Episode 1: Amusement, and a word on false dichotomies

Why won't you listen to us!? - High Society

It is amusing how some voters assume the stance of “being better” than the 13M/8+M/5+M who voted for Aquino, Estrada and Villar, respectively. Everywhere one turns, there’s another discussion going on about how the poor “voted with their hearts and stomachs,” that they valued campaign slogans over competency and capability, that they looked for the “hero figure” rather than a true pundit of change, and how we are “doomed” by their decisions. This has been a common thread on many online fora, and now even a feature article on a national daily.

Is this true?

At the very least, it is a gross mischaracterization of roughly 80-90% of our population who live below the poverty line. Yes, it is reasonable to assume that they voted with their hearts and stomachs, given that that’s all society has left them with for years of promises of poverty alleviation, yet still an ever-growing gap between the rich and the poor. Yes, it is likely that a good portion of them are uneducated and did not conduct the same amount of research on their candidates of choice as, say, one who might study in a private school whose per-semester tuition is twice as much as what a blue-collar worker makes in a year. Yes, it is probable that a sizable percentage of them did look to “hero figures” rather than for capable leaders, having been subjected to 9 years of “capable leadership” and still none the better.

That does not take away from the desire of the poor to see a better future for themselves and their children. That does not downplay the wisdom they have gained from dealing with the side-effects of a corrupt and inept socio-economic system. That does not render irrelevant their desire for leadership that goes beyond simple capability and competency and who displays character and conviction that we *CAN* have a better tomorrow.

That does not mean they have doomed us; on the contrary, we’ve been dooming them for decades, being complacent in allowing corruption to take root once more into nearly all levels of public offices, all the while thinking, “For as long as they do their jobs, it’s OK.” EDSA 2 was a mere hiccup, really; all it did was make a bad situation worse by replacing a broken presidency with an even more broken one. All this time, we just trudged along, convinced that the officials’ so-called “Standard Operating Procedure” was a necessarily evil in getting things done, never thinking that the money siphoned from public projects was money siphoned away from public services that ought to have been offered to the poor and marginalized – after all, when was the last time the rich and privileged ever needed to go to a public hospital or a barangay health clinic?

To accuse the masses of having some distinct “culture” that promotes their poverty rather than seeks to solve it reeks of an ignorant brand of elitism. Indeed, why the rich and privileged so-called “intelligentia” should be frustrated that they did not get their way in a democratic process, while in the same breath recognizing that they are an economic and social minority, is beyond me. If anything, it is the failure of the privileged that they are unable to show the marginalized their “educated” point of view. But more to point, it is precisely the failure of the privileged to understand the marginalized from the beginning that leads to this false dichotomy: That what the poor want is the polar opposite of what the privileged want, that the culture of the poor is different from the culture of the privileged.

Nothing can be further from the truth. Regardless of the economic or social strata, everyone campaigned and voted for what they thought was right; in all cases, we all campaigned hard because we wanted a better future, and we believed that the candidates we supported could help bring this future about. This transcended status and culture. To now claim some moral/intellectual high ground on the basis of winning, or even losing as the case may be, is to lose sight of what we fought for and to focus once again on this false dichotomy.

The question now is: Having voted for a candidate who lost, will you remain aloof in your self-proclaimed intellectual tower of reflection? Or are you going to suck it up and see how you can bring the ideals you championed during the campaigns into fruition in this next administration? Are you willing to set aside your preconceived notions on the decisions of the poor, and participate in the fruits of their vote?

To you, dear voter disappointed with the electoral results, I say this: There is still much to do. The elections was, believe it or not, the easy part.

Stop being amusing. Get over yourself, and get to work.

(Full image of the one used above was taken from www.sondheimguide.com/porter/high.html, edited using Gimp 2. All rights belong to their respective owners.)


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