rizal seemed privileged: traveling overseas, socializing with elites, romancing women, etc. Most historians believe that Jose Rizal was unknown to many Filipinos at the time since he was often overseas and frequently associated with the elites. Contrast this with Bonifacio who had an image of someone who was down in the trenches fighting with the people. I found it odd that Jose Rizal was the national hero compared to someone who had a more direct hand in Philippine independence and similarly had to face a firing squad.

Another person who supposedly advocated for making Jose Rizal the national hero instead of Andres Bonifacio was Emilio Aguinaldo; Emilio Aguinaldo who allegedly had a hand in the execution of Andres Bonifacio. Why would he give someone the honor of national hero when he was instrumental in his demise? That, and he was also very much in line with the forces that Andres Bonifacio was fighting against.

God bless Jose Rizal and his sacrifice. He is a hero; I will not argue that he’s not. But I cannot help but think that his elevation to national hero over Andres Bonifacio was part of American propaganda. You wanna be a hero and save your country? Write a book and traffic in allegories. Don’t be a guerilla fighter.

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Baghdadi and Our Monsters

Trigger Happy

Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was the leader of ISIL. He was surrounded by special forces yesterday and detonated himself using an explosive vest. When he was alive, he orchestrated the genocide of the Yazidis, pushed for sex slavery, and organized brutal displays of mass crucifixions and executions, often putting them on video to be used for propaganda and recruitment.

I have no sympathy for people like Baghdadi, especially after they perverted the image of Islam. The world is better without him. His death is not the same as the death of Saddam Hussein and Muammar Gaddafi. There are no gray areas or utilitarian purpose to his rule. He is simply, a bad guy. However, the whole circus with the Trump administration’s announcement regarding his death leaves a bad taste in my mouth.

First off, the Pentagon stating that he ran to a tunnel with three kids to be used as human shields sounds like unnecessary propaganda. It’s very similar to when they described Osama Bin Laden using his wives as shields, which was later denied as a false statement. They are painting a very dramatic scene in order to make Baghdadi sound evil when he is evil enough as it is. I’m already on the US’ side on this. They don’t have to lie in order to sell it to me. In fact, the lie is off-putting. Why would Baghdadi bring children along when he planned to detonate himself? Wouldn’t he know those kids he was bringing with him? Isn’t it more plausible that he was trying to escape with them and not use them as shields?

Now, maybe the Pentagon wasn’t lying, but Trump lying and saying that he saw the whole thing live, much like a movie is a childishly blatant lie. First off, there was no audio. Second, the photo of him and his generals perfectly posed to try and simulate a situation room is comically set up. Cables are disconnected, people are staring at different directions, the photographer was blocking where the screen would be, and Trump perfectly centered like it was Da Vinci’s ‘Last Supper.’ Third, his description of Baghdadi crying and begging for his life was totally fictitious. Even Pentagon officials immediately denied it. There was no audio. No witnesses could attest to this. And the whole thing happened in a dark tunnel. Either Trump was describing what happened to Muammar Gaddafi years ago or he’s just going off of his sadistic imagination. “His body was mutilated by the blast… there wasn’t much left?” Really? Can the US president not hide his childish glee over this?

“Died like a dog”? “Die like a coward”? How does a dog die? How does a coward die? How does Trump know how a coward dies? What kind of language is this?!?!?

And then Trump goes on to brag about himself, comparing himself to ISIS in terms of Internet proficiency (what a weirdo!), claiming that he advocated the death of Bin Laden (he didn’t), and that killing Baghdadi was more significant than killing Osama Bin Laden. That last one is something adults simply don’t do. What does that even mean?

As for Trump comparing himself to ISIS in terms of Internet proficiency, let me follow his lead and go a bit further. Bill Maher lost his first show after he described the 9/11 terrorists as being brave, in contrast with US military strategy which is basically just bombing cities from a distance. I’m not a fan of Bill Maher, but there was truth to what he was saying. The 9/11 terrorists were cowards in that they targeted civilians, but they were courageous in personally committing their act of terror and facing death. The west commits terror mostly long distance. As hideous and as ill-advised his sentiment was, it cannot be dismissed as totally wrong. In any case, let me pull a Bill Maher and say that Trump, given the same circumstances, would not be any different from Baghdadi.

They both failed at serving in the military, though Baghdadi might actually be truly nearsighted. Apparently, Baghdadi has a PHD in Islamic studies. But just like with Trump’s education from Wharton, their supposed education doesn’t match reality. Baghdadi is as much a religious scholar as Trump is a business leader.

Trump is an accused sexual predator. In the same position as Baghdadi, is it really a stretch that he advocate for sexual slavery as well? With his macho fantasies and authoritarian tendencies, it is also very easy to imagine that he would be just as violent and as brutal as Baghdadi. Trump was quite callous with the imprisonment of children and the death of the Kurds. He doesn’t care much about the suffering in Puerto Rico and was quite dismissive about the US’ history with lynching. Baghdadi has his followers do most of the work for him. They are zealots who are following both extremist ideologies and twisted religious dogma. According to a recent poll, evangelicals are 90% against Trump getting impeached. These are the same people who believe he is appointed by God. The same people who wouldn’t mind conflict to break out over the Gaza Strip in order for Christ to come a second time.

The way we see leaders and monsters truly depends on the culture and circumstances surrounding them as well as which side we are on. ISIL and Baghdadi rose from the horror that is the fall of Iraq. One could argue that without the conflicts in the Middle East, perhaps the monster that is Baghdadi would’ve never evolved. Trump on the other hand lived a life of excess and was never really held accountable for his many failures and supposed crimes. And despite getting everything most people would want in life, he became this strange villain on the world stage. Now, imagine what worse cartoon monster he would’ve become if he was given the same circumstances as Baghdadi.

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Oh Canada

Icarus

How do you measure love of country? You really can’t, but it’s all relative. There’s a personal rubric to everyone’s life to where you can measure love of country to. I think one of the ultimate sacrifices one can make for the country is to enlist in the military. As much as I would love to kiss Canada in the mouth, I don’t think I’m ready to take the risk of dying for the country as part of my occupation. I don’t want that to be an element of my 9 to 5. Of course, as Louis CK once mentioned, these soldiers only “think” that they’re dying for the country, because really what are wars about these days anyway? Unless you belong in a small country fighting an invading force, you’re most likely part of a large military machine fighting for unsexy geopolitical reasons engineered by politicians at the behest of the one-percenters. But hey, at the very least, in the soldiers mind, they would gladly lay their life for the country. That’s what really counts.

So me being an ordinary civilian, how much do I love Canada? Well, it would be easy to say I could die for the country more than I would die for South Korea or the Philippines, but there was actually one point in my life when I could measure my love for the country in another comparative fashion. It’s ugly, but it’s the truth: I love sleeping in my own bed more than I love Canada.

After graduating from university the first time, I was at a loss as to what to do with my life. Looking for some life experiences, I decided to apply for the navy. I figured it would be good to be part of the navy since I could be in the military without having to be in the ground and stabbing someone in the neck. My uncle is in the US Navy, and he seemed to be living quite the good life with his family in Hawaii. I was all ready to go and sign away my existence when I learned that the first eight months would involve me being in a submarine hot bedding. Hot bedding is the practice of sharing a bed with people and taking turns sleeping in shifts. That’s why the bed is “hot,” it’s always warm from the person who slept on it a couple of minutes ago. So that would’ve been my life, hot bedding in a steel canister, floating or sinking in a dark abyss. I decided no. It was too high a price for me to pay.

Living overseas, I’ve met many soldiers. A lot of them have suffered tremendous trauma from their times in conflict zones. I remember one soldier in particular who started drinking with me heavily a week after he came back from Afghanistan. I tried to keep up with him, but there was an odd glint in his eyes that just tells me he’s seen and experienced things most people shouldn’t. But my decision to not join the military was long before I’ve met firsthand people who’ve suffered from conflicts, conflicts which continue to this day. The bed situation was enough for me to say no. I don’t even remember if I was thinking about Afghanistan at the time. In fact, I remember considering and being seriously tempted to go to Afghanistan a few years ago for a non-military job. So it wasn’t even being in a conflict that deterred me, it truly was the beds.

It wasn’t until many years later, long after I’ve been living overseas that I’ve truly grown to love Canada. I’d like to think it was more with me growing older as opposed to me missing what was no longer there. I often trumpet my love for the country and evangelize the goodness that is Canada, but during the time when I could prove my love for country, I failed due to sleeping comforts.

These days, it is very difficult to join the military because you never really know which conflict you’ll be sent to and for what reason. Which place will they send you to, and will your death really matter or will it just be a statistic in the games people play for oil or whatever resources countries are now fighting for?  Conflicts are not as clear cut as fighting the Nazis. This is why I admire people who willingly join now. Knowing all of these detractors, despite cynics like, they still sign up for love of country.

I’m sorry, Canada. I love you. But I love you with my cowardly heart. It is a heart that needs a warm bed heated by my body heat alone.

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On PTSD

Tentacular

I used to think Canada was better when it comes to mental health, but this report on CBC regarding Lionel Desmond has got me thinking twice. Back in Canada, it was not unusual to talk to a therapist about mental and psychological issues. People wouldn’t bat an eye if they heard that you used to go to a therapist for anxiety or depression, probably because they have firsthand or secondhand experience themselves. But now it seems we’re failing those who have sacrificed so much for what in my opinion are needless conflicts abroad.

I’ve seen people with PTSD before. I talked to soldiers here in South Korea who were suffering from it. I remember being particularly disturbed (and threatened) by one soldier’s behavior in a bar even after he was buying me shots of tequila. Then he tells me that two weeks prior, he was fighting in Afghanistan.  There was just an odd look in his eye. And I just have to let him tell his story, and take it to where it needs to be. (And me not come back to that bar for a while.)

We just have to start taking care of everyone more. We have to start listening to people when they tell us there’s something wrong, even when they’re soldiers who are supposed to be strong and tough. Boys do cry, and some damages you can’t just walk off.

Speaking of not paying attention to mental health issues, a few days ago, a celebrity in Korea committed suicide, and on his note, he mentioned the lack of care he received from mental health professionals in the country. I can relate to the experience. Twice, I found doctors who would just throw medication at me and not give me proper strategies to deal with my issues. I can imagine the same was true to him. It’s quite upsetting that there’s not much care in terms of mental issues in the country, especially with the country having the highest suicide rate in Asia.

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A Few Thoughts Regarding Paris

Rider

So another horrible tragedy happened in Paris over the weekend. I’m sure most of the people on the Internet are already aware of it, so I’m not gonna explain what happened. I was going to write about something else entirely, but let me react to a few things regarding the recent tragic event.

Unfortunately, I think the world is playing exactly to ISIS’ plans. Politicians are now committing to close borders to Syrian refugees, increase surveillance of Muslim communities, and send more forces to the Middle East. What exactly does ISIS want? They can be quite vague with their calls for the downfall of the west, but like all terrorism in the Middle East, I believe all of their actions are fueled by their need for self-preservation, they need to justify their existence. They kill civilians, parts of the Middle East are bombed in retaliation, Muslims in the west are marginalized even further, resentment against western government increases, and ultimately more people join ISIS. The military might of western nations just plays into the victim mentality of the “oppressed” Muslim who finds himself/herself joining groups like ISIS.  These terrorist groups market themselves as revolutionary forces fighting against oppressive regimes, and for the past few years the United States and its allies have acted the part to fit the terrorist narrative.

Already, I believe the reaction to the attacks will fuel more violence. A Syrian passport was found among the carnage and people have used it to claim that the terrorists were gaining entry to the west as refugees. (As of this moment, some news sources believe the passport belongs to one of the victims) Because of this, several countries are rethinking helping refugees. People forget that these refugees are running away from ISIS. Not all of them are terrorists. Not all of them hate the west. Should Canada shut down its borders if one or two immigrants commit crimes in the country? A man was beheaded by a Chinese immigrant in Winnipeg a couple of years ago. The attacker was found to be mentally unstable. But there were no talks regarding mental screening for immigrants or an examination of the Chinese population after the attack. The Chinese community was not indicted for the crime. And yet for the Paris attack and the like, it is par for the course to indict the whole Muslim community. Inflammatory rhetoric does nothing but justify more hatred towards the west and divide people. Right now, the French Interior Minister is already calling for the “dissolution” of some mosques. Now, how is that gonna play in the minds of some Muslims?

Regarding immigration, ISIS doesn’t need to slip in operatives to countries. Even if they do, history shows we’re often looking at the wrong direction anyway. The 9/11 hijackers were mostly from Saudi Arabia. They were not from Iraq or Afghanistan. ISIS does a lot of recruiting online. They are converting people with their “oppressed by western powers” message. If there was to be another attack, it’ll probably be done by people who are already savvy enough to know the ins and outs of a particular country and community. It won’t be a fresh of the boat immigrant who barely knows the language, especially with the amount of focus the Syrian refugees are currently receiving from the press.  ISIS doesn’t want these people leaving Syria. They want them to remain in the country to be under their control. Them leaving and living decent lives in other countries goes against the narrative that ISIS is running a competent government.

Napoleon

A Youtube user, Thunderf00t, mentioned that the recent attack shows the effectiveness of using guns for terrorist attacks versus bombs. It is true, gun massacres tend to produce more casualties than bomb attacks. Guns are relatively easier to acquire and control; and the results are more predictable. Bombs on the other hand are much more complicated, and suicide bombers never get to gauge the amount of damage they cause. It is thus very disheartening that over the weekend, several gun rights proponents are saying that the massacre would’ve been less deadly if there were more people in the vicinity with guns. These people forget that while France doesn’t have as much guns as the United States, it also doesn’t have as much mass shootings. Gun control is actually something that can be done to fight terrorism. Controlling the runaway arms and defense industries is something that could be done to reduce violence. But as far as reactions to terrorism are concerned, this isn’t even in the picture. Guns will continue to be sold and find their way to terrorist hands, be it through sale within western countries or through “aid” the US gives out like free candy.

Knight

This brings me now to a couple of things that bother me to a lesser extent. First is hashtag activism. Now, I think it’s fine to show support to the victims by changing one’s Facebook profile pic to the color of France’s flag, but it doesn’t really put too much skin in the game. It’s very low cost and doesn’t really do much to affect change. Looking at the hashtag #BringBackOurGirls, it didn’t really put an end to the atrocities in Nigeria. Boko Haram still exists, abducting and trading young girls. Now, I’m not saying that one should not support France by doing something as low cost as changing one’s Facebook profile pic, but I suspect it is often more about following trends and thus more about the person than it is about the cause.

And speaking of making it about themselves, Bono is a well-meaning idiot. He calls the attack the first direct hit on music. Now, I know what he’s saying. The attack affected freedom and a way of life that celebrates music. But the way he says it makes it seem like the attack was more against him and the music industry (Boohoo, a U2 concert got cancelled!) and less against France and the west in general. He means well, but he’s not doing himself any favor. He still sounds like a narcissist.

I could go on and on about the attacks, but I’m probably not the only person pretending to be an expert in Muslims and geopolitics. I imagine social media is filled with people like me, talking as if they know what’s really going on.  I’m writing my thoughts as an unknown person with very little influence. Unfortunately, there are people out there with far more influence but with incredibly more extreme (and violent) solutions to this growing problem.

I say be kind to your neighbors regardless who they are, and hug your loved ones. Right now, bombs are falling, guns are being readied, and more violence will probably be in the news in the future.

*Unfortunately, most of my work related to France have a militaristic theme.

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