In Jose Saramago's novel 'Seeing' an imaginary electorate in an imaginary country came out in full force to vote. But at the end of the tally, 83 percent of the ballots were blank. The remaining 17 percent were votes for the p.o.t.r (the party on the right), the p.o.t.l (the party on the left) and the p.o.t.m (the party in the middle). But what had happened to the majority of the votes? Were they stolen? Was this the result of massive electoral fraud? Or the work of terrorists?
After having read Saramago's political allegory, I wondered if such a thing were possible in real life. What if, come May 10, all registered voters were to vote for absolutely no one? What if, by some unknown force, the governed refused to choose the next set of those who would govern?
I must confess such an option is becoming more attractive, if fantastical, given the way the election discourse has steadily degenarated into meaningless noise. The controversies, the scandals, the accusations and counter-accusations all cloud what should be tackled front and center. What are the things we deem important? Poverty alleviation? Security? Tax reduction? Employment? Universal access to basic education? Better hospitals? And how do we go about addressing these?
I wonder if "non-traditional media" is not simply dancing to the tune set by "mainstream media." After all, meaningless noise still generates money for MSM. People still consume what is fed them, and consumers will choose to patronize the easily digestible, the simple, the "entertaining."
Well, why blame the media at all? Shouldn't the candidates be setting the agenda about what is to be discussed and debated in public? If candidates think of themselves as products, as it seems they do, they will market themselves according to what they think their consumers want and need.
In the end, it seems, the quality of electoral discourse reflects what we passive consumers of political noise, want and need. We want morality plays. We want good guys and bad guys. We want scandals and controversies. Like fishwives and tambays, really all we seem to expect from our politics is chismis.
The lack of seriousness with which we treat this election borders on the hysterical. It is the same hysteria one experiences when one witnesses a brutal murder or indeed any such vile or criminal act. The hilarity which follows can only be the logical reaction of the desperate pushed beyond limits. Desperation is all around. And the Filipino wants to be entertained.