I imagine there are a lot of you thinking the way I am thinking about the presidential elections in 2010. A number of would-be candidates have stated their intentions. I ask myself why I am not excited about any of them, except maybe for one who I am still very remotely considering. We are less than 15 months away from an election that is so important and we appear not to be concerned.
These days, I’ve been thinking a lot about the next administration because I see it as our last chance at moving forward as a nation or else fall into an irreversible drift and deteriorate into a pathetic failed state. Maybe I feel this way because my generation, which produced the First Quarter Storm, burned with so much passion for this country. I had classmates who joined the NPA and other rebel movements. We demonstrated, attended teach-ins and worried about the country.
We were at EDSA and we thought then that change had come at last. But we learned soon enough that the dark forces were more adept at seizing power than we were. They have made a solid comeback and their hold is greater than ever. That’s why I look at the situation today and break into a cold sweat. For me, and a lot of people in my age group, this is our last chance to change things.
Sadly, I hear of friends who have advised their children to move out of this country and go anywhere in the world to pursue a future that will not bear fruit in the Philippines. I felt the same way when I moved to Australia three years ago with my kids. Although I had every intention to return and stake my remaining future on this country, I wanted them to see how a functioning system and society worked and how it could serve a great number of people.
I don’t know if I am the only one who has noticed but I feel our strongest coping mechanism as a people, which is our humor, is fast losing its potency. I have lost the capacity to laugh at the political shenanigans, scandals and embarrassments that our officials continue to get into. I have become angry, and want to do something about it. I do not want to expend this anger on laughter just to feel better, or mindlessly cast the fate of this nation to the winds, or continue to hold the cynical view that nothing will change or that we have no hope to live better lives here. I want to act.
I am constantly thinking of how to awaken people, build a critical mass and affect, in a big way, the future agenda of this country. I know that the constituency for change is there. How can it not be? Everyone is complaining about the same corruption, misguided policies, the deterioration of values and of the country in all aspects.
But the problem is that very few people are convinced that good people can do something about it. Instead, many believe and are cynically betting that: a) there are not enough good men and women out there who can effect the needed changes, b) that even if people present themselves, there are not enough voters who will respond to the call of real change, c) that even if there are people who want to challenge the system, they will not win because they will be cheated and so the electorate will not even vote for them.
I believe that this kind of thinking held by many has been very toxic for the nation. We have, time and again, punished ourselves with such deep cynicism. Look at what happened to the few good men of Kapatiran Party who ran on a platform of change in the last elections. Our collective cynicism became a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Remember what it was like during martial law when Marcos held all the cards? Most of us felt the same way then. Yet, Cory Aquino ran against the most powerful political machinery in Philippine history and won. The opposition then had no money or machinery. There were no cell phones, Internet, free press or texting. All it took was a ragtag media and a message that was loud and clear which Ninoy expressed with his life.
Today, I believe any real movement for change has potentially more power in its hands than ever before. But the problem still lies in the defeatist attitude that change cannot be achieved.
Can a movement that will choose a leader and win the 2010 elections be organized in time? I believe it can.
But it has to be done differently from the way regular political parties organize themselves, or even the way it has been attempted before. The idea is to launch a movement with the aim of changing not just the political arena but all other facets of life in the Philippines. In other words, the leaders of the movement must sound an all-encompassing call to change the political, cultural, economic, educational, attitudinal and moral beliefs of our society. This change can only bring new and better structures on which to build our nation’s future.
In short, it will take a revolution to effect the necessary changes, but hopefully without the mayhem, death and destruction that are usually associated with it. Other societies have done it and are continuing to do so. Why can’t we?
With this approach, we can shake things up and open the future to new leaders, ideas and concepts that could take us to a better place.
Recently, I was dismayed to hear all the election frontrunners agree that the economy is the priority issue. With all due respect, that has been the mantra of every leader since World War II. It’s the same old thinking expressing itself. I would have been happy if any one of them had said that as much as the economy needed special attention, justice and education are of equal importance. People would be able to tolerate economic hardships better if they lived in a society that jails its big and small thieves. And I don’t see how any future can be sustained if our youth continue to be uneducated, undereducated, or worse, mis-educated.
The movement we need must speak in a new, bold language and must come from a mindset that aims at practical modernization and further democratization of opportunities. I remember how befuddled the politicos were during the First Quarter Storm in the 70s when kids were brandishing socio-political-cultural jargon from Joma Sison’s Philippine Society and Revolution. While, in hindsight, the book was shallow and wanting analysis, it created excitement among the youth and it opened their eyes to new possibilities for the nation. We need to expand the socio-political conversation in this country with new input that does not come from the usual suspects.
I believe it is time for our artists, intellectuals, media and educators to help us focus on possibilities that can redefine us as a nation, to dangle before us a better version and future of what we can be.
We have run out of excuses on why we are still mired in such a terrible state. Every country on our side of the world is on the rise. We have two options left: to move forward and proactively create a future where we can live decently and reach our potential as a nation, or allow the momentum of the past with its wrong policies, toxic attitudes and bad habits to run us off the cliff.
Let us build creatively on what Kapatiran and others have started. We have witnessed how some good people have won local elections. It can be done. Let’s do it on a big scale in 2010. If you subscribe to what I am writing about, please write me, and do let other people know how you feel. Express it loud and clear. I know there are a lot of us just waiting to hear from others, and to be heard.
It’s time to take back our future.