Many ‘activists’ who are focusing on how much money is spent by election candidates and where and when their colourful messages are being flashed miss the whole point of elections. Elections are a necessarily messy occasion. Messiness is a good symptom of a healthy number of options presented to “the people” — those folk that democracy romanticists have long insisted are the ultimate source of the government’s “power” and “mandate” to “govern”.
Lately I’ve been seeing a lot of factoids being exchanged regarding what’s-his-face spending this-and-that much on so-and-so ad. And I’m thinking:
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The real question I’d be more interested in getting an answer for is simple:
What was the message delivered by what’s-his-face after spending this-and-that pesos on so-and-so ad?
Campaign spending — like OFW remittances, Christmas handouts, and foreign money “invested” in fly-by-night sweatshops — are after all just one class of the handful of windfall “blessings” that Filipinos routinely look to the heavens with gaping mouths every year or every odd-year to fund their socio-cultural vices. In a society that has long lacked a tradition of creating durable capital indigenously, consumption stimuli (one-time injections of cash into people’s pockets) have long been the income source of choice.
Thus we should see campaign spending from the perspective of the average Pinoy schmoe — just another wealth distribution occasion like the fiestas they look forward to every year while scraping together peanuts in the days in between. So who cares? Paubaya na natin sa mga yan. Whenever fiesta election rolls in, it should be a celebration of cash windfalls for the palamunins — when politicians dip into their stash of kurakot money stashed away in their secret dollar accounts and repatriate large sums of money from their holdings overseas and shower their countrymen like the proverbial jolly fat man in red does in that other favourite holiday of Da Pinoy.
Filipinos should embrace the spectacle and encourage and goad their politicians: Impress us plez. The Filipino voter has the power to see all that money being spent by these bozos either wasted or spent well. And whether it is spent well (win!) or not (lose!), the average Filipino schmoe wins. They get their cash, they go off and buy their cellphone loads. So much for their “participation” in this noble democratic exercise. It’s just economics. The free market should be left to sort itself out.
As for us who can afford to sit around in our comfy armchairs staring at our navels, tapping on our iPads, while sipping a lattÃ© at the corner Starbucks, why not focus on the substance of the messages being sent out by our esteemed politicians? Forget about how much they spent, or where and when they spent it. The real question is: What is the essence of what they are pitching to Da Pinoy Voter?
Understanding messages are intellectual exercises befitting true thought leaders. Gossiping about campaign expenditure is best left to the citizens of Mediocristan.
As Eleanor Roosevelt was said to have said:
Small minds discuss people;
Mediocre minds discuss events;
Great minds discuss ideas.
Focus the chatter on ideas and perhaps sometime in the distant future, Filipino politicians will think twice about spending a million bucks on flashing vacuous slogans in 30-second slots inserted in what may be the Willie Revillame noon time shows of those times.
For now, this is a country where the arguments that are â€œdroll and unintelligent, focused on the trivial or the irrelevantâ€ tend to dominate the National “Debate”. Presuming to have a say in how politicians manage their campaigns is time and effort best spent in other pursuits by our so-called “activists”. It is best to focus on what one can realistically make an impact on within one’s small sphere of influence rather than attempt to push the tide.
benign0 is the Webmaster of GetRealPhilippines.com.