The March of Banality

By Bernard Karganilla

March 02, 2017

ADD to these fatal expeditions that wasted all the moral and material energies of the country, the frightful inroads of the terrible pirates from the south, instigated and encouraged by the government, first in order to get complaint and afterwards disarm the islands... [Jose Rizal, The Indolence of the Filipino]

So, did he ever disappear, this Moro pirate? Or did he simply transmogrify into a terrorist?

The eighth paragraph in the 20 April 2010 Country Advice Philippines (PHL36520 – Abu Sayyaf – Kidnapping – Children – Ransom – Child smuggling) put out by the Australian Government (Refugee Review Tribunal) reads: “A terrorism expert in Singapore, Rohan Gunaratna, stated in an Associated Press report on 15th April that the group could be crushed with a major assault and that the final days of the group had been reached.”

That was nearly seven years ago. The “final days” of this gang is still filled with hostage-takings and beheadings. We commiserate with our German friends as the latest high-profile victim is one of their countrymen. The Moro pirates in the dock is, of course, the Abu Sayyaf Group, as defined by the Australian advisory: “‘bearer of the sword’ or ‘sword of God,’ in Arabic, is a small radical Islamic separatist group operating in the southern Philippines. It was formed in the early 1990s by Ustadz Abdurajak Abubakar Janjalani, who was killed by police in Basilon (sic) in December 1998.”

Five months ago, it was reported: “Nine Indonesians are among 16 foreign hostages currently being held by the Muslim extremist group Abu Sayyaf in the southern Philippines, where Muslim separatist rebellions have raged for decades. In May, Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines agreed to carry out coordinated patrols following a series of kidnappings and piracy attacks that undermined commerce in the Celebes Sea, where their sea borders overlap.” [

Clearly, the Philippines with the rest of the single Asean Community needs to do more. There are other crimes committed in the high seas. In December of 2012, it was reported that Greenpeace would submit a dossier detailing recent violations of fishing rules in Southeast Asia to the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (aka the Pacific Tuna Commission), with one of the campaigners onboard the ship “Esperanza” then docked in Manila, saying “While at sea, we saw firsthand that pirate fishing and destructive fishing methods abound in the Pacific. The evidence we gathered clearly demonstrate failure by governments and industries to comply with the most basic rules they themselves have instituted.” [

Pirates, jihadists, poachers. Still they come, regardless of hundreds of policemen relocated to Basian. Meanwhile the “vulgus” of the ochlocracy marinate in Goebbels’ saliva and Goering’s aura. Is this part of the “banality of evil” that Hannah Arendt described in her coverage of the Eichmann trial in Jerusalem?

What is this phenomenon? “It is precisely his (Eichmann) absolute and thoughtless symbiosis with the Nazi world, its ideologies and racist norms – despicable and flagrantly immoral but nevertheless legitimate and lawful within the Nazi world, and enjoying the assent of its ‘moral majority’ – that is the embodiment of the banality of evil.” []

The bark and the bluster. The protestations of patriotism. The same lame jokes ad nauseam. The self-infliction of Godwin’s law. The staleness of views, the triteness of threats. There is “a profound dumbness with respect to the world and the Other, and systematic turning away from humanness, morality and conscience, in some cases – as in Nazism – to the point of reversing the concepts of good and evil.” [Ada Ushpiz, “The Grossly Misunderstood ‘Banality of Evil’ Theory,” Haaretz Daily, 12-10-2016]

The vapidity of response, Japanese and Filipino, to the historical fact of the Rape of Manila. This, too, is the banality of evil? The Japanese war crime of murdering 100,000 people in at least 26 known massacre sites in the original Pearl of the Orient has not triggered hysterics on the decibel of Hiroshima. This is not a pissing contest, but it must be noted that the this Japanese atrocity of Manila massacres has not generated the same attention (educational, journalistic, legal, political, artistic, literary) correctly given to Guernica, Nanjing and Auschwitz. Even within the Asia-Pacific.

Be that as it may, since the Rape of Manila occurred in February of 1945, the Memorare-Manila ’45 Foundation, Inc., with the support of the City of Manila, holds a commemorative program at the Plazuela de Santa Isabel, General Luna Street, Intramuros every February. This year the commemoration, held February 18, included a representative of the Bridge for Peace (a Japanese NGO), Ms. Sena Kaneko, who told the nearly 300 attendees: “First of all, I have to admit that I did not know about the Battle of Manila. Regrettably, most Japanese students learn World War II from the viewpoint of the victims of the atomic bombings. However, I had opportunities to know the reality of the war in the Philippines through my Filipino friends and also through the activities of the Bridge for Peace.”

“Two years ago, in a hot August, I came here to the Philippines for a homestay program in Maddela, Quirino province. During my stay with a family, my host-mother asked me, ‘What do you think about WWII in which Japanese soldiers killed many, many Filipinos?’ I could not answer at all because of my ignorance. I was so ashamed of me.

“My host family welcomed me very warmly, but I did not know about the terrible violence committed by Japanese soldiers. After coming back to Japan, with my strong wish to know what I should do, I joined the activities of the Bridge for Peace.”

“Now, I am eager to learn about the past history of the war, which was caused by Japanese...I promise you to be an instrument of peace...strongly united with friends and people of the Philippines.” 

Ms. Kaneko will do good by reading textbooks like “Traditions and Encounters, AP Edition (Bentley), 5th Edition,” particularly Chapter 36 that mentions “Japanese armies forcibly recruited three hundred thousand women to serve in military brothels.” And: “Many were massacred by Japanese soldiers; survivors experienced deep shame.”

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