Campaign and elections are a serious distraction in the life of our struggling nation. For several months, way beyond the time period allowed by law, politicians and would-be politicians poison our environment with their strange mixture of myopic promises, misplaced inanity, contrived patriotism, and hopeless naivete. Their confused cacophony continues the myth of salvation grounded disproportionately on good governance, that politicians, when empowered by the authority of public office, are our messiah.
A hapless citizenry is the ultimate result of people believing that salvation is out there, or up there, and not in their hands. A hapless citizenry has little understanding of the principle and operating system of democracy – that a strong nation is comprised of a strong citizenry. Should there be an enlightened and inspiring leadership, that is a bonus but only a bonus? Because the backbone is always the citizenry, the people who live and work and die for their nation.
Even in a dictatorship or authoritarian government, the people are just as critical. They have to be willingly submissive to enable a dictatorship to perform well. Because the country is still about the people within their territory whatever the form of government. The quality of their submissiveness determines how much a dictatorship can achieve.
Filipinos are a sad mixture, one foot stuck deeply in their historical submission and the other one kicking to forge a way to independence. Transitioning to empowerment in a democracy from colonial conditioning remains a great struggle for all people with that history.
Unfortunately, Filipinos have no one to guide them through being capable citizens. We are at best copying results of the transition processes of other once conquered people.
We must remember that even the United States, Canada, and Australia are children of subjugated people from old Europe who had to transcend their own histories. Canada and Australia are independent and among the most developed of nations, yet they remain part of the Commonwealth that honors the long eras of kings and queens. They had to transition, just as we wish, too. But as we do, we look to these new nations as though democracy has always been natural to them. They are not alone, too. Their parent nations in Europe are still having a catharsis about accepting or rejecting refugees – their karmic harvest for leaving their weaker neighbors behind. Their political and economic progressives and liberals are at odds as though they are not one people.
So, too, Filipinos will have to outgrow a much longer history of submissiveness before they can build a truly new foundation. Filipinos in the vast majority continue to look to our domestic kings and queens, local, regional or national, as the saviors they promise to be. And why should our politicians not promise to take care of the needs of the people? Who would ever elect political candidates whose platform of governance would begin with the democratic principle that the people first take care of government, not the other way around? Remember that popular John Kennedy words – ask not what your country can do for people but what you can do for your country?
The foundation of the United States was of pioneers looking for a new life in a new world. They were like our modern day overseas Filipino workers desperately trying to build a new life for their families. American pioneers became settlers, braved strange and harsh environments, learned to stand only on their own power and courage. That is the American foundation. That is how they transitioned from being in submission for thousands of years. When the idea of freedom and self-rule came, they embraced it.
What about Filipinos? How can Filipinos disengage from a past that, despite some benefits and good memories, still in the whole enslaved a whole race? Who will hold our hands, guide us through the long and difficult path, encourage us to build our nation without warlords, gambling lords, economic lords, and gods of all denominations masquerading to be our only option out of poverty and misery?
It was not the Spaniard; they had their chance. It was not the Americans; they had their chance. Now, some think the Chinese will do a better job. Will we give them a chance?
How about us? Are we the citizens our country needs?