Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Abellanosa: Elections: Symptom of our diseases

Fringes and frontiers

WE NEED a slap on the face to remind us that the upcoming elections, is not the only solution to our problems. This country has been doing this political exercise for decades. All we have acquired is “learned helplessness” rooted in the belief that the betterment of our lives largely depends on the politicians we vote.

In all honesty, I consider elections not as a means for people to express their power and choice. Let’s be truthful, in a country like the Philippines, people are powerless as they are choice-less in a lot of circumstances that influence their lives. Basically, the so-called people’s choice reflects more of the populace’s needs and inadequacies, not much or not really the core of their substantive freedoms.

If there are any, perhaps only a small proportion of the population, the middle class, who have the time and resource to reflect on their choices. The rest of the populace have always been warm bodies ready for exploitation in this country’s greatest numbers game called elections. That is why I find voters’ education, circles of discernment, and the like, an uphill battle. Practically, they end up as exercises in futility.

Election is therefore not the cure but a symptom of our social cancer. Let’s all stop deluding ourselves that these candidates will sooner or later solve our problems. Good or sweet their slogans may be, still at the end of the day, the whole process is nothing but a game of thrones, a quarrel among those who believe that they are in the better position to control the population.

It is high time that political theorists review their view of elections. We have been telling our students that this country is a democracy. “Democracy” however is a contested concept. I am even beginning to believe, that it is an ideology that we have been using to justify whatever set-up there is that favors those who are in power.

Partly, our problems are traceable to the very days when foreign political mechanisms were transplanted into our system. In a way, we were given some kind of a “social technology” which either we’re not capable of using or truly convinced of its value. Look at most of our politicians, if ever there are people in this country who are least appreciative or aware of democratic values – it is they. But these people who do not have a sense of respect for democracy are the ones using the same ideal to their advantage.

I don’t know the solution and neither is anyone in the better position to tell us what it is. The least that we can do for now, is to remind ourselves of the limitations of this political exercise. We go through it simply because it’s part of the process. But not to the point however of selling our souls to hell or have we killed in defense of our candidates who don’t even know us.

Some, at the very least, would say that our choices are important as they reflect our values. True. This is essentially true. But still, this goes with the reminder that even our choices may fail us in the future, and history no less has been our best teacher on this.

The solutions then of our problems may have to be found or performed beyond elections. Genuine political participation does not end by merely voting – it must survive and outlive the energies we spend for the elections. Change is not only a concept. It is a reality that has to be achieved gradually and sometimes painfully. We need to also consider the importance of supporting social movements, advocacies, and interest groups.

Amidst fire and fury as we move closer to the 2019 Elections, let’s reserve more strength for future political battles.


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