How modern governance, technology and commerce masks the continued impunity of the powerful

Eat my shorts. Quintessentially Bart Simpson and a brilliant encapsulation of all that makes absolute power so delicious and such a worthwhile goal to pursue. Telling somebody to “eat my shorts” is sweet, because it is such a succinct way of telling someone You can whine all you want, but I can pretty much do whatever I want. Deal with it.

No normal person would deny ever fantasizing about the day she could verbally deliver those words (whether it be Bart’s or the latter) to her boss (if not the present one, one of those in the past). Most Manila drivers will probably have at one time or another dreamed of driving a tank through a jeepney-infested thoroughfare while gleefully listening to the sound of one of those national eyesores — or, better yet, ten of them — crunching underneath its treads. And most certain of all, the average Microsoft Windows user will have visualised, at least once in a day, his HP laptop in pieces on the floor after having smashed it against the wall.

The thing about having power is that you don’t have to treat people or stuff nice. You can use, abuse, then discard as convenient. It is usually those who don’t have power who wax poetic about democratic ideals, fairness, egalitarian values, justice, peace, universal prosperity, and all things green. Those who have power simply pander enough to those loser sentiments to ensure that the natives they rule over don’t get restless — or, worse, cluey enough to realise what a pathetic bunch of chumps they are.

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The funny and ironic thing is that everyone thinks they are “empowered”. That perception of empowerment comes from a number of things unique to this age of unprecedented civil “rights” and purchasing “power”.

There is, for one, the illusion that “due process” is guaranteed for all and that the past scourge of absolute power routinely held by a few men has now been curtailed by modern approaches to governance.

Another is the consumerisation of technology. Computing power that was once limited to the pursuit of solutions to big complex problems is now routinely used for “liking” photos of two-year olds celebrating their birthdays in $20,000 parties thrown by their parents.

A third is an abundance of “choice”. At no previous time in history have people been faced with so much choice across so few options. In supermarkets today, there are, for example, entire aisles stocked with hundreds of varieties of what is essentially a handful of sorts of food — corn chips, sweetened carbonated water, and dehydrated “instant” noodles.

Perhaps then the perception of empowerment “enjoyed” by 21st Century humans is really no more than an illusion of power afforded them by people who hold real power — much like how a collection of fish swim around none the wise about how their “natural” environment is actually the handiwork of a skilled aquarium enthusiast. Due process made complicated that it requires expensive lawyers to navigate, computing power made so cheap that we are compelled to “upgrade” every 12 months, and such vast choice that makes us believe we acquire “value” with every purchase does not make the average schmoe any more powerful than those tropical fish in a well-laid-out fish tank. Power has not really shifted. Modern governance, technology, and commerce just made the powerful more likeable.

The Norman (French) warlord William the Conqueror, subdued his English subjects by slaughtering peasants and laying waste to their villages, because he can — to show the fortunate survivors (who he perhaps spared lest he runs out of serfs to till his fields) who’s the new boss. Suffice to say, he wasn’t a very nice guy, and certainly not likeable by any stretch of the imagination. Indeed, democracy is as rare as it is recent. For most of human history, it was the sword that ruled and it was cruel greedy men who wielded said sword and wore the crown.

Modern “civilisation” has not blunted this sword. It has merely sugarcoated and anaesthetised its blade — packaged it in such a way that its essentially powerless “practitioners” now gladly assume the position and invite it to be thrust in. All the while modern politicians have the bonus benefit of being “liked” by their constituents. It makes their job of screwing their subjects a bit more, shall we say, “civilised” — so much so that while we laugh with Bart Simpson, the irony in his philosophy remains so lost in us.

35 Replies to “How modern governance, technology and commerce masks the continued impunity of the powerful”

  1. Excellent post. It’s about human nature and up to us to fill in the blanks where the concepts apply. Your treatment of the illusion of choice was also handled well. Like when I was growing up and my dad would ask me where do you want to eat? Like it mattered since we either ended up in a Chinese, Japanese or a Friday’s type restaurant. To this day I am a fan of Mexican and Indian cuisine.

    The late comedian George Carlin might be too lefty for my taste but he really did make people think. He said that we should all focus on our similarities since the powers that be make us focus on our differences. Then while we are fighting over the differences, they make off with all the money.

    1. Indeed, it’s all a part of brilliant product marketing and packaging — develop a product that allows the average schmoe to express their “unique identity”. Then mass produce said product. 😀

  2. Rule 32 applies here: Play to people’s fantasies.

    And as I say: “The “Pinoys” are the mob. He will conjure magic for them and they will be distracted. He will take away their freedom, and still they will roar. The beating heart of “Pinoys” is not the marble floor of our government offices or those towering buildings in Makati and not also those glorious monuments we see around EDSA but it is the illusion of power and of security, as you say. He will give them those, and they will love him for it.”

    And that’s the reason why mediocrity rules over our beloved countrymen’s hearts.

    (I rephrased the dialogue of Senator Gracchus in the movie Gladiator to fit in to the situation)

  3. It’s as if the powerful are “rescuing” from some sort of unenlightened state we were supposedly in before. Also, talk about being in a virtual prison that make sure the unwitting stay beholden to those “saviors”.

    Benigs, you’ve done a theme with a Homer picture, this has a Bart picture, perhaps the next one will be a theme with Lisa in the picture? Something probably about anti-intellectualism, shallowness, and the like 😀

      1. Well, Lisa is always more vocal and more logical to everything around her, even she has an idiot father like Homer or a rebel a$$ brother like Bart.

        Being an environmentalist is one of the proofs. 😀

  4. Not to undermine public service shows but their contents seem shallow and on a “small fry” level.

    Yes, they contributed goods/services to our needy countrymen (with your donations, of course).

    But won’t they help more if they actually catch the bigger fishes/root of the problem?

  5. Good God, the “powerful” again.

    In most of the Philippines, it’s the petty lords of the municipio or presidencia that hold “power”.

    In Metro Manila, it’s shared between the “masa” (i.e. jeepney drivers and squatters) and the “makataong may puso” (i.e. Herbert Bautista, Jejomar Binay, Lito Lapid, etc).

    How I would like to see all those hanged and burnt.

  6. @Hugh

    Lito Lapid will kill 12 men with a six shooter then jump out of a window into his tsinelas before he gets hanged and burned.

    Hmm, I’m curious. Did Lapid ever say he was makataong may puso? Saging lang ang may puso.


    Great topic today. Throwing a few thoughts your way, if you won’t mind it.

    On choice: I think people are overwhelmed with the number of choices they have to make in a day. I think it sort of plays a part also during elections. There are too many candidates to think of in one sitting. Kinda like a bad day at an Italian pasta restaurant that serves a wide variety of sauces and different kinds of pasta.

    Imagine in the case of presidential elections. In the last one, there were how many candidates? 6? Add senator hopefuls, congressmen wannabes, governors, mayors, councilmen. I think the current system tends to favor the following:
    1. Those with strong name recall
    2. Incumbents

    In a way, isn’t the bombardment of choice also a factor in maintaining the status quo?

    On technology and empowerment: The internet provides people an instant outlet for all sorts of rants, whether personal or political. Having this free medium can also serve as a means to control people. As long as people have an outlet and an illusion of freedom, they’re sort of fine. Kinda like what happened in Egypt. All hell broke loose after they lost their internet privileges, right?

    …and I still dream of driving a tank recklessly on EDSA.

  7. i love the abundance of choice, technology and civilized governance. less capital punishment and torture around the world for one.

    this sounds like an article designed to be/ purposely pessimistic for the sake of starting an argument. if you look hard enough you can find flaws in anything. the author could probably find something to complain about an all expense paid boracay vacation with sam pinto

    1. Hey, the author has a point. For me actually, those who have power had the hand to manipulate everyone around them. That also applies to many politicians so the masses will vote those who are ‘maka-masa’ and other BS even though they have little or no credentials or the inability to lead.

      Your argument is onion-skinned. Still, missing the point. Red herring much. And hey, Benigns is not interest in Sam Pinto. The likes of you would do since Showbiz Government is all you want. 😛

  8. Power is a two edged sword…you have the power, when you have it. Once you are out of power…it’s payback time…see those dictators; like Khadafy, Mubarak, etc…Hitler of Germany was the most powerful man in Europe in the German Nazi time…But, he perished with his own hands in a bunker, 50 feet underground. As the Russians advances in Berlin during World War II…

  9. This post is entertaining.While at the same time troubling.To ascribe ‘power’ to a cartoon character,assume he is doing it because some is ‘whining’ and then suppose that the ‘whining’ person must ‘deal with it’?Then to use it as mode of thinking analysis to real life?
    Bart would get his silly ass kicked in real life and while the problems of the powerless are surely real,wishful thinking is as useless as it is ,in reality and without deeds,hopeless.
    Fantasy and reality do not mix well.

    1. Still, missing the point, troll. Have you ever watched ‘The Simpsons’? It’s not just a cartoon show, it’s more like a satire of everything including politics, etc.

      Heck, Bart is more like the representation of mischievousness, rebelliousness and disrespect for authority. Most Filipinos are like that, including the ‘masa’ people. I’m sure you’ll say the same sentiment when someone compared Noynoy to Homer Simpson since THAT actually makes sense: they’re both IDIOTS. 😀

      1. Yes,I have and the correlation is not lost on me.The cartoons are ways to insult,desecrate,immortalize,demoralize etc,etc the real world because if not taken under the guise of “its a cartoon” or “it is a joke”,it would be offensive.Yes,I get it.Doing it in reverse is the line of reasoning I was using for my original post.

        1. Not just The Simpsons, but you underestimated shows like Family Guy and even South Park. There’s more anything than that. If you count anime as an ‘insult’ then you had a problem. 😛

  10. I almost stopped reading this,but when the writer assumed that the ‘certainty’ of smashing a PC was thrown in I continued because I wanted to see if the rest of the assumptions could possibly be remotely true.
    What I am left with after reading a few other blogs on this site is the condescension with which all these posts are written.To liken filipino’s to ‘fish’ in a tank oblivious to how those weilding power is to suggest an ignorance of immeasurable boundaries.Perhaps it is not as such? But what is to be done about it on a realistic,everday level?The ‘anti-elistest’ post of a week ago suggests a complacent ignorance of the populace.
    How about some concrete suggestions for some realistic achievable goals to improve what can reasonably be improved and suggestions for some long range tangile goals?Rather than the assault on the intelligence of the people that is manifested maybe a little to often?
    While it may be true that certain powerless individuals may pander lofty ideals at times,it is also true that the malcontents among us try to rally people to their cause in an effort to make certain realities visible.Tact is necessary,as in the imaginary ’empowerment’ idealogy.
    Implying ignorance in the people that may or may not be present, as is the case with this article right up to the very last sentence,could serve to the detriment of the solicitor.
    When was the last time anyone liked having their intelligence insulted?
    It happens a lot here in this blog.

    1. QFT: ‘If someone tries to educated Filipinos, they’ll take it as an insult to their intelligence.’

      It seems that this blog have insulted your intelligence but if your intelligence was conditioned by what the media tells you and favors dysfunctional thinking, then you have a problem.

      Want solutions? The solutions are already here through many articles. You’re just close-minded after all.

      1. No,I did not read them all.Make some more incorrect assumptions,I counted more than two above, and pound on your chest,if you like,that you are so correct.Even though you are mistaken,you will still help prove my point.

      2. “If someone tries to educate Filipinos, they’ll take it as an insult to their intelligence.”

        where did you get this claim and what is your proof? did you just pull this out of your anus? because i know a lot of people who are happy to learn and be educated. this is just stupid to make this up.

        so who do you pose as the alternative to mainstream media? who can provide with us the “truth”? you and your posts here? aaaaahahahahahahaha

        it doesnt matter if this blog has solved all the problems of the world in previous articles. the posts right here right now are bash pieces thats all

        1. Of course, if someone talks anything bad about the Philippines, many idiots (including yourself) cry foul by saying nonsense like “Racist ka!” or “Your insulting our own countrymen.” BTW, those are pathetic excuses in order to refuse to see what’s really bad and they were content on the status quo.

          Please state facts for once since all that you spout are pure rhetoric. Emo pricks would do anything to force people to believe in them. If you consider this as a bash, then I feel sorry for you since you’re here just to TROLL. XD

          Ad hominem attacks are for cowards.

        2. OMG,where did you get this?is more like it.I stated no such is great that people bash who-ever they want to bash.BUT IF YOU WANT TO QUOTE ME,I request accuracy,or you are just making things up that are not true and attributing them to me.

        3. @Benny: Well, most Filipinos are like that. For example, if some foreigner pointed out what is bad, then they will go mad and went verbal insults on a critic or such.

          You’re looking for solutions but it seems you never wanted critical thinking and progress. Those are one of the solutions and most Filipinos, including the masa, never gets it.

    2. yes 100%. this blog has degenerated into a “can you top this” contest of coming up with the worst adjectives to bash the filipino people. my countrymen are blind, ignorant, anti excellence pro mediocrity etc. etc. articles designed to provoke a response sell the website and get some clicks. but still, it starts discussions that i find sometimes enlightening and always entertaining. a viable alternative to ex-stalking on facebook.

      1. Yes,it is still entertaining and I enjoy it,or I would not be here.The web-master called me a ‘troll’ as if it is a bad thing(is it?).I offer just an opininon of my observations that I am supposed to be able to freely offer.

      2. Fact: Onion-skinned people are the reason why the Philippines can’t move forward. You can’t win arguments here since your EMO is showing full force.

        1. this sounds more like your own personal theory rather than fact.
          you cant force us to accept your personal assertions as automatic facts. do you fancy yourself an oracle daidoboy?

        2. ^ But he’s actually telling the truth you moron. Ayaw mo lang tanggapin kasi isa kang dakilang ignorante’t utak squatter. Ano ba ang pinakain sa iyo ng magulang mo’t ganyan ka-praning ang ugai mo hmmm?

        3. …if it weren’t for the other comments of other commentors like you, I’d laugh at the conclusion you just came up with.

    3. @Benny, you mentioned earlier that the assertions made in the article suggests “an ignorance of immeasurable boundaries”. That’s your opinion of course. But said opinion can be made a bit more consequential if you are able to cite specific examples of instances that demonstrate the contrary to what was asserted (i.e. that Pinoys are like mere fish in an aquarium).

      Fact is, Pinoys demonstrate ignorance more as a rule than an exception and you will find that while there is so much rah-rah going on around Pinoy “pride”, the same people will be hard-pressed to find specifics that could substantiate said pride.

      As for “solutions”, well I’m glad you asked because everything I write here is guided by an overarching solution architecture that I spell out here. It is a framework that remains relevant in a way that transcends any single government, personality, or political party and, as such, by itself stands as an attestment to the brilliance of those who call themselves “getrealists”. 😀

        1. Actually, when you call a piece of work “drivel”, be prepared to categorically articulate exactly WHY you believe that to be so. Otherwise, you’ll be just as guilty of driveleering as the next bozo.

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