Sunday, January 10, 2010

A Politics of Meaning

The city of Calapan is plastered with the initials RGV - public works, vehicles, buildings. The letters are shaped a certain way, a distinctive font. These three letters are inescapable, they assault you everywhere. Rodolfo G. Valencia has been campaigning for a long time. He owns many businesses in Oriental Mindoro’s capital. It is his right of course to put his initials on any object purchased with his money.

In Manila, faces of politicians of every stripe and hue are also plastered on every available surface. Visibly photoshopped, the aspiring barangay captain, councilor, senator and president is strategically placed on moving buses or inert buildings and light posts. On television, there are thirty-second audiovisual presentations with catchy blurbs made palatable by poppish music.

In four months citizens will troop to polling precincts to choose their leaders from the barangay to the national level. Four short months. I have been waiting for real substantive messages from any one of these politicians. I have been waiting to be engaged in a debate on problems and possible solutions. And there are problems aplenty. All there seem to be are problems. As one who has closely followed the American elections last year, I have been thoroughly disappointed by the Philippine ‘pre-campaign’ period so far. Will there be a debate on healthcare? Economic reform? Public debt? Human rights? Agricultural policies? Environmental protection? I may yet expire from holding my breath.

Next month will mark the beginning of the official marketing and mud-slinging. In four short months our aspiring leaders will make promises, all sorts. For once I would like to hear outlined HOW they will deliver on these promises. EXACTLY. I am sick and tired of the meaningless posturing.

I have nothing but contempt for those who engage in politics for politics’ sake. Because then the road to the presidency, the seat in congress, the barangay captaincy becomes nothing more than a calculated pursuit of power. Power – the ability to coerce others to do what one wants - no more no less. Politics then degenerates into a mad scramble for scraps. Picture them rabid mongrels, hackles raised, ready to bite, claw and jockey for position for the tenderest of morsels.

I sometimes wonder whether any of these politicos even bother to think of what is at stake, lost as they are in this game of one-upmanship.

Would-be Mr. President, do pray tell, WHAT IS AT STAKE?