I was speaking to a Burmese friend about the Russian invasion of Crimea about two weeks ago. His family is Catholic in a predominantly Buddhist Myanmar. And they have been under the military government for some time now. Given the background, and having lived in the Philippines for over ten years, he learned to be sensitive to anything global. As well, his people is not alien to violence. So the Russian invasion is not just an item in the news for him but also an object of empathy: it is a lived news for him, something close and relevant. Besides, who has not been touched by Communism, one way or another in our ASEAN region, an ideology which took flesh in Russia? In the middle of our conversation we both wondered, why are rich and powerful nations restless? Isn’t wealth supposed to bring satisfaction to people, leading theoretically to peaceful co-existence with other countries? When all the while we’re thinking that we are living in a post-colonial society and believing that invasions don’t happen anymore, we find ourselves faced with more sophisticated conquests. Well it seems war is in man’s heart. Wealth does not guarantee peace. On second thought, no, it does not seem at all that violence and restlessness are in men’s hearts, they are real and are strengthened only in times of peace.
Nearer to our shore is China’s aggressive seaward expansion – they justify themselves by using the word “reclaim” instead of “expand”. How far in human history were they able to go back to realize “Aren’t those islets ours?!” We all know and highly respect that China’s an old civilization but I think everyone has a standard world map with defined territories. They even come in colors. I had those in elementary with plastic cover and you post it on your wall and be amazed at how small Philippines is. Whispering: It’s so much easier to manage compared to Russia right? Why are we so messed up?
In the background we have the ever-reliable and omnipresent America (maintaining peace and order? And propagating Democracy?) with its military and economic muscle spread in Asia and still the most powerful nation on earth. Note too, that they have like gathered all the heroes and super heroes on earth: Achilles who looks like Brad Pitt, Thor, Zeus and a host of Greek gods and goddesses, Hercules, and they even have Speedy Gonzales of Mexico! Do you think Gagamboy has any chance against them? It took only six men to beat him up, what if Iron Man shows up during the beating? Gagamboy goes pffft. I bet you Darna could not even save him, can she even resist Tony’s charm? I never realized how powerful America is. Can we take Hollywood as America’s influential first lady? Take this in mind, culture too is a soft power of domination.
My friend and I shook our heads in disbelief and relief upon this realization: we are not rich man. But at the same time we do not have that historical-empire-glory-days baggage we can look back to as a people. Is it addictive? We realized too that we’re just chill-formerly-colonized-Asian-races who could not rule our own country better.
We do still live in the age of empires. Though more complicated. We pray for peace.