FELIPE MIRANDA: WHY LOSE SLEEP?

MANILA, NOVEMBER 25, 2003  (STAR) CHASING THE WIND By Felipe B. Miranda - Quite a few people now toss and turn in their sleep. They are haunted by nightmares where an actor again gains the country’s presidency and a TV newscaster stands in line to succeed him. In the Senate and the Lower House are arthritic basketball players, two-bit comedians and dedicated karaoke crooners. At the local level, many governors, mayors, councilors and lesser dignitaries may sport similarly impressive qualifications for holding public office.

With the advent of morning, many bleary-eyed people start thinking the unthinkable – leaving the country for good and settling someplace where presumably movie actors, sportsmen, clowns and other media personalities leave governance to professional politicians.

Nothing could be more wrong than considering migration at this point. In the first place, history suggests that political pros have no comparative advantage in running the country well relative to those who simply role-play in governing it. After all, the Philippines’ sole world-class plunderer was a professional politician. Compared to this genius, the copycats that followed – the professional actors and other worthies who doubled for him – are rank amateurs. They are at best minor league players, considering the magnitude and duration of whatever they might have plundered and the gross style with which their plunder was effected.

One cannot convincingly argue that showbiz and media people are more pernicious than the normal run of politicians in this country. On the contrary, even at their presumed worst, they seem unable to inflict as much damage as the latter. Having neither the genius nor the ruthlessness of professional politicians, they are quite vulnerable to irregular impeachment, impeachment trial abortion, contrived people power and other modalities of political displacement. Unsophisticated, incompetent and indecisive, most showbiz and media people who rise to the level of public authorities cannot be as virulent as the nation’s most accomplished tradpols.

There is another reason for why Filipinos should not lose much sleep over the entry of showbiz and media people in this country’s electoral politics. One must recognize that democratization is inevitably served whenever governance becomes the province of more people, more so when these people had been traditionally excluded from active rule. Instead of remaining the exclusive preserve of frivolous socialites, patronizing elites and dominant oligarchs, Philippine politics actually appears to be opening up and thus sports a more catholic line of public authorities. Perhaps also as a reflection of difficult times and the desperate need for humor, entertainers have scored well with the traditional authorities as well as the mostly marginalized public. The national administration and the opposition are obviously in active competition for popular personalities who could be drafted as party candidates for the coming elections.

One must be optimistic about the ultimately progressive thrusts of such democratization. If comics, clowns and other comedians are able to join other showbiz and media personalities in national governance, one can be hopeful that many more among our ordinary people could find themselves similarly empowered. Who knows, in another fifty or a hundred years, a truly democratic Philippine republic might well evolve!

There is a final reason for national hopefulness. Filipinos have survived everything and everyone in the course of the past five hundred years. There is no reason why they cannot survive the worst that showbiz and media politics could inflict on their nation now.

One must not lose much sleep over those things s/he cannot avoid confronting. A good sleep fortifies and helps one survive much better.


Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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