Elitism and dreams
By Joe America
One of the problems I’ve been having of late is the accusation by Duterte supporters that we critics are “elitists”, trying to impose our moral authority on a people who don’t want it. I’m sensitive to the issue because we foreigners easily fall into the trap of judging people by our experience rather than grasping the very different history, ways and values of Filipinos. When we overlay “should” upon Filipinos we come off as arrogant, ignorant and . . . horror of horrors . . . wrong.
So perhaps the starting point to being a non-elitist critic is to identify some common fundamentals, things that we and those we criticize share. If we can get anchored on these fundamentals, we step down from our high horse and face other eyeball to eyeball as non-judgmental equals.
In terms of fundamentals, I think one of the great equalizers might be the aspirations, or hopes and dreams, that we critics and Duterte backers share. Where do we want to go, as individuals, as peoples (our values), and as a nation?
- We want to feel good about ourselves and our station in life. We want to think we are making progress, for ourselves, for our family, for our God, for our community and nation. We want to be richer inside.
- We want to be monetarily richer, too. Have more things. Maybe a motorcycle or car or flat screen television. Nice clothes for the kid. The freedom to dine out once in a while. Or, heck, a can of Spam. Money for a movie. We want our struggle to be eased, and our pleasures raised.
- We want some less tangible things, too. A good education for us and the kids, good health, freedom from fear and anxiety. We want to be treated politely and fairly.
It seems to me that these fundamentals are the same for we the elitist critics and for the Duterte backers.
Applying these aspirations to the Duterte agenda, the first thing we probably need to agree on is what “change” means. That is, after all, what the Duterte backers want, and what the President has promised. It does not, I suspect, mean change EVERYTHING. It doesn’t mean wreck the economy or make the nation less secure, militarily. It DOES mean stop the governmental nonsense that has me trapped. Get the agencies to get the trains moving, and get us more jobs, better telephone and internet service, and better pay. Give us less authoritarian runaround crap when we visit the LTO and other agencies. Get this nation to working right.
Man, I for sure agree with the Duterte critics on that.
Maybe if we work diligently enough, we can find other areas of agreement, critics to backers, in things like shifting private planes from NAIA to Clark to ease congestion, or working 24/7 on critical expressways to get them done sooner. Maybe even peace initiatives with the NPA, and giving more autonomy to Moro Mindanao, as the Constitution promises.
Do we want to shift alliances from the US/EU/Australia to China/Russia? Hmmm. We should debate that in rational terms rather than insults. How about sovereign rights in the West Philippine Seas, or reducing the destructiveness of drugs on people and society in general? Let’s talk about them calmly and figure out the pros and cons, and best path. Agreeing on the drug fight may be as simple as agreeing to continue the intensity of the effort to bring down the drug networks, but stop killing Filipinos in doing so. Then the Duterte backers could probably pick up a lot of critics as SUPPORTERS.
After all, this trolling and bickering is so tiresome and demeaning.
I confess, I do have a bit of a problem here, a gap in my comprehension. For me, if I try to identify the “national aspirations of the Philippines” from the Duterte backers, or from the Man himself, I come away with:
Get rid of drugs, crime and corruption
Maybe, secondarily, get peace and autonomous governance to Mindanao with a train to accelerate economic growth.
But not much else. Not even defense, or foreign policy is articulated clearly. It all seems pro-China with no logic behind it. (We expect China to defend the Philippines militarily? Against WHOM exactly? We will use the AFP to defend us against Filipinos, in the main?)
The drug war is all-consuming, so much so that I think investors are getting a little nervous. That ought to be of concern to backers as well as critics because, without an economy working overtime and well, none of our three personal aspirations is likely to be reached. Plus the drug war will fail.
Nor are our dreams likely to get fulfilled if the Legislature is bogged down acting like courts of law rather than getting vital laws passed, like Land Use, revised Penal Code, drug rehabilitation program, and the like.
I’m inclined to ask, and pardon the cynicism in the expression: “What does the Philippines want to be when it grows up?” A pariah state? Do followers accept that as their form of independence? Aligned with China for economic well-being and military backing? Do Duterte backers support that?
I don’t wish to remain an elitist. Truly, I want to be a partner in building an exciting future for the Philippines. But I’m rather lost here. It would be helpful to me if Duterte backers would, instead of calling me names, indicate what their dreams are in areas of global reputation for the Philippines, independence, security, and economic well-being.
Kindly give me something to work with here. To get me onto your side.