The courage of hopelessness
Drawing on Italian philosopher Giorgio Agamben’s poignant insight that “thought is the courage of hopelessness,” Slavoj Zizek became one of the most ardent supporters of the Syriza movement in Greece. The radical-leftist populist movement, which came to power amid the complete societal meltdown in Greece, desperately sought to save the besieged nation from intergenerational bankruptcy.
What was unfolding was nothing short of a Greek tragedy on a national scale. Over the past decade, Greece became arguably the first “First World” country to suffer a tragic descent into “Third World” chaos and despair.
Of course, many ridiculed the Syriza-led government’s ill-fated efforts to renegotiate the terms of debt payment with Brussels. And in the end, the forces of status quo triumphed through a humiliating rejection of the Syriza-led government’s proposals. The Greek government was forced to painfully abandon its maverick finance minister, the economist-cum-rock star Georgiou “Yanis” Varoufakis, and accept the European Union’s harsh terms of payment.
But as Zizek points out, it wasn’t Syriza’s naiveté (and misplaced faith in the better nature of fellow European countries) that was at fault. Instead, it was how the “ruling ideology mobilizes… [an] entire arsenal to prevent us from reaching [any] radical conclusion” to our perennial problems, which transcend orthodox solutions.
In many ways, we are facing a similar situation here in the Philippines, except the ones in trouble are not only the radical leftists, but also the liberal democrats.
A look at the senatorial race, the most important in decades, suggests that the opposition (liberal and progressive) might end up getting only one of its bets into office. And Manuel “Mar” Roxas II, a former presidential candidate, multiple-time Cabinet secretary and Senate race valedictorian, may just have to settle for the last few slots in the “Magic 12,” which will likely be populated by the most colorful and controversial figures in political history.
If current trends continue, President Duterte will be in a strong position to turn the entire legislature into a rubberstamp. Suddenly, federalism and constitutional change don’t look as politically fanciful anymore. We may very well look at a new Philippine republic in the coming years, or, who knows, a dynasty. It’s hard to talk about any functioning democracy when the opposition is so systematically marginalized.
But despair is never an option in any democracy, no matter how fragile and close to the edge of the cliff it lies.
And it’s within this backdrop that one should understand the commendable struggles of our own versions of Varoufakis.
Instead of succumbing to resignation and passive lamentation, some of the country’s brightest minds and most courageous souls have sought to challenge the hegemony of the ruling party and, more broadly, the ideology that Randy David calls “Dutertismo.”
These include, inter alia, Chel Diokno and Florin Hilbay, arguably the two brightest minds to have selflessly walked into the treacherous landscape of politics.
There’s also Samira Gutoc Tomawis, who epitomizes the best in the Filipino spirit, a worthy symbol of woman empowerment and the truly enlightened spirit of Islam.
Or think of Gary Alejano, a brave patriot and recipient of the Distinguished Conduct Star, who has never abandoned his post as a legislative guardian in the West Philippine Sea.
Then there are those outside the lion’s den of electoral politics, especially the perennial patriot Associate Justice Antonio Carpio, who has served as the most eloquent voice for our sovereignty and sovereign rights.
And speaking of courage, one can’t help but be awed by the audacious decision of former ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales and foreign secretary Albert del Rosario to file a complaint at the International Criminal Court (ICC) against the most powerful man on earth, Xi Jinping, for alleged crimes of aggression in the West Philippine Sea. With one legal communication, they questioned the Philippines’ withdrawal from the ICC, resurrected the 2016 arbitral tribunal in the West Philippine Sea, and refocused global attention on China’s aggressive revisionism.
Instead of engaging in snobbery and self-satisfied lamentations, these brave souls are risking everything to fight for a better Philippines under the most hopeless conditions imaginable. That is, indeed, true courage that inspires hope.