The Philippines leads the world into post-truth modernism. It’s ugly.
By Joe America
In the post-truth world we live in, we define our values according to utility, and so we paint the factual world around us as we need to in order to get what we want to get.
Okay, okay, I know that is vague, a lot of words chasing an idea but not quite being able to find comprehension.
So let’s walk through this.
In the old days, which would be from the fifth century when Athens established democracy to about 2000, we had values that centered around the well-being of the nation, and within that, the well-being of our various communities such as cities, clans, fraternities, classmates, churches, political parties, clubs, and . . . core among all . . . families.
Under the old democratic or group ideals, we prized allegiance and service and discipline under laws. Giving of ourselves. Taking the freedoms available, yes, but attaching to them responsibilities, or ethics. Much of the law-writing was devoted to social rules, such as how we treat one other (fairness, inclusion) and what obligations a doctor or lawyer or senator or soldier voluntarily takes on to uphold his profession’s ideals. That is basically what ethics is about, the rules of group behavior.
We got pretty good at looking out for one another during the 1,600 years we devoted to it.
This capability started to erode when we got adept at social media and became public figures ourselves. We could type something profound and our friends would shower us with praise. So we started adding friends and working hard to say something profound, or put out a photo that people liked or laughed at. It didn’t matter if what we said was factually sound, only that it created a reaction and we got our jollies. We were each a star in our own little auditorium.
More and more people did this. Hundreds of millions did it, and from all the chatter arose a new class of dominant people: the manipulators. Today, they are emerging into leadership around the world. These are the people who figured out how to manage large waves of chatter across the internet. They tracked it by watching Google trends or tweet volumes or survey results. They controlled it by unleashing volumes of THEIR truths through compliant networks of believers. They controlled the content of mass media by controlling social media, or buying their way in.
It’s odd how quickly change came. Old rules fell aside. Group values were replaced with being a star. Showmanship and trivial slogans became more important than information. No longer was it a requirement for a public servant to refrain from womanizing. In the world of star power, womanizing became a STRENGTH, a quality of character that the great typing masses admired because only weaklings would not womanize. Only a weakling would bow to those old ethical rules.
New ideals formed. Crude became funny. Insults were admired. Lies became everyday truths. It became a strength to destroy another’s character or insult the Pope or flip off the media. Star power rules. Information is irrelevant. Compassion is irrelevant. Sacrifice and accountability are for fools.
The only moral rule is that there is no moral rule except advantage.
Well, the Philippines has always been playing in this world. The nation never really had a functioning democracy because it never got to the part where citizens believed giving of themselves to their nation had any payback. People took what they could get. That framed the ethical foundation as cops took bribes and people drove without licenses and helmets. And politicians tapped the money streams. “Whatever I need to do, whatever I can get away with.”
In THAT milieu, President Aquino’s earnest, productive government was an aberration. Weak. Restrictive. Prissy. Insulting. People poured out their venom at the Administration at every little slight. They did not seek or need information. They were intolerant of every mistake. President Aquino put their way at risk. Many viscerally hated him.
When social media arrived in the Philippines just a few years ago, the text-mad Filipino population had no trouble thriving in the untruths, rumors, lies, and speculations of the internet. They elected as President a man who would fail any and all of the old ethical rules. Mocha Uson, a blathering moral midget of absolutely no honor under the old rules, became the model for the successful media superstar. She is adored and idolized . . . and believed . . . under the new rules.
So the Philippines leapfrogged over the backward Western nations still glued to community values. The Philippines forged a new path to social harmony. The new rules are pretty simple, as far as I can tell:
- Trust no one except a few confidants.
- Use anyone.
- Get skilled at manipulating others.
- Have no shame.
Do those things and the world is your oyster, pearl included.
There is an additional rule for those who don’t acquire power and the ability to manipulate. Only one.
- If you can’t manipulate people, obey those who can.
Leadership skills require that each becomes his own moralist, making up the truth about things, no matter what the facts might say. Say anything and make objection a moral offense. Look upon those who would object with disdain, for they are inferior. Treat them as the enemy if they persist.
And so some Republicans in the United States, in following the Philippine lead, want to designate the “anti-Trump” protesters as terrorists, and if enough people object to the Marcos burial, you can fairly well bet that that will be cause enough for President Duterte to declare martial law.
Is it right? Not by the old rules.
Is it right? Sure, under the new.
Individuals who persist in applying the old morality to the new world will be declared the enemy as sure as the sun rises in the east. In the new morality, old recalcitrants who adhere to community values are a danger to the State. They advocate for a lost set of values, of ethics. They speak of things like fairness and equality. But that is done. Over. Past. It is weak to seek REAL truths and fair play. Carried to action, it is an offense against the State.
Being of old morality myself, having lived my entire life in it, I struggle with the new rules. Particularly that one about shame. I am ashamed at what I see in both the Philippines and US. This is the best we can be? I see many others struggling with it as well. Unfortunately, in the Philippines, few at the top of the three branches of government are of the old morality. Most practice the profession of opportunity rather than service. Perhaps 50 people among a thousand hold to principle. Senator De Lima illustrates what will happen to all of them . . . all of us . . . in time.
It is fascinating to me. Under the new rules, the old leftists, the principled people-advocates like Waldon Bello, suddenly become strong and wise and refreshing, to my mind. A lot of leftists have bowed to the God Utility, and if they can get peace and power by supporting President Duterte, they will. But the principled among them will stick with group ideals until they wither and die. The irony, the irony, seeing left and right join hands and march into the sunset.
If you asked me to read the future, I’d say this. We are in for a period of darkness, turmoil, and violence, as the world is interconnected, and Utility is in power. It is an amoral world. Only the weak adhere to group values. They must be eliminated so that the strong can thrive.
I suspect a core of old-morality people will hold out. I don’t know how many or for how long. If they learn the tools of manipulation and utility, the younger among them may live to see a more compassionate day. But even they will trust no one except a few confidants. And they will become skilled themselves at applying the less civil tools of social media. They will rise sooner: (1) if they find a charismatic leader, and (2) if the new morality crashes, economically, and they manipulate against it.
But I place no bets. I only observe. I am a veritable dinosaur watching angry lions snarling and ugly hyenas dancing.
Social perversion runs in cycles. So there is some hope.
I’ll cling to it, for I like the old values better than the new.
I think they kinder.