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Shai Hulud October 1, 2016

Posted by Janjan in Armchair Politics, Geekery & Nerdoms.

N.B.  Herein lie spoilers.

I was reading Frank Herbert’s “God Emperor of Dune” around December of 2015.  My father was in the hospital at this time, and in a few weeks, would leave this earthly realm.  Perhaps because of the specter of Papa’s passing hanging heavily over our lives, I found myself engrossed with the book, as an escape from the sadness and worry.

The book is the third installment of Herbert’s Dune series.  It chronicles the last years of the reign of God Emperor Leto II Atreides, who, in the previous book, merged with the animal deity of Arrakis, the terrible sandworm and had become some bizarre amalgam of man and sandworm.  He had literally become man and god, entombed in one flesh, monstrous in size and horrific in countenance.

As God Emperor, Leto II established absolute dominion and tyranny over the galaxy.  Tyranny in the sense that everything from the ecology of worlds, to the establishment of religions, to the control of the Bene Gesserit breeding program was completely within Leto II’s exacting control and scrutiny.  Rebellions were quickly quashed by his fanatically loyal Fish Speaker army, and not even the wiles of the Bene Gesserit nor the intelligence of the Bene Tleilaxu could measure up to the wisdom Leto II possessed through the countless lifetimes of cellular memories stored in his powerful prescient mind.

I read this book months before the Philippines’ elections and now under the Duterte administration, I can’t help but compare some parallelisms between what Leto II established and what I think President Duterte is trying to achieve.

The word “totalitarian” has an ugly ring to it, and rightly so.  Despite the many attempts to establish autocratic governments, history has proven time and time again that dictators, even with the best of intentions, eventually fall to power’s temptation.  The corruption inherent in sinners and saints eats us within, and as the adage goes, “Absolute power corrupts, absolutely.”  This is not to say that there have been no exceptions, however.  Lee Kuan Yew’s success with Singapore is oft cited as basis for the legitimacy of totalitarian leadership.

This was likewise the point cited in God Emperor of Dune.  Tyrannical as it was, Leto II’s reign established three millenia of absolute peace, order, and abundance in the lives of the humans under his rule, to the point of obsessive-compulsive attention to detail.  For 3,509 years, humans knew no famine, no war, no ignorance, no pain.  Opposition and subversion were quickly suppressed and everyone was made to toe the line upon the pain of torture and death.

This was not to say that Leto II was a cruel creature driven by egotistical concerns, far from it. Upon reading the narrative, as well as the thoughts running in the God Emperor’s head, the reader understands the love and compassion Leto II held for humanity, and that this was all part of a very long and well thought-out plan for humanity’s ultimate survival as a race, as foreseen by Leto II with his prescience, in a vision called the “Golden Path”.

The absolute control served as a countermanding force that created stored up potential energy via repression and suppression of mankind’s innate need to take control of his own life and destiny.  It created within us an unassailable drive to survive at all costs, the trouble which lay beyond the reign of the God Emperor (and told in subsequent books of the Dune series).

This seems to be the rationalization and battle cry of President Duterte’s supporters: There is a method in his madness.  For all his blustering and bravado, behind the President’s potty mouth lies a mind as razor-sharp as a surgeon’s scalpel, capable of lobotomizing the criminal tendencies lurking in the dregs of the Philippine subconscious and carrying us forward to Golden Years of freedom and safety.  At the cost, it seems, of swallowing whatever bitter pill the President prescribed for our cure, without question, without struggle, and without protest.

Fundamentally, the dividing line between his supporters and detractors lay on the amount of trust one reposed on the President.

If indeed the story of the God Emperor is applicable to the Philippines’ plight is one that remains to be seen.  While many elements are there, we ask if President Duterte shares the wisdom, foresight and detailed planning that Leto II poured into his vision of the Golden Path.

Nevertheless, everything goes according to Leto II’s plans in the book, and we finally see the wisdom behind the tyranny and fascism in later installments of the series.  We see that despite the great chaos and violence that humankind inflicted upon itself in the great war between the Bene Gesserit and the Honorable Matres subsequent to Leto II’s rule, humankind went out and survived all the far reaches of space, even with the mysterious Old Man and Woman doing its best to obliterate humanity.

I  can neither conclude nor hope that the Philippines will share the same plight as the novel’s.

But this much I can say though.  Leto II planned his own demise because he knew that for humankind to grow, they had to destroy their God Emperor… destroy their own God.  He planted the seeds for his own destruction under the hands of Siona and his own beloved Duncan Idaho, through revolution and assassination.

One hopes that a better story and a better ending lies in store for the Filipino people.  I pray for President Duterte and the desert storm rising in our way.  May we live to find ourselves treading our country’s Golden Path.




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