We… The Circus?
Ireland is experiencing a shortage of clowns.
This was trivia tweeted in late September. The response to it was universal: does Ireland want our politicians? We can send them over!
It’s a response that rings truer each day as the Philippines heads toward the 2022 elections. A former activist lawyer joins the senatorial slate of the son of the former dictator. A current senator withdraws his candidacy for president. Arroyo, Duterte, Estrada, and Marcos come together to form a mega-clan of political families, all with the purpose of backing the Marcos Jr./Duterte Jr. tandem.
This coalition boasts that it has the majority, and points to the shouts of the many crowds that greet it. Vox populi, vox Dei; the voice of the people is the voice of God.
But wait … which people and which God?
The Latin phrase has been invoked so often that it is in danger of being misused. It appears to allude to Cicero’s idea of the people with a voice. However, Cicero was not talking about all people and just any voice: His concept was reserved for those who carried out clear and informed argumentation, at venues that allowed introspection and reflection. The first known use of the actual phrase is in a letter to Charlemagne by Alcuin: “And those people should not be listened to who keep saying the voice of the people is the voice of God, since the riotousness of the crowd is always very close to madness.”
The key, then, is not to simply believe in the crowds. Instead, there is a need to critically examine anyone who claims to be the majority. What exactly is this group doing that must merit a vote, regardless of how many people appear to support it?
This so-called “UniTeam” is led by politicians who promise to pull the country out of poverty, but have yet to answer charges of tax evasion, produce tangible proof of their education, or demonstrate ability to govern on the national level. This super-party has led caravans across bridges for dramatic meetings, or through a major highway where it held up traffic for hours. The voice of the people is assumed to be shouts, honking horns, crowds scrambling over each other for free t-shirts.
But what about the people handing out hot rice porridge? The people putting together meal packs for poor families? The people creating pink Christmas lanterns and selling them for charity? The supporters cleaning up parks, organizing free rides, listening to citizens who are not online? Are their voices any less loud because they aren’t shouting into a microphone? Are they any less united because they aren’t publicly signing coalition agreements?
The “UniTeam” seems to be yet another group that expects its followers to speak with one voice and espouse one belief. There is no space for dissent, no room for divergent thinking that will allow us to examine the many facets of our problems, no allowance for differing opinions that will help us have actual representation in government. This is not unity in diversity, or unity in allowing different groups with disparate interests to work together. This is a coalition that builds walls to close its ranks, and then delights in division.
This “UniTeam” has simply shown that it can attract attention, inconvenience motorists, and put people at risk during a pandemic. The caravan was not a show of support; it was a demonstration of how the candidates could manipulate crowds and exploit the desperation of people, and it sets a frightening scenario of what we can expect should we allow these candidates to win. To allow them space in our political arena would mean that we would willingly submit to be their monkeys, to play their games, to listen to the lies of a so-called voice of the people.
If we allow this to happen, then they are not the circus.
And we will continue to be the circus if we simply fall for the noise instead of recognizing the work of those who do good things quietly, who inspire many to goodness in silence.
Our vote is only the voice of God when it remembers history and accepts the truth: that we the people are not playthings for politicians. We will not be followers of a caravan whose red colors speak so clearly of the bloodshed during the Marcos dictatorship. We are people with dignity and compassion, and we will not fall for the madness of a circus yet again.
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