Sunday, September 30, 2012

Make peace

“HACKTIVISTS” defaced websites last Sept. 26, 2012 to protest the CyberCrime Prevention Act of 2012.

With rock music in the background, an individual or group that goes by “Anonymous Philippines” denounced the government for “effectively (ending) the Freedom of Expression”. A provision on cyber libel can be interpreted to imprison any Netizen or block access to any site.

Last Sept. 25, the Supreme Court (SC) issued a temporary restraining order to the Movie Television Review and Classification Board to prevent the public showing of “Innocence of Muslims” on TV and in movie houses.

Local Muslim leaders have petitioned for the banning of the video, uploaded on YouTube. They claim that it invades the constitutional guarantee of free exercise of religion without fear or hatred.

Last Sept. 28, it was reported that some bishops saw a conspiracy to bring down the Church in the recent controversies involving Msgr. Cristobal Garcia. They alleged that the government is spearheading this smear campaign to demonize the Church, an opponent of the reproductive health bill.

In its October 2012 issue, the National Geographic magazine reported that the illegal trade in ivory, which slays elephants for their tusks, can be traced to the mania among Filipino collectors for ivory icons. Garcia, a prominent collector, reportedly introduced the writer to antique retailers involved in the black market trade. The church official has also been suspended from the Cebu Archdiocese while being investigated by the Vatican for charges that he abused altar boys 20 years ago in the United States.

Hacking, religious hate, conspiracy theories. What a full week this seems, and it isn’t even over yet.

The chain of reactions set off by these three incidents shows how keyed up we are to fight fire with fire. Even when the threat seems to be still in the offing, we rush to the “clear and present danger” we imagine but have yet to see.

By doing so, we come to be what we are trying to prevent.

Why? More importantly, can we prevent our, so to say, jerking like this?

Aggression is a behavior that is culturally transmitted, reported The Economist in its Apr. 15, 2004 article on Robert Sapolsky’s study of baboons in Kenya. The Stanford University primatologist recorded that tuberculosis killed nearly all the males in a troop he was studying. Since the infection came from a garbage dump that was the troop’s main source of food, the fatalities were nearly all of the males in the fittest condition to fight for food.

Ten years later, Dr. Sapolsky found the behavior of the troop males to be still peaceful. Although male newcomers still fought other males, they chose rivals of more or less the same strength, not the ones who were smaller and weaker. The new males also picked less on the females.

Although no animal other than humans has been observed to transmit manners, Dr. Sapolsky and his fellow researcher theorized that the males that joined this troop found it easier to be accepted by copying the behavior of insiders. After the macho fighters were wiped out by the epidemic, the remaining females were more receptive to male newcomers, who could be possible sires. This pacifism coded itself into the new males’ behavior.

While I am not sure if we are better or lower than the baboons, humans have a choice.
Our class watched two versions of the video, “Innocence of Muslims”. Viewing that video did not convert anyone in the class to be an Islamophobe.

Our reactions to that video, though—whether it is to violently protest or as violently, call for its banning—tell us more about ourselves than about Islam, Mohammad or Muslims. That’s a differentiation that should separate the baboons from humans.

( 0917-3226131)

*First published in Sun.Star Cebus Sept. 30, 2012 issue of the “Matamata” Sunday column

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