Thursday, October 20, 2005

People Power hazardous to U.S.

When I first posted People Power: watchful, impatient, alive in PCIJ on August 24, 2005, Dean Jorge Bocobo (a.k.a. Rizalist) politely, yet provocatively, responded thus:
...We cannot possibly be the first to discover that a people can withdraw their consent to be governed–and succeed ...

I would agree with Abe that the American Revolution was an example of People Power. In fact it was the very first big blow that caused European colonialism’s ultimate demise.

Much of the time I agree with Abe, but this time I sense that rhetorically he falls into the same logical trap as Jose de Venecia. Where JDV attributes the seeming failure of Philippine democracy to a flawed constitutional construction, Abe claims we developed an elitist democracy on top of that flaw because the Americans taught it to us.

I think that’s a bit of a stretch and reminds me of something I once read with regards to colonialism:

“There is no greater emotional loss than that of an excuse for one’s own failures–in the past actions of another nation.”

I say again: People Power is just ordinary democracy. We Filipinos are only now exploring its true extents.
People Power as “(withdrawal of) consent to be governed” which defines, in Dean Bocobo’s book, the “real people power” has surfaced again in a more recent post (Oct. 16) by him in PCIJ.

Truly I believe there is no better truism today than the statement that “People Power is just an ordinary democracy.” In fact, People Power is democracy. However, it is not the kind of democracy Filipinos learned from the Americans. The democracy that was handed over to us by our colonial mentors is the “elitist” version they were practicing at home of that hallowed institution.

The American version was a compromise between the Federalists (the Americans favoring the centralization of powers in the Federal government) who feared the spread of mobocracy of the French radicals to America, and the Democratic-Republicans (the Americans wanting to retain many of the powers of the individual states) who feared monarchism and plutocracy. The Madisonian compromise prevailed and written out in the fundamental charter was a uniquely American system that was neither monarchic (monarchy being the prevailing form of government at that time) nor people-powered (which was the sentiments of the American revolutionaries) but a non-tyrannical republic, i.e., a republic that is supposedly free from the tyranny of a monarch or the majority.

The American Constitution that was crafted in secret proceedings and behind closed doors by men of property (40 of the 55 delegates were land speculators, money-lenders, government bond holders, merchants, manufacturers and large plantation owners) failed to pay fealty to the aspirations of many of the American revolutionaries who had believed in spontaneous social action and radical democracy. Instead, “elitism” in the new federal structure was so couched to appear to the Americans as a happy, easy and sensible cross between a despot and a mob, gullible as they had been for too long to accept that English monarchy was a rational form of government.

As a result, Americans in general are today both incapacitated and desensitized from the obligation of governance. The American people don’t decide governmental policies through elections or choice of party platforms. Elites do. Most Americans loathe to vote or if they do vote, they are ill-informed of the issues anyway, thereby rendering those so-called democratic institutions as nothing more than symbolical formalities. To such an extent, the American Revolution has been a disappointment.

As the United States in the Wilsonian tradition tries to project anew to the world the American system (not to protect it, as is touted in the rhetoric of the global “War on Terror”), a successful People Power in the Philippines - that is, the triumph of real democracy in a former colony - will be a threat to that goal. The “little brown brothers” finally breaking the umbilical cord will serve to puncture the myth of the perfectibility of the American paradigm. Also, Philippines as the true and real “showcase of democracy in Asia” via People Power will be hazardous to America’s intentions in the Middle East.

It may be worth recalling America waged an atrocious war in an attempt to remake Vietnam. The war could be reducible now to no more than a failed effort to winning over “hearts and minds,” the strategic value of Vietnam to U.S. interest being dubious at best. Philippines, on the other hand, is made in the American image being America’s first empire, and has always been a reliable ally. The Island remains strategically located to play a role to “contain” China, an emerging global power, as well as radical Islam from the world’s most Muslim-populated country, Indonesia. Moreover, U.S. acquired the Philippines at a great cost in the pursuit of foreign market and it is logical to assume U.S. will not easily give up what remains of its influence in the former colony for the same purpose.

Therefore, liberating Philippines through People Power has dreadful consequences to U.S. interests either geopolitically and geoeconomically. People Power as a movement can thus be juxtaposed quite interestingly to the “wars of national liberation” without being attached to either side of the ideological divide in the “proxy wars” of the Cold War period. If it’s a war at all, it is one powered by the people or a coalition of people across the political spectrum who, like the American revolutionaries, have longed for true political sovereignty and political equality.

Losing Philippines to a real democracy - the People Power democracy - is something that Americans can ill afford: it will mean the final triumph of ordinary democracy (over elitist democracy) that the American revolutionaries came so close to achieving. With People Power III looming in the horizon, Filipinos must decide whether they want to be great imitators again or initiators of a new democratic paradigm.


Anonymous signals said...

a good view...

October 27, 2005 7:47 PM  

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