Are we a people fixated on the past (retrospective) or focused on the future (prospective)? The way that we as a people seem inclined to regard the coming 2010 presidential election provides some insight into how we might answer that question.
We seem to be generally retrospective in the way we evaluate our candidates. The thing with being retrospective in our evaluation is that it is easy. Data is readily available. As such retrospective approaches to evaluating political candidates abound on the Web. The retrospective approach is so prevalent that it utterly dominates the national “debate”. I have classified these into two Type categories:
TYPE 1: The curriculum vitae (or resume) approach
A most recent example of this kind of outlook is MLQ3‘s blog “Comparative records” where a “comparative chart” of candidates’ backgrounds is built around education, pre-profession, military service, and judicial, legislative, and executive experience. It is quite a comprehensive stocktake of politicians’ professional backrounds and supposedly is provided “so that readers can take a look at past presidential biodatas, for the purpose of evaluating those seeking the presidency in 2010”.
Previous to that (and I later hazard a bit of speculation around the motive behind the publication of this article), is Manuel Buencamino‘s “Noynoy’s record” on Filipinovoices.com which is lifted (as I said, it’s easy) from “the blog of Carlos Celdran“.
As I said, I take a bit of speculative liberty to suppose that all this was presented in a lame attempt to counter that candidate’s glaring lack of a platform of any consequence. I clarify that observation with a bit of detail in a comment I made there:
Here is the “platform” section of Noynoy’s website (shout a little yodel into the page and you might hear an echo), and two recent articles (here and here) published by the PCIJ describing his background, not to mention that on-line CV Buencamino built for his manok (he calls it a “track record”. I wonder why the word “platform” is nowhere to be seen there in all of those. Hey wait! Perhaps it is because they are all no more than descriptions of, well, track records and backgrounds, and NOT really the elusive platform that everyone is holding their breath for.
Lots of information, to be sure. But nothing that tells us anything about how any candidate plans to govern and lead.
Give me something real to work with, folks!
TYPE 2: The brand equity approach
This one is easier than easy as it draws upon basic marketing and brand management principles to make an assault on very primitive human thinking faculties. Build upon recognisable symbols that ellicit powerful emotional responses — the crucifix, the hammer-and-sickle, the swastika, “L”-shaped hand gesture, and the colour yellow.
Indeed, the strategy makes easy pickin’s on the vacuous mind because, as the venerable Conrado de Quiros writes in his recent blurb defending his Good-vs-Evil pitch for his manok:
It’s not just Filipinos who think that way. The power of myth, symbol, archetype—chief of which is the storyline of Good vs Evil—overwhelms every race, creed and belief.
De Quiros, in that article, was also not above invoking that eh bakit sila? appeal that works wonders in a society still suffering from its famously debilitating brand of colonial mentality:
That was the storyline of the recent American elections. Barack Obama didn’t just represent an “alternative” to George W. Bush, he represented an end to centuries-old oppression, breathtakingly embodied by Bush. He represented the long journey of Kunta Kinte to freedom, armed with Martin Luther King’s dream, “We shall overcome.” If he did not, he would not have brought tears to the eyes of the Rev. Jesse Jackson and Oprah Winfrey when he won. If he did not, he would not have won.
You know what, anak? Just because you occassionally see mommy and daddy naked in bed does not make it right for you to do the same with your schoolmates.
The whole trouble with de Quiros’s comparing a primitive society with an advanced society along those limited lines is that he ignores a whole range of advantages — in culturally-ingrained thinking approaches, general quality of education received, and overall maturity — in, well, advantaged societies, that contribute to mitigating unbridled human nature. While driving a car, a sixteen-year-old may share with a thirty-year-old a primal need-for-speed. But between the two, who would you think would possess the presence of mind and sense of responsibility to overcome that primal need?
Deductive vs inductive evaluation
De Quiros’s and his ilk’s approach to thinking is the worst kind of deductive thinking — one based on incomplete data or information that is deliberately framed along narrow lines. It is the kind that routinely adds to the ballooning miseries of this world — from the assumptions made based on historic “trends” that resulted in horrific financial crashes to the it-can’t-happen-again attitude that characterises the safety strategy of the Philippines’ passenger shipping industry.
In the above examples I cited, incomplete bases are proposed for voters, pundits, and “experts” to make a deductive analyses of how a candidate may perform in office. And that’s me being a bit generous, because the latter type (the Brand Equity Approach) barely fits the criteria for any kind of thinking for that matter (I lower the bar a bit in consideration of the Philippine context of this article). It’s like reading about how Germany and Japan started World War II and then concluding that World War III will most likely be started by those two countries.
In light of the above, the question then for The Filipino Voter is this:
Are you going to vote on the basis of what a candidate was or what past events he/she is associated with? Or are you going to vote based on what a candidate envisions the future to hold for us?
Why be content with deducing the future from a candidate’s background and past performance when we, as voters, can DEMAND that they clearly articulate their vision for us in unambiguous terms.
Simply put: Platform, plez™.
With a platform available to the public, voters can take a more inductive approach to evaluating a candidates vying for public office by:
(1) examining the platform; and then,
(2) validating its consistency with past performance; and,
(3) using it as a talking point in intelligent dialogue with said candidate.
Unlike a lot of other people in the country, bloggers have the opportunity to sit down and talk to politicians for a lengthy amount of time and discuss literally anything under the sun. Even traditional press people only have a few minutes when it comes to press conferences. In blogger events we usually extend to hours upon hours. I fondly remember the blogger event with Senator Mar Roxas. It was supposed to have been a 5:30PM-6:30PM engagement, but we ended up closing discussions at almost around 8:30PM. I’ve been to blogger events with Senator Villar and Senator Escudero and it’s pretty much the same as well. We always end up extending.
Ika nga ni Uncle Ben, “with great power comes great responsibility”. Fellow bloggers, you have a voice. I urge you to use it. Stop being passive and actively take part of nation building by pushing for candidates who share the same values and agenda that you hold dear.
However, I believe that the effectiveness of such events, for that matter, the whole process of engaging with our politicians lies in their providing us with a proposal as to how they plan to work for us.
The challenge for us is to become more forward-looking in our regard for our national fortunes and therefore become more prospective in our approach to evaluating options — whether they be aspirants for public office or options around the way we plan to conduct ourselves.
The next election is not about good and evil. This is where the Philippines is. It stands on a crossroad between embracing a new frontier or to remain standing still. It is a choice between ending the quarrel of our past and present or continuing on the same tired path. The election of 2010 is a War between The Armies of Cynicism and Pragmatism versus The Forces of Hope and Willpower in an epic battle for Tomorrow.