Sunday, September 11, 2005

‘See it steadily, and see it whole’

The audacity of Manuel L. Quezon III's reflection and revelation could possibly be best understood if juxtaposed with the parade of intellectual duplicity that we have seen of late [which I had started to blog on before checking mlq3’s blogsite to cut and paste a hyperlink; thereby compelling the change of the title of this blog from “People Power is not a surge” to “Fabrication of consent” to its present title].

For example, we have not heard or seen the colleagues of Manolo (as mlq3 is also fondly called) in the mainstream media falling to the ground laughing (the way many of Manolo’s following might have been bowled over by his public confession - of being an adopted son, a former drug addict and gay) when President Arroyo described the House impeachment vote in her favor as a “grand display of political maturity” as well as a “glorious day in history” as the “(Filipino people) chose to keep a president through voting in the halls of constitutional democracy” and not “through people power.”

No, it’s not really maturity but “political reality,” Amado Doronila readily took a high ground. He was adamant that the “majority” decision was a “triumph of procedures over the unruliness and arbitrariness of people power.”

As a veteran opinion-maker who has kept a watchful eye on several regimes as they come and go, Doronila was sheepishly poised to feign a higher plane than where a reviled Arroyo is standing on, a sort of survivor’s braggadocio, if only to convey one thing: he could cleverly be both critical and yet subservient to the going concern that is the status quo. Hence, if Arroyo’s crowing is a display of Marcosian brazenness, Doronila’s doublespeak is then an impeccable hewing (to borrow Doronila’s own words) to a widely discredited system in place.

Arguably, Arroyo is a damaged political product and no amount of mental taming (that any high-profile PR firm can devise) can take the bad taste away momentarily. But any legitimizing subterfuge from the bully pulpit of better-regarded political observers like Doronila could be more harmful to the national psyche than Gloria’s gloat. It could in fact be more deleteriously lasting than the mendacities Marcos had peddled to keep him in power for two decades.

Let’s be specific a bit more. Doronila attributes the lack of “spontaneous surge” of people power to the claim that the “issues today have no resonance with a large segment of the population.” And here’s Doronila’s non sequitur: people power has become an impotent weapon to make leaders directly accountable (for some lapses that may have risen to the level of impeachable offenses).

The question of cheating in a presidential election caught in audio tapes has no resonance “with a large segment of the population”? Check these figures from the most recent nationwide survey by SWS: 79 percent want Arroyo impeached, 64 percent prefer her resignation, and 51 percent support removal by people power if impeachment is thrown out.

mlq3, a relatively young writer and a respectable opinion-maker (and a very honest one, I guess), for instance, is one of those opting for President Arroyo’s resignation in view of the “Garci tapes,” among other controversies. I believe Manolo is a people power practitioner too (and I’m as much entitled to that belief as Manolo is to his honesty), but not a street protester, as he himself explains categorically. He clarifies his position: “Street protests are counterproductive, alienate not only the wealthy and middle class, but workers and students. Prayer vigils are peaceful, reflective, organized, and take place in locations that minimize the inconvenience for the indifferent.”

My sense is that mlq3, whose blog at least is visited regularly by thousands of viewers all over the world, expects a protracted effort rather than a spontaneous surge to hold accountable a leader essentially for “betrayal of public trust.” This means to me that activists like him are just really being warmed up right now.

Based on the first two people’s upheavals, my own estimation has always been that the success of People Power democracy should be gauged not upon its physical manifestation that might have successfully brought about the immediate change desired (such as the ouster of a regime), which is an end in itself, but when the consensus formed by civil society - those politically informed, active and diverse minorities groups - is brought to bear upon those formally vested with governance. As a practicum for citizenship, people power is therefore not a “surge” but a continuing process for transformation to advance the common good.

The breadth of the issues that people power should cover is not confined simply to the so-called art of government but reaches up to such basic societal concerns as the liberty of every individual to earn a decent living, a woman’s claim to full equality with men, a child’s right to fulfill his dream or a gay person’s freedom to be himself or herself. Put otherwise, it should require the staple of politics in one’s routines “to see the world steadily and see it whole” (as Walter Lippmann counseled), politics being how community decisions (or non-decisions) are made to manage the conduct of the whole affairs of the polity, before that meaning has been sullied by “politicians” who pass themselves off as some detached and seasoned pundits.

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