What the Heck is Peace (and Why are Some People Willing to go War to get it?)

What the Heck is Peace (and Why are Some People Willing to go War to get it?)

- in Feature

What do you think of when you read the numbers 0921, 0917, 0918? If this was say 1991, would those same numbers have the same meaning? Would they even have any meaning at all? Or how about the colors red, yellow, and green beside the railroad track, would it be just as easy to decipher if you found it posted on the beach instead? Would you still stop, look, and listen.

These are just a few examples of what we take for granted everyday. Simple tasks that have one critical thing in common – they illustrate the fact that meaning exists only when there is context. Wether it is a series of numbers or a set of colors, these would be nothing but random expressions without an understanding of the environment in which it takes place. That there is no meaning without context is a foundational principle of communications, one worth taking to heart and committing to the mind.

For people who fail to appreciate this complex relationship, life is often full of mystery and superstition. A confusing stream of people, places, and events that may or may not be related yet whose impact is strongly felt in their own existence. It can become a minefield of misunderstanding, miscommunication, and ultimately, conflict. This failure, left unchecked, eventually leads to bigger and more complicated problems as it creates its own unbalanced reality that in cycle becomes the foundation of other misunderstandings.

A classic example of this is the flight of Oedipus from his predestined fate only to end up fulfilling it simply because he failed to recognize the flaw in the original premise – that predictions of the future are a load of crap.

It is now this same kind of self-fulfilling prophecy that is tragically at work for those know-nothing nay-sayers to the BBL and the particular path of peace that it prescribes.

Before going on with what I have to say, let me first draw a clear distinction between those people who have read the BBL and understand not just what stands for but also the context in which it was created, and those who bitch for the sake of bitching without even bothering to browse through bill. My beef is exclusively with the latter and would welcome any meaningful discourse with the former.

To continue, the problems of Mindanao is a complex mix of culture, religion, social inequality, poverty, and a Pandora’s box-full of other issues. Years of public disagreements and not-so-private wars have done nothing to ease the tensions among all the parties involved. Add to this the mishandling of several well-meaning but ill-prepared peace negotiators from the exalted and enlightened halls of the Capital and what you have is a potent mix of highly flammable emotions from a bunch of very excitable people with guns. Lots of guns.

The situation in these here southern part of the Philippines, as you can see, is clearly not what one may call… “ideal.” Unless of course you’re one of those who delight in pulling off the wings of flies and torturing small animals for fun, in which case I’m sure this is all just a great f—ing party for you. But for the rest of us sane folks, war – the idea of it, the actual waging of it, or anything to do with it – is not a good thing.

Which is why there are many who are for peace.

Not “at all cost,” but if the price is reasonable then why not. The questions is, what price are we willing to pay for peace? What exactly is “reasonable” and for whom? Is there really a common ground from where we can deal fairly, equally, and equitably with all parties?

Personally, I am still on the fence on this one. Recalling what I mentioned earlier, the problem is just too complex and the issues too diverse for any one solution to work. There is “right” on both sides, and also much that is wrong in either to make this a simple choice between black-or-white. The complete context of the problem still escapes me, and so meaning and the ultimate solution is likewise hard to come by.

But even with my lack of complete understanding, one thing that is abundantly clear to me is that living in willful or malicious ignorance is an even worse situation to be in. Not knowing should be a cause to search, not to attack blindly. And yet this is precisely what many of our countrymen stand on, an aggressively contrarian view based on nothing more than an incomplete picture – or worse a deliberate distortion – of the Mindanao landscape.

Since Mamasapano, a place that 99.99 percent of Filipinos would not have been able to locate on a map if their lives depended on it, everyone and his uncle is now an expert in Mindanao. People who otherwise would be happily preoccupied with the latest twists and turns in the love life of Agnes and that guy with the blond hair now suddenly feel the urge to flood the comments section with such gems as “Philippines for the Filipinos. Do not give Mindanao to the Muslims,” and “BBL is create biggest problem.”

On its own these demonstrations of “wit and wisdom” aren’t really a problem, in fact for those who believe in the infallibility of the democratic process these should even be a cause for celebration. A triumph for the amateur pundits and their digital soap box, dispensing insult and approbation with equal disregard to the facts.

No, the real bad guys here are those who deliberately play on the fears of others – fears based on ignorance and misunderstanding – in order to pursue a political agenda that has nothing to do with a genuine desire to have peace. People like Sen. Alan Cayetano, whose ambition-fueled tirades against the BBL would otherwise be acceptable if only it wasn’t so transparently self-serving.

And while this deliberate politicization of the BBL by Cayetano and his team is a mere exercise in campaign propaganda, there are real costs on the ground – on the people who have to dodge the bombs and bullets to eke out a marginal living from an already miserable life.

Just to be clear, on question of whether or not the BBL is the silver bullet that will end all the conflicts, I don’t believe it is. And anyone who argues that it will is just as deluded as Cayetano. The BBL is just one more in the millions of steps we have taken, and the millions more  that we may have to take to keep this journey towards peace going. We have to have faith in the process, even if we don’t in the personalities involved.


In the end the BBL or any other measure we take in the name of peace is only worth as much as the effort we put into making it work. We each hold a piece of the puzzle that completes the picture. And it is only when we are able to come together and share our hopes and dreams that the jumbled images of peace, of war, of Mindanao, becomes clear and understandable.

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