It’s hard to tell if it is the timing of the phenomenal explosion of the AlDub fad or the simple fact that politics has just gone so far down people’s hierarchy of things to give a shit about. But just from looking at the sorts of things Filipino ‘netizens’ are tweeting about nowadays, politics and social issues no longer seem to be the hot topics they used to be. That’s not too surprising considering just how blah the presidential race is what with the three utterly uninspiring candidates that Filipinos are forced to choose from. Just sad.
To be fair to the incumbent President Benigno Simeon ‘BS’ Aquino III, back during the heady days of the 20009-2010 presidential campaign, Filipinos who supported him genuinely saw him (albeit misguidedly) as a beacon of hope. The vote and partisanship across all camps was passionate, and the campaigns were competitive in a relatively good way. The candidates who put up a heroic fight against the Yellow horde who propelled BS Aquino to the top of the polls were all competent and on fire!
Sure, we lamented the same intellectual shortfalls in the political “debate” of the time — the lack of proper platforms, the same epal (grandstanding) approach to campaigns, the lack of a convincing debate between candidates, and an electorate that was all heart and no brain. As it turned out, Philippine politics was yet to hit rock-bottom. The presidential race today is an even more wretched intellectual wasteland than the previous one. Indeed, it was one thing, back in 2010, for a brain-dead electorate to choose the one unqualified and, ultimately, incompetent candidate amongst and abundance of excellent options then. But today is an even worse situation — the same brain-dead electorate is faced with a critical choice to make in what is essentially a bleak landscape of options.
It’s therefore not surprising that Filipinos have simply tuned out of their rotten politics. It’s a free market anyway. Why waste time keeping attuned to what is essentially a sad old story with a predictable ending — a presidential race being run by three uninspiring horses with the only thing certain being that one of them will win. That outcome in this instance fails the So What? Test. So what if Grace Poe wins? So what if Jejomar Binay wins? And, yeah, so what if Mar Roxas wins? What exactly differentiates one from the other two? Now that one is a head-scratcher.
Filipinos, however, now seem less inclined to spend the few months in the lead up to the elections scratching their heads over the blah-ness of today’s Philippine politics. They will, instead, be spending their days catching the best rubbish that the Philippine entertainment industry has to offer. And there’s lots to look forward to — if you’ve got a stunted mind.
That’s the trouble with the free market. It sounds good in principle. The big assumption that underlies the concept is that the “wisdom” of such markets will ensure that the most optimal emergent outcome will come about. But like the notion underpinning “democracy” that the “people’s will” is what is best for the nation, there is now ample cause to question to the wisdom of the free market for ideas in the Philippine setting. Just as it is evident now that the power to choose leaders that Filipinos have wielded for the past three decades failed to produce real results, the notion that a free market where producers of media products would be in fierce competition with one another for Filipino eyeballs would drive quality upwards has come to question.
Is it really wise to allow Filipino tastes to determine what sorts of television shows and cinema are served them?
That’s sort of like allowing 10-year-olds unlimited XBox time when they have mounds of homework due over the coming week. You cannot allow a free market to reign in a market that is ill-equipped to handle said freedom.
Democracy is, essentially, a form of government that assumes some level of intelligent engagement from the citizenry. In that sense, the intelligence of the citizenry is of utmost national concern. Intelligent voters are critical to the nation’s future. Indeed, the consistent failure of Philippine democracy to produce good results (in the form of good leaders and good lawmakers) for Filipinos owes much to an electorate and citizenry that lacks the intelligence to apply itself productively to getting the most out of this modern form of governance.
The obvious reality that Philippine society is intellectually-bankrupt begs an obvious solution: there is a need to put controls on its entertainment industry where much intellectual capital is squandered. Why continue feeding an already dumb people with dumbing-down entertainment? It just does not make sense. Filipinos are poisoning their own well — the well from which their democracy drinks!
Today’s political commentators lament the appalling mediocrity of today’s presidential bets. Rightly so. But they fail to see the root of Filipinos’ dysfunctional taste in politicians. The three bozos currently running for president are mere products of Filipinos’ disturbing lack of any ability to think through their political choices, much more apply a serious mind to the task. How can they? The only affordable form of entertainment in the country — television — is an outlet of the most repulsive mind poisons. The opiates that TV screens flash at Filipino eyeballs all day reduce their audience to a vacuous lot of chattering, hyena-laughing dimwits. The “trending” topics in the Filipino Twitter verse are a sad monument to the things Filipinos find important despite the growing pile of “homework” — building a nation — that they are neglecting.
Perhaps it is time to re-evaluate whether Filipinos have earned their right to watch garbage on TV. Is it time to switch off the TV, unplug the XBox, and sit the kids in front of their desks so that they could get started on their homework? The alternative to that option is not a pretty one. What we decide to continue (or not continue) doing will spell the difference between a future of doing great things or a lifetime of flipping burgers at a McDonald’s joint.
[Photo of Pabebe Wavers courtesy GMA News Online.]