Science of political survival takes over

by Jose Ma. Montelibano

| Photo: Eric Sales/ Asian Development Bank via Creative Commons/Flickr

Right off the bat, politics to me means the classical Greek meaning. Anyway, that is where the very word “politics” came from, the Greek word “polis.” From that original term is the original meaning, of course, which is “is the set of activities that are associated with making decisions in groups, or other forms of power relations between individuals, such as the distribution of resources or status.”

Politics, then, was understood as the dynamics of a given territory or society in the efforts of its citizens and various sectors to manage their relationships towards their common welfare. However, the color of partisanship became more pronounced along the way, following the greater importance of control to the players involved. It was a deterioration of something well-meaning and objective but understandably human. It is all too human, quite emotional, and clarity often gives way to prejudice and self-interest. Sad.

The pandemic threw back the collective situation to the basics of security and less from the rush of change through technology. In one fell swoop, Covid-19 brought back the fundamental vulnerability of humanity – illness, and death. Physical survival overtook everything, for a while, that is. In the Philippines, most Filipinos are still profoundly in that mindset of physical survival. I cannot blame them. The only universal value they share with those more fortunate or blessed is life itself, the fact that they are alive in the same way as all others. That, however, is less true today and disturbing.

“The only universal value they share with those more fortunate or blessed is life itself, the fact that they are alive in the same way as all others. That, however, is less true today and disturbing.”

In the earlier pandemic stages, it was evident that life was more important than economic concerns. That realization does not come often, and it did not stay dominant for long, either. The government tried through massive funded programs to keep life afloat for most, especially those who had no other recourse but to depend on government handouts. Quarantines and lockdowns severely limited movement, and the poorer sectors of society had no way to earn. Hunger concerns jumped to the top of the list.

The government, however, has run out of money. Hem and haw, diplomatically or otherwise, the fact remains that there are just too few funds for too great a need. Hunger or the fear of it would sooner than later drive people out into the streets, in compliance or in defiance of quarantine, to find money legally or otherwise, to eat and feed their families. With the pandemic at record levels today, the government is forced to contradict its previous priorities. Survival is still first, but maintaining it must now be given instead of government subsidies.

Health has a lot of science behind it. It may be the most researched topic in the world. Yet, it gropes to discover solutions quickly. The silver bullet, vaccines that the world of medicine and politics depended on, has been around for over six months and has failed miserably to bring clarity and confidence. Health institutions and medical experts can only keep citing macro statistics that remain foreign, even irrelevant, to people considered part of the exception. In other words, they get infected or die even when fully vaccinated, simply told they are part of the percentage that vaccines cannot cover.

“Hunger or the fear of it would sooner than later drive people out into the streets, in compliance or in defiance of quarantine, to find money legally or otherwise, to eat and feed their families.”

There is a world of communications, and from its activity, human fears or confidence is engendered. The World Health Organization and the official health institutions in different countries know that the deplorable diseases of the world while affecting a small minority of the total population, makes everyone fearful. It is their fault, aggressively pushed by the big pharma industries of the West, that the exception rules the fear. They have marketed it that way to precisely make everyone afraid, as they did with AIDS, cancer, and now, Covid-19. They probably thought that making more people scared of diseases would generate more concern and more funding to find the answers.

Today, karma hits back. In what must be the most infectious disease so far, Covid-19 has scared the wits of the whole world to the degree that economies froze, and much of it is still sluggish, especially in the Philippines. Global health authorities and the pharmaceutical industry have combined their collective power to tell everybody about the silver bullet, but vaccines generate more controversy than confidence. There are creeping explanations, comical if you ask me, that try to justify the stance of massive vaccination even as breakthrough infections are like lightning rods triggering even more questions.

Swinging to the other end of the spectrum has been easy when possible answers mixed with conspiracy theories. The alternatives, though, are not any more reassuring. People who are genuinely looking for their security more than anything else have serious questions for both sides but end up confused still. Without clarity and sound options, the vast majority will simply swim with the herd. Well, that is not strange. The herd immunity is also known as the herd mentality, where the blind follow one-eyed kings.

What is left for us to do then? Where do we go if the mainstream perspective and programs cannot remove our doubts and fears, and the alternative options look even scarier?

“Survival is our priority, then confidence that we know how to survive. …We must learn to build our strength and security from the collective power of the community. Nowhere else to go.”

Some look at the pandemic as precisely the provocateur forcing us to reflect on the grave situation and what we can learn from it. There are no good answers if we realize that will push us to look for them ourselves instead of waiting for false messiahs to disappoint us time and again.

Survival is our priority, then confidence that we know how to survive. If survival is not from government or silver bullets, it must come from within us, from around us, from ourselves and our sturdiness, from our relationships in our communities. We must learn to build our strength and security from the collective power of the community. Nowhere else to go.

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