Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Normalcy as weapon against terrorism

They’re funny things. Accidents. You never have them till you’re having them.—Eeyore, Pooh’s Little Instruction Book, inspired by A. A. Milne

To be feared is to fear: no one has been able to strike terror into others and at the same time enjoy peace of mind.—Seneca (5 BC-65 AD)

WAS it an accident or a bomb? Whatever the real cause behind the explosion, the best thing for us to do is get back to our normal lives while taking the usual precautions.

Tragedies like what happened on Friday tend to disrupt people’s routines, causing severe economic losses. They also distract us from pursuing the things that matter in our national life. The right thing to do, therefore, is to get on with our normal lives to minimize losses.

Entrepreneurs should go on making decisions that should create jobs. Business managers should pursue their business plans. Employees should continue reporting to their workplaces. Shopkeepers should open their shops for buyers.

Let the wheels of industry and commerce flow while the police and forensic experts do their jobs to make our country safer. If there’s one institution that could easily bring us to normalcy and regain losses, it’s the marketplace where people could mingle, share information, buy and sell goods and services.

As of this writing, investigators are increasingly thinking that the blast that caused the deaths of 11 people and injured more than a hundred may have been triggered by an accident.

It may have been due to the fumes that leaked from the huge diesel container or the methane gas from the septic tank that ignited at the basement. If that theory holds true, there’s more reason for us to get a good night’s sleep and move on—without forgetting to make accountable those whose laxity made the accident possible.

Investigators, of course, are still not ruling out the bomb-terrorism angle. It’s understandable. Jihadists have all the motivation to seek attention given the serious setbacks they have suffered in the last several years due to the arrests and deaths of many of their leaders, both in the Philippines as well as in Indonesia.

And for all our problems, the Philippines remains an open society, making us so vulnerable to violent and/or “terrorist” actions from all directions—jihadists, rogue military groups, communists or even state-sponsored elements. Anybody who wants to create mayhem and destruction can easily do so. We are not a police state—or at least we seem to think so—that puts soldiers and cops in all nooks and crannies of the land. But it’s the same openness that makes us so resilient against terrorist actions.

Why? It’s in the nature of terrorism. Terrorists may have different motives and psychological makeup, but they all want to see ordinary citizens immobilized by fear. Terrorists want us to be scared to death and shun shopping malls, coffee shops, public markets and open spaces. They want us to live in the shadows, just like them.

Why? It’s because terrorists often feel helpless and confused about the rapid economic and social changes in society, and it’s only through fear and intimidation that they can assert control and gain attention. And they want to inflict immediate damage on people and their properties, hoping the paralysis that will follow will have a long-term impact on the economy. Normalcy, therefore, and the continuing openness of our society could easily undermine the goals of terrorists.

Necessarily, open societies like ours should remain vigilant and assiduous in our pursuit of those malevolent actors. Our justice system should continuously pursue them and bring them to justice. And while we are doing this, let’s get on with our normal daily routines about living and loving.

The second theory on the cause of the explosion points to some rogue elements in the military—one group out to destabilize the government, especially in the wake of recent controversies about the national broadband network (NBN) and the supposed bribery of local officials and legislators by Malacañang to buy their loyalty.

And the third theory being peddled by critics of the government is that the Makati blast was probably a way to distract people’s attention from these political controversies. In short, it was an operation straight out of Malacañang; or worse, insanely loyal rogue elements carrying out “black operations” for an unaccountable force working outside the chain of command: in short, a madman’s dream.

If the third theory is true, normalcy should mean that the Senate will continue investigating the NBN mess. The senators should also investigate recent efforts by Malacañang to purchase the loyalty of legislators and local government executives in view of the ongoing controversies.
The church should continue calling for moral reforms in the highest levels of powers. The media should continue investigating the shenanigans that seem to be popping up left and right under the government of President Arroyo. And militants and activists should continue their business of demanding fairness, justice and morality in this benighted land.

To paraphrase the great poet Dylan Thomas: We should not go gentle into that good night. Old age should burn and rave at close of day. We should rage, and rage against the dying of the light. (Note: I wrote this as editorial piece for BusinessMirror Oct 23 2007)


Anonymous said...

Terrorism does not make a difference among people. All groups and tribes should be united in the fighting terrorism and uprooted this bad omen phenomenon by cooperation of the government.
Email: info@terrorvictims.com

Deany Bocobo said...

Manolo Quezon's show this week hit the nail on the head with the strong message carried by the presence of his guests, a troop of boy scouts: BE PREPARED!