As a country we seek out ‘Big Bads’; we construct these monolithic entities -even when they don’t exist- hell bent on doing the exact opposite of what we want. Maybe it gives us some comfort as a people, it lessens our own responsibility in nurturing our nation. It’s not our fault as a people that nothing as improved. We shift the onus of responsibility to other entities, offering ourselves a reprieve from facing self-inflicted failures.
Big Bads are excuses.
Today (as yesterday) for some it’s the RCC. The Biggest Baddiest Bad on the block, always around the corner defiling and obstructing any moves to improve the country. Even though the country has changed, our democracy has changed and the protection of rights has evolved, we’re still stuck in a very antiquarian mode of thinking when it comes to the religious. For others, it’s not the RCC it’s a grand atheist condom conspiracy that seems to be focused on destroying the moral fabric of Philippine society. We miss the fact that Filipinos are allowed to belief whatever they want, derive inspiration from whatever source; no matter how well or ill informed that opinion is. The duty of a responsible citizen is to seek out an opinion or stance, hopefully after researching, that best fits their core belief system. It is a lot to ask in a mis-educated country, but it is a necessity for Filipinos to start thinking in those terms. Deeper, analytically and not falling for whatever is the prevailing wisdom of the day; or against whomever is the de rigueur Big Bad of the season.
We set ourselves against our governments, even those that were elected into office. It seems that patience is not our virtue yet. In the process of setting government against people and people against government we create a schism between the two. The flow and interplay between is lost in the process. Instead, we have entities that seem to favor operating apart. They see each other as the enemy and act accordingly. While we can put much blame on the politicians who exploit the people, we have to remember that this is our country as well. And we elected them. Those in government forget that they are elected to represent the people. Filipino citizens forget that civic responsibility extends well past voting every few years. Citizenship is a lifelong commitment.
We have broken down our society into Big Bads and the Abused. Any richer is bad anyone poor is good. And we do the same with our history. Anything colonial is bad while anything native is good. Well, at least until low culture is encountered, then it’s criticized for being too ethnic and not Western enough. In setting ourselves against something, we also have to demonize that opposition. It doesn’t matter if the public sphere is supposed to encompass all and offer space for discussion and debate.
We’ve become a people that can’t just be for something; we have to be against something. Can’t be for Bonifacio, you also have to be against Rizal. Can’t be for RH, you also have to be against the RCC. It’s political and social insouciance at work. In this arena, the ability to respect counter opinions without resorting to unnecessary polemics and personal attacks, we remain wholly superficial.
I would argue that it derives from our understanding of history. History, along with day-to-day encountered culture, helps explain and define who we are as a people, as a country. The way our history is presented is a series of moments of opposition. Revolution, minor revolts, our history vis-a-vis certain historians is one of conflict; only conflict. The process of acculturation and growth, development and change, is wholly ignored. For example, there prevailing understanding of the Philippine Revolution and Republic is that it sprung out fully formed from some sort of mass consciousness. Just wrong on so many levels. It ignores the decades of work undertaken by reformists, propagandists, revolutionaries, sangleys, creoles, indios, peninsulares…in other words Filipinos. That part of our history is overlooked. The important stuff, the parts where Filipinos worked together to build something new. In public consciousness and our understanding of history, the importance of people to work together towards a common goal is lost. There is an old saying that rebuilding the Philippines does not begin in the Halls of Power or the Chambers of Congress, it begins in the classroom. I’d argue it begins with re-interpreting and re-understanding our history not as de-coupled secluded moments of opposition, but as a continuing communal process of a people’s growth and development.
If we fail to see ourselves as connected, as a people, the country will forever remain fractured.
Which is what we have today: A fractured people. A country incapable of working and discussing political issues without resorting to base demonization tactics. We see things through a prism of opposition, through a reductive “I am right, you are wrong. Since you’re wrong you’re bad” mode of thinking. We don’t see nuance, we don’t see shades of grey. We just see monolithic entities, even where they don’t exist. As a result, we demonize and alienate whole segments of the population in the public sphere.
What we have that the 19th century did not is opportunity for self-rule. It exists. And while we seem to love the concept of democracy, we don’t seem to like it in action. Especially when vocal minorities become too vocal and involved for the perceived main’s liking. And it can work the other way as well. We want to silence them, force them into line. In other words, nascent totalitarianism in action. In other words, the opposite of democracy and respect.
The good of the country is not found in forcing people to believe in one singular way. That is not so different from the manufactured Big Bads we so often decry as anti-democratic. It will be found when we can mature, educationally and thus intellectually, enough in the public sphere to actually have discussions and debates. It’s a tall order, probably an impossible goal, but the process of attempting to achieve that goal will result in a better country for all. At least, I would like to dream so.
And maybe just maybe, we can eventually get away from the hate-speak and fear-mongering. And possibly put this superficial need for monolithic monsters to bed.