Of Ninoys and Davids

by Jose Ma. Montelibano

David et Goliath !” | Photo by capitphil via Flickr/CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

I cannot help it. The parallelism is just too much. David against Goliath, Ninoy against Marcos, now a political anti-corruption activist versus a powerful dictator – Navalny against Putin. People would say no match, like the Philippines against China in the Philippine Western Sea island-grabbing issue. And really, in the most realistic sense, it is a no-contest.

Except dynasties fall. Putin is not even a dynasty yet. His chances of falling are greater than those who have been in control for generations. And when powerful figures who want total control are pulled in by life itself, they die like any other mortal human being. Navalny in his mid-40s will most likely outlive Putin, who is 20 years older – unless he is poisoned again or killed differently.

“Dictators, authoritarians, or tyrants have one thing in common – they are human. That commonality prevents them from being unreachable.”

Dictators, authoritarians, or tyrants have one thing in common – they are human. That commonality prevents them from being unreachable. In fact, many of them in recorded history do not last to a ripe old age. A quickly remembered exception is Lee Kuan Yew, who lived for 91 years. However, he wisely guided Singapore to parliamentary democracy and turned over power in his early 70s.

This Alexei Navalny is something else. Yes, he carries death wish, not unlike Ninoy, who knew the serious risks of coming home against the conjugal dictatorship’s wishes then. Navalny is alive today only by a stroke of luck or destiny. He should have died as his assassins thought he would, but life intervened. Now, he has returned to Russia prepared to die but not before sending a clear message to Vladimir Putin, the Russian people, and the rest of the world.

Navalny tells Putin, “I defy you with all your power.” Navalny tells the Russian people, “Never give up hope because Russians can be heroes, too.” And Navalny tells the rest of the world, “When a desperate need comes when suffering approaches its last straw, someone will come to answer the collective cry.”

Of course, Vladimir Putin can easily get rid of Alexei Navalny. Unfortunately, Putin cannot rid Russians of their discontent. He can suppress expressions of this discontent or try to transform it into popular support again. He has that option and the necessary tools to make it happen. There is still a fundamental pride among many Russians that they credit Putin for putting Russia again in a position of global power.

Unfortunately, the world is full of dictators who started with their people’s popular support because they personified their liberators from a previous tyrant or unjust system. But invariably, what they said they would eradicate instead eradicated their own integrity and eventually swallowed them. There is so much evidence sustaining the truism that absolute power corrupts absolutely.

Many totalitarians have used the pandemic to expand their power more. Emergencies demand quick decisions, as in war. Dictators thrive in disasters and calamities. In fact, many become popular because of a tumultuous atmosphere where fear and confusion seek the firm hand and quick mind of an authoritarian.

“But the pandemic also upsets tyrants or totalitarians. COVID-19-19 is not only the first of its kind global pandemic, but it also upset the whole apple cart. The economies of all countries suffered paralysis and major setbacks. Politics, too, still feel the sustained tremors of the pandemic.”

But the pandemic also upsets tyrants or totalitarians. COVID-19-19 is not only the first of its kind global pandemic, but it also upset the whole apple cart. The economies of all countries suffered paralysis and major setbacks. Politics, too, still feel the sustained tremors of the pandemic. Take the example of a first-termer American president with a loyal and fanatical base yet could not get re-elected. He did not handle the pandemic well and, in his watch, saw 400,000 citizens die from COVID-19. He will not be the only political casualty before the pandemic is over.

Meanwhile, hot eyes are in Russia. The big drama is there, not so much that a Navalny can dislodge Putin anytime soon, but how he is used by the moment to set the stage for the eventual fall of a politician now in full control. The Davids of yore, the Ninoys of today, are always a phenomenon worth monitoring. They are part of the mysteries in life that keep toppling the undefeatable. It is not as though they are that rare because history has quite a several of them. But when they arise, they were never expected and never expected to end perfectly laid plans.

There is another Ninoy, another David, and this time many times more powerful. I speak of the young generations living today and the ones that will immediately follow them. Their consciousness, the way they think, feel, and process life are so radically different from the older ones and antithetical to the traditional lust for power and wealth of both politicians and corporate behemoths.

“It is not that the young today is an angry lot that could disrupt political power, but they easily can if they want. And it is wise for controllers in politics and business not to provoke them because they are now most of the mankind – and they have a universal mindset.”

It is not that the young today is an angry lot that could disrupt political power, but they easily can if they want. And it is wise for controllers in politics and business not to provoke them because they are now most of the mankind – and they have a universal mindset. With technology interconnecting humanity at such immediate and intimate levels, provocation can come from another territory, another country, yet trigger action elsewhere.

People in my generation have too few years to witness the most disruptive period of humanity thus far. We have already stepped into that era, but it is still quite early – just a toddler learning to use its faculties. Yet, the pattern is set and irreversible. What Davids and Ninoys had done as individuals will be what the young generations will do – but collectively, this time, power multiplied. Thank goodness their fundamental energy is idealistic, and that makes me confident that all will be well. It is not for dictators, though, because the future pathway is not favorable to those who want total control.

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