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.
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