Thursday, February 25, 2021

Idolatry and gullibility


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IT is easy to paint those without adequate education or who are in the lower economic classes as the ones prone to blind loyalty or blind hatred toward political figures. It is always convenient to image the poor and those lacking in education as gullible and as easily duped by the popular and the populist.

But this is an unfair generalization.

I personally know of a friend — a former friend, to be more accurate, since she has blocked me on Facebook. She and her family have now migrated to the United States. This is a woman who is well-educated. And yet, she is rabidly pro-Trump. The last time we chatted was in the aftermath of the US elections where she was angered by my anti-Trump posts. What was strange was that she spoke in riddles, mouthing biblical texts, implying some kind of divine retribution, or that God will somehow intervene for Trump. And then she went silent on me, and I could no longer search her profile.

This is a woman with a doctorate in the sciences who worked in a science agency when she was still in the Philippines. She is living proof that idolatry doesn’t respect academic degrees, and it certainly is not confined only to the poor.

You just have to look at the diehard political base of President Rodrigo Duterte. While some may be college dropouts, or high school graduates, and while many may be in the CDE classes, a good number of them are from the middle to upper classes of society, and many are educated professionals. In fact, many of the President’s social media enablers are lawyers, and some are medical doctors. Some work as editors of magazines or newspapers, and others are self-proclaimed experts in trade and in business. And yes, there are also academics, scientists and professors among them.

I would know because once I was identified with them, although not anymore.


Being an insider once, mingling and communing with them, I came up close and personal with people whose common thread weaving through them is their hatred for the elites and the oligarchs. These are people full of anger. Most have been critics of the previous government of Benigno S. Aquino 3rd, and have experienced being bullied, or threatened, by the pro-Aquino crowd. And this is where an affinity was built between the so-called diehard Duterte supporters, or DDS, and the loyalists of the Marcos family. Their common hatred for the Aquino brand has cemented the alliance.

It was easy for this crowd to hold deep antipathy toward elite institutions, from the intellectual to the oligarchic classes and anything in between that lives and breathes the color yellow.

Duterte packaged himself, just like Donald Trump, as a populist anti-thesis to everything that is otherwise. To the fluent and articulate elites, he was the meandering, incoherent talker. To the moralizing and holier-than-thou privileged classes, he is the uncouth and vulgar misogynist who even cursed the pope and God. He embodied the coarseness and vulgarity which many decent but angry Filipinos could not articulate.

This is precisely why a significant part of the Left found it convenient to form a tactical alliance with him. Bearing the same antipathy toward elite institutions, prominent leaders from the Left were appointed to important positions in government, even including some to Cabinet positions.

However, the alliances between the Left and Duterte, and between Marcos loyalists and the DDS were transactional in nature, being governed by the adage that an enemy of an enemy is a friend. The first has since collapsed with the Makabayan Left now once again bitterly opposed to the Duterte government. Meanwhile, the latter is on the brink of breaking, triggered by the sentiment among many Marcos loyalists of a betrayal indicated allegedly by the unanimous dismissal by the Supreme Court of the electoral protest of former senator Ferdinand Marcos Jr. Unconvinced that the Supreme Court is an independent body, they find it odd that the vote was unanimous against Marcos in a court dominated by Duterte appointees.

But while the Makabayan Left may have left the Duterte alliance, and that the Marcos loyalists are showing signs of restiveness, the main backbone of the DDS remains intact, busy believing, liking and sharing narratives that spin the truth and rationalize the missteps of the government. Nothing can be more symptomatic of this kind of blind loyalty than to be forced to normalize contradicting positions if only to justify the Duterte brand. They attack the political opposition for saying that women can also lead, yet celebrate the tarpaulins that have sprouted like mushrooms egging Sara Duterte-Carpio, a woman, to run for president.

And in this constellation of idolatrous behavior and irrationality, one can be subjected to a heavy dose of posts which try so hard to be either oblivious to the fatal flaws of the President’s response to the coronavirus pandemic, or to engage in deflecting criticisms by gaslighting, half-truth telling, trolling, bullying or assassinating characters.

Then you realize that while many people believe the lies peddled and are made to think of these as truths, there is a cabal of enablers, who are mostly educated and are from the upper classes of society, who consciously peddle these lies. These are the people who should know better, know the lies and, yet, choose to be against truth.

What is most atrocious is the realization that these lies have been enabled in social media by some of these political operators who may not necessarily be as deeply loyal, who individually may be at loggerheads with each other, and who are simply serving their own political interests. Others have even turned fakery into a source of livelihood. With the onset of the election season, they are now ready with another narrative of lies they would peddle to the next gullible crowd.



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