If the Philippines got a penny whenever wonder over its dysfunctional politics is raised, it’d be a First World country by now. Indeed, emotionalism reins supreme in the National “Debate” there. Facts and critical thinking routinely take a back seat to shrill hysterics exchanged amongst its foremost “thought leaders”. Social media had exacerbated this predisposition to unproductive mudslinging and the landscape is increasingly hopelessly paralysed.
The most evident manifestation of this dysfunction is the continued coalescing into cults of personality among the country’s chattering classes. Having been utterly crushed in the 2022 national elections, the Yellowtard-Communist Axis — regarded widely as the bloc of left-of-centre “liberals” — are a scattered, hopelessly-fragmented and ineffective force. For its part, having taken hold of the nation, the arguably right-wing “Unity Team” of winning tandem of Bongbong Marcos and Sara Duterte — now President and Vice President respectively — are now seeing their support base polarised into the Marcos “BBM” and Duterte “DDS” camps.
The common denominator here, aside from the traditional stupidity of the “debate” surrounding these “developments” is continued beholdenness to personalities. Issues are not unpacked in this “debate” through the application of systematic thinking. They are regarded from the lens of the perceived personal loyalties of the actors and agents contributing to it. It is easy to see why no conversation moves forward. The intellectual bankruptcy of the landscape turned what is supposed to be a free market of ideas into a deadly minefield where most great ideas get blown up trying the navigate it.
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One has to be baduy to make a mark as an “influential” in today’s political chatter. But even in cultivating a baduy persona, one needs to be consistent. Failed presidential candidate Leni Robredo learnt this the hard way when she made a misguided foray into baduy theatrics during her ill-fated campaign. She is supported by a community made up of Manila’s chi chi private school elite to which she makes a woke social justice appeal. As such, her pedestrian antics come across as absolute cringe.
One can easily argue that all this merely mirrors society today in the age of social media and the shortening of attention spans this state of things has induced. However, all things being equal, Filipino minds have proven to be particularly predisposed to being easily-swayed by theatrics. Even before social media became a thing, Philippine politics was already known for its showbiz character and lowest-common-denominator “debate”. Even before the Internet became a ubiquitous household technology, Filipinos were already voting uneducated celebrities to office and gushing over unqualified scions of manufactured “national heroes”.
To be fair, all this makes Philippine politics fertile ground for the sorts of “influencers” we see today — baduy and malaswa and all mukhang pera. There are no principles at stake, only personal brands and access to power. This is pure capitalism in an industrially-bankrupt economy — except that no assets are created and brand equity is fleeting as evident in the way once-prominent personalities flame out under the weight of their individual dependencies on patrons and lack of a foundation of stable principles. Add to that an inability to innovate in their approach to messaging and we get what is all clearly evident today — an intellectually bankrupt society.
benign0 is the Webmaster of GetRealPhilippines.com.