Sunday, December 31, 2006

Asking Questions

Consider this. Have you given a thought to the kind of society that you might prefer? Have you considered the aspirations, the dreams, the hope of the people? In your imaginings, do you see the shape of the nation, which you seek? Is your eye upon the power or is your eye upon the subtle uses of power and its myriad perils?

As a nation, we can never grow beyond our provincial attitude without accepting our past, in all its glory and all its failure. Yet equally important, we can not try to begin healing the wounds of the past by making an injustice today. We can not simply remove a sitting president by extra-constitutional means. We can not doctor elections. We can not arrogantly dictate terms to any faction. We must renounce our rule-bending days. One way or another, using different rhetoric, we are in agreement that to begin binding and healing our nation's wounds, to rejuvenate our country, to revitalize ourselves, we must rebuild our institutions and right our moral compass.

If we can not all agree to honor the rules of the game and to respect its consequences--- however against us, how can we as a nation move forward? How can we as a nation, hope to be morally better, if we can not accept with honor, defeat? Is it not true that in a democracy, the other guy often wins? When then, do we know when to quit and live to fight another day? If our Constitution is the venerable foundation of our society, what form would our society be after changing the Constitution in a manner that disregards the very kernel of our Society's Rule that govern us? The first step in laying down Groundwork to rebuild and bind our our Nation's wounds can begin only when we return to civility and to return to the highest and most sacred of standard, our Commission on Elections. How then can we assure our people of the integrity of our elections and thus our democracy, if such august agency and the process it was meant to safeguard, both remain tarnished?

Many believe that a Change in the form of our Government is a good move. Have we ever given a thought on the consequences, the shape of our country with a shift from the Presidential to Parliamentary form in the way the factions allied with the Administration of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo want? Does this proposal mean, it would be cheaper to run our government? More efficient? Does this mean that it delivers less graft or any less lobbying? Look at the Parliaments of Japan, of Canada, and so many others--- they have not been immune to graft or corruption charges or of leadership abuse and when one looks at our example--- the United States, with political and moral scandals left and right, it is no less immune to corruption or abuse of power.

Does it really matter if the Government is just one man: a King, an Empress--- or a politburo, presidential or parliament, elected to Office by the Sovereign Wisdom of the Multitude? What common measure is there in all forms or systems of government, be it monarchy, communism, democracy or whatnut? Plato spoke of the Philosopher King, who he envisioned to be the perfect ruler. Is that the right form of government? What do their nations have in common when they succeeded or failed? Put in a different rhetoric: would a monarchy run by a ruler who puts the need of his subjects first, be better than a democracy that puts its oligarchy first? I offer these words from Thomas Aquinas who wrote in his Summa Theologia that “A government becomes unjust by the fact that the ruler, paying no heed to the common good, seeks his own private good. Wherefore the further he departs from the common good the more unjust will his government be”.

Given our current conditions, two things are clear. First, our society's framework is not a perfect one. Second, in spite of the first condition, there remain room to grow within the existing framework. What does this mean? On the first condition, from a certain point of view, we can ask these few questions (and many more really): Why is the office of the Vice President without a permanent job, other than to be a spare tire? Is it our policy to mistake social justice with socialism when our policies encourage organizations like the PCSO to be instruments of welfare? How can we improve the standing of our education system, given the ineptitude of nation's policy, with its idea of social justice mandated from our Constitution? What of the folly of our multi-party system, that has only created myriad factions, which when one looks at them are identical with their lack of ideology and common stance in just about everything. What of this half-baked thing we have done with our local governments, how can we improve the strength of our regions, make them more autonomous in affairs they have greater competency with? With regard to the second condition, it is quite simple really: This nation will not die tomorrow if we do not adopt a new Charter. Hence, it is not an absolute compulsion to rush in amending or drafting a new Constitution.

That said, I must ask: what is it that we want as a people? Do we want a democracy? Do we want communism? Do we want a feudal society? Do we want a Monarchy to drive us? Something else? Status quo? Is it prudent to consider adopting a new Charter? On one hand, you might say it is not, but I believe it would be prudent to ask our people, when our Commission on Elections is a body we trust with counting this: “Do you want to call for a Constitutional Convention to draft a new Constitution?” Why? Simply, within the proper framework, if done properly, if counted properly, I say go for it: the opportunities and possibilities are endless. Dare it.

There are times when a people can not understand the intricacies and subtleties of decisions and in such moment it should be when politicians become leaders and steer the ship of state. Yet, when has a government or any organization for that matter been without politics? What do our leaders do? They measure the shifting wind and say, “this is where my people go, i must lead them”. Is it not through debate and discussion, by convincing others what you believe to be true, however opposed it is vis-a-vis public opinion the mark of a statesman? If such wooing fails, is it the fault of the wooer or the one who wooes? What do some of them do? Blinded by their own personal reasons, shove down our throats without subtlety, with villainous arrogance, matters that must be considered and pondered upon without hysterics.

Many of those who arrogantly shove down Charter Change in our throats are disingenuous in their argument. It is a good idea, hijacked and tailored to fit the wants and ambition and greed of a few people. Then again, good ideas are only as good as how well they're executed. It is this faction who want to take debate away from the equation because it is “too messy”, “too many cooks”, “too many questions raised” all arguing because of this, that nothing can be done. Isn't that their disingenuous catch phrase that prey on our people's want for a better and more prosperous society? Stability. Security. Peace. Isn't that their man-trap? What they want should not be done. What they want equals the continuity of status quo.

It is this same crop of leaders who use power with hysteria. They are the kind that exercises power, when it should be restrained. They're the kind of folk who are paranoid in their position and send out troops in the guise of a State of Emergency. They're the kind of folk who circumvent the law when it is most convenient for what they want. They're the kind who fear being ousted from power, who do anything to hold on to it, even to the point of lying and cheating, because they fear what people would do to them, without their position of power. How can we trust these people to do what is necessary, for the good of us all?

Bill Clinton once spoke, “It's the economy, stupid”. Rightly so, because wealth is only a tool, a very important tool that lets this nation feed itself, create new opportunities (however little), enrich ourselves in knowledge to drive industries forward. We must guard the little wealth we create. Wealth is the fuel that drives human achievement forward, however, to enslave our moral compass to wealth is wrong. Knowing this, are you not dissatisfied that this little thing we have remains mediocre? That there is so much more that can be accomplished, if only we dare? If only we step beyond our provincial attitude?

Economic prosperity shouldn't be measured by how powerful the Philippine Peso is vis-a-vis the US Dollar, or credit ratings, or GDP. Make no mistake--- those are good sign-posts, and only if one understands how much they're worth. Ergo, read: between the numbers. That said, prosperity and by direct correlation, social justice should be measured more substantially than that: the quality and quantity of available work for people; the quality of how our people think and create and innovate for themselves and most importantly, that illusive ideal that no person within our territory should be deprived their human dignity. Is that not social justice? Correct me if I'm wrong, but is that not what the Catholic faith teaches?

Those who exercise Power with Hysterics mistake our people's unwillingness to go the route of extra-constitutional means--- people power or military-action, in favor of what they take credit for and imagine is economic prosperity and stability. Have they stopped and considered that perhaps, people are not that stupid, that people know that to go the route of extra-constitutional method will neither bind nor heal our nation's wounds? The proper Way, however difficult, is to strengthen our Institutions and therefore our Democracy.

At the end of the day, what is it that we want?

We go back to my earlier questions: Have you given a thought to the kind of society that you might prefer? Have you considered the aspirations, the dreams, the hope of the people? In your imaginings, do you see the shape of the nation, which you seek? Is your eye upon the power or is your eye upon the subtle uses of power and its myriad perils? I have two equal points really, first: is there a better way and if so, do our people want it? Second, isn't power an art best exercised without hysteria and that this manifests itself in this simple thought: The purpose of a Leader is to live in the service of the people and the measure of which is found in the lives of those they govern.


benign0 said...

Although sincere motivation to serve can be seen in a handful of politicians, what really sets exceptional officials from even this small elite of sincere ones is an ability to articulate a vision for one's country.

To be sure there are lots of good intentions out there. But good intentions alone do not yield results. It starts with a clear vision, a plan to achieve it, and the ability to execute said plan that delivers results.

cocoy said...