The "war" between the Mangundadatu and Ampatuan clans that led to the massacre of at least 57 people in Ampatuan town left me speechless.
Early reports had the convoy of the Mangudadatu women, wife and relatives of Buluan town mayor Toto, accompanied by female lawyers and followed by the cars of journalists were stopped at Ampatuan town in Maguindanao.
The convoy was reportedly "kidnapped" by about 100 armed men. Then other reports filtered in about how the "kidnapped victims" were raped, beheaded, killed, then dumped into a pit in a remote village.
When the people in the convoy were found later, buried in a newly dug hole by the mountainside of Sitio Masalay, Barangay Saman, Ampatuan town, investigators excavated about 60 bodies. Included in the count were 30 journalists who accompanied the Mangudadatu party on their way to file the certificate of candidacy of Toto Mangudadatu for the gubernatorial position.
Other victims of the massacre included passengers in two vehicles that were not part of the convoy.
All the victims were brutally murdered and then buried, allegedly some were still alive, in a pit earlier dug up -- indicating that the execution had been planned.
The brutality of these crimes left me wondering if the Philippines was caught in a time warp and was back in the days when warlords ruled with impunity. And when the gruesome details of how the victims were killed began to filter in, I couldn't imagine how the individual among those armed group could have committed such crimes. Was it mob rule, or were they all hardened killers following the specific orders of their leader, or were they a pack of Himmlers?
Steven Pinker talks about violence in his Ted.com talk on "The Myth of Violence":
While Pinker provides a rather controversial take on the decrease of violence through time, what is interesting for me is how he proposes -- and at the end of his talk when he answers a question raised by the host -- how a more globalized information network allow human beings to imagine how the Other lives.
It is apparently in this ability to imagine the Other that allows each one of us -- to one degree or another -- to demystify the Other and to realize how the Other is really like us. And in this imagining, we are able to rise above our "barbaric" behavior and to live harmoniously with our neighbors.
As Pinker points out, throughout the centuries our standards for "civilized" life has outstripped our anarchic behavior. And that explains how we are appalled at the savagery that every now and then assaults us in the news.
Can you imagine that? Plugging yourself into the pure energy of the universe?
That is what Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor talked about in her Ted.com presentation. She told her story of suffering from a hemorrhage in the left hemisphere of her brain, and how that rendered her "like an infant in a grown woman's body."
Dr. Taylor described what that condition meant by showing the audience a real brain, demonstrating how the left and right hemispheres of the brain functions. Apparently the left hemisphere accounts for the rational, the logical, and the linguistic capability of the human brain. It categorizes, it names, it organizes what data the right hemisphere receives as pure sensations.
But losing the function of her brain's left hemisphere--her ability to function as a "normal" human being--opened up a new vista of "pure euphoria, nirvana." The comments posted in the Ted.com site compares her experience to an "acid trip." And the way she described that experience really seemed like it.
Just before the doctors went into surgery, she gave up "like a balloon losing its air, its soul," and said goodbye to her life. But then the realization that she was still alive and blessed with this "insight" into what the brain's right hemisphere could tap into, convinced her to fight for her life just so she could "spread the idea."
What was this insight that Dr. Taylor tapped into? It was this idea that half of our brain is connected to the energies of the universe, that it allowed us to be literally one with the cosmos.
Of course, like an acid trip, it can be the soaring experience that Dr. Taylor described or it could be a rapid descent into paranoia. But then, the way she told her story, it seemed that tapping into that pure energy can only bring that expansive feeling of love and peace. (Perhaps it is when we are pulled back into our rational selves that we feel paranoid.)
And so Dr. Taylor--neuralanatomist and intellectual--is spreading the idea of human beings tapping into the right brain to re-connect ourselves into the pure energies of the universe. Perhaps, she says, when we do that we will be able to project the peace and love that this universal energy emits.
Okay, that may sound flaky to some of you. But that is what Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor, neuralanatomist and intellectual, discussed in her talk at Ted.com.
Speaking about the left and right brain, she distinguishes between the work of the two sides of our brain, and how the two are really different personalities.
She then illustrates what will happen to us if, just like what she experienced after a hemorrhage, her left brain stopped functioning.
But I'm getting ahead of myself. You should listen to her talk first:
And so, wouldn't it be wonderful indeed to devote more of our time processing our right hemispheres, and as a result project the peace and love and kindness that makes up the energies around us? Now that sounds really flaky. Or is it just my left brain acting as censor and comptroller of my life?
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