There’s the Rub

Young

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Miriam Defensor-Santiago had an interesting piece of advice for voters on the eve of elections. Don’t vote old, vote young.

“I want young people in the Senate. I don’t like septuagenarians who are actually campaigning for wheelchairs. I’ve never loved these characters who live in a time warp.”

The reports said she had people like Ernesto Maceda and Jun Magsaysay in mind in her category of old or septuagenarian. But it’s not hard to see that the real target of her diatribe isn’t running at all. Who is of course the almost nonagenarian Juan Ponce Enrile. It’s Enrile Miriam has a running feud with, the Senate president she accused of using taxpayer money to reward his favorite senators, and who in turn—or at least his subaltern, Ping Lacson, did—accused her of being a “crusading crook.” All of whom make you feel old just by looking, and listening, to them. All of whom give you whole new insights into the meaning of “old” or “septuagenarian.”

But of course you ought to vote young and not old. But of course you should embrace the sprightly and not the doddering. But so in ways that have to do with the spiritual and not the physical. So in ways that have to do with the mental and not the chronological. So in ways that have to do with outlook and not with lookout—for oneself above all others.

In any case, even from a chronological viewpoint, “old” and “young” are relative terms. The senators in particular may be categorized as young only in relation to the ancient among them. The minimum age to run for senator to begin with is 35, which is not young at all to the majority of this country’s voters who are well below that. The presumption of course is that 35 and above offer a reasonable guarantee of maturity. The reality in fact, particularly for those who have gone on into politics, which remains predominantly trapo politics, patronage politics, personality politics, is that 35 and above offer only reasonable presumption of corruptibility.

But that’s just superficial. You want to see young and old, look more closely at the senatorial candidates.

Miriam is wrong: Magsaysay is not one of the oldest senatorial candidates, he is one of the youngest. The proud son of a proud father, he never allowed the Magsaysay name—he carries his father’s name—to be tarnished by scandal during his two terms in the Senate. On the contrary, he exerted himself to push back corruption and wrongdoing, bolting Gloria Arroyo’s party when her legitimacy came into question, and hounding Joc-Joc Bolante for the fertilizer scam. He has lived simply, like his father, content to do what is right without drawing attention to it, without a photographer in tow to document his pa-pogi moments.

People like that do not grow old, they remain young. Hell, people like that do not age, they youth-en. Or they get better with age, like wine.

And contrary to popular opinion, or to outward appearances, Migz Zubiri is not young, he is ancient. He it is who stole four years of the (political) life of Koko Pimentel. Later, when he stood to be exposed, or indicted, for electoral fraud, he gave up his post saying if there was cheating he never knew about it but that he would willingly part with the rest of his term out of self-sacrifice. Self-sacrifice, my foot! Pimentel is right to sing John Lennon’s song: “Imagine there’s no cheating.”

People like that are not young, they are decrepit. They do not bathe in the fountain of youth, they corrode in the waters of age. Or like Dorian Gray, they look young on the outside but are crumbling on the inside.

The candidates of UNA are not young, certainly not Jackie Enrile, whatever age he is at right now. The leaders of UNA are not young, they are as old as the stony face of Marcos in Agoo, furrowed by time, raining tears of blood. Some things stem cell cannot stem. Decrepitude from a lifetime of wrongdoing, decay from a lifetime of crookedness, hollowness from a lifetime of oppressing others are so.

Unfortunately, neither are all the candidates of Team PNoy young. Bam is so, Loren is not. Risa is so, Cynthia is not. Jun is so, Jamby is not. Nor indeed are the other leaders of Team PNoy, or indeed of the Liberal Party. People who never understood that the volunteers and not they brought P-Noy to power. Who do not understand that the people themselves and not they are the movers of history. They are as old as the craving for power, they are as old as vaulting ambition. Shakespeare is right: Ambition should be made of sterner stuff.

Who are young? I’d imagine the candidates of Ang Kapatiran are young. I’d imagine Teddy Casiño is young. They are capable of dreaming impossible dreams, they are capable of pursuing impossible dreams. Despite the derisive comments that they are deluded to run, despite the taunts that they cannot possibly win. And I’d imagine the voters who will vote for them are young, they figure the people who waste their votes are those who vote for candidates just because others are doing so and not because they want to. Nothing is more retarded, or age-inducing, than having the power to change the world—the vote gives you that—and not knowing you do.

Old is not an age, it is a state of mind. It is not the fullness of the years that makes you old, it is the lack of fullness in those years that makes you old. Or it is not the weight of the years that makes you decompose, it is the emptiness of those years that makes you decompose. And youth is not an age, it is a state grace. It is not the bearable lack of years that makes you young, it is the unbearable lightness of being that makes you young. Or it is not having so little past to look back on that makes you young, it is having so much future to look forward to that makes you young.

Good advice these elections: Vote young, not old.

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