Amidst all the advertisements, promotions, propaganda and disinformation, I was drawn to look more deeply into my thoughts in relation to what is happening these days. On TV, internet and even on the radio, I see and hear faces and voices of ‘presidentiables’, fanning out their cards for the coming elections. As we may know in politics, candidates secure votes not just by selling themselves and what they can do, but by also destroying the reputation of their opponents. Sometimes, that is all they have to do to win. Have seen one lately?
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From these I turned to ask: “What makes a great nation?” But prior to this, I realised that I needed to ask a more fundamental question: “What makes a nation?”
Borrowing two (2) meaning from Merriam-Webster Dictionary, it says: 1). a large area of land that is controlled by its own Government; 2). the people who live in a nation. For our purposes, we use the both of these. Now, if we talk of greatness that is not in the physical meaning of the word, we can see that we cannot use the first definition above. On the other hand, it makes sense to use the second then attach the first. Hence se can say that nation is made up of people who live in a large area of land that is controlled by its OWN government. This implies that a nation is basically, made up of people.
Now, on the one hand, I am certain that there are a lot of great Filipino people. But the majority might tell us a different story on the other. As a nation, what we can see are tired, hungry, frustrated, demoralised and afraid population, which can be easily brought into manipulation towards an infinite cycle of these emotions, making them a lot easier to control. An evidence of this is when most people turn to hope. Hope that one man or woman can effect dramatic changes within the realm of the government. But let us not forget at this point that a government alone does not make a nation, much less that it makes it great. Although one cannot discount the effects of a good leader. Personally, I believer in our capabilities as human beings; that we can accomplish almost anything. But without the sense of direction or common goal (which a leader can provide), we tend to lose our selves and flounder. Nevertheless, it is difficult to feel optimistic with the coming elections. Here’s why:
First, the Hope that people has is misplaced or misdirected. Most of us expect that the change in the country’s president is equivalent to direct changes in our everyday lives. Nothing can be further from the truth. This idea of hope leads many people to project certain things upon the position of the president which in reality are not even within its powers. Not to mention that accountability is something the government never bothers itself with.
A bigger problem exists because this makes people more and more distracted. Pulled into abstract issues which almost always have nothing to do with the everyday life of an ordinary citizen, it is unclear what exactly they hope for, of what concrete changes they want to see. Everything is vague. When a “talk of the town” (who says, wears or gets what?) is thrown into the social media, chances are it becomes a national issue the next day; sensationalised or romanticised. In effect, people end up being an easy prey for propaganda and the mainstream media. Being distracted, we get easily divided and eventually turned against each other – the classic “divide and conquer”.
Second, the primary role of the president is to attend to big issues; to chart the overall direction of the country through certain policies – Economic, Fiscal, Foreign Trade and Relations, National Security, Infrastructure and Development, Education, Health etc. Unfortunately, the effects on these areas are not usually felt directly in our everyday lives. Thus, it is hard for ordinary citizens to judge the country’s performance from an objective standpoint. Plus the fact that the metrics for the abovementioned policies are not designed to be understood by an average person. Another thing is if we try to understand the structure of our government. There is inherent slowness and redundancy within the bloated bureaucracy. We may see that none of these are intended to deal with everyday minutiae. It may be said the local governments have far more direct effects on the lives of their constituents than the national government. But then with the relatively short term of office within local or national position, it is not surprising to see only few accomplishments if we invoke the effects of the bureaucracy.
Finally, it is because we believe in Corruption. With this, I do not mean the same with what the mainstream media tells us and I do not agree with the common knowledge that corruption is the root of the problem. Believing that is just a means to shake off one’s guilt as a citizen. And I do not subscribe to the context which it is mostly used today. Corruption does not simply mean that politicians are stealing from the coffers of the state. It is a very abstract word which we hear almost everyday and everywhere but no one ever dared to show us how and why it is the root of the problem. Now that sounds fishy, does not it? Why? Because it is simply not the root of the problem. They have been convincing us ever since that it is and we always bought it. Politicians even used it (to fight against it) as the core of their campaigns. Some even won their votes. But the issue on corruption has never been solved. Interesting huh?
Corruption existed throughout history. It exists everywhere, regardless if a country, shall we say; belong to the “First World” or the “Nth World”. It exists in all countries, great or poor. Although great countries are able to hide it better because of their influence and power. But it is undeniable that it exists in us all. Our inherent corruptibility makes us vulnerable to it. What we need is to fight this tendency with utmost discipline. But by losing ourselves in abstract words, we are impaired to properly identify the “a priori” or causes of the effects we want of get rid of.
Let me end this by being completely honest with you. Whoever wins the presidency in the coming elections, chances are, you will still have the same roof over your head and still sleep on the same bed but that is if you are lucky to have these. You will still work on the same job, work for the same boss and endure the same drudgery, day-in and day-out. I bet your alarm clock will still be set in the same time from Monday to Friday. What do I mean with all these? Nothing changes, that is until you do. A slight change in frame of mind may bring forth changes with it, albeit uncertain. The decisions you make everyday have a more profound effect on your life than any other “change” they sell you. But certainly with more discipline, we would start to see better and better things.
In conclusion, our nation can be great if we can have certain reforms on our government structure; and of course, if most of us would become a better citizen through discipline. Presently with what I see, I find it hard to muster some hope and optimism. But I sincerely wish, with all my heart, for our country to be great. Not for you and me, but for our children and the next generations to come.