As a form of entertainment, many Filipinos rely on television. However mass media giants use this medium, whether to educate the population or turn them into mindless, loyal, zombies, its power cannot be underestimated. If they do decide to show nothing but dancing girls or celebrities making tasteless and crude jokes, or cheesy telenovelas with rehashed feel-good plots, or news that is poorly researched, then they indeed do justice to the slang terms “boob tube”, “idiot tube”, and “idiot box”, just to name a few.
After a while, certain Filipinos are unable to distinguish between the make-believe world of the teleserye, and they instead escape into a world where their feel-good fantasies are real. Such is the power of TV for you.
The showbiz celebrities whom Filipinos see on TV, will of course appear larger than life to them. Especially when they induce feel-good vibes and kilig moments into their audience, it’s easy to hook the people into watching them and regarding them as people to be put on a pedestal.
How Filipinos see government officials runs along a similar, and disturbing pattern. Just as showbiz celebrities are good at “selling” the feel-good moments to be watched on TV, public servants are good at “selling” any promises they want to make, and Filipinos are practically at their feet in order to beg for all the good stuff that the politician has to give. Regardless of the consequences. And Filipinos lap it all up and put them on a pedestal as well.
Of course, this phenomenon manifests itself strongest whenever elections of some sort happen here in the Philippines. But it never really goes away in between. It just remains dormant. And it seems that wherever they go, Filipinos will find it hard to shake off this habit of being starstruck ignoramuses.
So when elder Singapore statesman Lee Kuan Yew called out and chewed up a Filipino student, Harvey Campos, for asking a personal question where it does not belong in a discussion about public matters, should we really have been surprised or shocked? From a certain perspective, yes, because Filipinos assume that they can carry such thinking and mindset everywhere they go. On the other hand, no, because Filipinos focus more on personalities and events than issues and ideas.
Filipinos, using the need to “humanize” as an excuse, do not step up to raise the level of discourse. Instead, they drag it and dumb it down to the level of comfort in gossip and trivial matters that is all too familiar to them.
Fellow GRP writer Ilda, in her usual brilliant form, pointed things out very well in her recent article:
One simply should avoid asking personal questions in a public forum especially when high profile personalities in politics are involved. This rule should apply not just in Singapore but also in the Philippines. One can try asking a personal question but if the person being asked doesn’t want to answer it, one should respect that. It’s called privacy.
The problem with our society is that we Filipinos put more emphasis on the personality behind our public servants. Instead of focusing on what matters, we care more about the trivial stuff, which are irrelevant in our goal to bring our country from Third World to First. We care more about our favorite politician’s girlfriend or wife, what they wear and what kind of car they drive. It’s as if knowing that we voted for someone who is dating a celebrity or someone who is driving a Porsche would actually help us feel secure that the country is in good hands.
This is why every time an incompetent public servant like President Benigno Simeon “BS” Aquino or any of his staff commits gaffes or worse, violates the law, all they need to do to divert people’s attention from the issue is to publish personal details about himself or someone else’s sex video and voila! People will quickly forget about the issues. It works all the time. This is why our public servants get away with stealing public funds in broad daylight and treat the country like their personal fiefdom. In short, Filipinos love being entertained.
Evaluate platforms? Ang hirap naman.
Inquire about stance on issues? Wala akong paki.
Ask about plans for office? Basta bigyan niya muna ako ng pera o pangkain.
Show interest in public policy? Umindak ka muna diyan sa stage.
Details about personal life? Mas interesado ako doon!
Ability to sing and dance? Oo!
Catchy slogan? Pwede!
Feel-good abstract motherhood statements? Korak!
Reference to famous dead (or living) parents? May tama ka!
Money to buy your vote/loyalty? Game na!
The unanswered question remains: How will knowing about the personal circumstances and private trivia of public servants help us in evaluating their stances on issues of public and national interest?
That will not really matter, though, to a people who are much more comfortable with gossip and trivial matters than they are with the serious, weighty issues that their society faces.
Showbiz and government are inseparable indeed here in the Philippines. Filipinos should learn to distinguish between them and to regard them separately, otherwise they’ll never hold their public officials accountable the proper way.
[Photo courtesy: All Things Wildly Considered]
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