It seems, at times, we are caught in a time warp. Similar configurations from the past revisit time and again as though to punish those among us hard-pressed to learn the lesson. Some say we could be where we were in 1986 and that the magic of People Power will once again be put to test. It is the same power blocs jockeying for position playing by old rules in this tired old game.
Are we truly stuck in a time warp or are we progressing onto something else? I have, from time to time, thrown my hands in exasperation. I am, like you, too close to the action to discern any real change in the way we conduct our politics. I am, like you, alternately exhausted, befuddled, aghast, bemused. But my current location, that is, my position in our polity, affords me little perspective. Once in a while, however, one might glimpse a glimmer of … something new.
In a comment Jego says, and with reason, that character matters. I say yes, sure it does. I am not, however, entirely convinced how and why it does. This internal contradiction within me has stopped me from endorsing any candidate clearly or strongly. Character matters, but surely other factors matter too?
In Michel Foucault’s The Birth of Biopolitics, he asserts the rise of a new kind of ‘raison d’état’, a new rationality of government from the eighteenth century onwards. He says there arose in Europe a kind of government that does not derive its reason for being from legitimacy (i.e. its rightness or wrongness) but from its efficacy (i.e. its success or failure). Prior to this new raison d’état, all that mattered was that the governor, the person in charge, was legitimate. His legitimacy is derived from his being ‘good.’ And his being good, in turn, is derived from princely virtues – whether he is just, whether he is even-tempered, whether he is corrupt.
I have bemoaned the fact that we seem stuck at this question of whether our ruler is good or not. In fact the whole discourse of the elections so far has been anchored on perceptions of goodness. This is why I thought Conrado de Quiros’ framing of a good versus evil quite retrograde. There has been little discussion on policy issues. A discussion of policy could allow the electorate to discern whose ‘platform’ i.e. whose master plan might mean success or failure in terms of quantifiables. For example a debate on economic policy might elicit a complicated calculus of what might bring the country out of poverty. After all, corruption, by itself, is not the root of poverty.
Government in our age should be more than just a question of being legitimate or being just. Rather, government should derive its legitimacy and justness from success. And success, in turn, must be based on a calculation, a rationality of what can be measured. Because the end-point of all politics is the attainment of the good life – we might measure that in terms of well-being in various spheres (economic, cultural, social).
So, in the year 2010, is the Philippines stuck in an eighteenth century frame of mind? I think not. Among my peers and people younger, there seems to be a real yearning to find not a prince but a modern governor. This might be why there is, in the blogosphere, a desire for real platforms and for these master plans to be dissected in ‘bean-counting’ detail. This might be why so many among my friends and acquaintances will vote for the person they think is capable even when he has no chance of winning. And for this, I have hope. :-)