Zombies and national security

my Trade Tripper column in this weekend issue of BusinessWorld:

While everybody is raving mad about the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA), I’d rather reserve judgment until I’ve actually read the document. In the meantime, however, what with the US Defense Department reportedly having developed a comprehensive response plan in case of a zombie apocalypse, then perhaps having an EDCA isn’t such a bad thing after all.

As told by Foreign Policy (“Exclusive: The Pentagon has a plan to stop the zombie apocalypse. Seriously.”, by Gordon Lubold; 13 May 2014), the US military has “an unclassified document ... called ‘CONOP 8888.’ It’s a zombie survival plan, a how-to guide for military planners trying to isolate the threat from a menu of the undead -- from chicken zombies to vegetarian zombies and even ‘evil magic zombies’ -- and destroy them.”

CONOP 8888, otherwise known as “Counter-Zombie Dominance”, and apparently prepared last April 2011, “fulfills fictional contingency planning guidance tasking for U.S. Strategic Command to develop a comprehensive [plan] to undertake military operations to preserve ‘non-zombie’ humans from the threats posed by a zombie horde.” Furthermore, “because zombies pose a threat to all non-zombie human life, [Strategic Command] will be prepared to preserve the sanctity of human life and conduct operations in support of any human population -- including traditional adversaries.”

Clearly, this is no laughing matter. As I wrote previously, zombies’ unfortunate essential nature is to eat people’s brains. Marilla Mulwane, in (the quite ironical) Life Paths 360 Blog, confirms that the known characteristics of zombies are pale grey skin, unhealed wounds, lack of communication skills (no zombie can carry an intelligent conversation), shuffling when trying to walk, and a one-track mind. Of the last: “Here is the most obvious way to tell if you are dealing with a zombie. They are only interested in one thing: your brains. Zombies will do nothing but shuffle along in the direction that they sense the brains are. They will not be distracted by anything else. They will hunt down the brains even if it means falling over cliffs, into burning buildings, or into someone’s pitchfork. Because of this, zombies are incredibly easy to spot.”

On other hand, zombie.wikia.com describes zombies as “a person who has lost his or her sense of self-awareness and identity, and cares only for the destruction (and often consumption) of any human around, no matter what the circumstances, or cost to his or her self. They make up for this loss of intelligence in sheer numbers, as the state of zombieism is almost always contagious, and spreads like wildfire. Technically speaking, true zombies are always dead.”

However, if it turns out that the EDCA does not provide protection to the Philippines in case of a zombie apocalypse, then we obviously have to fend for ourselves. Katie Kirnan (“10 Ways to Survive a Zombie Apocalypse”, 13 October 2013) gives us some ideas on how to do so:

• Wear comfortable, sensible shoes: You’ll be on the run for the rest of your life (well, until you’re killed or a cure is found, whichever comes first);
• Adopt pro-gun attitudes. Conserve your ammo and be mindful of the noise you’re attracting, but don’t hesitate to blow that zombie’s brain.
• Always leave a note.
• Avoid the following: children, pregnant women, and fat people. It’s nothing personal. But none of them travel well (or quietly) in a normal situation, let alone in a terrifying zombie hell.
• Brown-nose the following: athletes, doctors, and scientists. Their knowledge is still more relevant and practical than your degree in Asia-Pacific Studies/Comparative Literature.
• Refrain from unprotected sexual intercourse until you’re absolutely prepared to start repopulating the species. If you get pregnant, you will give birth.
• Supervise your kids. Keep a special eye on your children if they’re named Sophia or Carl. Sophias and Carls tend to go missing more often than the normal child (about twice an episode in The Walking Dead).
• Stay positive.

Of course, her best advice would be to get Daryl Dixon as your wingman. And also, it must be pointed out that, as even Ms. Kirnan admits, the above would be applicable only to the slow shuffling zombies. Not the fast and furious zombies of28 Days Later or World War Z.

If you feel your zombie survival instincts need further honing, have no fear. You can train in a zombie survival camp in the US. 4KXLF.com reported (“Zombie survival camp opens in New Jersey”; 19 May 2014) that “the camp focuses on the skills you need to survive a zombie apocalypse, or any other natural disaster.”

Most useful would be the “‘Zombitsu’ (how to fight off an attacking zombie) as well as how to pack a ‘bug-out bag’ containing all the supplies you need to survive” for at least 72 hours. Me? I’d prefer a really sharp samurai sword.

So there you have it. Preparation, after all, means everything. As one local celebrity puts it: “you can never can tell”.


Rape and the hook-up culture

my Trade Tripper column in this weekend issue of BusinessWorld:

An offshoot of one celebrity’s misadventures is the increased public debate on rape. This was followed by a celebrity/model “breaking her silence and started to talk about the things that people don’t want to hear.” The gender studies crowd and feminists were quick to join the fray, blaming rape on the “patriarchal” mindset and Filipino men’s lack of gender sensitivity training. The truth, however and as usual, is more subtle and complicated.

Rape is a detestable crime and one instance is one too many. Unfortunately, the numbers for rape in the Philippines are harrowing. According to the Philippine Commission on Women, 4% of women ages 15 to 49 experienced forced first sexual intercourse and 10% of women ages 15 to 49 experienced sexual violence.

The Center for Women’s Resource reported that cases of rape “have reached an alarming level. For the year 2010, a total of 4,572 cases of rape were documented by the Women and Children Protection Center of the Philippine National Police (WCPC-PNP), 19 of which were incestuous or perpetrated by a victim’s blood relative. This was equivalent to a 13% increase in reported cases of rape and incest from 4,048 in 2009.” The true figures, however, could be much higher.

Incidentally, one consequence of increased rape cases is that moves to amend the Constitution and legalize abortions of rape-related pregnancies could gain traction, as pro-lifers will have a difficult time defending against such a powerfully emotional argument.

In any event, as disturbing as the above numbers are, tragically it could get worse. Philadelphia Magazine (“Rape happens here,” April 24) describes one incidence of alleged “rape” this way:

“[Lisa] Sendrow is a 23-year-old brunette from Princeton, New Jersey ... in the midwinter of 2013, Sendrow says, she was in her room with a guy with whom she’d been hooking up for three months. They’d now decided -- mutually, she thought -- just to be friends. When he ended up falling asleep on her bed, she changed into pajamas and climbed in next to him. Soon, he was putting his arm around her and taking off her clothes. ‘I basically said, ‘No, I don’t want to have sex with you.’ And then he said, ‘Okay, that’s fine’ and stopped,” Sendrow told me. “And then he started again a few minutes later, taking off my panties, taking off his boxers. I just kind of laid there and didn’t do anything -- I had already said no. I was just tired and wanted to go to bed. I let him finish. I pulled my panties back on and went to sleep.’”

The foregoing illustrates the dangers (and confusions) that a sexually permissive or “hook-up” culture brings. Surely, “no means NO.” And yet, taking all particular factual context and the absence of witnesses, one would be very hard put to determine the truth in what happened and act judiciously to all concerned.

Although with social media’s habitual thinking-is-for-losers lynch mob mentality, another consequence might be for men and women to start demanding signed affidavits of consent from each other before engaging in anything sexual.

And that a hook-up culture has taken root in the Philippines is palpable. The 2013 Young Adult Fertility and Sexuality Study reveals that almost 30% (or 6.2 million) of Filipinos 15- to 24-years-old engaged in premarital sex, an increase of 14% from two decades ago; 7.3% of our young engaged in casual sex, with 3.5% (or around 800,000) regularly having sex in what is now popularly known as a “friends with benefits” arrangement.

The foregoing’s connection to the sharp rise in Philippine teenage pregnancies and marriages, as well as the increase in the dissolution of marriages, are evident.

Now, our government and media’s solution to the foregoing is to throw more condoms around. Which doesn’t really solve anything. As Mona Charen insightfully wrote (“Who really created the rape culture,” May 9), what such leftist secular progressive thinking does is merely to encourage a “sexual free-for-all.”

And ironically, as Ms. Charen points out, this sexual liberalism, while supposedly empowering women, resulted in the opposite: “If men and women were just the same in their sexual needs, desires, and behaviors, then the hook-up culture would yield an equal number of unhappy males and females complaining of rape and assault. What could be the reason that the overwhelming number of those who feel victimized -- who are victimized -- are women?”

Again, Mona Charen: “Smart women didn’t rely only on a man’s conscience, though. They didn’t get blind drunk and go to a stranger’s room. It was once considered foolish to take off your clothes with someone who didn’t love you -- far less someone who hardly knows your name. That’s not ‘slut shaming,’ it’s simple prudence.”

Indeed. It’s a given that society “must teach men not to rape.” But society needs to do more: it should teach and demand from both men and women, young and old, better judgment, personal accountability, self-restraint, and prudence.


Let's return to liberal education

my Trade Tripper column in last weekend's issue of BusinessWorld:

(An excerpt from my Keynote Address "ASEAN Integration: Forget About It," at the 19th National Convention of Philippine Association of Administrators of Student Affairs on April 30 in Bohol.)
So it is, to my mind, a great tragedy that many schools are now turning their backs on liberal education. Plato, Aristotle, Augustine, Aquinas, the Enlightenment thinkers: their deeds are our students’ inheritance. The culture and society that we have are because of these great individuals and more.

And if the point can’t be emphasized enough, here are two Filipino sayings:

• Jose Rizal -- Ang hindi marunong tumingin sa pinanggalingan ay hindi makararating sa kinaroroonan (those who don’t look at the past will not reach the future); and

• Fr. Horacio Dela Costa -- Those who know their history are bound to surpass it.

The other good reason for a liberal education is that it teaches our students self-mastery. As Princeton’s Robert George puts it: "Self-mastery is important because it is a basic, irreducible dimension of the well-being and fulfillment of rational creatures -- and, as Aristotle taught, we human beings are just that: creatures whose nature is a rational nature. Moreover, self-mastery -- the capacity to exercise rational control over one’s emotions, passions, and desires and direct them toward good and upright ends -- is indispensable to the project of self-government. If we believe in republican democracy, as we should; if we believe in the ideal of free persons, who participate as equal citizens in the project of self-government, as we should; if we believe in the dignity and rights of the individual in a regime of ordered liberty, as we should; then we must dedicate ourselves to educating young people for self-mastery. A political regime of self-government can only be sustained among people who are capable of governing themselves. People incapable of self-mastery will quickly prove to be unfit for self-government." (underscoring supplied)

James Madison, of whom we can also thank for our Constitution, once declared: "only a well-educated people can be permanently a free people."

So by all means, let us teach our students please about what Aquinas taught about just and unjust laws, and do we obey laws even if we know they are unjust? Let us teach them about the true meaning of freedom as demonstrated by Aristotle. Let’s teach them about Cicero, about Locke, Rousseau, about Hayek. And Apolinario Mabini. Horacio Dela Costa. Expose them to Shakespeare and Maugham and Garcia-Villa, Mozart and Bach, Ingmar Bergman and Fellini and Mike De Leon.

Because if we don’t teach them about it, who will? With the institution of the family under attack, it needs all the help it can get. And woe to us if our students’ main source of intellectual stimulation is Jon Stewart’s The Daily Show or culture for them is Glee.

And let us remember the Internet: undoubtedly a great force for good. But it has also inadvertently made people accept and love mediocrity. People that normally would have no claim to fame (or notoriety) would find their faces (and complete range of poses) on the Internet. Being ill informed, unread, or without any semblance of writing skills? Doesn’t stop them from airing their views extensively on Facebook.

What effect does this instant celebrity have on our youth? Without the need to acquire the skills and patience garnered from the constant supervision by one’s superior, the burden of redoing repeatedly a piece of work until it’s properly done, without the need of researching and looking up and the verification of the credibility of sources, the constant nagging by an elder whether a work has logic and methodical train of thought, how does that affect the development of their character? When all they have to do, by way of example, is copy and paste obscure articles on the net, Google and Wiki their way through research, then publish their works for the admiration of their peers who wouldn’t know any better because they can’t be bothered anymore to seek better? What’s the point of hard work and a demanding experienced mentor if one can be an instant star on the Internet anyway?

I remember the days when you had competitors like Michael Jordan (although there’s still Kobe Bryant). Guys who listen to their coach (even when they don’t like what they’re hearing), guys who became great not because they were creative but because they repeatedly did (without complaining) the simple basic stuff over and over and over again until they got it right. And, most importantly, guys who understand that they are part of a team or institution, with a history and tradition, which are far more important than their individual sense of self, ego, or feelings.

So let us teach them about the importance of self-discipline, about values, virtue, of self-denial and patience, of learning to do the same thing over and over again. Benjamin Franklin once said: "Only a virtuous people are capable of freedom. As nations become more corrupt and vicious, they have more need of masters."


notes on asean integration, leftists, and the right

recently gave a talk in bohol on education and asean integration. my point: the best way for the philippines to deal with asean integration is to forget about it. we should instead look inward, working hard to instill in our young (70% of our population is 30 years old and younger) good values, virtues of self-discipline, hard work, self-mastery, and greater knowledge of civics and history.

i got to thinking that one primary difference between leftists and people like myself (which, for lack of energy to think up a better term, let's just call 'right') is to what or whom they place their trust to make the state work.

the left trusts institututions, that government and public organizations (like ngo's), if given sufficient power and allowed to function as intended, would make people's lives better. with greater power, so they believe, policies are better planned and executed, with wealth better distributed, inequalities minimized (hence, their distrust in the market and in competition), social differences smoothed over, and greater tolerance among different beliefs and faiths imposed (hence, their obsessive insistence in 'secular pluralism', which is merely another way of saying that the catholic church's influence should be eradicated).

hence, their demand for more funding, of bigger government, of more regulations, of government being involved in areas that traditionally are left to the people on their own to reasonably determine (i.e., such as social rules like the re-definition of marriage, or personal relations such as the promotion of certain sexual lifestyles under the rationale of 'tolerance' or 'equality', etc.).

on the other hand, i'd rather place trust on people themselves. that if properly formed, they would be able to set sufficient standards so that government is left merely to set up the conditions in which people, by their own reason and responsibility, can flourish and live towards what is good. hence, the principle of subsidiarity (leading to the importance of family, of neighborhoods, communities), of virtue (again the family, supported by religion), and to understand the idea of common good (found in the constitution).

servants can't go higher than their masters. in our case, our people, the true 'masters' in our constitutional system, need to be of such character that they can impose right values and thinking on government officials and make true, proper, public 'servants'.

this, i believe, is a proper reading of our constitution and understanding of our republic. the true guardian of freedom is not the presidency or the supreme court. the real guarantee against unjust laws (like the rh law) is not congress or for the sc to overturn it. the three branches of government are merely secondary resorts. the primary protector of liberty and justice are the people themselves, so much so that violations of rights or the making of improper 'laws' need not even reach the consideration of government.

all governmental institutions are and should be secondary to the people. and democracy, by nature, requires of people that they be educated, virtuous, and politically active.

unfortunately, many in government, the academe, and even media now adhere more of the former (i.e., the left's mindset) than of 'right'.