Or, Your Journey To A Better Society
Democracy, as we understand it by definition and as our Constitution attempts to provide it for our nation, is still light years away from us Filipinos. For though there is election, in effect we elect always the same set of politically powerful people, the Oligarchs. The conduct of election itself is in practice influenced (vote buying, giving of favors, threats and extortion, etc.) by these groups of people- and therefore the outcome. We have in practice a form Oligarchic Democracy in the Philippines.
We see in political history a reflection of the biological nature of man and the confirmation of Darwin’s Theory of Evolution, the survival of the fittest. You have never seen an instance in nature where the weak dominates the strong. The degree of strength and in size determines the instinctive inclination of animals to row themselves in proper positions in their jungle hierarchy. But it’s different in man owing to his moral instinct .This moral instinct is also a by-product of the evolution of the brain in response to his social environment, the organ that has released man from this jungle hierarchy, given him the power of abstraction and reflection and a sense of responsibility.
Ironically, radical political theories and political revolutions that we know have been based upon this sense of responsibility. Karl Marx saw the exploitation of the peasants by their feudal lords and industrial capitalists and devised a theoretical system to liberate them which was then put into action by Lenin and the Bolsheviks during the October 1917 revolution.This failed in the long run because this system was against the natural instincts of man to Possess (market and economy) and to Self-actualisation (individual development) for one thing, and other thing was that the system of communism, which was supposed to liberate them, turned into (or got stuck in) totalitarianism (state regulation of almost all public and private matters!) and this enslaved them in the end. It is interesting to note how these forces of destruction and creation work in strange ways. Marx would turn in his grave if he would hear about the positive economic developments in China as capitalism ( free market) – which for Marx means “poverty in the midst of plenty” - and personal possession (private property) were gradually allowed again, allowing them to rise up out of the poverty resulting from years of communism. Now, Oligarchy (defined as the rule of the rich and powerful few) was originally developed also to stop the rule of one man,- the Monarch, so as for power to be distributed. And now Oligarchs keep the power to themselves.
Yes, these political dynasties in the Philippines. They are the rich and powerful few, the Oligarchs of our nation! They are the ones who dominate our ugly political landscape, and they are not really attractive to people who crave for social and economic justice- not only in the Philippines but also in many places on earth. This dynasty-political system has long been a burden to the nation for it hinders our progress, fosters nothing but corruption and alienates the rest of the population from politics. With the growing resentment among the population, it’s about time that legislators should work on this issue (The main problem is that our legislators themselves come from these dynasties!). It is possible to remove the existing dynasties on two conditions: First, through a morally strong President who would see this task as his lifetime achievement (nothing else) and by putting into effect Section 26 of Article II of the 1987 Constitution which reads “the State shall guarantee equal access to opportunities for public service, and prohibit “Political Dynasties as maybe defined by Law” – and to amend this section by removing the disturbing word “maybe“. Marcos tried it once, only he ended up building new ones! A military coup d’ etat aiming to save the country usually turns to a tyranny itself. So this is not a case for the Philippines. Second, that these political dynasties, on local and national level, should now give way for more citizen participation in the electoral process so as to avoid anarchy. History teaches us that democracy is one thing, people’s emotion is another thing. That when a certain threshold is exceeded nature takes over civilization once again and gives way to eruption of emotions of hate and revenge leading to destruction and killings of politicians.- an event we call as people’s uprising or revolution. Look at Tibet today, or Haiti, Zimbabwe, Kenia and Pakistan. Or remember our Edsa People’s Power which ended Marcos’ Dynasty. The people literally overrun the object of hate (mostly corrupt politicians) to re-establish democratic order. Viewed in itself, the use of brute force and violence is indeed a primitive, non-democratic method, but interestingly the end justifies the means when the end is the restoration of democracy itself. This is the paradox of democracy bein g manifested in a political rupture. Our political dynasties can help much in changing the course of history if they would give way, therefore, easing political tension in our nation. With today’s economic and world food crises (mess of globalization!), poverty amidst plenty, we are back to the mother situations that had given birth to revolutions in the past. On the other hand, economic and political crisis fragments and traumatises a society, thus making it susceptible to other ideologies, as in the case of Germany’ in 1918, when, after being defeated in war, plummeted to social, cultural and economic crisis. The Germans were too weak and hungry as to desist the rising National Socialism of Hitler. Hitler, originally an Austrian, promised the German nation alleviation from hunger and from the trauma of world war I. This seductive promise ended up as the biggest trauma itself for the German nation until today. The Filipinos, too weak to resist, may also become susceptible to other ideologies.
The Philippines is already a capitalist society, and must not repeat the experience of China which first adopted communism only to flirt with capitalism after its bitter experience with the former. And basically, we have more political freedom compared to the Chinese of today. These two elements- free market and personal freedom- are also present in progressive societies like Finland, Norway, Sweden, Belgium, Switzerland, Japan, etc. But what is lacking that progress seems to be withholding itself from us? This brings us back to the center of human society- to man in general and (in the Philippines) the individual Filipino, in particular. Every modern Filipino is faced with these elements: the economy, politics and his choices. Do we have bad choices or can we not constructively deal with our freedom? I personally think we have bad choices. Try to examine the extent of discrepancy between our agreement and our corresponding choice of action. Our basic national agreement is best illustrated in the Preamble of our present Constitution which says:
“We, the sovereign Filipino people, imploring the aid of Almighty God, in order to build a just and humane society and establish a Government that shall embody our ideals and aspirations, promote the common good, conserve and develop our patrimony, and secure to ourselves and our posterity the blessings of independence and democracy under the rule of law and a regime of truth, justice, freedom, love, equality, and peace, do ordain and promulgate this Constitution “
Now, the details:
1. Implore the aid of Almighty God. Yes! We are world champion in reciting prayers and rosaries, in going to church every Sunday, in showing reverence to the priests, in forwarding chain letters. We are famous for imitatio christi, as some of us get flagellated and nailed on the cross every year. A new President taking oath saying “…so help me God.” Well, God knows…
2. A just and humane society. Well, what kind of society have we chosen to build? Can we call it just when some stand above the law and humane when countless live below existence minimum??
3. A Government embodying our ideals, aspirations, promoting common good. What kind of Government do we have now and in the past? Promote common good? What kind of ideals and aspirations do our political dynasties represent and embody?
4. Democracy under the rule of law. Rule of law or of some powerful few? Pardoning the plunderer Erap was not an instance of rule of law but rather of the logic of greed and self-preservation of the incumbent president.
5. A regime of truth, justice, freedom, love, equality and peace. Nice things, but where are they? A regime of scams and crises, moral efluvia, substerfuge, extra-judicial killings. The list is long.
Now we ask ourselves- did we exercise good choices? If we had, we would have had a good government, a better economy and a humane society by now. In short, Progress.
Many other countries also had a bitter childhood but they have chosen to overcome it, dusted themselves up and chose to work together. We Filipinos seemed to have chosen the other way: a bitter childhood, self-pity and chose not to work together. Do you expect a nation to progress this way and export rice to other nations? No way. The Philippines import rice from Vietnam, from her former agriculture student. Vietnam was ravaged by war and “no stone was left unturned in my country during this war” as a Vietnamese friend once told me. But the Vietnamese dusted themselves up after years of being in the pit. The Filipinos remained in the pit.
We do have a lot of things at our disposal- from our rich natural resources to our “fully-furnished” Constitution, that, though not perfect, is almost complete and could serve already as a solid framework for nation building. God has indeed given us everything. Basically, the second thing lacking in us seems to be sincerity. That’s the reason why we are light years away from the goals we have set in our constitution- and so from progress. But what is sincerity? For me sincerity is not only learning what you ought to learn but doing what you ought to do, as simple as that. For our legislators, they ought to do what the constitutions requires them to do. Or between you and me, when we agreed to meet at nine o’ clock tomorrow, don’t come at twelve or rather tell me straight if you will not come at all! But it seems that we Filipinos have the fondness of making things complicated; we corrupt a simple thought or action habitually and we are now trapped within this system we created ourselves. Yes, it’s true, we have trapped the whole nation. A habitual liar always ends up lying even if in some occasions he really does not have any reason to tell a lie. His habit has trapped him into lying automatically. Our personal interaction is reflected in our national politics. For after all, the individual trees define the quality of the forest. This is the reason why we are having these political problems in our country- its because of you and me. We have bad choices and are not sincere enough. Yes, the truth hurts.
Now, how do we get ourselves out of this trap? How shall we free ourselves from this bondage? “Know thy Self” was the answer of Socrates. Again, to know the forest, we must examine the trees. Or shall we put the whole nation on a couch for a freudian psychoanalysis? Better not. We don’t have to know all our traumas and complexes.
But to remind ourselves about those common Filipino traits and habits that we knew as pupils still help explain where we are today. Here they are again:
Our Major Weaknesses:
1. Utang Na Loob (Debt Of Gratitude). Up to a certain point it is a virtue, but too much is a trap in itself. We Filipinos exaggerated this trait unwittingly believing this was natural to us, hence, good. In truth, this is a colonial residue still overshadowing us. This is not strength but rather a weakness for it is built upon our belief that we were chickens (and not as eagles) as the successive colonizers had forced us to believe. We over-subjugated ourselves in order to survive. We did survive, but heavily damaged from within. This utang na loob made us believe we are of lesser-value than others, prevented from developing that strong consciousness necessary to get out of our miserable situation. The revolutions freed us from the oppressors physically, but the oppressed in us has remained even to date. Applied into our politics, this trait is the nucleus of corruption for this prevents our mind from siding to the ideals of common good but rather reduces it to side with things or with people whom we are indebted to in one way or another. This is partly behind vote buying/selling, or behind the failure of the five pillars of criminal justice, etc.
2. Crab-Mentality. This is what divides us as one people and therefore prevents us from joining hands together in order to build a progressive nation. For instead, we pull each other down out of envy or just plain egoism. Even among bloggers who claim to hate our system, this mentality exists. For each of us choose rather to solo his fight and ends ultimately to nothing. In politics nothing great is accomplished by a lone fighter. This is why our nation doesn’t move forward but rather backwards- like a crab. And a crab with Utang Na Loob is a perfect disaster!
3. Ningas-Cogon. This reinforces the crab in us for this means total retreat after taking a few steps to the front. Politics can achieve something substantial if it is held on a steady course over time. The same way with fighting for a cause. Nothing will happen if we cannot stay and fight to the end. To come and go as you wish is never a big help to your team. With this, nothing shall ever be accomplished or finished to the end.
4. Mañana Habit. This is the reason why everything has been delayed in our country. We push everything for tomorrow, so don’t ask for progress now for with this habit, progress will never be a thing of today but will always be a thing of tomorrow. This habit, combined with ningas-cogon, utang na loob and with the crab on top with bad choice and lacking in sincerity, then you have the perfect picture of the Philippine society of today – and, maybe, of tomorrow.
Our Greatest Strengths:
1. Strong Family Orientation (Family-ties). After all these years, I still consider this trait as our strongest strength for it is the reason behind why the Philippines is still existing even in the face of high migration, internal conflicts, political and economic crises. Filipinos abroad normally still go back home even after years of being away simply because of their loyalty to their family and relatives. This is not class-specific for it is indeed a strong trait observed not only among the poor but even among the affluent Filipino families.
2. Utang Na Loob (Debt Of Gratitude). As mentioned, this is a Filipino strength when kept in proper place (private life), hence doesn’t rob us of our objectivity and correct performance of our duty or public service. This trait shows our thankfulness- or looking back- to people and situations that have touched our lives positively. This is inherent in all other strengths of the Filipinos.
3. Pakikisama (Social Flexibility). Closely related to Pakikiramdam or Pakikipagkapwa-tao, I translate this as social flexibility for this what is all about being a Filipino in a social setting - that of striving for harmony in our interpersonal relationships. This makes us attractive to other nationalities for we can easily connect with them and give them the feeling that we understand and accept them.
4. Endurance. A product of our difficult historical struggles. Extreme social, political and economic problems resulting from colonizations, wars and recurring natural catastrophies have moulded the Filipinos into a strong people when it comes to dealing with difficult situations over an extended period of time. This is the foundation of our patience. Patience is never a natural gift but is a result of experience. With this strength, Filipinos survive difficult situations at home or away from home. Resoluteness is very much related to this, a trait we badly need in our political leadership and for us to counter the ningas-cogon tendency.
This journey to our center was indeed a difficult journey for we have seen that the ills of our society are to be found actually within each of us, thus corruption in our everyday life is just the tip of the iceberg. Now we have ( re-) identified some of our enemies, and since we are determined to fight for progress, this knowledge shall guide us and, hopefully, helps develop in us that needed consciousness, thus making our fight for progress and against poverty more effective. Keep it as you go on your journey to a better society.
Again, to borrow my own favorite phrase, “Bulan deserves a bright future!”.