Do not get drawn into their game

by Jose Ma. Montelibano

Chess | Photo by Bruno Mazotti via Wikimedia Commons

I know it is political season, which means awful news for us. If we believe that politics and governance do not mix well or that both politics and governance on their own have not proven beneficial to society, then putting two defective activities together will be disastrous. But, then again, the Philippines is used to disasters. It is only a matter of measuring just how bad versus the previous year or years.

Put politics, governance, and the pandemic will prove even more disastrous. In my mind, this will prove to be cathartic or prone to disruptive developments beyond the power of man to orchestrate. When life itself decides to be the primary conductor of the current concert, those in power and those who want to be in power will be shocked. Their plans will not work. Yes, part of a plan may work, but it is more accidental than intentional. A catharsis defies man’s manipulation. In fact, it can punish it severely.

We are racing towards the crest of the emerging catharsis. That it will happen is not my question because it will. What interests me is how it unfolds and how the more innocent can prepare themselves from a major fallout. Just imagine that the COVID-19 pandemic is the most graphic expression of this catharsis, yet the same pandemic is only building up to greater disruption. It has to. Its lessons have not been learned on the whole. Humanity is racing to return to an old normal that life has decided to get rid of.

The only thing going for the holdovers – those who would like things the way they were because they were in control – is that life seldom moves in an instant for the collective. Instant disruptions are more common among individuals and rarer on a societal basis. Like, when was the last global pandemic? None that we know as of now. Epidemics in countries or several countries, yes, a few times in history that is known. But for a global one, COVID-19 is the first on record.

“The only thing going for the holdovers – those who would like things the way they were because they were in control – is that life seldom moves in an instant for the collective. Instant disruptions are more common among individuals and rarer on a societal basis.”

Because of its rarity, the global pandemic brought with it that rare cathartic power and consequence. For over a year, the world had to stand still, then slowly rearrange itself. It is barely out of the woods now, and signs of optimism are there more because it is hard for humanity to sustain pessimism or despair. With that optimism, there is not yet a lot of clarity. It is as though humanity will have to learn how to walk again.

However, leaders of countries guiding their nations towards a sound path and doing so with more openness to new ways will drastically shift their directions. It will be those who have governed with stubbornness and will continue to insist on old ways to feel the quiet upheaval of a cathartic process. That is why I keep looking at the dictators of the world or the would-be dictators under any title. I wonder how most of them can remain intact after this cathartic process.

Our national attention is being pulled into different directions by truly urgent but conflicting demands like health concerns versus reopening the economy. Furthermore, the 2022 presidential elections discolor and distract the urgent for the destructive efforts of holding on to power. Governance is most challenged by pandemic circumstances which require the most intelligence and sensitivity. Politics will pollute it instead.

“Governance is most challenged by pandemic circumstances which require the most intelligence and sensitivity. Politics will pollute it instead.”

Actually, even for the wrong reason, politics can prove beneficial for the poor and the hungry. It is during the campaign period when the marginalized sector gains temporary value to the rest of society. Their numbers, anywhere from 30 – 60 million, depending on what politicians and government accept as poor and dependent, give them a level of value that is quickly lost after elections. But today, until May 2022, the marginalized will be noticed and wooed.

The basic needs of the marginalized, then, may find temporary sympathy with those who will engage in a great contest for their support. The downside is that the cycle of vote-buying in their various forms will be enhanced, not broken. I listened to a talk show where a political operator for hire said that the average amount a would-be candidate would need to prepare to win is P500 per vote. The only exception would be the top-rated candidates. There may be several factors involved, but money is more equal than others.

Yet, a catharsis would also question the practice of money and vote-buying. If life does not step in to disrupt that formula, democracy will have to be redefined. I sense that the citizenry will soon reach the point that it, too, would not want that practice to go on. The ultimate product of elections is governance. People in positions that they won by buying votes will govern in the same consciousness. Except that, when in power, they can be spending the people’s money entrusted to them.

“There will be lots of discussions that will turn to debates, then arguments. Let us avoid them. Instead, let us look after those who are weak or already suffering and do our individual share to ease their pain and fears. Let politicians fight among themselves while we focus on staying healthy, productive, and safe.”

Meanwhile, COVID-19 spreads in the cities in the provinces. Any surge in COVID infections and deaths will naturally immobilize the affected areas. More businesses curtailed, more jobs and incomes lost, more poverty and hunger. These concerns ask for the most skilled handling from those who govern, and politicking, while detrimental as a rule, will be destructive in an active pandemic. And the temper of the citizenry will rise a degree or two.

What we cannot avoid, we can still prepare for. Knowing that this is how life will be inside a dangerous pandemic and a depressed business environment, let us step aside from partisan activities. There will be lots of discussions that will turn to debates, then arguments. Let us avoid them. Instead, let us look after those who are weak or already suffering and do our individual share to ease their pain and fears. Let politicians fight among themselves while we focus on staying healthy, productive, and safe.

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