[OPINION] Lust for violence

Background photo by LeAnne Jazul/Rappler; Duterte photo from Malacau00c3u00b1ang

It has been puzzling for many human rights advocates that the satisfaction rating of President Rodrigo Duterte remains high.

In spite of the many jaw-dropping controversies facing the Duterte administration, the Social Weather Stations (SWS) reported that for the first quarter of 2019, a combined 79% of wealthier up to low-income Filipinos gave Duterte a net satisfaction rating of +66 in March, which SWS categorizes as "very good." Thus, Duterte is back to his high satisfaction rating achieved in June 2017. (READ: Duterte's satisfaction rating bounces back to personal high – SWS)

Many have offered varying explanations regarding the persistence of this phenomenon. In this piece, I would like to explore more on Duterte's success in tapping into our capacity for violence, which may explain his high ratings.

The thing about violence is that it is built into our human genes as an evolutionary adaptation to crudely get what we want. In the work of Steven Pinker's The Better Angels of Our Nature, he explains there are 5 primal motivators behind our propensity for violence. I will explain each vis-à-vis how Duterte exploits them to his advantage.

The abovementioned primal motivators for violence has been found by Pinker and other studies to create a pleasurable response in the brain, somewhat similar to that caused by cocaine. Thus, violence can be very highly pleasurable once revulsion towards it is conquered, and in turn, can be very addictive. This is why I suppose Filipinos who got used to Duterte eventually found it amusing when he promotes violence, and I suspect they find it pleasurable when people who are considered undesirable by the President die or suffer in the hands of law enforcement agencies or vigilante justice.

Armed with this understanding, Duterte’s high satisfaction rating will only take a negative turn when we are able to successfully curb the capacity for violence that has been awakened in us. Let us find solace in knowing that violence can be curbed and there is still a way for us to get out of this mess. – Rappler.com

Mark Anthony Abenir is an associate professor and director of the Simbahayan Community Development Office of the University of Santo Tomas in Manila. He is also a development worker and serves as chairman of the Community Development Society of the Philippines.