I kept telling myself that now is not the time to return to blogging. Not with what has become of Facebook or the rest of social media in the text capital of the world ... no, the Universe. Not with the elections just a few days ahead and everybody is into the baste and broil mode.
Not with so much muckraking, mudslinging, backstabbing and shameless name calling and rumor mongering. I heard one of my nephews say that "Facebook used to be fun" but indeed for the past few weeks, it has become toxic and the mother lode of such negativity that you wonder if creativity is also necessary to be so vile in choosing your next presidential and vice-presidential preference.
We shouldn't be surprised about this either. I mean, hey ... this is Philippines, right? We take great pride in being celebratory even while being derogatory. We are the nation that stunned the world by singing and dancing in the streets while having a revolution with the most popular stars going onstage proving their nationalism through song. We are a unique culture of finding reason to celebrate for every given event ... or tragedy. That includes our local and national elections.
We give so much premium to entertainment value so much so that you have candidates hiring performers --- whether they are scantily clad ladies dancing to prove the flexibility of their pelvic areas or the most popular stars singing with their non-singing voices --- just to bring in the crowds. Well, yes ... a little white or brown envelope can also help fake adulation or even loyalty in sheer numbers but then that is a different story all together. What matters most is that, like everything else, we have diminished politics as yet another palabas where the substance in character or even the presence of gray matter between the ears of candidates seldom matter. It is all about personality and sound bytes.
Social media has magnified that: the entire thought process has been pigeonholed into a series of hashtags where your choice of leader is all about his selling rather than his or her being. Masyado tayong ma-drama and therefore everything is diminished to drama --- about dead relatives, superhero complexes, shock value in statements --- but never about platforms and issues.
When national issues are raised even in high profile debates sponsored by various media institutions, entertainment still prevails in a game of one-upsmanship by pandering to the audience rather than providing concrete, do-able, feasible and even comprehensible programs laid out for the next six years.
There seems to be a lot posturing with accusatory fingers pointed at rivals but seldom about what is being offered by the candidate beyond mother statements.
Indeed such strategies work: you throw eggs at the faces of your rivals to show just how really bad they are and hope that they would have a nervous breakdown or go completely ballistic and start talking to God onstage. But even this mode of attack can be dangerous. TV is such a cool medium that he who keeps his wits about and does not succumb to the curse of the pikon will come out the winner... and not he who piles enough dung by his side to aim at his competition.
One would wish that candidates would stop talking about legacies --- and start discussing about what they plan to do with the future.
Show us the plans. It is easy to say that you can make this nation great ... because even a high school valedictorian can include that in his commencement exercise speech. But as a presidential or vice-presidential candidate, we need to know how you really plan to do it, with who and with what ... because we are so sick and tired and numbed of promises that end up just as that: promises.
But then again, that is television. You are not there to listen to plans or dissect the logic or sheer feasibility of these great blueprints for Inang Bayan. The audience is more concerned about the cheering squads, the supalpalans and the quotable quotes that will end up as memes in social media in about ... uh, thirty minutes after delivery.
Thus charisma and media impact --- ergo, marketing --- are more important than substance (which also explain why some candidates just don't make the cut because they are being cut and sold all wrong. Instead of looking inspiring, they look either exasperating ... or ridiculous or even downright stupid).
It is not surprising that the frontrunners based on a zillion and one surveys hail those who have the greatest media impact via noise. This works both ways: it manifests how media --- mainstream and new together and separately --- have oversimplified choosing the next leaders of the land through effective branding. Many are shocked ... even appalled ... that certain candidates are running away with the numbers but then again ... taka ka pa ba?
This only shows how people are so frustrated and downtrodden that they will bite the bullet ... like those planted to innocent travelers at the NAIA ... just to be given a glimpse of hope for change that goes beyond slogans and mythologies about families.
This is even more saddening when people cease to really think about their choices and would just go for broke just to be given yet another chance to see a better future for themselves and their children. But can you really blame them? We have been betrayed so many times not only by corruption but also the curse of everyday life when we reckon with the incompetence and even the lack of guardianship of those who we elected to guide and protect us.
Filipinos are tired. We need a new generation of leaders --- from the young who have a true national vision and not merely personal ambition. We cannot go on like this any longer.
There are those for us who think that the vote for the maverick is not necessarily an affirmation of faith in his capacity but a vote against the establishment that has seemingly betrayed all the trust given since the first time we all marched in EDSA and made ourselves believe that there is a hero in all of us.
God knows what will happen. We are still hoping for the best. But when your choices have been so oversimplified in selecting not who is the best but who is the least evil among the lot, you feel very, very sad ... and ask yourself: How did we get here? Where did we really go wrong?
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