WHEN I look at certain periods in human history, I am reminded of waves. Or tsunamis if you will. The character of a certain period sweeps from one end of the globe to the other, changing it, like waves or tsunamis would.
I was reminded of this when I surfed the net and read this CNN article about Brexit as harbinger of a Donald Trump triumph in the United States presidential polls this November. Yesterday, a CNN television program had the host noting the similarities in the issues raised in the US presidential campaign to those raised by Britons who voted to pry away the United Kingdom from the European Union.
Then I remembered our own politics. During the campaign period for the May 9 polls, didn’t we consider then presidential candidate Rodrigo Duterte as the Philippines’ own Donald Trump? What makes this interesting is that Duterte won and will be inaugurated as this country’s next president on June 30. Meaning that most of the 16 million Filipinos who voted for him share his line of thinking.
But I am going ahead of my story. When I was younger I thought like students usually do, obsessing myself with the alpha and the omega of human life, nature and the cosmos. When I got into activism the focus was on society and revolution. It was around this time when I asked whether it was just mere coincidence that at the time when then president Ferdinand Marcos transformed himself into a dictator, countries similarly situated in Asia, South America and Africa were ruled by dictators.
Copycat leaders? Or were these dictators mere products, or more properly merely rode on the crest, of a political wave that
swept the globe at that period in history?
A few decades after that came the wave that saw people toppling authoritarian rule everywhere. Filipinos who ousted the Marcos dictatorship via the 1986 Edsa people power uprising led that wave. The biggest casualty of that wave was the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, which disintegrated as people in states forcibly placed under Soviet rule revolted. That wave would usher in later the Arab Spring in the Middle East.
Are we about to see a new kind of wave sweep the globe?
We don’t know if Brexit is an aberration or an articulation of the new way of thinking of the world’s peoples. Would Brexit usher in the disintegration of the European Union? Does it reflect the thinking of the majority in the US and mean that the “free world” would be led soon by a controversial figure in Donald Trump?
Closer to home, was Duterte’s win encompassed by this new wave of thinking that had people upsetting the establishment and widely-accepted notions of governance? Duterte and Trump are everything many traditional politicians are not. They do not follow conventions and even seem to relish in breaking them. Brexit, meanwhile, is seen as a backlash to the distant kind of leadership practiced by European Union officials.
Trump described Brexit as the British taking back their country, which is in line with the conservative program he is peddling to the people in the US. I don’t know if our politicians studied the lessons from Duterte’s triumph here. Was it a result of a well-crafted and executed campaign or was it an articulation of the Filipinos’ frustration with the establishment? Does Duterte understand the thinking and expectations underlying these frustrations? And will he be able to satisfy them?