A nation that learns nothing


EARLIER this week, in the midst of the ongoing and entirely self-inflicted scandal presidential frontrunner Rodrigo Duterte found himself in for his reprehensible remarks on the rape and murder of an Australian missionary 27 years ago, a psychiatric report, reputedly conducted in connection with an annulment case back in 2000, surfaced online, characterizing the mayor of Davao as “narcissistic and anti-social,” among other things.

Indeed, Duterte’s remarks – which we will not dignify by repeating here – were shameful.  His subsequent reactions to the outrage that reasonable, well-adjusted adults felt at hearing or reading them were an alarming display of arrogance and deep-seated insensitivity. But that is not really the issue at this point.

The issue is how we, all of us who have the power to change the sorry excuse for a political environment that hamstrings this country’s growth and progress, all of us who have spent much of the past six years bemoaning the fiasco that resulted from the last election, have created nothing better. Incredibly, we have instead created an environment in which it is very likely that the result of this election will produce a result that is even worse.

There are a lot of reasons why this is so.

As a people, we demand very little from those who hope to win our vote. There was hope this year that the presidential debates would help to raise the bar of public discourse, but they were of little value, evidently being produced largely for their entertainment dividends. Otherwise, our attentions were devoted to very narrow trivialities – who is using whose aircraft; competing accusations of vote-buying; psychiatric reports that may or not be relevant or even real; popularity surveys of questionable timeliness and validity; and which personalities were aligning with this candidate or that one.

In that context, our candidates have performed admirably, skillfully embodying every embarrassing, third-world stereotype that has ever been pinned on our faulty democracy and political class. But don’t blame the politicians for the mess; they are only answering the shallow demands that we present to them.

We have allowed the public debate to degenerate – thanks to the tools social media provide – into rabid, close-minded fanaticism, becoming more and more divided not through any outside influence, but our unwillingness to listen to other points of view, or even acknowledge them as anything other than threats to our own.

When we consider the end result, our future is frankly discouraging: our next President will either represent the existing political cabal, or a slightly different one, or another slightly different one, or be an autocrat. And because our next President – who won’t offer anything novel or significantly progressive – will, at best, achieve his or her victory with only about 30 percent of the vote, the deep resentment and divisions we have imposed on ourselves in the course of this campaign will not be healed, and may even become worse.

We will not improve as a society until we understand, collectively and individually, that democracy is not a contrived state of mind but an important job, one that each of us must do well for the whole to be successful.

We will not improve as a society until we understand that our disappointing political leaders would not be in a position to be disappointing, if not for our own lack of seriousness and lack of care for our communities and ourselves.

It is distressing to think that it may be another six years until we again get the chance to make up for our mistakes. But if that is our fate, let us hope we can at least learn something in that time.


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  1. David Michael Meyer on

    If this is a man seeking office and saying these type of things ..Then to my mind he has succumbed to the pressure of work and his incumbent office –I think he need to step back seek counselling ..Maybe even take break for work..No one who was seeking office of president would say these things –Unless they were in Nazi germany

    Dr David M Meyer

  2. Frank Fernandez on

    I agree with fyi. As an ofw, i regretted that I voted already the “insane” one who was revealed of his gross insanity lately only. Am glad that we are just few at overseas. Them in the mainland PH still have a chance to turn the table against these wolves.

  3. Here’s the thing:

    If you stick to the assertion that none of the candidates are qualified—especially Duterte—who pray tell, should we vote? Because come May 9 those are still the only choices left. Or are you suggesting something else people should do?

    That’s a serious question. Please drop the cryptic hints and just present who you think is the LEAST EVIL and justify it.

  4. That’s right, “the result of this election will produce a result that is even worse” and Homobono Adaza’s “revolution” or “change of system” will come true.

  5. A nation that learns nothing? i beg to disagree – WE LEARN that nothing came out of Cory, Fidel, Erap, Gloria, and the worst of them all Pnoy, we learn disappointments and growing number of poverty, crimes, corruption and incompetence, insane leaders, rape of our Constitution. We are simply FED UP and wants something out of the box – THE PROBINSYANO! Lets give him a chance, he proved his worth in Davao!

    • Electing insane people is not the best solution, Santiago is the only candidate that is not a liar or corrupt and she as i understand is running far behind the pack of liars.

      The people get the government they deserve.

    • Josemakabayan on

      Be weary of what you wish, you might wish for rain to tidy us, but then a tsunami might come to drown us all!!!!!

  6. We choose a leader that can bear a fruits for children. Moral and manners behind the temper of control. To build infrastructure to learn for technology not to learn for nothing as pedestrian always walking for begging.

  7. Well thats your sentiment. But anyhow ,Among the presidentiables Duterte has the leadership and decisiveness we need from a leader. His mouth? Leave it to him, his leadership strenght is more important along with his incorruptible character and malasakit. Nobody is perfect, you cannot look for a perfect leader, if you want a moralist leader then look for a religious man. But dont expect him to confront eyes to eyes with criminality and corruption, for doing this might make him dirty.