Valor versus virus


    FREEDOM is a Noble Thing?

    Question from my colleague, Neil McLennan, Director of Leadership Programmes of the University of Aberdeen and editor of the forthcoming Conquered by No One: A People’s History of the Declaration of Arbroath. His answer is based on Scotland’s most important founding document:

    “Last Monday is the 700th anniversary of the Declaration of Arbroath being written. A day that should have seen annual pageantry in Arbroath. On ‘Arbroath day,’ we are considering ‘freedom is a noble thing’ at a time when laws north and south of the border place, and attempt to place, serious restrictions on freedoms. Most notable are attempts to temporarily end trial by jury and relaxed evidence requirements in Scottish courts. Juries will be reviewed again in a matter of weeks. Whether this is sinister or not is for others to debate. Regardless, the inability to consider other options reflects poorly on our default leadership positions. Accused are to be brought before judges using online secure tools. Similar could be brought into place for juries. Furthermore, have Citizens Assemblies been consulted at all during this period? Could they be better utilized? In a crisis, default tendencies can come out – fight or flight, freedom or fiefdom.

    “Some 700 years ago Barons and Nobles across Scotland gathered to put their names to a document. Their common fight was with Edward II rule over ‘Scots’ lands. They were however far from united; the Soules conspiracy saw some of the Declaration signatories plot against Robert the Bruce.

    “On the anniversary of the Arbroath Baron’s letter we might consider what freedom means; how much we really believe in the Declaration’s famous line, ‘freedom is a noble thing’; how freedom is formed; and how it is maintained? Alliances are vital. Importantly, whether people put greater good ahead of personal freedoms will be interesting.”

    In the 06 April 1320 letter to Pope John XXII, Scotland asked to be recognized as an independent country, with Robert the Bruce as its legitimate king. [] For Filipinos, the holiday is Day of Valor (Araw ng Kagitingan, April 9, which falls on a Maundy Thursday this year). To mark the day, the Hunters-ROTC Historical Society (through its president, Rhett Daza) issued the Statement on the 75th Anniversary of the End of WWII on Araw ng Kagitingan 2020.

    “On the 75th Anniversary of the end of WWII, a new existential threat has emerged that has overtaken events on every level not only in the country but in the whole world. The threat of the Covid19 pandemic is so all-encompassing many have called for a WWII response. This can only mean a total all-nation, whole-world approach to combat the pandemic. The comparison can be both evocative and misleading. Certainly, the scientific effort to find a cure should be a multi-nation effort to benefit all nations. Any attempt by any nation to try and profit or gain an advantage in the development of a cure should be immediately confronted and put down. This should not be treated as an arms race but as a global humanitarian effort. In this regard, reported efforts by the US to poach advanced vaccine research from other countries and China’s filing of defensive patents are both odious and should be denounced.

    “On the question of national mobilization, it is only appropriate that the whole nation’s resources should be mustered to contain the spread of this virus. But the frontline use of security forces to address the pandemic has placed an unnecessary burden on its shoulders. Security forces should be oriented towards threats, foreign and local, who might capitalize on the crisis as an opportunity to injure the national interest. But the most immediately threatened from the pandemic are communities. It is in the interest, therefore, of communities, to be mobilized and given the lead to contain the virus in their localities. Our security forces need to be freed to do their job in defending the country, instead of being tasked in a mission they were never intended to perform, their readiness to serve and willingness to accept a challenge expended in policing the very people they are supposed to be defending.

    “Anyone remotely aware, that many Filipino families live in 25-sq.m. homes, should know: a stay-at-home policy and a social-distancing policy will be mutually exclusive. Locking down whole barangays, putting up local checkpoints, curfews, issuing quarantine passes, ordinances mandating jail time and monetary penalties for breaking quarantine not only complicate the problem but magnify it. At the same time, a very important means to contain the virus-positive community action – has been constrained and sidelined. The enemy, it must be emphasized, is a virus, not people.

    “Of the many lessons from WWII, there are at least two relevant to this pandemic. The first one: sending the troops to Bataan, while leaving the supplies behind was a guarantee for defeat. The other lesson: mobilizing communities is the only way to attain an all-nation response. In 1942, when the government had fled and the army had been defeated, it was communities seeking to defend themselves that eventually took shape and form as the guerrilla movement.

    “This was supposed to be a year to commemorate the great victory that was WWII. In this time of pandemic, maybe it would be better if we appreciate how we actually did attain victory during WWII.”

    The World War Two spirit was invoked as well by Queen Elizabeth of the United Kingdom: “It reminds me of the very first broadcast I made, in 1940, helped by my sister. We, as children, spoke from here at Windsor to children who had been evacuated from their homes and sent away for their own safety.”

    “We should take comfort that while we may have more still to endure, better days will return: we will be with our friends again; we will be with our families again; we will meet again.” []

    Finally, the United Nations General Assembly approved a resolution calling for “international cooperation” and “multilateralism” in the fight against COVID-19, in the first text to come out of the international body since the outbreak began. The UN stresses “the need for full respect for human rights” and that “there is no place for any form of discrimination, racism and xenophobia in the response to the pandemic.” []

    The original UN had declared on 01 January 1942 that the free world was “engaged in a common struggle against savage and brutal forces seeking to subjugate the world…(a) struggle for victory over Hitlerism.” Today, we must combat both Fascism and the virus it created.


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