Editorial: Degeneration, over and over

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Sunday, July 6, 2014


IN Plato’s The Republic Book 8, Socrates describes four city-man pairs as the stages of degeneration a just city will become over time. From timocracy to oligarchy to democracy and tyranny, each worse than the other. But reading through its texts and remembering the tyranny of former President Ferdinand E. Marcos, the discussion seem to describe the Philippines as stuck somewhere between the destruction of timocracy to oligarchy, a theme we play over and over again as we discover more and more avaricious accumulation of wealth through illegal means among the leaders and the elites.

“The accumulation of gold in the treasury of private individuals is the ruin of timocracy; they invent illegal modes of expenditure; for what do they or their wives care about the law? “ Socrates said as news about PDAF and DAP and fertilizer and GTZ scams come crashing in our memories.

“And then one, seeing another grow rich, seeks to rival him, and thus the great mass of the citizens become lovers of money,” the text continues.

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“And so they grow richer and richer, and the more they think of making a fortune the less they think of virtue; for when riches and virtue are placed together in the scales of the balance, the one always rises as the other falls… xxx And in proportion as riches and rich men are honored in the State, virtue and the virtuous are dishonored.”

Like Glaucon who is listening to Socrates in this Book, we can only say, “True.”

Of late, we have seen articles and social network posts glorifying Marcos, and those who have experienced the dark years of his regime can only shiver in outrage. Somebody is spinning us tales of a beautiful past, tales meant to entice the young who were not even conceived of much less conceived in Marcos’ time. From 1986 to 2014 are millions who turned 18 and thus are eligible to vote. The spin is for them. It is up to us, who still remember, to bring back history and show how it really was, and not the golden memories of Marco’s brilliant mind. For indeed, he was brilliant. But more than that, he was tyrannical made more so by his minions who were not above curtailing a human right or two.

In his 21-year rule, he went from timocracy to oligarchy to democracy and tyranny as cronies grew in numbers and power. Now, we’re stuck in a state that is fully described in all, but specifically in the phase where it is starting to degenerate. For what virtue can ever survive when billions of pesos are up for the taking of those in power and within reach of power.

It is for us to say, never again. But we can only do so with well-educated masses. Guess what? From the looks of it – public education system, telenovelas, and mainstream news coverage included -- we are really stuck.

Published in the Sun.Star Davao newspaper on July 07, 2014.

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