No Way Out
An old jokes goes, "first prize in the raffle is a round trip ticket to Cleveland; the second prize is two round trip tickets to Cleveland". In some cases, more is not better. Publius Pundit has a roundup of the protests threatening to upend Philippine President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo after a leaked wiretap showed how she plotted electoral fraud against her defeated presidential rival, the now-deceased Fernando Poe Jr. But whereas in the old days nearly everyone would have welcomed the fall of a crook and fraudster, the prospect of the Nth "People's Power" revolution has filled many Filipinos with dismay. Not out of love for Gloria Macapagal but out of fear for what may follow.
The essential problem facing the Philippines is that all its public institutions have been thoroughly corrupted. And as when all the bottles in the bar contain poison, there is little point in swapping one drink for another. Philippine newspaperman Max Soliven despairs of improvement in these terms. He says Gloria Macapagal
is fortunate that those who plot her downfall don’t come to the fore with clean hands. Nor can they offer our distressed and disillusioned nation leadership of a more inspiring kind. All the "cures" being offered appear worse than the disease. But I’ve said that before. The problem with being a so-called opinion writer is that you find yourself repeating yourself. Over the decades I’ve written this column, when I review those old clippings, the crises seem to be similar to each other, even though the names have changed. Of course the amounts involved get bigger and more scandalous by the year. Almost half a century ago, one of our most popular columnists, who died some years ago, wrote as he frothed at the mouth: "The Philippines is going to the dogs!" The dogs have had a good long wait.
Several Filipino bloggers adopt the same despondent attitude. The Yasminka site has this exchange among several posters. (Loose translation supplied where appropriate)
I was there in EDSA 1 and 2. ... we were in the same place fighting for the same cause... but I'm sick of this drama.
I've had it. I don't want to stand up and be counted again. I'm tired. I want government to work. i want rule of law. I want politics to be boring. I want our country to run normally without having to rely on revolutions and coups evey few years or so.
This street stuff has gotten real old. Worn out, and I second your motion: "I want government to work. I want rule of law. I want politics to be boring. I want our country to run normally without having to rely on revolutions and coups evey few years or so."
I agree! My heart breaks each time my dad sends me a text message and his mood lacks the optimism that he used to have. I am tired of our politicians' continuous debate over the numbers racket the pols run (jueteng) losing sight on what they should be doing. All these debate are just to foster their wish to trample on their fellow politicians instead of doing what they were set out to do. Sometimes I wonder maybe they are guilty of the very same thing that they are accusing their colleagues with. In other words, "why trade on thief for another"
They don't want a new President who will be no different from the previous. But they don't get to choose. The really tragic thing about the failing Philippine state is that simply because something makes no sense doesn't mean it isn't going to happen. The dysfunctional nature of Philippine politics, taken to its ultimate conclusion means that if some kind of People's Power revolt doesn't take place, a coup attempt will or a rigged election will happen if all else fails. That's what a collapsing polity means. Those with academic tastes can read The Strategic Implications of the Rise of Populism in Europe and South America, from the Army War College which talks about what happens when populations in despair decide to follow the inevitable demagogue.
Populism can make its presence felt among any group of ordinary people in any democratic country which is being subjected to stressful forces. As a result of such stress, this group of people may identify itself with a leader who they believe can provide them with more material support and hope for the future than the elite politicians running the country. Indeed, the whole dynamic supporting populism relies on the fact that some group of ordinary citizens does not view the government as legitimately and properly representing their interests. As a consequence, they lose respect for the institutions associated with representative democracy (political parties, legislatures, courts) and are perfectly willing to bypass these institutions when necessary through recourse to direct political action. Such direct political action often (though not always) involves some measure of illegality. ...
Populism always expresses itself in the form of a direct and unmediated relationship between “the people” and their leader. This leader is typically charismatic―meaning that, by force of personality and sheer animal magnetism, he or she can form a direct bond with followers. In the modern media age, this dynamic and outspoken leader is also usually handsome/beautiful or otherwise ruggedly “compelling” in a movie star kind of way. And there is good reason why populists possess these personal attributes. Given the grip that elite politicians have on traditional representative democratic institutions and the media, the populist leader needs to present his or her ideas theatrically to bypass these institutions and to reach the “chosen people” directly. ...
When a demagogue comes to power in a world or a regional hegemon, the result is a tragedy which the world will remember for a century.
In Europe, Benito Mussolini exploded onto the Italian democratic political scene in 1919 when he first ran for a seat in Parliament. A short 2 years later, the King of Italy, Vittorio Emanuele III, asked him to form a new government. While Adolph Hitler emerged less quickly within Germany’s post-World War I democratic Weimar Republic, he eventually formed part of a larger cluster of populist politicians who governed on two continents.
When institutions collapse in a Third World country the result is still tragedy, but one which is ignored.