Philippine politics is like the same badly-written script being played by different actors every year. An actor could play different roles over a number of runs. Different roles could put an actor at different vantage points and require him or her to apply a different internalisation routine to play the part well. The trouble with being just an actor, though, is that the script remains an absolutely inaccessible aspect of the production. No matter what part an actor plays, the outcome the plot yields will ultimately always be the same. The similarity between the theatre and Philippine politics ends there. In Philippine politics where all of us are mere actors, we can, unlike the actor in that metaphorical play, influence the script and the outcome of the plot. We just need to be able to think beyond the actor’s frame of mind.
I was recently in an email exchange with a good friend of mine. We were discussing an acquaintance of mine who I shall call Kevin. Despite having converted from being a supporter of Noynoy Aquino to another presidential candidate, Kevin still took offense at the way we in AntiPinoy.com continued highlighting some unsavory cultural traits of the Filipino — traits which explain Noynoy’s enduring appeal to the typical Pinoy. And all the while I was under the impression that a glimmer of enlightenment in Kevin’s mind had sparked his miraculous conversion away from a candidate who is primitivism embodied!
It did not seem to occur to Kevin that it is precisely these cultural traits that we keep bagging here in AntiPinoy.com and our other associated sites that predispose many of us to support a no-substance candidate like Noynoy Aquino. That good friend of mine wrote the following insightful paragraph in the course of discussing Kevin. I thought I’d share it because it so succinctly captured an important observation about the way Filipinos position themselves in their politics:
When one limits one’s own power of critical thought to give undue reverence to one’s own culture, exempting it from questioning, deifying its authority, and excusing its weaknesses, then whatever edifice you try to erect over said culture could not be sustained considerably, especially given the onslaught of adversity to which every culture and civilization is subject. Trying to erect a system [in an environment] without critically considering [said environment’s] culture is like trying to build a tower over a weak foundation–no matter how strong and straight you try to make the tower as, it will lean or may even crumble.
After reading the above passage quoted above, it kind of hit me that perhaps even if Kevin had seen at some level the stupidity in supporting a presidential candidate such as Noynoy, the rationale he had applied in his converting to another candidate did not run as deeply as I had foolishly expected in people who defect from the Noynoy camp. Indeed, today just happens to be a day that an election campaign is on-going in the Philippines. Regardless of whether there was an on-going election campaign or not, we’d still be writing about the issues through the lens of Filipino cultural dysfunction. If there was no election that happened to be on-going right now, somebody or something else would serve as the posterboy or embodiment that we’d use as a baseline against which we could measure what Filipinos could rise up from. Efren Penaflorida happened to fill that role for us at some point not too long ago, for example. So did Erap back in the late 90’s. It is not only people that serve as convenient whipping boys for illustrating our insights. Things like jeepneys, ocho-ocho revolutions, and other artifacts of Da Pinoy Condition were also used as symbols of what make Filipinos so world-class at failing. Indeed, there are many noted people and things in our society and culture that are each able to encapsulate the awful As Is State that we need to aspire to transition away from in order to advance.
Today we are at the homestretch of an election campaign going on in the Philippines right now — and Noynoy Aquino, poor sod that he is, happens to be the current artifact we are using as a convenient example of what we Filipinos should rise up from. Tough luck, sir. Ikaw ang taya. Noynoy Aquino represents a breed of politician that so fully reflects the As Is State of Philippine politics. We need to transition from that kind of politics in order for us to become the sort of democratic society we aspire to be — fair, transparent, intelligent, mature, and results-oriented.
Kevin is an example of a person who changed his fashion sense but failed to become fashionable in a deeper sense. By shifting to another candidate without having a deep enough rationale for doing so, he built a tower on shaky ground. The Presidency can be seen as a tower we are building on our society. But we as a people need to work on the foundation of this tower. We need to be better at seeing how our very character as a people and a society can easily undermine the Presidency no matter who happens to be dispensing its services. We did the same thing on a macro level when we adopted American-style “democracy” as our form of government. We may conduct the elections and have the institutions — in short, go through the motions — but can anyone say with a straight face today that we are in a profound sense a truly democratic people?
Seeing Noynoy Aquino for the mistake that he is comprises only the first step in what is really a long journey that our nation needs to take in order for it to take its place among the truly great democracies of our world. Much of the rest of the journey involves us learning to see beyond the politics for solutions. The solutions do not lie in our politics nor the actors who play different roles in it. The solution lies in the nature of the script — the very codification of our the DNA of our society, our culture. If we do not develop our solutions from the ground-up starting with our culture, no Philippine Presidency will ever stand tall.