We’re coming to the end of the first quarter of the 21st Century and the question remains as easy to answer as ever. The biggest red flag (literally) is the continued significant presence of communists in Philippine politics and in the terrorism they sustain in the countryside. Why do these elements continue to figure prominently in the Opposition and why do less radical “liberals” continue to be in bed with them during elections? The mystery persists…
This brings us to the continued use of the “Martial Law Years” as a pillar of the Opposition narrative. The Philippines’ political discourse remains trapped in a bipolar conflict involving two key cohorts. On one end are the more forward-looking visionaries who appreciate that the future fortunes of Philippine society lie in modern thinking. On the other end are those whose minds remain imprisoned in old narratives on victimhood under the hands of perceived “imperialists”. To the latter, Filipinos remain poor because of such externalities. The solutions all lie in changing the influence of these externalities on society and not in any inherent ability within said society to get on top of the issues that hinder said progress.
A recent example of this sort of primitive thinking is on exhibit today. After suffering a catastrophic defeat in the 2022 national elections, the foremost “thought leaders” of the Philippine Opposition choose to blame “disinformation” and other “sinister forces” for their loss. There seems to be no evidence of any collective effort on their part to look inward to examine their collective character and ask:
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Why did the majority of Filipinos vote against us?
A clue to this ignorance lies in the state of education in the Philippines and, to some extent, the way the average Filipino is raised. A lack of a healthy regard for habitual systematic testing of one’s ideas against reality is prevalent in how Filipinos conduct themselves. At its simplest, it seems they are unable to distinguish between (1) actually knowing so and (2) merely being told so. Could it be that, despite its members being literate, Filipino society still essentially remains stuck in an oral tradition?
This is actually possible considering that it can be observed across the board that Filipinos’ pre-colonial character stubbornly persists in a world that has embraced the required disciplines and precision essential to thriving in a modern technological world. So, despite timekeeping technology accurate to split seconds, Filipinos still live by their mammaya-maya regard for planning. Clear evidence of this is how their train systems run on a best-effort basis rather than to a fixed predictable schedule. And then there is the preferred manner with which Filipinos acquire information. Rather than read and evaluate the validity of what they read, they would rather defer to the word of people with credentials often failing to realise that the purest form of credentialism — absolute monarchies — thrived for centuries precisely on the back of that archaic ethic. Thus it is hardly surprising that a perverse oral tradition that accounts for the longevity of obsolete political narratives characterises election campaigns in the Philippines. Filipinos, quite simply, can’t read and would rather learn from what they are told by people with the “right” credentials.
On the surface Philippine society looks “modern”. The country’s large cities sport gleaming skyscrapers. Filipinos practice “democracy”. A “woke” culture that apes Western coastal liberals thrives in affluent enclaves. Yet, underneath all that, the society remains profoundly primitive. Manual labour is still preferred over capital to get things done (i.e. the proverbial hauling water in buckets rather than building pipes). Public transport, though motorised, is a bottom-up chaos rather than a top-down engineered system. Feudalism and cults of personality underpin democratic practice — famously evident in the general meaninglessness of most political parties.
Perhaps this is the reason why no amount of “democracy” makes Philippine society fairer, no amount of literacy makes Filipinos more intelligent, and no amount of technology makes their economy more productive. It’s all just for show. The bigger potential that all that modern stuff makes available for the picking is lost on Filipinos’ collective short-sightedness and lack of imagination. How then can Filipinos become collectively smarter if they see modern things as mere cosmetic ornamentation? This basic challenge persists.
benign0 is the Webmaster of GetRealPhilippines.com.