The big questions
Why does it feel like the sky has fallen? Why does it seem like a juggernaut has passed over the country, obliterating everything good in its path? Is ours so benighted a nation wherein ordinary Filipinos did not consider morality to be at stake in this recent election? Was it useless to hope that human values and decency would conquer the prevailing venality?
Doesn’t that aphorism “Plus ca change plus c’est la meme chose” by Jean-Baptiste Alphonse Karr apply to this country, because the more things change, the more they are the same? In other words, isn’t the old feudal system still firmly in place? Won’t the campaign promises made by the politicos again be jettisoned and their self-serving agendas remain in place? Will the flunkies who hung on to the coattails of those in power become willing collaborators of their patrons’ machinations?
What’s in store for the nation’s future? Will history keep repeating itself, with major tragedies and minor ructions impeding any real progress toward creating a truly civilized society? Or will the general populace be lulled by claims that true freedom reigns and a better life for all is in sight?
Will that grandiose plan for a federated republic supposed to decentralize power throughout the archipelago inevitably crumble, with political dynasties still in place as wives, children, relatives and other clones of the kingpins remain the main players?
Even as crooks and charlatans abound around the world, is it true Philippine politics is so corrupt that even dishonest politicians get screwed? Wasn’t it a given that the administration’s political machine would operate as though on steroids, with large sums of cash circulating among voters during the election campaign? Isn’t this the reason the Philippines ranks near the bottom of the list in the Corruption Perceptions Index of Transparency International, along with Somalia and Afghanistan, among others?
Didn’t Mark Twain say that governments are like underwear that need to be changed regularly? Is this why the stink from the characters in our political dramas are known as smelly old “trapo” (traditional politicians)? And wasn’t it George Carlin who said that politicians complaining about the media are like ship captains complaining about the sea? Indeed, didn’t Donald Trump react to the tidal wave of censure by the citizens who didn’t vote for him by accusing the media of producing fake news? Wasn’t he aped by Rodrigo Duterte who barred some members of his country’s media from his press conferences and threatened to kill those who criticized his policies?
Didn’t Carlin also say that assassination is the extreme form of censorship, which is why Mr. Duterte and his henchmen have exterminated hundreds, even thousands of ordinary folks accused of being involved in drugs? Did they bother to probe deeper to find that most of these victims lived on the fringes of society, trying to escape the misery of their lives by indulging in small amounts of “shabu”?
Hasn’t Mr. Duterte jailed his critics for having shone a light on his crimes and misdeeds? Isn’t that the behavior of other populist leaders abroad who view the media as the enemy of the people? Aren’t too many of our politicians their own worst enemies thanks to their deplorable lack of scruples? Can they not fathom that a functioning democracy cannot survive without a thriving press? Or don’t they care about that major tenet of good governance?
Am I not reminded of radio critic James Nation who declared his dismay over what I once broadcast in a Hong Kong radio station program (when I used to live in that territory)? Didn’t he say in his critique of my talk, “What an astounding view of murder some Filipinos have”? Wasn’t that during the mid-1980s when I aired an essay saying “Filipinos don’t like to say political killings because that has such a nasty ring to it—‘election-related incidents’ sounds much nicer”? Wasn’t he reacting to my satirical description that our political assassinations were “election-related incidents”? Did he perhaps consider that tantamount to describing the 1989 Beijing massacres as “Tiananmen incidents,” like some China lovers had done?
Would Nation be more shocked today over the spike in the numbers of murders prior to our May 13 elections? As a Briton who must look at the Brexit problem in his own country as a tragi-comedy, wouldn’t he find our politics more tragedy than comedy? Will we ourselves sink into despondency over it?
I think not, because the fight must continue.
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Isabel Escoda has been writing for the Inquirer since the 1980s.
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