Fact by consensus: are we accepting beliefs in lieu of knowledge?

Media spin, political slogans and catch phrases, and “majority rule”. Today, these seem to be the preferred bases for validating what we come to know about our world everyday. At the very top of the hierarchy of this flawed approach with which we validate the “knowledge” we live by is the very concept of democracy itself. According to “national hero” former Senator Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino Jr (who fancied himself a “christian socialist”) democracy is a system designed to mitigate inequalities caused by differences in individual abilities…

Not all men are created equal in their talents some are more brilliant than others. But we must give every citizen of the republic the equal right and equal opportunity to quality education, that’s number one.

Which is a fair thing, of course. But then Junior goes on to make a statement that has far reaching implications about the role democracy plays in a largely ignroant society that aspires to join the ranks of the world’s better-functioning nations…

We believe in a majority rule. So that if the majority should opt or should win in a contest then the minority should accept the majority mandate.

Perhaps the ominous nature of this rather quaint statement did not quite register yet at the time Junior issued it (it is likely to have been regarded as a groundbreaking concept then). After all, how could Ninoy Aquino have foreseen the subsequent election of the various showbiz personalities who both infested and now infest powerful offices that figure in the making of critical decisions that impact the the fortunes of tens of millions of Filipinos?

Going back to the earlier statement Junior makes: “some [people] are more brilliant than others”, I’d go further to say: it’s not just some that are more brilliant but a very tiny minority elite that can be considered truly brilliant.

Combine the reality of the absolute scarcity of brilliance with the kernel of what democracy is about: rule of the majority and the more important question becomes quite evident:

Does consensus and popularity necessarily determine what is right?

A recent example is the hoo-ha around Senator Vicente “Tito” Sotto’s behaviour during an interpellation he delivered in the Senate during a debate on the controversial Reproductive Health Bill, where he summarily belittled a statistical factoid citing how “11 maternal deaths occur in [the Philippines] everyday” according to data gleaned from a 2006 Family Planning Survey of the National Statistics Office.

Funny enough, I wrote in a previous blog post how it is now so easy to count “the true cost of stupid”. In saying that, however, I don’t say Sotto himself is stupid. Sotto is but a product of a broader and more profound systemic malaise that routinely tilts the playing field in favour of stupidity in most arguments raging within a society that has long been brought to its knees by this “rule by majority” concept we ironically celebrate and count as one of our society’s greatest saving graces.

Sotto’s claim to fame before he turned to politics was in show business where he made a career out of playing various characters that endeared themselves to Filipino audiences by being stupid. As such, a system of selecting officials on the basis of their popularity tends to reward people like Sotto.

In a sense, Filipinos deserve political leaders like Senator Vicente “Tito” Sotto.

We believe that our fate as a nation should be decided by the most popular people in the land. We believe that the best and most deserving individuals and organisations are those that have acquired popular appeal. And then we lament the “victimisation” of the Filipino, the “plight” of the masa while conveniently forgetting the awesome power we had granted them to determine our destiny as a nation.

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21 Comments on “Fact by consensus: are we accepting beliefs in lieu of knowledge?”

  1. “We believe in a majority rule. So that if the majority should opt or should win in a contest then the minority should ACCEPT the majority mandate.”

    i think he’s not describing democracy anymore. :/
    and that kind of thinking reminds me a bit of utilitarianism.

  2. @benign0

    You are in dishonesty mood again. According to you:

    “A recent example is the hoo-ha around Senator Vicente “Tito” Sotto’s behaviour during an interpellation he delivered in the Senate during a debate on the controversial Reproductive Health Bill, where he summarily belittled a statistical factoid citing how “11 maternal deaths occur in [the Philippines] everyday” according to data gleaned from a 2006 Family Planning Survey of the National Statistics Office.”

    In the interpellation, Sotto was alleging the bias of the “empirical” (others would call it anecdotal) data. Below is the interpellation and Sotto’s BEHAVIOR:

    (From Inquirer)

    Santiago acknowledged that the detail came from a 2008 survey conducted by the National Statistics Office.

    She said the “empirical basis of 11-12 deaths per day” was based on the 2005 estimate developed by the World Health Organization, United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund, UN Family Planning Association and World Bank.

    “THERE IS NO ORGANIZED METHODOLOGY IN PROVING THE DEATHS,” she warned.

    (My comment: as in “there are no convincing proofs that those deaths were all attributed to unwanted babies and abortions.”)

    “WERE YOU AWARE THAT THE SURVEY WAS CONDUCTED BY THE US AGENCY FOR INTERNATIONAL DEVELOPMENT? THE INFORMATION BY NSO WAS NOT THE ACTUAL FINDINGS BUT WAS DONE WITH INDEPENDENT GROUP? DID YOU KNOW THAT USAID WORKERS COLLABORATE WITH CONTRACEPTIVE MANUFACTURERS?” Sotto asked.

    And as you have posted, Sotto was summarily belittling a statistical factoid. I have watched the interpellation from the news and Sotto was not sarcastic with his inquiry.

    Take note what Cayetano has said eventually during that interpellation, “We are prepared to submit the data we have (leading to this) conclusion that 11 women die each day on average.”

    The above were not highlighted by the source you’ve cited. I’m wondering why…

      1. @benign0

        My conclusion – you’re a dishonest blogger.

        You’re fact-challenged blogger whose facts are only those that are in compliant with your slant. A habitual fact distorter whose version of truth is always agenda based.

        Whose favorite face saving way out expression is “seems like somebody here is grasping at straws”.

        A Catholicophobia who will never let any slant against Catholics go to waste. They are always your argumentum ad hominem.

      2. ROFL. Stay classy benign0.

        These are examples of your don’t let facts stand in the way with good vilification:

        When being challenged for a fact to support an unfounded allegation 1:

        b: “Cite specific examples where I “accuse” anyone in the above article please.”

        Me: “Mitsubishops: the CBCP conveniently absolves its own and remains above the Law”

        It’s not on the above article but it’s the title of your other post. Just like I said, prove it.

        b: “Prove what exactly? IT’S A TITLE — a hook to dangle before readers. The substance is in the article.

        Looks like somebody is grasping at straws here.”

        (And your follow up comment.)

        b: “So be it then. I vilify the Church because they make it EASY for people like me to do so.”

        (So, it’s not just a title. You were really vilifying the Church, heh…)

        When being challenged for a fact to support an unfounded allegation 2:

        Me: I know that you’re a Bush Lied, Kids Died bloke, but at least what exactly did W Bush do to be compared with those murderers? He could be a war monger for the defense of his country but have he intentionally ordered a million of people to be brutally massacred en masse?

        b:”Indeed, I lumped Dubya in the same category as Bin Laden and Hitler. BUT DOES THAT NECESSARILY MEAN I LIKEN HIM TO THEM DIRECTLY? NOT NECESSARILY SO, DUDE. THE CATEGORIES MAY BE SHARED BUT THE *DEGREES* MAY VARY.

        Seems like somebody here is grasping at straws.”

        Stay classy benign0…

        Malayo ang mararating mo.

        1. Hi there. I agree on some points. But you lost me a lot on unnecessary use of deep technical words. good exchange thanks. Except actually @benign0 is quite classy in answering your argument. You could give him that. Your also exhibiting quite a strong dislike of his opinions and strong language (dishonest is a bit too extreme and is different from his being true to his beliefs and thinking) which also sort of already blurs/blinds you to see some of his. Peace.

        1. for the life of me…I could never get why people like you like to bash someone’s thinking (the author/blogger benign0) and try to show as if you have better opinion then you just go down the route of “kapal mo talaga!” route”. Really? Can you try not use such lowlife slinging of harsh words and keep on the objective opinions. You seem intelligent except your emotional for a man. Atleast he hasn’t gone down your level and called you names–now whose classy. Do you like being called Makapal? Dishonest? Im sure you don’t, so don’t do it to others. You can state your thinking pero if your truly smart…then learn not to dwindle your argument into ‘away pikon mode’.

      3. Note how the substance of your comments dwindles as we go further with this “discussion”. Don’t worry, stick around and watch this space. Another brilliant piece from Yours Truly is just around the corner. Then you’ll have something to work with again. 😀

  3. Majority may rule, but, they are now always right. We have no benchmarks, or paradigms in choosing our leaders.
    If anybody can: act in films; or song-and-dance;or are, sons, daughters, wives, etc… of false leaders; or can entertain us…we vote for them.
    We are easily deluded by these people, claiming to be leaders. Instead, they are incompetents…We still need to be educated to idententify and choose our real leader who can make a difference in our lives..

  4. “Not all men are created equal in their talents some are more brilliant than others. But we must give every citizen of the republic the equal right and equal opportunity to quality education, that’s number one.”

    In other words, even the little guy has representation and guaranteed his rights.

    “We believe in a majority rule. So that if the majority should opt or should win in a contest then the minority should accept the majority mandate.”

    But…he has to learn to shut up. Bring out the Thought Police?

    I think there should be no absolute winners and losers in the leadership contest. I think that after the euphoria of winning, it is also the job of the majority to sell itself and its ideas to the minority. The reverse is also true.

    If the majority will keep on bullying the minority, there can be no new ideas and no progress.

    As for deserving Tito Sotto, as long as voters rely more on how they “feel” about a candidate, we will always end up with lemons.

  5. I agree and understand the point of view of the article. one thing I know why majority rules is because the higher percentage of our population/voting population who are unfortunately ill-informed/uneducated is much higher compared to the percentage of PHilippine population who are well informed. By informed or educated I don’t mean just the ones lucky to have gone to school but those also who have not been to school or don’t have privileged background but are trying to educate themselves or inform themselves well. The same thing as—so much rubbish soap operas and rubbish shows gain popularity in the philippines and have massive viewing/audience hecause of the same higher percentage of our population who are unfortunately ..shall I say..uninformed/uneducated in a not so elite kind of way. I have know of v poor persons who try uplift their lives by reading, watching more substantial shows in an effort to uplift the mind. So…nananalo ang artista, and celebrity dahil sa percentage na Ito sadly. Much like having cleaning products filling the whole local tv airtime for most of the day—washing powder-washing liquid–wash–wash–clean–of course nothing is wrong about cleaning just enough already! -after a few years of this from our local channels 7 and 2 who always like to brag they are responsible journalism) how do we expect our kabayans to get educated. Majority rules doesn’t mean right all the time I agree. Majority rules in US back then was to treat the blacks as slaves–it didn’t make it right. Only thing I know why this is–is because not many regular pinoys I see/know of read books or not many would try educate themselves more. They would rather sit with the barkada play guitar. (this is my thinking and if you comment, no need to resort to name calling or harsh words)

  6. After all, how could Ninoy Aquino have foreseen the subsequent election of the various showbiz personalities who both infested and now infest powerful offices that figure in the making of critical decisions that impact the the fortunes of tens of millions of Filipinos?

    I do not agree that “showbiz personalities infest powerful offices and make critical decisions” affecting millions of Filipinos. No such thing. Once, that was true when Erap was in Office. But it was only Erap who qualifies with the description above. Even during his time, Erap did not infest powerful offices with showbiz personalities. Never happened.

    …a system of selecting officials on the basis of their popularity tends to reward people like Sotto.

    True. Popularity has inherent leverage or benefit that serves as an advantage for celebrities like Sotto. But it is not their fault that they are popular than others. And it is not also their fault that elections are principally grounded on one’s popularity. It’s very basic that people tend to go with familiarity. Bottom line, why will you vote on someone who you don’t know? Why go for someone who is a stranger to you?

    We believe that our fate as a nation should be decided by the most popular people in the land. We believe that the best and most deserving individuals and organisations are those that have acquired popular appeal.

    It’s not that we simply ‘believe’ that popular people should decide for us or popular appeal the best and makes one deserving of anything. Our so-called belief is just an acknowledgment of something that is recognize by everybody: That popularity has built-in advantage in relation to selection/election process.

    I’m willing to engage anybody in a discussion that the theory about ‘popularity’ and ‘stupidity’ of the Filipinos in relation to election/voting is an exaggeration meant to becloud what the real issue is. It’s simply a fable brought about by sour-grapes, mostly political losers in elections.

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