A world in turmoil
There’s a lot of divisiveness happening among the citizens of many countries nowadays. This has been due to the rise of leaders around the world who foment conflict based on race, religion, gender, or against vulnerable classes of people.
Many of these leaders use abrasive language to silence defiant voices, and resort to bad manners to shock the status quo. They flout or weaken pillars of democracy like the media, civil society, judiciary, legislature and opposition parties. They employ strongman powers to bamboozle their adversaries.
By reading or watching the news daily, one gets the feeling that the world is in so much turmoil because of the discord caused by these leaders. During the Cold War, the conflicts were mostly between countries. Now, the tensions are internal among the citizens of countries where this breed of leaders have taken over the levers of power.
There’s US President Donald Trump who has made immigrants scapegoats for all the problems of America. There’s Turkish President Recep Erdogan who exploits Islam and nationalism to neutralize his political opponents.
There’s Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro who makes statements that are violence-inciting, misogynistic, racist, or antirefugee. There’s our very own President Duterte who has bad-mouthed everyone except his mother.
Leaders of this mold have also emerged or are emerging in France, Italy, the Netherlands, Australia, Hungary, Germany, Austria, among others. Add these countries to the rank of nations under totalitarian regimes, and a picture of a world that has grown more perilous emerges.
When the communist bloc of European governments collapsed in the 1980s and 1990s, there was an ostensible dash to form democratic governments in those countries. Developing countries that ousted their dictators like the Philippines also trumpeted their professed shift to democracy.
However, the dysfunctional democracies that emerged in so many of these countries caused widespread disillusionment. Disenchanted citizens have begun electing deceptively labeled “populist” leaders who prey on people’s frustration with the status quo by blame-shaming the ruling class.
What caused the people’s disenchantment with the type of democratic government that preceded the rule of populist leaders?
It is a variety of representative government that has fragments of democracy for its outer shell, but its core is plagued with these afflictions: it is controlled by politicians who make rosy promises that are never fulfilled; it is ruled by leaders addicted to corrupt practices, and; it is governed by officials in bed with favored businessmen who monopolize the country’s economic gains. It is a government that adopts policies that never dent generational poverty, and all the problems that destitution spawns like ignorance, mendicancy and exploitation.
But the so-called populist leaders are themselves bringing superficial changes to the dysfunctional governments they inherited, without removing the structures of inequality and injustice embedded in their societies. They are no different from the traditional politicians they replaced. Sooner or later therefore, these so-called populist leaders will also disappoint the people.
How soon or how late will it take for Filipinos to realize that change is not coming under the Duterte administration?
On one hand, we see that the overwhelming support for President Duterte remains unchanged notwithstanding the unending scandals he himself inflicts on his own administration. This reveals the deep-seated disenchantment of the people with the dysfunctional democracy of past administrations. On the other hand, the President’s avid supporters will eventually realize that the traditional politicians they passionately hated in previous administrations have been taken by Mr. Duterte under his fold and he has fostered them to continue with their crooked ways.
Will the Philippines wander for 40 years in the wilderness before it reaches the proverbial promised land? The answer lies in the hands of every Filipino.
Comments to [email protected]
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.