A FEW days ago, I attended a DILG-sponsored forum on building a common model of federalism, focusing on how best to communicate the changes at the ground level, ensuring that the people understand the concepts more so that when models are presented, the people can judge accordingly. It is we the people, and not, we the experts, that matter.
But there was one statement that got me thinking. It came from an academician who said, “let the real experts handle that because we are not experts.” That was uncalled for because that means you see people as dumb. The DILG exercise was most welcome because change politics will never be solely defined by elites. The more we understand the reason why a Duterte won the presidency, the better for so-called “experts” to see the ground dictating the kind of change we need to pursue.
Who is an expert? One who studied federalism some months back? One who has mastered local governance and is still is unable to tell us why we are where we are despite the Local Government Code? One who belongs to a study group formed by a politician or a political party compared to the advocates, people who have suffered for decades but may not have the forked tongue and flowery language of a sage? But don’t get me wrong here. There are experts and there are “experts” and sometimes we need to check ourselves since grounding is vital unlike some wiseacres who appear as political and resident analysts of a broadcast station yet perorate on forbidden fruit in “I, me and myself” mode. Another thinks being an insider makes him an expert. Or one conjures an image of well-dressed, smells good and can carry his way to an analysis. TV stations should be wary.
An expert is someone “who has a prolonged or intense experience through practice and education in a particular field. Informally, an expert is someone widely recognized as a reliable source of technique or skill whose faculty for judging or deciding rightly, justly, or wisely is accorded authority and status by peers or the public in a specific well-distinguished domain.” An expert, more generally, is “a person with extensive knowledge and ability based on research, experience, or occupation and in a particular area of study. Experts are called in for advice on their respective subject, but they do not always agree on the particulars of a field of study. An expert can be believed, by virtue of credentials, training, education, profession, publication or experience, to have special knowledge of a subject beyond that of the average person, sufficient that others may officially rely upon the individual’s opinion.”
A subject matter expert is an authority in a particular area or topic. He makes things clearer and interprets the complex to shed more light. Not an easy job but it is a task that should be done carefully and honestly.
One becomes an authority because of what one learns? What one has experienced? Or both? What experience counts for an expert? Is there a difference between political analyst and commentator? Are both subject matter experts? Can having a PhD and the like make one a sure-fire? Are academicians neutral that what they say has no color at all? Or is media truly a captive audience of those who parlay glibness as science?
So, when an “expert” resident analyst says, “Is Manila Times trying to be our Fox News or Breitbart?” I wonder if that was not crossing the line? Or when a resident analyst engages someone and rains brimstone. Not all that different from some young political analysts forming an e-group where they discuss not issues or learning but how they look, the coats and ties, the mix and match, their make-up and so forth. It is not about you, never been about that. It’s the gray matter you have between those ears, using that to interpret and analyze things to guide the public in seeing things clearly.
A sage, in classical philosophy is “someone who has attained the wisdom which a philosopher seeks.” Plato was the first to make this distinction through the character of Socrates. Socrates concludes that “love is that which lacks the object it seeks.” Therefore, the philosopher does not have the wisdom sought, while the sage does not love or seek wisdom, for it is already possessed. Have you forgotten Socrates when he examined the two categories of persons who do not partake in philosophy? “Gods and sages because they are wise and senseless people, because they think they are wise.” The position of the philosopher is between these two groups. The “philosopher is not wise, but possesses the self-awareness of lacking wisdom, and thus pursues it.”
Indeed, a “new political-entertainment class has moved into the noisy void once occupied by the sage pontiffs of yore, a class just as polarized as our partisan divide: one side holding up a fun-house mirror to folly, the other side reveling in its own warped reflection.”