Something for the administration to ponder upon

Blind idolatry and the irrational elites

By Antonio P. Contreras
October 9, 2014 3:22pm

GMA News Online, Opinion, Blog

He will still vote for Binay, despite all the things that are being said about him.
This is what this ordinary guy told me one night I was hanging out at the entrance of my condo in Vito Cruz. We are usually part of a group congregating around the balut vendor who has become a regular there. This informal community is like the “umpukan” usually found in street corners. Indeed, even in this vertical urban community, the ritual of making “kwento” after dinner is a tradition that may have been diminished, but has not been totally eradicated as a practice among ordinary peoples. After all, while the group, mostly male, is composed mainly of middle class, blue-collar workers, and professionals, we are still ordinary Pinoys.
This guy I am referring to works as a casino dealer. He's a graduate of criminology, and is surprisingly interested in politics. He always engages me in small talk about political developments, probing my position on issues. He knows that I am sometimes invited to render my opinion on issues on TV and in radio talk shows, and so he takes every opportunity to further quiz me about politics. 
But on that night, it was my turn to quiz him. I was particularly interested in how ordinary citizens react to the methodical, almost striptease-like demolition of Jojo Binay by his political enemies, and how this affects their views of him.
Yes, the guy is fully familiar with what is happening. Yes, he knows that the Binays are being accused of corruption. And yes, he is convinced that the accusations are probably true. But yes, he will still be voting for Jojo Binay nevertheless.
When I probed him for answers, his response was characteristic not of somebody blindly loyal, but one who has a sense of pragmatism. According to him, even if Binay is guilty, he gets things done and has a track record. This guy is resigned to the fact that politicians are a bunch of tainted, flawed characters, but the more important trait is to show results. In short, what the country needs is someone who can rescue us from the problems we face, and not someone who may be squeaky clean but is totally inept.
And yes, for him, it also did not help at all that the people behind the attacks on Binay are also one way or the other accused of, or implicated in, the PDAF and DAP controversies. 
When I asked him about Mar Roxas, his reply was dismissive. He is too elite, according to him, and too trying hard.
When I asked him about giving PNoy another term, he laughed and rhetorically asked me if this is even possible since it is not allowed in the Constitution. Besides, he thinks PNoy is only good in going after his enemies, and has utterly failed in solving the problems of the ordinary people.
I imagine that this is a story that would once again draw the ire and raise the eyebrows of the upper class elites and moralists. I am sure as the sun rises in the morning that some will not only heap insults on guys like my casino dealer friend, but would even malign me, my style of writing, and would even dissect this article as if it is a dissertation treatise. Some will find fault in it, using rubrics that are applied in academic publications, something that is truly laughable considering that this is a blog, and not a manuscript published in a refereed abstracted journal.  
This is simply because they disagree with its message.
I may not like Jojo Binay, but I will not be as bold in dismissing the views of this guy I talked to, and the rest of the 31 percent who still would vote for the Vice President despite the mud that has been thrown at him. Instead of indicting them for their preferences, what we should be indicting and holding accountable are those who were tasked to rescue us from the pits of political malaise, and have promised to make our lives better, but instead have miserably failed.
It is their failure that would make Binay a lesser evil. It is their sins of omission that would make Binay’s sins as palatable alternatives that would be easier to swallow.
Indeed, in a country whose capital is now at the brink of being in a state of constant paralysis brought about by horrendous traffic, disenabled by floods when it rains, whose highly mobile people are held hostage by a chaotic, breakdown-prone mass transit system, and whose sense of national pride takes a beating courtesy of an airport which has now been a two-peat winner in the worst airport of the world contest, Binay’s alleged sins would be easy to forgive and forget.
Many years back, when I was still dean of my college, I was part of a panel that selected the various graduation awardees. One of the questions we asked the student finalists was, who among the Presidents of our country would they consider the best? Every single one of them answered what to us, members of the panel, who all lived through the political discomforts and excesses of Martial Law, was a horrifying revelation—Ferdinand E. Marcos. 
And when we probed them, it became apparent that their preference for the much-maligned dictator was not really an outcome of idolatrous worship. Their preference for Marcos was a result less of a glossing over of his excesses, but more as an indictment of the failures of those who succeeded him. 
It is granted that many of the student finalists we interviewed were probably from the upper and elite classes. But it is equally true that the view they held is equally, if not more, pervasive among the lower classes and the ordinary citizens.  
It is easy to dismiss the irrationality of the ordinary peoples. This is not a monopoly of the Pinoy elites but in fact is the same theme that played out in Thailand when the Bangkok elites looked down upon the Thai lower classes, who kept on electing Thaksin and his allies. After the coup in May of this year, the ruling bloc is now entertaining the option of revising the rules to prevent the emergence of another populist politician being elected by what to them were the unthinking, unwashed masses.
In Indonesia, the establishment politicians, shocked by the ascendancy of a rock-star Forester to the presidency, have now used their traditional bastions of elite power and are planning to rewrite the rules so that the Indonesian electorate will no longer once again have a direct voice in the election of future presidents. 
Elites always look down on the rationality of the masses. They easily label the latter’s vote as a product of manipulation, of the masses being bought, or of lower classes being blindly loyal to populist political figures.
This is far from what I sense. I sense that the votes of the masses are a reflection of what can be considered as a rational choice of those who have less in life. They would favor those who they can relate with, and those who can bring them deliverance from their current states of unwell-being.
On the contrary, it is those who now make us accept that the only valid parameter of performance is the very abstract nature of reforms who can be accused of being guilty of fostering blind loyalty.  
After all, the results they show as exhibits of success are the heads of a Corona now de-crowned as Chief Justice, of a Gloria now unglorified in her hospital bed, reportedly terribly ill in her arrested state, and of Tanda, Sexy and Pogi, a.k.a. the three senator-friends of Janet, now all jailbirds awaiting their fates. One of the reforms that they may have tried to push for was to accelerate the disbursement of government funds, but such has been shot down as procedurally unconstitutional, and to date evidences are piling up that the intended outcomes of the attempt to pump prime growth are in fact more imagined than real.
To someone who is in a constant state of food insecurity, and is highly vulnerable and has very few escape options when vital public services break down, jailing the corrupt is good, but it would never put food on the table and money in the pocket. We can call this as a reflection of a flawed sense of civics. We can even call it as a form of poverty too, in moral terms. But this is a highly rational stance nonetheless. 
To a rational mind, the material which is more palpable and visible is the more valued warrant to any claim of having been compliant with the promise of delivering results. On the other hand, an idealistic mind would easily suspend consideration of the material, and would privilege the symbolic rewards that are associated with the abstract yet high-ordered parameters such as this intractable mantra of “reform,” as the more important credential for someone to become worthy of support.
It is in this context that those who would now ask people to bear suffering the inconvenience of a megalopolis in near-disarray, are the ones who can be accused of being irrational. It is those who would ask people to ignore their discomfort when streets are flooded, when trains bursting at their seams with exasperated commuters run with open doors, or worse stop in their tracks--this as a better option than risking their lives and property in the hands of street criminals who prey on them--who are in fact blinded. It is those who promise that there is “more to come” from a President on whom they have placed their hopes and dreams who are guilty of an unthinking form of loyalty.
It is those elites who are unfamiliar with the rational calculations of those who are poor who would have the temerity to condemn the latter’s preference for Binay or Marcos as a deeply flawed choice. They derided the Marcos loyalists as blinded fools, and they would now demean my friend and the 31 percent like him who would still vote for Binay as miserably wallowing in blind idolatry.
Yet, it is these people who are willing to suspend their judgment, and rest their hopes on the promise of a surname, on an inherited wisdom of dead parents, as if performance is something that is bequeathed and written in a last will and testament, that are guiltier of blind idolatry.
The poor favoring someone who has a record of delivering concrete results, palliatives they may be in some cases but still palpable, are in fact acting rationally. It is ethically problematic when they overlook the flaws and the corruption of their preferred political figures, but this is rationally defensible when one considers what they value as their urgent needs.
And the elites, most of whom are equipped with a higher education, some of whom in fact have graduate degrees attached to their names, are the ones who base their choices not on the empirical but the symbolic, not on the factual but on the mythical, not on the gut issues but on abstractions of yet to be felt reforms.
Indeed, it is tragic when people are forced to choose between reason and morals. But this is the sad reality, even more heightened when virtuous leaders fail to deliver on the gut issues. 
The poor are simply loyal to their material interests. We can condemn them for their choices, but we could never demean them for acting irrationally against their interests.
It is the elites who are prone to blind loyalty, and have the tendency to elevate into a pedestal somebody who is not deserving of such an esteemed place. It is people like them who are willing to buck the force of constitutional stability, and would dare propose the unconstitutional if only to provide a space for someone they have elevated as a near infallible messiah who they now idolize as having the monopoly over virtue.
They are the ones who would like us to vote not on the basis of a record, but on the basis of a promise. They are the ones who would like us to believe that more is coming from someone that has a lot to explain for doing so much less.
Now, who is guiltier of blind idolatry? You tell me.

"Blind idolatry" ng masa versus "blind loyalty" ng mga elitista. Salpokan ng mga nabubulagan.

The view expressed in this blog article by Antonio P. Contreras, a former dean of De La Salle University, is not just an eye-opener to both the Masang Pilipino and the Pinoy Elites who are blinded by their respective political idolatry and political loyalty, but also this is something for the PNoy administration to ponder upon.