Wherever I look, I see political animals.
Foremost among them are the crocodiles, revered and reviled, as fascinating as they are frightening. Known for their greed and voracious appetite, they feed on pork and whatever — or whoever — is offered them. They may well be chameleons, too, changing colors on demand, from yellow to red, red to yellow — red of patriotism to red of bloody streets; green of environmentalism to green of greed; darkness to light, light to darkness.
Then there are the attack dogs, willing to jump on any prey upon their master’s bidding. Skeletons in their closet — not just bones to fetch — keep them in check; like the crocodiles, they feed on pork, too. Though ferocious against their enemies, they can also be lapdogs: docile, subservient, wagging their tails for fame, panting for power.
Of course, there are watchdogs that go against attack dogs, hence the inevitable and thrilling dogfights. Some watchdogs bark loud enough to wake us up from stupor. But beware of watchdogs, too: Not all of them can be relied upon. Some have fought valiantly against corruption, but now wear a very different collar.
I also see kangaroo courts, of animals characterized not by the extent of their erudition but by the depth of their pockets. Then there are sacred cows that no crocodile would devour, no attack dog would bite, no kangaroo would leap upon.
From time to time, we also encounter scapegoats, poor animals used to divert attention from pressing matters—or limit the damage from scandal. Then there are sacrificial lambs, young, helpless, innocent, slaughtered in the name of progress and nation.
As if we haven’t had enough, we also have to deal with monkey business, conducted in the corridors of power. Some, when caught flat-footed, manage to escape by aping love for country, or by shedding crocodile tears.
I don’t know if there are cats among them, but many political animals seem to have nine lives. Immune from allegations of corruption, charges of sedition, or staged assassinations, they manage to resurrect themselves from political graveyards. And just as the deaths of sacrificial lambs are taken as proof of their guilt, they present their longevity as proof of their righteousness.
If the political safari is replete with reptiles and mammals, birds are not far away. We know this from the parroting of untruths and the tweeting of hate that go on every day. We also know this from our seeming propensity for wild goose chases.
Most nations have hawks that want us to fight our enemies, and doves that call for peace. We, too, have a mix of them, but alas, some of them chicken out in the face of adversity, conceding our islands not with a coo or a cock-a-doodle-doo, but with a kowtow.
Finally, beyond vertebrates, there are also undefined “spineless” creatures: those who do not have the courage to stand up for their convictions. Caught in the spider’s web of corruption, yet seemingly able to liberate themselves at will, some of them are political butterflies.
Aristotle once said that “man, by nature, is a political animal,” and if that were the case, what of the rest of us? Broadening my gaze, I also see lowly carabaos, beasts of burden made to toil every day, plodding through the daily commutes, made to bear the weight of our nation’s troubled history: the true milking cows of our socially unjust system. I see sheep without a shepherd, being led astray, fed with fake news and false promises.
Even so, I refuse to lose hope. Sacrificial lambs may yet awaken our conscience, eagles may yet soar, crocodiles may yet destroy themselves in their internecine struggles. And some, however endangered or hunted down, may yet help us in times of dire need. Indeed, I think they are among us.
For now, however, the “law of the jungle” reigns—one that calls for much vigilance. Some say we should especially beware of prowling nighttime predators; others say we should keep our institutions from going to the dogs. But of all the political animals, there is one species that worries me the most: the wolves in sheep’s clothing.
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