Evidently, traditional democracy is failing Filipinos. This failure is in plain sight today in (1) the infantile ‘presidential’ candidates lined up before Filipino voters, (2) the no-substance “debates” surrounding them facilitated by the nation’s so-called ‘thought leaders’, and (3) the abject apathy with which the broader Filipino public regard the future of their country. Philippine-style democracy needs to evolve in order to justify its continued use. Evolve to where or what? That is the big question.
The common wisdom is that democracy cannot serve its purpose if its most crticial ingredient — educated voters — is lacking. Because leaders are chosen by majority vote in a democracy, the quality of said leaders will always mirror the character of that majority. Unfortunately, in the Philippines, the majority simply are not up to the task of applying an intelligent mind to their democractic exercises. The result is plainly direct: Filipinos get leaders that are lacking in intellectual faculties.
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Filipinos need to understand that democratic politics is not like a mango tree. A mango tree is able to turn carabao shit into sweet mango fruit. Democratic politics, unfortunately, does not work in the same way fruit trees do. When Filipino voters crap all over their elections, guess what: said elections bear crap fruit. The Philippine government has a wealth of empirical evidence to support this political theorem which can be expressed in this simple form:
Crap Voters = Crap Leaders
Seen in this new light, the solution to the Philippines’ dysfunctional politics then becomes quite obvious. If Filipinos want to continue to be a “democratic” people, they need turn crap into gold.
The trouble with this solution is that it will take time. The Philippines’ public education system, for one thing, is crap. It will take lots of money spent over many years to upgrade the system to a level of quality that will enable it to churn out Filipinos who know how to think — not just think but think far enough ahead. Specifically, Filipinos need to learn the concept of cause-and-effect. For example, consistently flushing spent chewing gum down a toilet eventually causes blockage which, in turn will cause sewage to flow back up your toilet and onto your bathroom floor, possibly overflowing all over the rest of your house. Filipinos need to learn how to run these sorts of thought experiments in their heads while they are in school.
Second, the Philippines’ media industry keeps piping bucketloads of crap into Filipinos’ screens. We really can’t expect Filipinos to become intelligent active pariticipants in a democracy if their minds continue to be hijacked by pretty celebrities with nothing in between their ears delivering (or, worse, miming and lip-syncing) mediocre acting, dance, and song numbers before the cameras. Unfortunately, disseminating regurgitated material involving marital infidelity, Cinderella-meets-Prince-Charming dramas, and titillating plots with religiously-correct forced endings written by country’s creative classes is a highly-profitable enterprise. But it needs to be recognised that selling cigarettes and fizzy drinks loaded with industrial sweeteners to minors are also highly-profitable industries. There needs to be balance. In the case of the Philippines, tens of millions of youthful minds are going to waste thanks to the mind candy peddled to them by her media industry.
Finally, the nation’s Illustrado class — its opinion-shapers and ‘thought leaders’ — remain incapable of elevating the political discourse and actually leading an intelligent debate. Instead of sustaining a level-headed and sober discussion, they also indulge their taste for Taliban-like personality cults and engage in exchanges with their peers where sound byte hysterics rather than carefully thought through ideas hold greater currency.
Indeed, transforming the Philippines into a modern functioning democracy is a formidable challenge. It will involve change at the most fundamental levels of the society where the way Filipinos think is rooted. The solutions are really not that complicated. Only politics gets in the way of these solutions — which is quite unfortunate; because to fix the politics you need to implement those solutions.
All is not lost. It all begins with the simple concept we need to keep in mind: Democracy is not a mango tree. It does not turn crap into sweet fruit. The sooner we recognise this simple reality, the sooner we will be able to think far enough ahead and implement the right solutions.
benign0 is the Webmaster of GetRealPhilippines.com.