Fiesta Charter Change:
Politicised Hope

04 May 2006

No matter how much or how many instances of political change we have seen in the last 50 years, the condition of the average Filipino has not changed fundamentally. We therefore conclude that politics have failed us and that our society has failed to prosper because of politics.

This is a truism that most Filipinos are quite comfy with.

As we sit and watch the Fiesta Cha-Cha (charter change) train wreck unfold before our very eyes, one wonders how a society that fancies itself to be one that is utterly dis-illusioned with politics, once again, finds itself transfixed on this new drama which is grabbing prime media headlines and airtime. Could it be that the whole fundamental issue behind the failure of our society to move forward is our over-reliance on political solutions? We see Fiesta Cha-Cha or -- for that matter, each and any political event, whether they be elections or more fiesta revolutions -- as critical crossroads in the destiny of the nation. The whole society stops and waits to see what the next political upheaval will yield, and postpones any on-going effort to push on towards a tangible objective.

We have all but politicised our shot at prosperity.

Charles Murray in his book Human Accomplishment provided examples of how some of the most significant milestones in human progress were conceptualised and executed in times and environments of seemingly insurmountable instability. Or more specifically, that circumstances of civil unrest or even war had a very weak correlation with the propensity of a society to achieve or produce achievers. In his conclusion derived after a rigorous statistical analysis of human achievement from 800 B.C. to 1950, Murray wrote that;

The effect [of war and civil unrest] was small, isolated, and not robust -- probably meaningless, in other words. Taken together [...] war and civil unrest had no important consistent relationship to human accomplishment [...]

It could imply that societies that have in them an inherent ability to overcome challenges will progress despite rather than because of its environment. It is the converse of the blame politics tenet around which Filipino cynicism towards poltics is built around.

Thus, fundamental change at the grassroots level can be achieved regardless of the foolishness going on in a country's politics.

The achievements of the Filipino-Chinese community lends some credence to this counter-intuitive idea. The conditions and status of the Filipino-Chinese community have in fact changed fundamentally in the last 50 years. Once mere taho vendors and small shopkeepers, they are now captains of Philippine industry. From Third class citizens to First class citizens. And this change happened even as Philippine politics continued to stumble along from one rut to another. The same cannot be said of the larger Filipino people. The Philippines is not only still a Third World nation, it is amongst the least-promising of the lot -- a far cry from the shining graduate of American colonialism that it was back in 1946.

If the Japanese or South Koreans had sat around 50 to 60 years ago complaining how bombed-out, resource poor, or American-meddled their respective countries were rather than quietly sticking to the task of building and re-building their nations, would they be the powerful producers, traders, and money lenders that they are today? Bombed out infrastructure, an entire collective psyche smarting from defeat, occupation by a foreign power, and/or a rude political and geographic breakup are hands down more formidable hindrances to development than a dysfunctional political system infested by idiot politicians (who, lest we forget, were elected to office by popular vote). Yet here we are pinning all of our hopes for our future on the go/no-go decision of yet another political "solution" despite having already acknowledged in the last ten years that political happenings hardly ever make any difference to the day-to-day (or even year-to-year) lives of ordinary Filipinos.

Clearly, we as a people are addicted to the reassurance that there will always be politics to blame for our failure to prosper. Otherwise we would have long ignored the quaint publicity stunts of our politicians and put greater focus on the actual issues that are relevant to our efforts to prosper as a nation. Our grasp of these issues would have then framed our regard for politics and our approach to appointing our representatives in government. Instead we are today pathetically imprisoned by our dependence on politics to determine the destiny of the nation.

Instead of shaping our prospects for prosperity around politics, maybe we should shape our politics around our own (maybe still-to-be-formulated) objectives to prosper.

The pointlessness of any reliance on political messiahs in Philippine society is illustrated by a typical Philippine traffic situation that happened to be cited in an editorial. Of several police officers that happened to be overseeing this situation, the editorial stated that:

None of them moved to apprehend any of the offending drivers, even as they cut into the right lane from the opposite side right in front of them. And when one exasperated motorist demanded to know why they were not citing anyone for violating traffic, guess what one policeman screamed in reply? "Go, and arrest them yourself!"

It is a microcosm of Philippine society -- an unruly mob governed by an unruly oligarchy. In any game it is ultimately the players and the game officials who determine how well the rules will be observed (whether they be traffic rules or rules of governance). Changing rules in a game played by hollowheads won't make any difference.

NB: This article was inspired by a comment posted by "benign0" in Big Mango.

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