I believe that I am fortunate to live in democracy. This won’t be any political or theoretical discussion on forms of government. This is rather my take on the reality of democracy. I am lucky to live in a country where I am afforded with freedom to live, to create, to work, to travel, to eat, to do whatever I want, and to just live myself out there. I am afforded, fundamentally that choice.
The most common tenet of democracy is the right to choice. To choose actualizes democracy in the most common form of living, and this basically makes democracy truly beautiful more than anything. It makes it fair, feasible, humane, and right. Nations after nations have been transformed to the livable, democratic world alongside the promise of progress and development.
Now, why do I want to talk about choice? Today is the Philippines elections, 2016, and lately, I have been figuring out who to choose, like seriously, while looking at the presidential and vice presidential candidates’ profiles. It’s even hilarious that supporters bet on their own candidates like the elections were a sport. Bickering and bantering here and there, people have become more engaged brought about by social media and word of mouth; and for the span of 3 months until election day, everything has progressed to a circus of quarrels, last-minute media exposes, black propaganda, and desperate moves to recreate an emotive story of trying to save democracy. Although I understand that these candidates have neurotic ambitions of taking the highest seat in the land, I find it more interesting how they struggle so much in the limelight with media and people participating in the process of choosing.
The context is this: different candidates are vying for the position. One candidate, who is leading the polls, is seen more as the iron-fist, with strong conviction on curbing crime in order to further progress in the country. He has been seen as a man who acts even during the time of the typhoon disaster. More so, he is more known to speak in gutter language, puns that seem sexist, and other jokes that make other people uncomfortable. His stance on death penalty makes other people cringe in doubt. Another candidate has been seen as a man of action. The mass has seen him as the lower class hope because he definitely works in favor of the welfare of the people. But his graft cases have dragged him down the race. Another candidate is in the hopes of continuing his technocratic and technical idea of progress, which most do not see in reality. He is good at his planning and organization, but results do not show so much. He lost sight of the factors that have contributed to the failure. One candidate who once renounced her nationality for the hope of living in the Americas, and who just recently joined politics and government as a senator is vying for the seat with her inexperience but prowess in proper research and preparation before battle. She seems to hold that torch of clean change. The last candidate is rather the most qualified given the legislative and judicial experience, the educational background, and her founded stances on many issues, but her race seem to have been stalled along the way as she tries to battle her sickness. Although she claims to have been cured, her drive could not be evident that much.
Now, people are making their decisions, their choices. But what is surprising is the sudden rise of the iron-fist candidate, who has served in the legislative department and the local government as mayor for a long time. People back his candidacy because of how his people in one city have justified this in the safety and progress they have experienced. This is undeniably true. But human rights and democratic advocates fear this as this may lead to another martial law. We fear this, yes. But why does it seem that he appeals to much to the people? We have better educated and more grounded on issues candidates. He is even more extreme on decisions. This impulsive personality he has made him more active in community development and projects, and this is rather apparent to people, at least in his city. Brought about by social media,this has spread wide, and the message and emotion are clear, that he is the real change that will come. While the rest of the candidates fall short based on the polls done on different platforms, he remains on top of the game.
My question then is why did he tip in trends and popularity? What was the tipping point then? It is such a wonder that his campaign was supported by most people. They are giving out paraphernalia free just to support him. But what really made him the better choice to most? I use psychology in belaboring the idea that people admire those who are real, those who show more human-like qualities, and those who just relate to most on several levels. By admitting to one’s mistakes, one gets the appeal of the people. Another reason I saw was people’s desperation for change. The country has been through so much, and although they may have the responsibility to do what is right as a citizen as opposed to just relying on the president, change cannot fully come to life if the institutional corruption persists. People have always wanted somebody new and unique, one that may bring progress. It’s a natural reaction, while the rest still hold dear to the typical, political ploy of politicians. This is what the iron-fist candidate has. He has a closer reach to the people with his natural and typical behavior alongside his assertive campaign to sweep off crime and corruption to restore the country to a more disciplined and able citizenry. The whole package is given. The whole package is nicely put despite the abstractions of his platforms.
So what does choice have to do with this? I then ask the real story of choice in democracy. Is choice really based on an educated move to learn in-depth about the candidate, or is it more of an emotional and socially collective drive to choose who brings something new? Whether or not this candidate will bring change, I am seeing that the people are rather confused on a scale of emotional, socially influenced, mobilized move to choose more than an individual, educated manner of choosing. The intellectuals, the elites, and intellectually elites say this is a distortion of democracy, and deserves lambasting to say the least. But I say this is more of a question of what qualifies choice that is where democracy is grounded. I don’t say that the choice of the public is distorted. I just say that probably, the influence of media, technological development, machinery, and marketing have molded this choice. Choice is not absolute: this I truly understand. But what choice makes democracy truly democratic?
I end this blog as my contribution to the elections hoping that people will get to read this for them to rethink and reflect upon their choices.
I am definitely lucky to live in a democratic country. I find the whole electoral circus a celebration of democracy. Whatever the outcome of the elections may be, I can say that this is a right for the people. But sometimes, in a world of routine and common, hazed day-to-day happening, I begin to ask if this democracy is truly defended by free will and pure choice.