We are the chaos

by Jose Ma. Montelibano

Photo by Toto Lozano via Wikimedia Commons

Elections are about the people who vote more than they are about the candidates asking for our votes. Governance is about the elected and the appointed, but elections are about the people who vote.

Simple as that may sound, that is not mostly true in the minds of the people who vote. No matter how engaged they are, what is primordial in their minds are the candidates. It seems to be about them, not us. The funny part is that the candidates think it is all about us. Candidates, for the most part, know that we are thinking about them rather than ourselves. They know we regard them as the answer to our dreams and aspirations more than ourselves – and they will encourage that.

From the beginning, we all start on the wrong foot. Elections are an integral feature of democracy, assuming they are fair, honest, and transparent, of course. Democracy is about the citizens of a country, the people. Elections, then, are an exercise of the people, by the people, for the people. When we think or are being led to think that elections are about candidates, by the candidate, for the candidates, we have crippled the purpose and impact of elections.

Do we even remember why, traditionally, there is talk and expectation about the platform of candidates or political parties? That is because candidates and the political parties they belong to if they do, try to interpret what we want, what we dream of, what we aspire for. But because the candidates and political parties have realized over time that we are not thinking about democracy, not our role and obligations as citizens in a democracy, they offer themselves the answers or the messiahs who can make their dreams and aspirations come true.

From a serious misconception, elections then move towards deception on the part of candidates – or at least most of them. Candidates who faithfully tell the people that they, the people, are the primary answer to their problems will most probably lose. On the other hand, the candidate who promises more will most likely win despite having broken the same promises before. Because the deadly virus of beginning with the wrong notion brings about false expectations – that those candidates and politicians oversee our lives and our future.

I find it sad, too, that those who try to roll out a voter’s education when elections approach are somewhat lost. Democracy is a chosen political system that becomes the lifestyle of citizens in a democratic country. It is wrong to teach it at the noisiest and distracting of environments like a campaign period. That is out of timing, too little, and too late.

The fundamental features of democracy should be taught as a subject from high school to college. The reality is that democracy with its principles and applications is more relevant to our lives than most subjects and courses we are forced to study in school. If a democratic nation does not appreciate democracy, it will never teach it until it is too late and inapplicable. That is our reality – democratic by name and feudal by lifestyle.

“The reality is that democracy with its principles and applications is more relevant to our lives than most subjects and courses we are forced to study in school. If a democratic nation does not appreciate democracy, it will never teach it until it is too late and inapplicable.”

Yet, on paper, in theory, we are a democracy. Our Constitution, laws, rules, and regulations conform with the principles of democracy but are quite loosely applied. More in actual practice is governance by and for the elite, which is closer to feudalism, not democracy. For as long as poverty pervades in a democratic nation of 75 years, that same poverty will disable all attempts to inculcate democratic principles in our national lifestyle.

Today and for the next six months, we will witness feudalism in practice trying to appear like democracy in the application. We have made a simple democratic process covering the filing for candidates a total tragic comedy. With what some candidates at the highest levels did, acts allegedly allowed by the letter of the law despite patently dishonoring its spirit and dignity, we saw farce dominate instead of respect and sanctity for the process. Chaotic, at the very least.

Chaotic, from the eyes of many, and chaotic on the part of high-level political personalities. Yet, we lived with it. We allowed it to play out without serious protests and maybe a justified removal of public officials. We now live with its enduring consequences, the worst not being the final candidates per position. Still, the loss of respect we now carry for a crucial procedure governing our democratic system.

In truth, we are the chaos. By quietly accepting chaotic behavior from public officials occupying the highest offices of the land, we loudly send the message to them that they were right in the first place for assuming we would simply swallow it. We are the chaos in a democracy when we do not understand or take on the responsibility of citizens in a democracy. Yet, we are not chaos to arrogant politicians who exploit our ignorance and our wrongful dependence on them. We are just the usual victims.

“We are the chaos in a democracy when we do not understand or take on the responsibility of citizens in a democracy. Yet, we are not chaos to arrogant politicians who exploit our ignorance and our wrongful dependence on them. We are just the usual victims.”

At this time, applied democracy is too far from our reality even though we profess to believe in it. Yes, we will continue to strive for it with the hope that, one day, we will accidentally find ourselves on the right pathway towards it. In the meantime, because elections are on us and its consequences or rewards will be on us for six years after May 2022, let us go back to the simple values we all teach to our children.

Do not lie.
Do not steal.
Do not kill.

If we cannot extract from our spirit and understanding of democratic principles, let us first strive for what we universally accept and teach. There are more than just those three values mentioned above that matter, but even electing candidates who commit to not lying, not stealing, and not killing can already bring us out of our chaos.

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