From: We, the Demonized Majority
To: The Philippines and every Other-ed shore
Build walls. Make war. The siren call of hate rises to a seemingly unstoppable beat.
As we entered a new year, we looked with increasing concern at events in the Philippines. As of January 2017, over 7,000 were killed in a "war on drugs" that is no less than a war on the poor -- many too destitute to even bury their own dead.
Alleged drug users fall in line during Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte's 'Oplan Tokhang' campaign, Sept. 9, 2016. (Photo: by Dante Diosina Jr/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
Responsible for these killings are police officers and vigilante death squads whose actions have been encouraged by the current Philippine government, which won an election on a platform of death. Hundreds of thousands more have surrendered to the authorities out of fear, only to be herded into cramped jail cells with little prospect of rehabilitation.
We are appalled by this blatant disregard for life. Moreover, we insist upon seeing these deaths in light of lives impacted by violence elsewhere -- silenced by drones, death squads, or the deadening discourse of governments who respond with guns and fences to the appeals of those displaced by their wars.
We stand collectively on the edge of barbarism, peering down at a world on death drive. And yet barbarism has been brewing for a long time. East and west, we have witnessed the slaughter of the racialized and marginalized.
Shadowy assassins have killed scores of poor victims in the Philippines after President Rodrigo Duterte officially ordered police to withdraw from his deadly drug war, Feb. 17, 2017. (Photo: Noel Celis/AFP/Getty Images)
In lieu of Michael Brown, the Philippines had Michael Siaron, his bullet-riddled body held in the arms of his grieving partner. The Filipino Pieta, fronting a sprawling Manila slum, graced the front pages of the international press last summer, when a smattering of experts wondered where, amidst a booming economy and apparent political stability, the country "went wrong."
Where we went wrong, however, was where we went right.
The tragedy unfolding in the Philippines is only a mirror onto a broader global malaise. We are aware of the circumstances that have given strength to the voices of prejudice, fear, misogyny and xenophobia, taking expression in the rise of right wing authoritarian figures -- from Asia and the Middle East to Europe and North America.
Across the globe many governments have proven impotent in the face of an economy that is unresponsive to the needs of the majority. As inequality soars to appalling heights, political institutions have been strained to their limit and "democracy" has lost much of its legitimacy. Incubated in a culture of war, the celebration of violence and naked self-interest, strongmen and demagogues of the far right have given voice to many who have felt excluded.
A grieving relative attends the wake of Jonel Segovia, 15, who was shot dead by suspected vigilantes at a house storing illegal narcotics, in Caloocan city, Metro Manila, Dec. 31, 2016. (Photo: Czar Dancel/Reuters)
They call for more walls and more wars, launching crusades of violence against the easiest of targets: the racialized Other, the immigrant, the slum dweller, the refugee. They promise a return to a Utopian past at the expense of their chosen scapegoats -- each one of a certain colour, geographic origin or religion -- only to guarantee an impoverished future for us all.
In our Filipin@ sisters and brothers we see every Other-ed body swept out to sea by typhoons and civil wars, bulldozed for the empty luxury tower, rendered surplus by the relentless drive to accumulate and dispossess.
So impoverished have our democracies become that we feel unable even to call on our elected officials to act. Many of them, after all, are fully aware, or actively complicit, in these criminal assaults against our common humanity. They do not represent us.
And so we have only ourselves to turn to: we the Demonized Majority, in all of our colours, faiths and places of origin.
Photo: CJ Chanco (2013)
We are a diverse community of human rights advocates, unionists, clergy, students and academics, representing multiple sections of the Filipin@ diaspora and our allies. We have worked on issues that have connected us across struggles against racism, sexism, settler colonialism, war and other forms of state violence.
Beyond borders and national loyalties, let us come together again, and act, in recognition of our diverse yet shared experiences of state violence, exploitation, racism, sexism and bigotry.
Ours is a call for solidarity against the temptation of despair. Against the mutilation of our capacity to feel for the Other, against the urge to look away, we choose to hear and see. We stand in solidarity with the people of the Philippines, and with all those who struggle for a world where the rights and lives of all are granted full dignity and respect.
We hold forth our candles, flickering tenuously in the night.
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