Monday, September 14, 2009

Is it Good vs. Evil?

I am squeamish any time somebody brings up "good" versus "evil" in politics because in this context, the Church pretty much has a monopoly on ascribing what either one is. In the classic binary of black-white, devil-satan, there is little acknowledgment of the gray in between. Randy David rightly cautions Noynoy Aquino's camp from overtly framing his candidacy along these lines:
For, such moralistic formulations preempt and disparage the need for a careful and reasoned analysis of the problems that confront us as a nation. They tend to focus on the character of the doer than on the origins and consequences of the deed. They ride on unexamined moral prejudices, and simplify the search for political solutions into a quest for heroes. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo may be the most despised president in the nation’s history, but instead of ascribing to her sole authorship of everything that is bad in our government, I find it more arguable to think of her as a reflection of our society’s basic problems, or the street-smart personification of a dysfunctional social order.
Perhaps because I have seen what 'evil' professional purveyors of morality can and do perpetrate up close, I share David's opinion. The Church has called pro-Reproductive Health advocates 'evil.' There is no reasoning with anyone who thumps the bible and calls on God as final arbiter on affairs of humankind. There is no room for debate and no room to unpack and balance ideas on what it means to be a mother and what a woman's rights are vis-à-vis her husband, her family and the State.

There is no question that the Church played a significant party in the first People Power. Then, they also framed the Marcos regime as the evil empire to be toppled. Here, let me say I understand where Conrado de Quiros is coming from when he says the battle is that between good and evil:
The people who criticize Good and Evil presume completely unsophisticatedly and plain ignorantly that we think only with our conscious abstract mind, not with our unconscious image-making mind. They’re so busy looking at logistics, figures, organizational charts, they cannot appreciate the power of myth, symbol and archetype. Or the power of the storyline the ad agencies of the “presidentiables” are so desperate to find and mine for their candidates. The phrase “Good vs Evil” is merely a symbolic, mythical, archetypal, shorthand for a situation where the choice has become so stark, so life-and-death, it cannot be captured by trite and sullen articulations.
It was linguist George Lakoff who said our brains are structured to process information and to find meaning in metaphors. The human mind organizes thought by creating categories. For political purposes, Lakoff, a democrat, has written literature on how Republicans have successfully used language to frame many policy issues. It is understandable, then, that De Quiros is hammering the Good versus Evil frame. On the surface, this is a metaphor that has rung true among homo sapiens since they started walking upright. We categorize things as 'bad' or 'evil' if they harm us and 'good' if they don't. In discerning the difference, we act accordingly.

Let me suggest then that David and De Quiros' seemingly opposing views need not be irreconcilable. For the purposes of elections in these extraordinary times - the good versus evil frame will be useful. But for the purposes of governance, the day-to-day nitty-gritty of running a country, we might want to heed David's appeal to careful reasoning.

And since history has shown we have no problem fighting the battle of Good verus Evil, then we might want to shore up our collective capacities to fight the more protracted battle of figuring out how we can function as a just and prosperous nation.

No comments: