Traitors: 'may you live forever'

is the subject of my Trade Tripper column in this Friday-Saturday issue of BusinessWorld:

Last week the Facebook pages were rife with shout-outs about traitors and how "once a traitor, always a traitor." This article will not discuss those shout-outs. And, no, this article is not about the e-mail "____ ____: The Traitor" (cheezy but a great read). Rather, let’s take some time to discuss that most despicable of creatures: the traitor.

Nobody likes traitors. If you do, it’s probably because you’re one as well. On a personal level, he’s the boss who will step all over you in complete disregard of the promises he made while hiring you, the co-worker who denies all pinagsamahan to save his professional skin, the friend who’d rather keep quiet than make an enemy to defend your name. On a larger scale, they’re the ones who betrayed a nation, an idea, or a faith. I’ve had, unfortunately, some fair amount of experience with traitors, unknowingly and without any option on my part, to have worked for or dealt with some of them. Nevertheless, I’m actually in pretty good company.

Jesus, of course, was betrayed by the most infamous traitor in history. In fact, Judas’ betrayal of Christ is such that the etymology of the word "traitor" is derived from Judas’ act of delivering Jesus to the Jewish chief priests. Thus, the Latin traditorem ("one who delivers"). Julius Cesar was killed by two famous traitors, later immortalized by Shakespeare: Brutus and Cassius. As usual, Shakespeare had the best word to say of traitors and betrayal, calling their acts "worse than murder." St. Thomas More had Richard Rich. After the latter committed perjury in exchange for being appointed Attorney-General for Wales, More famously retorted: "Why Richard, it profits a man nothing to give his soul for the whole world...but for Wales?"

Cambridge had the infamous Cambridge Five, which provided Frederick Forsythe years of espionage stories to tell. There’s William Joyce (Lord Haw-Haw to international law students), who broadcasted propaganda for the Nazis. The US had Benedict Arnold, who plotted to surrender West Point to the British. Being foiled, he then defected to the British army. Then there’s the interestingly named Iva Ikuko Toguri D’Aquino, otherwise known as "Tokyo Rose" of World War II.

The Philippines, definitely, has its share of traitors. There’s that scout who showed the Americans the rout to beat Del Pilar at Tirad Pass, the Macabebes who helped capture Aguinaldo, the illustrado turncoats who sided with the Spanish and Americans, those cowards who collaborated with the Japanese, and on and on. The difference, however, is this: in other countries traitors are shot, imprisoned, or shamed; in the Philippines traitors (or their children or grandchildren) get elected or appointed to high office.

Dr. Humberto Nagera, in his study Conflict, Treason and Terrorism: An Attempt at Psychoanalytic Understanding, defines traitor as one who betrays the allegiance or trust that is due one’s country, family, friends, meaningful relationships and one’s general principles. As expected, traitors have poor self-esteem and self-regard and low feelings of self worth.

According to Dr. Nagera: "Clinically, too, it would be observed that the genuine traitor is highly prone to be narcissistically injured, which given his deficits in this area frequently happens to him. x x x That there are significant narcissistic problems in the malignant traitors is shown by the difficulties seen regarding their self-esteem regulation, self-regard and feeling of self worth and problems with their identities."

Interestingly, traitors have "poor father figures in their lives." As such, traitors have "passive homosexual longings for the father [that] remain quite active all through their lives and constitute a constant source of conflict that represents a serious threat to the masculinity of those in this group that have achieved a more clear sexual identity." Mind you, Dr. Nagera is not saying anything derogatory about sexual orientations. Rather, his focus was on the ill effects of the inner conflict. Which is probably true because one of the most traitorous guys I’ve met actually once threatened to punch a female co-worker in the face while shouting "do you know me, do you know my family?" Thus betraying his incredible insecurity, inner conflict about his sexuality, and amnesia (as he couldn’t even remember his name or family).

So, there seems to be a gem of truth in the saying "once a traitor, always a traitor." Dr. Nagera even points out that traitors "actually believe their behavior is fully justified." Like any cheap plotter, traitors see themselves "highly principled individuals trying to correct ’injustices’ or stop the ’unprincipled behavior of others’."

Clearly, traitors are sick, useless, cowardly people. But if that be so, then how weak and pathetic would you consider somebody who deliberately decides to surround himself with traitors?

Nevertheless, it’s the weekend. So let’s just content ourselves for now by singing happily:

"If we hold on together,
I know our dreams will never die,
Dreams see us through to forever,
Where clouds roll by."