The right-wing blog (if there is such a thing in this country) Get Real Philippines, published an article, sarcastically attacking the whole fiasco of the Binay-Trillanes debate. So far, the spectacle that is the Binay probe is comparable to a Greek comedy of errors where the ulterior motives of the oppressors are clearly obvious and the demolition job of a winnable and incumbent president is already imminent. To some intelligent Filipino pundits and economically wise commentators, the Binay probe is simply a waste of time and legislative muscle. To these intellectually elite commentators, the issue at hand is to bring the matter to court and there the fiasco should be outside of media coverage, treating it as a domestic issue, handled by judicial authorities according to the proper judicial processes. All of these tendencies engage in what I call the illusion of democratic dialogue in the Philippine setting that any Habermasian approach to reforming Philippine politics is destined to nowhere since Philippine democracy as it is even in its “dead” letter of the law will never be an unfinished project but a hopeless project since the whole fiasco i.e. Filipino democracy is finished, a nightmare of liberal democracy’s dream of a “universal” “multicultural” democratic pipe dream.

Lessons from Yugoslavia

Popularity breeds Milosevic. Slavoj Zizek in most of his commentaries on the Yugoslav crisis traces the end of the Yugoslav dream in the denial to recognize Tito’s death. The radical position of Milosevic is to recognize that Tito is dead and it is time to transcend the Yugoslav dream and take our destiny within our hands. Serbia therefore is destined to take the helm of the Yugoslav nation; Serbian dominance over the republics and Serbian dominance over the bureaucracy of the state. It was a nationalist dream of dominating the whole nation uniting them still under the dream of Tito’s powerful Yugoslavia. I cannot enumerate all the events of the Yugoslav crisis in this short article but it is enough to say that the whole process by which Milosevic carried the Yugoslav republic is to create a “democratic” Yugoslavia with Serbia at the middle of it all. The objection came from Bosnia and Croatia (as well as Slovenia) who wanted their own “democratic” republics with their own nationalist centres. The lesson of the Yugoslav crisis is that in the dream of a democracy there is a tendency for all commentators to see democracy in their own country as passing through a process of maturation and development eventually leading to a mature democratic situation.

Is it not the same way with a political science professor from the University of the Philippines interviewed by a news program about the demonstrations in Hong Kong, that the politburo was wise to grant HK suffrage on a gradual basis so as to avoid the mistakes of Gorbachev’s perestroika democracy? The whole theoretical foundation of this thinking is the notion that democracy is always unfinished and that it follows a certain path or process of maturation in which secular democracy will arise from it. This thinking is pervading among critical theorists in the Philippines, hoping that their critical theories about the imperfection of Filipino democracy could be healed by certain reforms in education, language, culture etc while still affirming the multi-cultural, multi-rational entities without jeopardizing the richness of our culture. The dream ends up always with a notion of an unfinished democratic process by which the country will arise in some form of parliamentary democracy with some twist of Federalism or to some similar point.

However, the impasse is that we always end up like Yugoslavia without really killing each other. Cebuanos often bent their anger at Imperial Manila and its centrist policies of clogging the capital with projects and turning a blind eye to the provinces. Apologists for Manila always indicate that the country must at least showcase one capital city to the world; a sort of gift towards the contribution of the Filipino people to global free market economy. Furthermore, there has been talk of letting the country assimilate liberal values such as self-reliance, indifference, and criticality and so on; the sort of American liberals admire. Hence, the dream is to unite the country again under some Asian secular democracy while still faithful to Filipino culture and so on. The problem with this notion is that we never reach a mature democratic society. The choice is rather a forced one: either this democracy we are practicing right now or the totalitarian regime and so on; so the choice is simply to identify ourselves to a notion of unfinished democratic struggle, hoping that by assimilating Western ideas we can mature as a secular democratic society.

As such, Yugoslavia will teach you otherwise.

Which leads us to…

Since the forced choice has been made, there is no other choice for our society than to endure the maturation process of our unfinished project. And part of that enduring process is to participate in a sort of post-political, post-ideological political practice where we transcend party ideologies work together hand in hand and so on.

When the 26th of August demonstrations against the infamous pork barrel system was organized, the aim was a non-partisan demonstration of ordinary people, expressing their disappointment with the government and the rampant corruption without engaging in partisan activities in a much maligned leftist and communist tone. The left was booed and mocked during the demonstration and people organized themselves as if the whole thing was a party. Its failure lies precisely at the people treating it as a picnic. A revolution is not a dinner party. Mao’s point is clear at this point in indicating the failure of all subsequent demonstrations against the Noynoy government and all government officials in the Philippines simply because the demonstration has ceased to become a picnic where I can engage in my own idiosyncratic political apathy while at the same time engage in a meaningful political action. There was no fidelity to fighting corruption and continuing the fight against corruption. The left however remained consistent with its fight against DAP and PDAF but so far it has not made a dent in the system and has been much maligned as the silent supporter of the very system they are fighting against.

Which leads us to the Binay issue.

Teddy Casiño made an interesting statement about the Binay issue on his blog site, explaining that after all its silence the left is against Binay but is playing its cards well not to engage in demonising him since the ulterior motive to demonize Binay is to exalt Mar Roxas from the political limbo towards the limelight. The hidden point here is that Binay is so popular that no one even the most politically responsible leftist could fight his popularity. There is an admission here that Binay will win even if we are against him. Here the left has succumbed to the temptations of realism, engaging in a pseudo-criticism of political correctness (where of course it is not politically correct to criticize Binay). Silence has become a quasi-defiance of the quasi-responsible act of criticizing Binay. Hence, the whole fiasco ends up as an absurd post-modern politics of people without political responsibilities engaging in political action.

Is this not the product of our post-political and post-ideological dreams, the presumption that since communism is dead, Maoism is dead, Titoism is dead and so on we are already safe in non-ideological liberal democratic practice? This is the failure of the unfinished project of democracy at its concrete finest. The masses identify with Binay since he becomes the Big Other upon which the lower class disgruntlement against the middle class and the Filipino oligarchy[1]. To them, he is not an oligarch but the epitome of the rags to riches story. Augmented by his dark complexion, the masses generally would identify with him; albeit corrupt, he is the man who can get shit done and answer the demands of the masses.

Binay is the ultimate effect of our unfinished project. Traditional politics ends with him and his inevitable victory in 2016, the rest is uncertain but nonetheless the same. The distrust of the masses with the intellectual elite and the distrust of the intellectual elite to the left have generated a political impasse in which the left must be able to emerge victorious. There is no magical moment, no magic theory a la Habermas to save us from this political draw. The left must dare to become different and become a significant beacon of responsible politics in this country by shedding its realism and engage in its idealism that burned bright during the Marcos era, an era defined by the paranoid anger of the right to combat the left.[2]

Here is where we in the left should begin. Ask the fundamental question and start being sceptical of the unfinished project of democracy, here is also where philosophy becomes a tool for criticising our intelligentsia, obsessed with Habermasian democracy.

[1] The Filipino oligarchy, a group of old families (like Tan, Ayala, Cojuanco, Sycip, Lopez families) who controlled most of the financial, material and agricultural wealth of the country

[2] Although the mistake here is to support Cory Aquino, the Marcos with a Human Face


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