Rodrigo Duterte Represents a Rare Breed of Philosophical Statesmen

The first duty of any statesman remains the ability to solve problems in the pursuit of the benefit of the people. There are many different approaches to this and while some remain fixated merely on the proverbial nuts and bolts of problem solving, some leaders are able to encapsulate problem solving by elevating the rhetoric surrounding political issues to that of the philosophical.

President Duterte is unique as a leader who shuns ornate titles, opulent lifestyles and personal grandiosity. Although he has been President for over two years, he has said that he still prefers to be called Mayor Duterte rather than President, while he has likewise said that titles like “first family” repulse him as they are “corny”. Beyond this, Duterte has encouraged his fellow Filipinos to break away from the colonial mentality of the past, to understand faith in a higher power as a matter of free conscience rather than institutional obedience and has offered his sincere hopes at both a political and personal level that future generations might live a better life than his own.

Duterte’s ability to captivate an audience with long and generally unscripted speeches is a testament to his sincerity as a leader and moreover his authenticity as a man. Today, during one such a speech, Duterte spoke about the irrational fear of death that continues to grip many people throughout the world.

While this irrational fear grips people both in wealthy and developing countries, it seems that the weather a nation gets, the obsession with prolonging youth due to an unconscious and unreasonable fear of death tends to turn individuals into obsessive creatures detached from a more organic and enlightened view of life. From the United States to South Korea, plastic surgery is often a rich person’s way of pretending to fend off death by artificially making one’s self appear to be younger than one is. The amount of money spent of strange diets and medical products designed to artificially prolong youth is both an economic and social sickness in many wealthy nations.

One thing that Duterte has injected into every element of his public life is reason and rationality. Whether discussing how to handle his hysterical opponents or how to handle constitutional reforms, Duterte is often a voice of reason in a sea of hostility. Duterte spoke of death in the following way,

“We’re getting old. Me, they said I am dying, of course I will die someday. There’s no problem with that. Death should not worry anybody. It’s inevitable and it can happen any day so what is there to talk about”.

This is a statement that every person in the world should hear. From young children scared of the dark to an old person scared of the darkness of one’s final years, one should not romanticise death, fear it, nor artificially hasten its arrival. One ought to live a life of personal moderation guided by ethical pragmatism rather than the polar extremes of greed and narcissism or on the other hand the extremes of self-harm and overwrought nihilism.

Duterte’s ability to touch on personal issues from his position as President makes him unique among world leaders. While a good world leader can live an opulent lifestyle and not offer any personal council to his people, there remains something special and deeply endearing about a leader who goes out of his way to open minds, hearts and eyes to the broader truths of reality that can help to enlighten an entire nation.

Duterte is one such inspirational leader and while his political problem solving is preparing future generations of Filipinos for the best of times, his personal relationship with his people has the ability to help those most in need during the worst of times. This is a true leader and this is a true man.

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