Weekly Inquirer Analysis
MODERATION AND THE MURDER OF IMAGINATION
Our embarrassment of riches is in the plural now. With the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism’s account of where our precious dollars go, we can only wail and lament and register our discontent. Those in power are wasting our precious dollars the economy needs to stay afloat. Our people are starving and dying—and we spend our dollars to make the rulers look clean.
We say enough.
The precious dollars that probably come from the sweat and sacrifice of the long-suffering overseas Filipino worker’s remittances are going to waste.
Or, if we are kinder, these dollars are going to payoff makeover efforts for President Gloria Arroyo.
In marketing terms, we pay our way to making foreign investors believe that our labor force is the most educated in these parts and yet the most docile, servile, and uncomplaining even if you pay them the miserable minimum wage. That is one take for all these promotional efforts to market our country and our people.
In political terms, we pay our lobbyists—mostly well-entrenched and well-connected foreigners and foreign companies, to make our foreign allies believe that we are serious when we make a go with charter change.
While the rest of the population makes do with nothing, we squander our riches for reasons that do not have sufficient merit and that seem to serve only the interests of the reigning masters and their allies.
Norberto Gonzales, for instance, cannot explain in clear terms where the money to pay for these commitments to lobbyists and political makeover experts is coming from. In a fumbling way, he talks about friends—or perhaps friends of friends—footing the bill.
He has heart problems now, this Gonzales who should know that for every dollar that we take out of the economy, the lowly kababayan has to put in 55 times of hard work.
So many personalities are popping up with their preaching on what is happening. The liberals think that the problem is Arroyo; they never look into themselves and see the monster growing in their act of derailing the economy. The leftists have yet to offer an alternative to the Arroyo regime. The rightists want the presidency for themselves or for their own man—or woman. The conservatives hark back to the days of the status quo when life was better because the domestics had not yet learned their way to making more dollars in Singapore or Hongkong. Never mind if some of these domestics end up as remains in the end.
There is no let-up in this political beating all because Arroyo is allowing herself to be flagged more and more. Now she should do something. She should be decisive—and should act fact.
It is not because she had not lapsed in judgment—this she already admitted.
It is because she had permitted this lapse in judgment to be the rallying point for the posturing of oppositionists—a posturing no better than the vague claims of her presidency about economic growth and the betterment of the lot of the masses.
It is because she had not used the resources of her presidency to serve the people and take into account her vow to give them a chance in life.
It is because she had not yet ministered to the needs of the deprived and the lowly but only to the needs of her friends and her associates and now her lobbyists.
There is much sadness here—in all these events. There is much sorrow as well.
It is the sadness of a republic that seem not to know how to be a republic but an oligarchy of narrow interests and economic benefits, this last one reserved for the elites.
It is the sorrow of a people that have yet to see how is it to be a genuine democracy—with rights and privileges democratized, with access to the social resources democratized, with access to the basic social institutions that guarantee the concreteness of the promise of a possibility also democratized.
Not the democratization of misery.
Not the democratization of poverty.
Not the democratization injustice.
Not the democratization of disorder so that the President can call for her emergency powers and clamp down contrary voices, muffle dissent, and murder contrary minds.
That promise of a possibility can only be one day soon, we will live in dignity; we will soon regain our self-respect after years and years of misrule by those who were—are—supposed to lead us to freedom and redemption; and we will no longer have to leave the country in order to find life somewhere else.
The promise of the good life is not yet coming.
With our embarrassments doubling every day as if the gods of scandals are abuzz with their creative but destructive energies, what with their endless surprises of the anomalous dealings and extravagance of the present leadership, we can only sigh.
In all these, something has been amiss in the way we manage our political life.
We have missed the meaning of moderation—the virtuous middle ground—in the way we have drawn up and executed our vision as a people. What we have done is to sway in the extremes, in the polar ends, believing that to do so will yield us the results soonest.
We can go back to the way we elect our leaders as an example. An educated and socially committed electorate is what we need.
What we do is to rush to the ballot stations in the politically charged precincts and there make a mini-mini-my-nimo of whom to elect based on their baloney and bluff—and their false promise.
We imagine the ends of films where heroes always end up as redeemers; this imagination makes us elect celluloid presidents and senators and mayors and all the other useless political pretenders.
Moderation is what will give us the direction—the clear political program of action that provides us a clear telos to all these sacrifices that we all are putting in and contributing if only to push our luck harder on the road to good.
The big trouble at this time is that we have stopped imagining the vast possibilities of the promise of the good life for our people. It is now kanya-kanya. It is again a happy hour for those who have the means to join in the fiesta of usurping what they can usurp.
We cannot allow this to keep on happening, of course.
We need to stop this practice of excess—this act in the extremes.
By our return to moderation, we will be able to redeem our ability to imagine ourselves as a redeemed people, with us redeeming ourselves from the excesses of our playacting presidents and pretending leaders.
Published in the Inquirer, V1N14 Sept 2005