The 8 civilizations
Part 1

THIS year marks the 30th year after the Berlin Wall came down. This was the beginning of the dying throes of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR). In two years, in the autumn of 1991, President Mikhail Gorbachev resigned, passing on power to Boris Yeltsin of Russia. The Soviet Union was dissolved, the Cold War ended, and the West won. Liberal democracy and capitalism trumped communism. The former was meant to sweep across the world in a new order, with the Western powers led by the United States presiding over a new era of harmony. This did not happen. The euphoria of victory was short-lived.

By the end of WW2, with the ascendancy of America as the lone self-appointed global police, an Iron Curtain descended upon the USSR ,dividing Europe into East and West blocs. The Cold War broke out, delineating the world further into political spheres of influence: the US-led Western liberal capitalist alliance; the Soviet Union-led communist bloc and the non-aligned countries which were the ideological moving targets of the power dynamics between the first two and where conflicts took place. The nuclear arsenal on opposing sides guaranteed total world destruction if ever the Cold War turned into a shooting conflict. Strangely, this paradigm brought about a modicum of stability of “non-war and non-peace” under the threat of mutually assured destruction (MAD). After 1991, this pattern of history, uneasy at best, disappeared.

In 1996, Samuel Huntington, an erudite Harvard professor published his book The Clash of Civilizations and The Remaking of World Order. His hypothesis is that in the post-Cold War world, future wars would be fought not between ideologies but between cultures. And the primary source of discord will be the people’s cultural and religious identities.

Accordingly, encounters fall along the faultlines of the world’s biggest cultural entities or civilizations. There is no universal civilization. Instead there are these seven or eight, each within its own set of values: a) Western North America and Western Europe with the US, Germany and France as the core states; b) Orthodox, with Russia as the core state; c) Confucian or Sinic with China as core state; d) Islamic but with no core states because of its heterogeneity; e) Latin American also with no core state; f) Hindu, India as core; and g) Japanese, Japan as core; and sub-Saharan Africa with no core state.

Two decades after Huntington’s book, empirical data suggests many nations did indeed align along cultural lines. Countries with similar cultures come together; those historically with different cultures broke up. Yugoslavia split up along cultural lines; Serbia/Bulgaria/Greece formed an Orthodox entente; Catholic parts of Yugoslavia/Slovenia/ Croatia came knocking on NATO’s door; Turkey resumed its role as protector of Muslims in the Balkans, Bosnia and Albania. Greece and Turkey are members of NATO, but with the post-Cold War ideological threat gone, Greece and Turkey are teetering on the edge of violence against each other. Sometimes civilizations go through boundaries of states. The eastern and western parts of Ukraine belong to different civilizations.

Two corollary issues are bones of contention. Western civilizations’ unique values; separation of Church and state; rule of law and rights of individuals; pluralistic nature of Western societies; which has evolved and existed for a thousand years have been imposed on other civilizations even older than itself. Confucian, Japanese and Hindi civilizations have their own unique ethos contradictory to the Western concepts. These attempts, backed up by might and the Cross, did not bode well for these already complex relationships.

Which brings us to the second issue — that of equating westernization with modernization. Under the guise of the globalization mantra as the vehicle for liberal democracy and capitalism, greater interaction with other civilizations was the intent of the Western world, primarily to create and expand world markets. But global capitalism has over-emphasized its impact on the world. In Islam, Chinese and other Eastern cultures, there is resistance to Western values of human rights and democracy.

All societies strive for wealth, welcoming the influx of new technology, availing of the benefits of modern science; adopting some elements of free-markets. But they don’t necessarily want to embody Western values nor take on their religions. Predominantly Shinto and Buddhist Japan is the template which could work. It is thoroughly modern, has significantly adopted elements of Western culture in its drive for economic growth, but it is not Western in character. Japanese don’t think of themselves as Western. They recognize certain fundamental differences in their culture, society and in their way of life which are anathema to other cultures, especially the US and Western Europe.

What is disturbing by far is the emergence of Islam challenging American hegemony framed by the knee-jerk response after the Sept. 11, 2001 Twin Towers attack. America had to re-evaluate its policy on foreign intervention after the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. The lessons of these debacles resonated on the current Trump administration’s fixation on domestic immigration and the outright use of the label radical Islamic terrorism, which Bush and Obama refused to do, emphasizing that America was at war with violent extremists, not Islam itself.

The predicate of Trump’s racist position on immigration may have been that of Huntington’s proposition that the US needs to partner with its European allies to limit immigration to the US and put a cap from an annual 800K after 1965 to 500K, a needed pause to better concentrate on assimilating the millions who are already in place. President Trump rescinded this recommendation and reconfigured the issue into a massive racist rejection of the inflow of Muslims from the Middle East and countries from which “Islamic terrorists” are sourced.

It is believed, however, that a clash with Islam will not lead to a major war. As a civilization, Islam has no single dominant core Islamic state; but it is so fragmented and occupied primarily with fighting each other.

Islam has sub-civilizations within — Arabic, Malay, Turkic, and they compete for Islamic leadership, posing a destabilizing force in their region and culture. Iran vs Saudi for a time were arming Bosnian Muslims, for example, supporting different Islamic groups fighting non-Islamic ones. Islam used to have the dominant Ottoman Empire which disappeared. The rise of IS is a parody of the Islamic caliphate.

The “clash of civilizations” also presaged the singular rise of the Middle Kingdom. After Deng Xiaoping unleashed its economic dragons, China has become increasingly assertive and if it grows economically at the same rate as in the past decades, it will establish its hegemony over Asia and reclaim its sphere of influence which historically endured hundreds of years until the mid-19th century. Its nine-dash line and expansion in the South China Sea (West Philippine Sea) does not augur well for the countries on its periphery. China has already declared it is their right. But how will Japan and, more importantly, America react to this? And how will this affect the Philippines?

This article borrows and quotes heavily from Samuel Huntington’s opus; op-ed columnist David Brooks, essayist Emma Ashford and Dr. Pervez Hoodbhoy.

The Senate President crowed yesterday that the party he nominally coheads, PDP-Laban, has a “pleasant problem” — too many potential senatorial candidates. Koko Pimentel’s estimate is they have up to 20 possible choices for the 12-person slate for the 2019 senatorial race. But his list includes the five administration-affiliated senatorial incumbents up for reelection next year. This is a group that has made noises that, much as it prefers to remain in the administration camp, it is unhappy with the way PDP-Laban has been designating its local leaders and candidates, and therefore prefers to strike out on its own, perhaps in alliance with the other administration (regional) party, Hugpong ng Pagbabago, headed by the President’s daughter and current Davao City mayor, Sara Duterte.

Setting aside, then, the five-person “Force,” the administration-oriented but not PDP-friendly reelectionists (Nancy Binay, Sonny Angara, Cynthia Villar, Grace Poe, and JV Ejercito), what Koko’s crowing over is a mixed bag. Some of them have been floated by Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez (with whom Mayor Duterte clashed in recent months): six representatives (Gloria Macapagal Arroyo who is in her last term in the House of Representatives; Albee Benitez, Karlo Nograles, Rey Umali, Geraldine Roman, and Zajid Mangudadatu), three Cabinet members (Bong Go, Harry Roque, and Francis Tolentino), and two other officials (Mocha Uson and Ronald dela Rosa), which still only adds up to 11 possible candidates (who are the missing three?).

Of all of these, the “Force” reelectionists are only fair-weather allies of the present dispensation; their setting themselves apart is about much more than the mess PDP-Laban made in, say, San Juan where support for the Zamoras makes it extremely unattractive for JV Ejercito to consider being in the same slate. Their cohesion is about thinking ahead: Creating the nucleus for the main coalition to beat in the 2022 presidential election. The contingent of congressmen and congresswomen who could become candidates for the Senate, however, seems more a means to kick the Speaker’s rivals upstairs (at least in the case of Benitez and Arroyo) and pad the candidates’ list with token but sacrificial candidates, a similar situation to the executive officials being mentioned as possible candidates (of the executive officials, only Go seems viable, but making him run would deprive the President of the man who actually runs the executive department, and would be a clear signal that the administration is shifting to a post-term protection attitude instead of the more ambitious system-change mode it’s been on, so far).

Vice President Leni Robredo has been more circumspect, saying she’s not sure the Liberal Party can even muster a full slate. The party chair, Kiko Pangilinan, denied that a list circulating online (incumbent Bam Aquino, former senators Mar Roxas, Jun Magsaysay, TG Guingona, current and former representatives Jose Christopher Belmonte, Kaka Bag-ao, Edcel Lagman, Raul Daza, Gary Alejano and Erin Tañada, former governor Eddie Panlilio and Cebu City Mayor Tomas Osmeña) had any basis in fact.

What both lists have in common is they could be surveys-on-the-cheap, trial balloons to get the public pulse. Until the 17th Congress reconvenes briefly from May 14 to June 1 for the tail end of its second regular session (only to adjourn sine die until the third regular session begins on July 23), it has nothing much to do. Except, that is, for the barangay elections in May, after a last-ditch effort by the House to postpone them yet again to October failed.

Names can be floated but the real signal will come in July, when the President mounts the rostrum and calls for the big push for a new constitution—or not. Connected to this would be whether the Supreme Court disposes of its own chief, which would spare the Senate—and thus, free up the legislative calendar—to consider Charter change instead of an impeachment trial. In the meantime, what congressmen do seem abuzz over is an unrefusable invitation to the Palace tomorrow — to mark Arroyo’s birthday. An event possibly pregnant with meaning.

A FAMOUS NFL player and Coach, Vince Lombardi, known as a stickler to basics and for his single-minded determination to win once said, “Leaders aren’t born, they are made. And they are made just like anything else through hard work. That’s the price we have to pay to achieve that goal, or any goal.” Successful people therefore, master the fundamentals then put on hard work to bring about results.

Mastery of the Fundamentals

Purpose-driven leaders are able to inspire and rally their people to achieve dreams which they view as beyond reach. Awareness of one’s capabilities and limitations heightens individuality as an unambiguous self-conviction that enhances transparency and inspires confidence. An indispensable quality is decisiveness, the imprint of exceptional leaders that disavows tentativeness over an undertaking. Everyone lays claim to integrity but only those who practice honesty and humility to accept and rectify one’s mistakes, ever make the grade. Essential to any career pursuit is good education. Getting a diploma is the customary goal that most everyone considers the be-all and end-all. Proficiency however, empowers one to be competitive and achieve the best results. These constitutive qualities and leadership traits would highlight the career of Lawyer and Congressman Rufus B. Rodriguez. Before becoming a politician and even dreaming of a legislator as his life’s purpose, he built his fundamentals not just as a consistent intellectual achiever but with a string of Masters work in the fields of Economics and Law, subjects which in time, gave him an edge in Congress deliberations while serving his constituents as Cagayan de Oro District 2 Representative for 9 straight years. A wunderkind, he further honed his skills through lectures and discourses in various local and international forums and turned to writing in his spare time. A prolific author, his books became requisite academic references which greatly helped students at various levels. Beyond doubt, the pre-eminence of these overlying attributes are what ordain true public servants like him.

Hard Work

Political leaders perform an obligation in their social contract (Hobbes and Locke) with the people. Having reposed in them the authority to hold power, they are expected to deliver on their platforms of government or risk their chances for re-election. Evidently, the electorate in District 2 have expressed satisfaction through the successive terms of office granted to Cong. Rodriguez. He distinguished himself among the City’s past representatives as a man of action. While his peers are content with automatic appropriations and passive acquiescence to congressional proceedings, he introduced landmark bills and followed through until they are enacted as laws. In Congress, bills are thoughtfully deliberated, taking some time to reach even the third reading stage unless one doggedly pursues the agenda otherwise, they are left to the back burners. Hard work then means total immersion in back-breaking legislative work while sourcing out funds to address the most pressing needs of constituents. It’s not a walk in the park.

The Goal

Cagayan de Oro City (CDOC), a regional hub enviably located at the heart of Northern Mindanao and widely promoted and acclaimed as the Gateway to the Land of Promise deserves good leaders. As a first class, highly urbanized city, CDOC is consistently ranked among the top competitive and liveable cities until it dropped recently down the ranks. Still, with resolute leadership and a cooperative citizenry, we firmly believe the City will soon rival Davao and Cebu in terms of economic advancement. The immediate goal would be to earn that elusive Seal of Good Local Governance (SGLG) to boost investor confidence.

The humongous potentials of the City cannot be overstated. Economic prospects for tourism, infrastructure, industry, commerce and real estate and home-grown development initiatives offer a brilliant outlook. This would require however, a concerted synergy between the city’s executives and legislative council with the able support of CDO’s representatives in Congress including the party-list ABAMIN, which would likewise greatly contribute in providing much needed funds for social services, scholarships and livelihood initiatives. The long-term goals can be summarized under three major groupings: First, a world-class infrastructure program that would solve once and for all the city’s perennial problems in traffic, flood, waste management and efficient movement of goods from farm to the city; Second, total mining and log ban and effective reforestation programs to ensure the safety of the city’s residents and to promote tourism; and Third, Health, Education, Employment and Dwelling/Housing (HEED) initiatives that would address problems in peace and order, drug-dependency and criminality. Only a knowledgeable and seasoned legislator could make these aspirations a reality.

With strong fundamentals and experience as a hardworking public servant with clear specific goals, the City would be in good hands with Rufus B. Rodriguez once again as Cagayan de Oro’s representative. He is, undoubtedly, a congressman like no other.

(Renato Gica Tibon is a fellow of the Fellowship of the 300, an elite organization under Centrist Democracy Political Institute  [CDPI] with focus on political technocracy. He  holds both position as political action officer and program manager of the Institute. He is the former regional chairman for Region 10 and vice president for Mindanao of the Centrist Democratic Party of the Philippines [CDP].)