“Noynoying” IS how the students call it, the art of doing nothing. It has found itself in Wikipedia, the entry probably submitted by its practitioners themselves, and is defined as “an effortless pose, or activity consisting of sitting or standing around, in an unconcerned manner.” The youthful demonstrators have been doing—or not doing?—it of late. In lieu of shouting their heads off or doing things calculated to provoke antiriot cops, they’ve been lying on the streets, sitting and yawning, and affecting various poses of repose and/or expressions of boredom.
Give them credit for creativity. But it’s a horrendous contretemps. At the very least it’s terribly unfortunate because it’s coming from a camp that supported Manny Villar in the last presidential election. That doesn’t just raise questions about the impartiality of the criticism, it raises questions about the quality of thinking of a group whose radicalism has now been reduced to radically going to bed with exponents of trapo politics. What are they saying? Had Villar won, he would have brought down oil prices, built houses for the masa, plucked the poor from drowning in a churning flood of blight and garbage? Had Villar won, would they have cried out, “Manny is the root of all evil”?
But more than that, it’s so because it comes at a particularly bad time, which is in the thick of the impeachment trial of Renato Corona. My unstinting support for P-Noy in recent months, after being critical of him last year, owes to the fact that he is the one president who has showed an overwhelming resolve to fight corruption. No other president has done so, not even Cory. If people, like myself, had wondered whether or not “’pag walang corrupt, walang mahirap” was just a campaign line, his actions since stopping Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo from leaving the country last November would have put it to rest. He is so determined to bring Arroyo to justice he has taken on the very institutions that stand in the way of it. The Supreme Court is one of them. Renato Corona is chief of them.
It’s a pretty heroic effort, it’s a pretty epic undertaking. Which is what makes “Noynoying” particularly out of sync. Which is what makes “Noynoying” particularly out of tune. Or as the Tagalog puts it, sintunado.
Unless, of course, which is really what makes it worse, the argument is that fighting corruption is either irrelevant or superficial in light of “more important, more vital, more urgent things to do.”
That merely falls into the trap of the Arroyo camp’s own line of defense for her, or line of offense against P-Noy. That’s what they’ve been saying all this time: P-Noy has been so obsessed with prosecuting Arroyo—or indeed persecuting Arroyo—he has forgotten everything else. Everything else including improving the economy, including rescuing the poor from their dire straits. Better Arroyo who, whatever her faults, steered the economy to safe harbor amid the stormy seas of a global recession.
That alone should show what’s so wrong with it: You end up with those delusions. No, more than that, you end up with the proposition that life was so much better during Marcos’ time than Cory’s, during Arroyo’s time than P-Noy’s. When in fact no two leaders more devastated the economy than Marcos and Arroyo, no two leaders more made the poor desperate, never mind poorer, than Marcos and Arroyo, no two leaders more plucked the morsel the hungry were shoving into their mouths than Marcos and Arroyo.
The argument springs from two premises, both fallacies. One is that fighting corruption takes away from fighting poverty. Two is that fighting corruption is not as important as fighting poverty.
Why should fighting corruption take away from fighting poverty? It is the sine qua non of it. It is the one thing that guarantees it. How else will you have government officials who bother to think about the poor if the prevalence of corruption encourages them to think only of how they may profit from their positions? How else will you entice investors, other than the thoroughly unsavory kind who wouldn’t mind colluding with crooked officials to despoil the land and people, when you are asking them to entrust their money with crooks? How else will you get the people to agree to tighten their belts, or make enormous sacrifices for the common good, if they see that the good is by no means common, it goes only to a few, the bad is the only thing so common to them it is their lot in life?
Corruption isn’t just stealing money, it is a culture that seeps through every pore of public life and poisons it. It is the culture of impunity that says that crime does pay, good guys finish last, honesty is the best way to starve your family. It is a culture that sees government as a return on investment, you did not spend a fortune to become a senator or congressman or hustle your way to a position in the Cabinet or the Supreme Court just so you could earn public-servant pay while enjoying the privilege of serving the people. It is a culture of lying, cheating, and stealing, and if necessary murdering to secure power and cling to it.
How in heaven’s name can you even begin to think to fight poverty, never mind taking the first step in that direction, in that toxic atmosphere, in that alien planet? What on earth could be more important than stopping that?
Of course impeaching Corona won’t solve everything, of course prosecuting Gloria won’t solve everything. Why should they? But they’ll go a long way toward solving a great many things. Not least of them improving the economy, not least of them lessening poverty. It is the first step in the journey of a thousand miles. The others are just going in circles. The others are just stepping backward.
The others are just, well, annoying.