There is a way by which we can look at, in a new light, the socio-political dynamic of rape especially when we speak of how nation-states treat their own people and in the way they treat other nation-states.
The recent events in the Philippines come to mind here.
The alleged perpetrators are American military servicemen out to help out their Filipino counterparts in what is dubbed as joint military exercises that, in many ways, are all aimed at making the Filipino servicemen more combat-ready even as they teach their US counterparts some techniques of surviving in the wild and some Tagalog language that begins and ends in “Kumusta ka, babaeng maganda?”
Already, we see the players in this latest of social drama that involves two countries with a history of relations that date back more than a hundred years.
We watch with terror and surprise as we witness the initial stages of resolving the issue. The plot thickens even as some of the Philippine leaders mouth nonsense about what to do.
Even in the ancient times, rape has been seen as a play of power and the players come into this play in an unequal footing.
The raped had always been less powerful, if not totally powerless.
There is a play of the symbolic here as we scan the pages of recent history.
For here, in these pages, are the tropes that relate to rape as symptomatic of the malady that befalls upon peoples and nations that are subjected to the unevenness of power.
Wars authored by other countries, for instance, had almost always included rape as a component in that systemic act of despoiling and destroying peoples and their cultures, minds and memory, civilizations and the collective capability to resist.
The raped people are the same as the individually raped victim.
Shame comes about—the shame that wreaks havoc on self-esteem.
Many of those outside the tragic drama of despoiling tend to blame the victim for what had happened.
Some people, out of callousness, may even say that “the victim had it coming” believing that in uttering that statement, their self-righteousness will right the wrong that had been done.
The Abu Ghraib prison scandal, for instance, takes on new meaning when this is read in the context of war waged against, say, despots and dictators.
There are key questions that come into play even as we speak of the abuses and atrocities committed by Saddam Hussein and his regime against his own people.
The question of liberating peoples is of paramount import.
Any act that is antithetical to that aim invalidates any legitimate claim to helping people redeem themselves and restore their honor as a result of their being systematically raped by their very own leaders.
A review of the history of the concept and reality of rape gives us a clue.
The Latin word rapere offers on insight on what rape had been—on what rape continues to be.
The dictionary meanings are instructive: to seize, to take away by force. Webster’s does not fail us in accounting what this rapere thing is all about.
To strip of belongings.
To strip of possessions.
To strip of value.
And then some others: to pillage, to ravage.
The correlatives are clear: rapist and raped.
Abuser and abused.
Destroyer and destroyed.
Plunderer and plundered.
Despoiler and despoiled.
Looter and looted.
Pillager and pillaged.
We see the images—and they shock us.
In one account, Austin App has talked about the “mass rape of German women at the end of World War II” in his book Ravishing the Women of Conquered Europe. App documents the accounts of witnesses including the rape of nuns in a convent, many of them eventually ending up pregnant.
In James Yin and Shi Young’s The Rape of Nanking, the Japanese invaders raped 80,000 women and girls in three months from December 1937 to March 1938. Yin and Young talk of the savagery that happened: “thousands were beheaded, burned, bayoneted, buried alive, or disemboweled.”
We can only imagine here the human capacity to destroy—and that capacity to destroy humanity itself. We are searching here for that human capacity to create.
If we go by the tropes of rape, we can talk about forms of violence that have been inflicted upon others, upon peoples, upon communities.
In these many forms of violence, rape is not an individual act even it may be perpetrated by an individual. There is a ground here—individual as well as collective—which makes rape happens.
We then can talk about cultural rape.
We then can talk about what other authors call “rape of history” when the civilization and memory of a people are systematically wiped out—defaced and erased are the key concepts here—in order to make them zombies and robots.
The greatest and gravest mistake that could happen to the raped is when the raped begins to like it because the conditioning for the liking becomes effective.
The promise of money is one form of a conditioning when the raped is poor and powerless and financially incapacitated.
Resisting millions of pesos and the seductions of the shining silver becomes difficult. “Nasira ka na, hindi na mababago ‘yan. Tanggapin mo na ang pera. May puhunan ka pa,” some people pretending as the sage would say.
We remember one Filipino diplomat giving his advice to overseas Filipino workers, many of them women: “If you cannot resist it, enjoy it.”
The bad and evil pragmatic way of looking at how rape is to be resolved emboldens more and more the rapist and invests upon him the power to imagine the next victim.
The cycle continues if this happens.
This is where resistance is necessary by unmasking the terrible truths that attend to each rape whether we speak of individuals or gangs raping others or countries plundering other countries because they have a democratic message to tell.
Pub, INQ, V1N21, Nov 2005