Let us assume that most Filipinos accept that people in power have advantages. The powerful can appoint sons, daughters, wives and nephews to important government jobs, whether qualified or not. They can squeeze out a little cash from awards to favored contractors for the building of roads and bridges. Their position gets them cars, staff, expense accounts and nice travel arrangements. They live the good life.
The powerful can do this because they are "winners" in Philippine society, even if their values by Christian standards are pretty oily, or even downright disgusting. In the Philippines, power is respected, no matter how it is used. Even the Ampatuans are respected in some places.
So Senator Enrile can stage a coup and get elected to the Senate. Imelda Marcos can be the husband of a failed dictator and gain election to Congress. Manny Pacquiao can be a superb boxer and thereby qualify for a seat in the House; one he seldom sits in.
They are the "winners". They have power and they have a following, a loud one. People EXPECT those in power to use their position for gain. It is what anyone would do if they had the chance.
Well, that is one way to run a country, and it is not for this transplant to say his nation does any better. After all, politicians in the U.S. are for the most part undiplomatic, narrow-principled manipulators with little real regard for the public well-being. Somehow they get re-elected.
But I have this naïve idea that there is a more rewarding way to run a country.
It goes back to Jeffersonian principles of rights and responsibilities. Not just rights. And certainly not rights only for the powerful.
What do civic responsibilities entail? That is, what should you and I be doing to contribute to the development of a strong community of fellow islanders, our nation.
In the United States, we have some basic obligations to take care of: pay taxes, obey laws, respect authority (while maintaining rights of free speech), serve in the military or other ways. Some times sacrifice of oneself for the good of others is requested, but the desire and need for that is diminishing (the military uses drones instead of soldiers). Vote. And to vote, we should be reasonably well informed on important issues.
That's the minimum. Anything we do beyond that is fine, too, and would put us into the category of an "activist". Attending rallies and marches, organizing rallies, making dollar contributions, volunteering to work on candidate campaigns, getting involved in issues-based organizations, NRA, NAACP, NOW and the like. Running for office. A lot of people get involved.
I think the minimum responsibilities also apply in the Philippines. But there is a lesser motivation, lesser opportunity here to go beyond that to become an "activist". For one thing, when one becomes an activist in the Philippines, one creates enemies. This has something to do with loss of face for whomever one is active against. For many people, the personal affront of someone coming at them with criticism is too much to bear. Ampatuan is the extreme example of that. Rampant violence during campaigns illustrates the problem.
For another thing, too many people simply don't care very much.
So activism in the Philippines is not so widespread.
Okay then, what's a Filipino citizen to do, really, if he sees his country falling short? And he CARES?
I know there are high-moral people in the Philippines. Lots of them. They swim upriver, though. They shake their heads at the gullibility of their fellow Filipinos who elect people with such deficient character to important positions. They see the abuses but can't do much about it. They have no power.
I wonder. Is that true?
Thinking here. Pause for thinking . . .
They have no power. Hmmmmm . . .
Right thinking people, silent because they have no power . . .
In the age of the internet? Hmmmm . . .
Perhaps the REAL situation is they have simply not figured out how to organize. Or they have the MENTAL CONCEPT of what it takes to wield civic power, but not the FIRE IN THE BELLY to step outside themselves and actually DO something.
Or perhaps they are afraid of the consequences. Consequences they cannot anticipate. And which experience suggests may be angry.
Do you consider yourself to be a regular person? A small person, really, of no particular stature in the Philippines? A powerless person?
What if there were two of you working together, would you have a little more power?
What if five?
What if 500?
What if 2 million?
Do you think you might get a newspaper editor to look up?
Do you think you might get a candidate interested in your support?
Do you think you might be powerful enough to influence a bill?
The U.S. is rich with institutions that gather the power of many "little" people and unify them into one big force. NOW (women). NAACP (blacks). Tea Party (conservative Christians). NRA (gun owners). AARP (seniors). And many more. Most have a band of attorneys fighting for their cause in the courts. And publicity specialists to articulate their positions. And fund-raising experts.
What does the Philippines have? An occasional protest by this group or that, generally a march down Roxas. Somehow throwing their cause in the face of the United States gives it added meaning. Like a couple of weeks ago when several hundred leftists were blocked by riot police from going to Roxas to protest the poor treatment of farmers and the presence of the US in the Philippines, as if the two were somehow connected. Nothing like a good shout at the US regarding the plight of farmers in the Philippines.
The newspapers, always interested in a sensationalist angle, put small-time, loud, controversial protests such as this on the front page. As if half the nation were behind the rabble-rousers.
Half the nation is taking their nap, sorry. The other half is out working.
I personally think the lack of "power to the little people" comes from a lack of "fire in the belly". A lack of passion. An inability to get past lethargy or apathy or fear or whatever this drag is that makes Filipinos far and wide complacent, subsistent, or downright subservient.
Those who see, stand back. Those who understand, turn away.
The accumulation of power by the common Filipino merely lacks organization. It lacks someone with the courage and ability to organize.
I'd do it but it is not my job.
I'd find two smart, aggressive people to join me and we'd put together a cause and an organization.
Mine would be aimed at getting a Fair Employment Law passed to end nepotistic hiring and to energize careers. And it would be aimed at getting a divorce law passed to end the ridiculous human bondage of women to abusive, useless men. And it would be aimed at privatizing education.
The name would be something like "Filipinos for Filipinos".
But, as I said, that is not my job . . .
I've got the fire in the belly, but no platform to stand on . . .
What are you standing on?
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Look for JoeAm's blockbuster article "Principles for Organizing Insurrection", coming soon to a blog site near you . . .