Monday, July 12, 2010

A Labeling and Label-Checking Revolution

1. Well, well, well! Wangwang-less! (Noy be blessed? Till when?)

IN MY PAST blogged and other online essays [namely “A Battle of Faiths (or, In Defense of Journalism),” “Devil In The Details,” “How A Million-Peso Dinner Triggered A New Religious War In Our Barangay,” and “Philosopher-Kings Are Dead”], I discoursed on a culture of context-poor faith acting as the motor of our appreciation—as a people—of political personae and their actions. And being driven mainly by faith, what we in general see served on our country’s political table often—if not always—redound to the level of myths we can’t eat. Our constant frustration and disappointment with every new government is proof enough of the existence of those myths.
     How do we get out of this state of being entrapped by our faith in mere faiths into the arguably more stable light of reason? The election of Benigno Aquino III as the new president of our republic has in fact offered a signal ensuing moment for us to mend our ways and attitudes toward politics as a whole, away from the recurring post-election desperation and cynicism we’ve been accustomed to feeling in relation to politicians. Not because Noynoy Aquino, as he is often referred to by our nickname-happy punditry, promises to be the Savior of our Sinking Motherland, by which I mean the Lee Kuan Yew hero who can single-handedly rewrite Filipino political culture into something more respectable and respecting, no sir; his election is significant to a progressing evolution because the semantics around the events and people (people including his voters as well as detractors) that catapulted him to becoming the symbol of an anti-corruption dream-direction seem to carry the elusive answer to the questions we don’t even know if we asked. What are those questions? Well, how could we have asked them? All we had and have to really go by was/is faith.
     Let me go back. In previous essays carrying this view of mine, I have alluded to our support of a politician as one that starts with that politician’s support of a cause of ours (be this latter support real or merely claimed). When each of us starts to paste our respective souls to our favorite politicians soon-iconic media name, however, we quickly forget the primacy of our cause and take it for granted—nay, forget as well—that our politician and our cause are seldom synonymous; we leave it alone that our politician can leave our cause anytime he/she wishes. And, when that betrayal of our cause does happen, we still end up supporting the politician anyway, often giving him/her the benefit of the doubt, that doubt aided by his/her speeches disclaiming all rumors of broken promises. Our support goes on forever, each of us turning a blind eye to news reports that our politician had been off our cause from the git-go, on day one of his sitting in office in fact. We attach our sentiments to his/her persona, face and name by faith, armed with the crusading belief that any evidence of this betrayal placed on the table is a mere manufacture of envious others, and so, being used to exercising faith, we promise ourselves that nobody can fool us away from the luxury of our faith in our Sir or Madame. It doesn’t matter that we suffer, for we can always reason that our suffering is not due to Sir’s/Madame’s actions or insincerity but to the harassment on his/her person by opponents (a faith especially harder to topple when those opponents have been effectively labeled, either correctly or by PR black propaganda, with the crass tags of former or present evils). We reason that this opposition propaganda is what is causing a lame duck situation causing in turn the suffering. We might even occasionally refuse to admit that we are suffering, looking at the loan-subsidized and constantly costly privatized crumbs that go our way as blessings courtesy of Sir/Ma’am, crumbs for which we offer camote and saging to Sir/Ma’am as tokens of our gratitude. In short, in our country, our faith in and loyalty to our personally-chosen politicians, chosen by fitting them to our beliefs and prejudices and shallow perceptions of goodness, take precedence over our loyalty to our causes. To us, the fulfillment of our cause will not be up to us but to the god we appointed to fight for us and those causes. Our loyalty, thus, is primarily hinged to these gods as permanent symbols of our causes, gods that become impossible for us to unhinge our sentiments from in the same way that sinning popes continue to star in the altars of our prayers.
     It is no wonder, then, that while many among us regard the now-former president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo (along with her administration team) as the corrupt enemy of the people, many too still regard her as the intelligent and competent symbol of reform that we should have allowed to mother us all for an indefinite period of new reformation. The latter group of people in the populace did swallow the sermon that Arroyo’s “economist” tag was enough of an emblem attached to her blouse as symbol of a capacity to liberate, never mind that there are multiple schools of thought in economic science or that some of her opponents were themselves economists. It’s not the tag, after all, that we attach our loyalty to, it’s the person, or the PR myth about the person, and it so happens that any tag will do for the PR machines that spin truths. The same with Joseph “Erap” Estrada’s case. For while many continue to accuse him of being a mere tool of special interests during his term, interests, that is, coming from Chinese-Filipino secret chambers of commerce, perhaps more in our population still believe him to be the champion of the poor that he has to this day unwaveringly claimed to be. A battle between faiths still surrounds the name of “Erap”.
     And now, the faithful majority has elected Noynoy Aquino with the faith that here is a soul who will be our liberator from the claws of corruption that had forever been haunting our islands and cities with their scratches on the nation’s coffers and bank vaults. Well, well, well. I say, that faith—assuming it’s rightly placed—will not be enough. For salvation cannot be up to Aquino (or any better President, for that matter), it will primarily be up to us. What do I mean?
     It’ll always be up to us because all faiths are guided by numbers and their dynamism, their movement; and the fact of numbers’ significance to faiths has time and again woken everyone up to the reality of the war of conversions for numbers. This is no Baruch Spinoza math; it is simple reality the Catholic Church can attest to in its battles with Protestantism and apathy. But wait. Oh, no. Am I now saying faith is not that burly after all, being yet vulnerable to the sweet campaigns of conversions coming from all sides? Oh yes. But, remember, a conversion to another faith does not liberate one from faith, it merely transfers a person to another faith. Let’s put it this way. Let’s assume you are for the political religion of Noynoy Aquino. Wouldn’t it be possible for you to be persuaded later that the Aquino faith has been a hoax and it has actually been the Lakas-CMD faith that has always been the religion of all heaven for you, after all? If such a conversion is possible, how so? Well, it is not merely possible, in our parts it is always probable precisely because that’s how faiths operate
faiths exploit disappointments and sadness and ennui and recognize that not all faiths are that strong. Add to that, since faiths do not require too much questioning and only require you to close your eyes and sing all your suffering to the walking Warlords of our Roman empire who might have new answers to the people’s old grievances, so, like Moses’ flock, some of us may find it easy to jump on a new future carriage carrying, say, Gibo Teodoro’s New Galing and Talino Heaven, to which we’ll sell our souls for a new hope. A never-ending hoping on the treadmill of our nationhood has become our curse.
I say it is time we liberate ourselves from the peddlers of faith and become the preachers of our own fate. Let us rid ourselves of our propensity to lean on faith and faith solely and start carrying the crusading bullets of reason and intellection. Whoa, whoa now, you say—given the state of our masses’ education, is this even possible? Well, let us redefine education. If by education we mean the stuff that we learn in our schools, it will definitely be impossible, and even if made possible by honest efforts might have to wait a few more generations before anything happens. But a holistic (others prefer the spelling wholistic) view of education would acknowledge that the mass media (TV, newspapers, tabloids, radio) actually occupy a higher position in the dissemination of information/education than our impoverished classrooms.
     So our liberation-cum-answer can come from the mass media and how these media behave here on out. For more than the schools and churches, the mass media have been the primary culture changers in our society, as in many other societies. The mass media could lead the way, instead of them being led by the dog-chain of PR spins and sound bites. But, wait again, you say, no way can this happen, for the mass media in our archipelago are profit-motivated, thus more slaves to what the people (or the network bosses and their holding companies) want to hear than leaders in pushing for what the people ought to think. But, you see, reader, I’m not talking about a re-programming of networks’ programming, or a reformatting of newspapers’ formats, but only a reworking and rethinking of network broadcasters’ and paper news editors’ approach to politicians and their claims. You see, often enough media broadcasters think it their duty to merely record a politician’s self-descriptions, claims and proposals from an arranged press conference, they leave it to easily-thwarted reporters’ questions (thwarted by prepared answers) and later to editorialists to deconstruct those very claims.
     Now, sure we know that headlines make the news, and deconstructions bore the majority with the details. Sure we know that the majority of people are only interested in abstracts, and the more abstractly hysterical a politician is on TV the more exposed he/she is as a voice, and a voice qua voice is often enough to earn our trust. A voice. We want our politicians loud, but we hate deconstructionists. For us, sound bites and slogans and heard voices are symbols of political workaholism and admirable obsession, and the most effective deconstructionists who earn our smiles are only the untrained ones dinning the inuman sa kanto whom no one believes in anyway. In fact, it’s been the slogans and sound bites that have been carrying our votes and been raising politicians and actors and all sorts of Tagalog-speaking characters the masses could understand into the pedestals of power and authority! We know all that.
     But. What … if?

2. Labeling a Labeling Revolution As Such

WHAT IF we propose to replace all those slogans—“Philippines 2000,” “para sa mahirap,” “strong republic,” “galing at talino,” “kung walang kurap walang mahirap,” ad nauseam—with the more critical and more organizing labels and categorizations and pigeonholing tags that could come from our end? That is, what if we do ourselves one better than being mere consumers of slogans, not by becoming slogan-questioning sorts (hard to do, considering the influence of faith) but by affording all politicians the courtesy of labels as a requisite on our citizenship? That would be empowerment, indeed, wouldn’t it be—for now we’ll be the ones to be questioned with our labels’ correctness/precision instead of us forever questioning the articulate PR slants of politicians that we could never corner with our piecemeal views.
     Enter Noynoy Aquino’s election. And what does this have to do with our politician-pigeonholing revolution? Good question.
     You see, it has largely gone unnoticed, but many in the Aquino presidential campaign care of the Liberal Party had started to appreciate the word “liberal” and began to ask whether “liberalism” is indeed what the Liberal Party today represents. Before they could even answer their own questions, they were already posting the Wikipedia page on “Liberalism” on their Facebook walls as a way of sneering at the election losers or celebrating their party’s triumph! The Wikipedia entry on “Liberal Party (Philippines),” you see, does describe the party as a “liberal party,” with that phrase-noun linked to the page on “Liberalism worldwide.” And so I thought, wow! This could just be the start of a new culture in our country’s politics, a culture hungry for—and consequently knowing—what parties and their members actually represent, or claim to represent, and what they do not.
     And so one of my friends entered a proposal to (possibly) LP members/followers/supporters on a Wikipedia discussion page to define the extent of the Liberal Party’s liberalism, if it is indeed liberalism that the party represents, and to add Ideology and Recent Issue Stances sections on this wiki on the party, … to which proposal a likely member of the party replied, “Hell, yeah! Bayanihan tayo to renovate this page into a Liberal Party history and information page.
     In contrast, the Wikipedia article on the Nacionalista Party describes that party as a conservative one, even going so far as to claim that its platform “corresponds somewhat to the Republican Party in the United States (a mainly conservative party)”, linking the word “conservative” to the wiki page on “Conservatism.”
     The article on Lakas Kampi CMD, meanwhile, describes that party as a “centrist” party heavily influenced by “Christian democracy,” appropriately linking those word-tags to the pages on “Centrism” and “Christian democracy” respectively. That party is also described as influenced by “Islamic democracy” and “Populism.” Now, these positions seem to be what the party regards as appropriate labels for its ideology “focused on economic growth and development, stronger ties with the United States, creation of jobs, and strong cooperation between the executive and legislative branches of government.” Could this special focus on the United States be what the party word Kampi might be alluding to as its permanent kakampi or patron? If so, in what way is it pro-American? By what past policies or bills? The page also states that its “Christian and Islamic democratic” principles can also be understood to promote an “advocacy of a shift from the present presidential system to a parliamentary form of government through constitutional amendments” as well as “establishing peace talks with Muslim separatists and communist rebels.” This party democracy boasts of being “distinct in its ecumenical inclusion of Muslim leaders in its political alliance.” What a complex brew, huh.
     Anyway, I thought, wow! If these tags and labels on our local parties are right and precise, then maybe the parties’ and their leaders’ and members’ actions can be rationalized by these labels’ proposed ideologies and strong economic beliefs. With these labels, therefore, perhaps Gloria Arroyo’s decisions described by many as corrupt and evil would only be corrupt and evil for as long as the one describing them as such believes the center-right or conservative or neoliberal beliefs that prompted these decisions are corrupt and evil beliefs by themselves. In which case of understanding labels, therefore (should we hasten to resort to this labeling habit now), the question of faith and belief would not anymore hang from the neck of our people’s perceptions but shall be pinned this time to the tie or blouse of the politician’s perceptions of the right and wrong position. This would mean that we would already have had our politicians cornered, pigeonholed, and judged according to their faiths and judged accordingly by us as right or wrong or evil or merely deceiving, depending on our respective political leanings. That is to say, if we’re fiscal-policy liberals we’d look at industrial-policy conservatives with suspicion, and so on and so forth. This is coming quite a long way—wouldn’t you agree?—from our previous categorizations that derived solely or mainly from blindly taking in, by faith, what our politicians told us they vaguely were (pro-poor, left-leaning, right-leaning, etc.). Now, it will be up to us to tell them what they are by what they say and do and promise to do further and the alliances they enter into, and consequently they’d be prompted to initiate their own honest self-descriptions before us that would yet have to pass our review and approval; they would have to pride themselves on the label-cum-commitment they decide to wear, labels which the public can themselves weigh after hearing these ideologies’ new stalwarts speak and see them act.

     So, by labels, we’d have known our politicians better by their positions in the categories and charts. For instance, Noynoy Aquino’s solution from the beginning to the question/protest concerning the proliferation of private wang-wangs can be read by our present process of understanding political actions and policies as mere kowtowing (at the outset) to the masses’-by-the-mass-media’s desire (or the mass media’s-by-the-masses’ desire) for street reform; that is to say, a mere mass media-friendly kowtowing that may be temporary and should be expected to fade away in due time. However, if we are to attribute such an act or policy or directive to the concept and philosophy of social liberalism, assuming Noynoy Aquino is truly a social liberal and the Liberal Party inspiring him is truly a social liberal party, then we might appreciate the directive as social liberalism’s attack on the tiniest symbols and manifestations of elitism, therefore social liberalism in action spurred by the liberal principle established by Napoleon I espousing “equality under the law for all men”; this, presumably, as an act to counter the long-prevalent conservative principle that have been promoting elite-conservative Strong Republic ideals as “the persistent image of society as a command structure in which the responsibilities of leadership can be exercised within the framework of a strong state manifested in divine-right royalism” (Robert Eccleshall).

3. Deliberating Liberations

A LABELING revolution can also liberate us from our nagging frustration with ourselves. One such frustration is expressed over the recurrent disunity among ourselves, whether in an organization meeting in Manila or Cebu or in a gathering of Filipinos abroad. Contextualizing and defining the processes of the disunity, however, can in fact lead us to identify the root cause—it is by this identification that we can
arm ourselves with the contexts necessary for action when action is called for. After all, enjoining the wrong Filipinos abroad or in Manila for the right cause will always be frustrating and a waste of time.
     Basically, my point is that I dont believe were more disunited than the Americans or the Swedish or the Japanese or the Nauruans. We just dont know, being obsessed with the idea of unity, why we are disunited and where we are not united on. But democracy does not demand unity, only openness, according to Karl Popper, which means we can only demand unity from the right Filipinos for the right cause. The Filipino nation” concept, like the American nation concept, must not be forced on our minds to compose an image of pagkakaisa but instead allowed to live as a co-existence of mini-nations within a nationhood composite. Unfortunately, we seem unaware of our divergences, due to our shyness from what could be a more intelligent labeling and bookkeeping habit. And so there is a need now to contextualize our mini-nations, so to avoid being frustrated by a seemingly recurrent taste for crabs-in-the-bucket disunity every time someone orders a plate of unity.
     I mentioned in the second paragraph of this essay an unnoticed but significant progression-cum-evolution presented by Noynoy Aquinos peoples entry into executive governance, a progression with the potential for opening Philippine politics to contextualizations. This is a positive development because it is precisely what Philippine politics is in dire need of. Let me specify.
     If indeed from now on it should be possible for politicians and the mass media (mainstream and new or alternative) to present such concepts as being social liberal (accompanied by definitions of social liberalism [and Keynesianism or New Keynesianism or Post-Keynesianism in economics], conservativism, neoliberalism, and so on) in describing actions and policies of a sitting administration, armed with these concepts and ideas on TV discussions we should be able to quickly answer and discuss such questions as why Lakas Kampi CMD’s center-right conservative leadership through Gloria Arroyo was so focused on taking care of the corporate elite (or some in that elite) instead of the bottom first. We could easily answer that those policies had to be so and were natural of the Arroyo government because those policies are precisely what industrial-policy conservative economics and politics are all about! Conversely, we can also now easily begin to discuss how liberal the Liberal Party is—is it as liberal as Paul Krugman is or more liberal than him or liberal in another way? Why did Manuel Roxas et al. form the Liberal Party from out of the left rib of the Nacionalista Party? Was it because they belonged to the liberal wing of the party then and thus would by logic simply have been increasingly alienated by the party mainstreams nationalist conservatism? Did the Nacionalistas at the time decide to protect Philippine industries that the liberal faction went up against in favor of a freer liberal economics (which is conservative economics)? And is there a conservative wing (conservative liberal) in the present Liberal Party? Does Mar Roxas belong to this conservative liberal wing? How? To which wing would the Floirendo family belong to in the party?

     It is through such initial contextualizations that we can also begin to see why certain Filipinos and Filipino groups, here at home or abroad, cannot be one on certain approaches to improving the national welfare. For there will always be those Filipinos who’d believe were better off taking care of the top first so their welfare can trickle down to the bottom (conservative), and those who think the country would always be best served continually by a social liberal or Keynesian or New Keynesian or Post Keynesian or progressivist approach, taking care of the bottom first or equally to pursue a high satisfaction rating among all and pave the way for a comfortable investment environment for the top.
     It is lacking these contextualizations that we witness a society where it is no wonder even the Left would be divided on, say, Manny Villar, whose elusiveness has remained strong because of an elusive contextualization process in our political media. Was/Is billionaire senator Manny Villar a social conservative and/or political conservative and/or neoliberal? Was/Is he a stalwart of protectionism qua nationalism? Nobody seemed to want to ask these questions, having been swallowed by the leftist propaganda that told you none of these labels (other than progressivism) means anything. Was/Is Villar a pawn of the World Bank? Was/Is he (like almost any other politician, some say) a pawn of his own special interests? Because if he is a pawn of either the World Bank or his own special interests or both, then why would the leftist Bayan Muna keep an alliance with him, even while Villar nurtured an alliance with the son of the ultra-right dictator Ferdinand Marcos? It is interesting by itself, as would be any alliance between, say, any one of the American socialist parties with the predominant Reaganite wing of the US Republican Party. Could witnessing this phenomenon in our archipelago lead us now to a label upon both our political and electoral system?
     But why not?—some would dare ask. Any party should be free to enter into any alliance with other parties and party personas. Well, actually the people should not allow them to do so at every turn, if only because in this instance socialism and progressivism are on the opposite pole of pro-banks and pro-big business political or economic conservatism. Why do our people even allow themselves the display of such illogics?
     If both of these parties could be said to have entered into a sort of self-contradictory alliance with each other, what might be the reason? Should socialists and neoliberal conservatives alike forgive the leadership of both these parties for the reasons those leaders may cite? When will these leaders cite their reasons? When will someone ask for the reasons? Will someone ever ask the reasons why?

     Of course the majority of labels qua contextualizations are not as hard-edged as, say, Nazism. A politician might be a social liberal towards one issue and a neoliberal towards another. Thus there are conservative liberals just as there are liberal conservatives. But always, always, quantification of ones liberalism and conservatism is possible, and thus contextualization must proceed with degree measurements. Or one might argue a contention as to when liberalism or conservatism is and when not over an issue (I, for instance, believe it is not conservative but liberal to liberate the state from the idea of supporting artists via subsidies and National Artist Awards, this kind of support being a practice of monarchic systems).
     In short, labeling is a game of offering and then questioning. And the people, more than the politicians, need to be guided towards this labeling science or art or habit, if only because it is the more intelligent way of understanding our politicians and ourselves beyond the usual “mabait, mapagkakatiwalaan, matalino, may kakayahan, para sa mahirap” crap. It also provides us with the angle on what a politician claims to be for or about, and consequently an angle from which to check his every move and check his ideological honesty/integrity in relation to his claims.
     So, to paraphrase: our frustrations with the disunity of Filipinos, here and abroad, can be contextualized to thus make it easier for us to understand why one Filipino group would rally for X and rally against Y while another goes in the opposite direction. Filipinos are no more disunited than Americans, Israelis, Japanese, or Indians, let me say again. We are simply too contained within the concept of the Filipino nation as a coagulated blob that has to live up to this utopia of coagulation. I’ve always respected the fact that there are all sorts of Filipinos.
     So, as regards the “tribalism” or the “me first”-ism often cited in cultural critiques of Filipino crab behavior, let me acknowledge that, indeed, many times the “me first”-isms causing divisions in Filipino organizations can be simplified and dismissed as just that, attitudinal or personality crab “me first”-isms. But if the intelligentsia can help our countrys politics put things into better order, let me say again: this intelligentsia can start with the labeling and categorizing of political people to thus be able to understand their actions beyond dismissing everything as mere crab “me first”-ism. After all, one“me first”-ism has to ride a vehicle, say, the pseudo-progressivist vehicle, before it can function and act in its “me first”-ism. Again, it is this roster of labels that will be our people’s intelligent guide to understanding and measuring ideologies, motives, flip-flops, integrity, passions, and obsessions, as well as pretenses and deceptions.
     Corollarily, with the labels, we can begin to delineate ideologies and causes and also consequently guide our organization leaders accordingly. For instance, with those labels, yes, we can, once again, ask Bayan Muna as a leftist organization the question of why it allied itself with the Nacionalista Party known to have a political conservative platform. We can also begin to ask why a senator flip-flopped a thousand times on an issue or in his/her affiliations, and we can begin to examine the motives, whether it was simple pragmatism, or a simple alliance on a common priority, or filial/mafiosi greed, or something more ideological, that had been behind the involvement of a alliance faction in an organizational embrace or in an infighting. We can behave like social scientists instead of mere scribes of organization leaders’ PR wishes, and the better for us if we do. Above all, we can use labels as weapons against leaders that seek to dupe us with ideological claims.
     And why should this labeling be looked on as a revolution? Again, politicians and organization leaders (from parties ruling or opposing) in our country have long denied us clarity and ideological transparency, allowing themselves the liberty of changing their masks whenever and however they wish. It’s our duty now to label them and their philosophies and then their actions as having been this yesterday and having become that new one today. Our labels will discipline their support of and opposition towards certain policies, positions and personas. Because if we are indeed our leaders’ bosses, as Aquino proposed we are and should be, we better start with 1) knowing what each of us as well as each of our leaders are (by their claim and by our own appreciation), 2) making sure they either remain what they are or change to something else if they are not yet that (depending on our labeling standpoint), and 3) avoid being frustrated by all infighting and resort to using the social-scientistic privilege of labeling the various stands within our own circles. This labeling privilege is not just our right; it is also our duty as bosses with voices to use these against those who represent nothing or claim to be something or just about anything.

4. Revolutionary Rules

AND SO, just as any revolution succeeds through discipline, our labeling and label-checking revolution must be aware of its own obligations and responsibilities.
     And here is where we can say that labeling is good, for, again, its use by either a subject-politician (to label himself and his party) or by us (to label what we see) can also be for examining the actions of the politician. For instance, does the fiscal policy of a social liberal executive require the maintenance of a pork barrel system for the legislature? Does social liberalism support or require the existence of such a pork barrel system? If not, can we say that the social liberalism of one politician was a mere image tool for acquiring partisan or personal corporate wealth through fiscal-policy social liberal programs, thus an interest group or corporate form of faux liberalism?
     For, indeed, many of you, though you have gone this far in the essay, may still be thinking that the reason for my advocacy of the labeling habit is so I and my kind can dupe you with some false reality occurring between the label and the labeled, that someone I labeled as a social liberal must be appreciated not beyond his social liberalism and merely within the terms of social liberalism alone. No, sir. It is the very opposite. The rule is to label first, 1) from hearing what the subject is labeling himself and his actions and then 2) from hearing our consciences own appreciation of what it is hearing and/or witnessing. Then, secondly, we check the label’s aptness. How can we check the present correctness of our labels on the labeled if we do not have labels to check?
     Let me ask again, can we say that the social liberalism of one politician was a mere image tool for acquiring partisan or personal corporate wealth through his fiscal-policy social liberal programs? Before we can even hurl such a question against a self-labeler or our own labeling, we must first decide for ourselves, by our own appreciation, that the label was correct or precise and self-critical, at least during the time of the labeling, vis a vis the landscape it inhabited.
     Here is an example of checking the landscape:
     You see, we might find it easy to label a politician as an advocate of an hacienda conservatism, as is the wont of certain left-leaning pundits concerning elements of the landed elite. But a self-critical attitude towards our label might lead us to ask whether this linguistic obsession is correct. Why attach the spirit of the label merely to the old landed gentry? That would be as if the new landed gentry (e.g. Manny Villar and his real estate projects) as well as the new corporate moguls or their puppets in government and politics cannot apply the same evils of oligarchic conservatism in the new economics! That selective focus on farm lands would be a shame.
     Then, as we mentioned above, there’s the necessity to identify fake self-descriptions. One might easily label Pwersa ng Masang Pilipino as a “populist” or left-of-center party on the shelf of categories, meaning pro-people, consequently pro-labor, etc. Easily, I said, because that is what the party told you it is all about. However, certain individuals might protest that that self-categorization is grossly incorrect and deceptive, in consideration perhaps of their alleged knowledge that Joseph Estrada of the party (who formed the party) governed during his term with conservative-like favors to the Chinese-Filipino elite of the country, or that one of his first directives upon sitting in office was to order the government to withdraw its claims on billionaire Eduardo Cojuangco’s coconut-industry-levy-funded equity stakes in San Miguel Corporation. If that’s the allegation, the party’s category self-label would be deemed questioned and might have to be reworded to something like, say, “ethnic conservative” or some such new label to sublimate it from the merely pejorative and accusatory-level labels of pseudo-populist” and pseudo-progressivist.
     And what about the liberalism/s in the Liberal Party? Are these LP politicians even serious about what they are talking about in the first place? But to know what to label them or what they labeled themselves as is to recognize the potential lie that resides in the labels, which potential would come handy when a lie becomes visible. Is social liberalism truly the overwhelming philosophy in the LP, or shall this party soon display yet another style of corporate liberalism or interest group liberalism, as we said above, or neoliberalism, for that matter, or a more empty limousine liberalism?
     And then, finally, another obligation of the labeling science or art is the responsibility to constantly define the labels, even redefine wherever and whenever necessary. But would this ever be necessary? Isn’t it automatic of labels to demand meaning? Read the next paragraphs.

5. Advancing the Advantages

IT MIGHT be feared that a mass media-sponsored labeling revolution will result in a mere transfer of 
a citizen’s faith from a person’s name to a category label. But this does not acknowledge the fact that whereas persons operate from the aura of enigma and charisma pushed by subtle PR blitzes, labels have their own enigma maintained constantly by a demand for definition, redefinition, and reiteration of details. And so while it is true that faith can never be removed even with the presence of labels, faiths are nonetheless exposed to the space of reason when labels are constantly validated by their dynamic contents. For instance, some old labels—like old inappropriate music categories (e.g. the easy-listening music of Perry Como)—may have to be relegated to rare occasions where they can still belong (e.g. nostalgia party needs) or simply go entirely obsolete. Or labels may adapt and reinvigorate themselves to fit into the times (Michael Bublé and Harry Connick as the new American stalwarts of “pop standards, or the new big-band music icons; neo-nationalism in Germany or the United States have been defined as reactions to current immigration or increasing racial woes instead of as representative of some older, post World War I frustration). Other labels, meanwhile, will float above trends and dictate the direction of the future, perhaps even spawn a multiplicity of sub-labels, like heavy metal rock music’s later birthing of progressive metal, death metal, nu metal, speed metal, and so on.

     The presence of labels, once introduced, will also be inescapable. A politician (or even any ordinary Filipino within an organization) should find it necessary to wear his label with pride. A politician may protest that a label placed on his person is wrong, but he cannot avoid labels altogether. He would then find it necessary to wear one he likes, for he would need it to make it in this new archipelago of labels. Set up thus, the labels will make it easy for us to keep track of the politician’s actions and decisions according to the label he committed himself to wearing. Thus, for example, leftists who betray their leftism, or social liberals who betray their social liberalism, would either have to be kicked out of the roster or invent their own kind of neo-leftism or new liberalism (again, corporate liberalism?). In this new republic of labels, loyalty to a label will be the new rule for each label’s following.
     And so politicians from now on will be proud of what they stand for, the way conservatives in the United States are proud of being conservatives (even to the point of claiming conservatism as the real American way, against American liberalism which they say is the way of the traitor if not of the devil). On C-Span one day, a caller said he’d always vote conservative Republican. When another caller countered that Republicans only cater to special corporate interests, the Republican caller asked, “so what? If we don’t take care of corporations first, where will our workers get a job?” Liberals would find that proposition funny, but you get my drift. American liberals, too, are proud to be called liberals and consider conservatism to be un-American. A liberal economist like the Nobel economics laureate Paul Krugman proudly titles his New York Times Online blog “The Conscience of A Liberal.” In the same manner, politicians from now on will have to fear betraying what they claim to stand for.
     But there is something else brought into the table. The difference this tradition of self-labeling brings to any nation is tremendous, for this would already mean that with the labels, politicians will be required not only to be loyal to their causes but also to avoid being primarily loyal to their deceptions, if deception had been a major part of their overall political plan. There still won’t be a shortage of such types of deceivers (a lot of embarrassments to both the US Democrat and Republican parties from the distant and recent past can now be arranged on a giant picture frame). But it’d definitely be easier to track such betrayals from within the check and balance of the labeled causes the politicians have committed themselves to. And, again, given a roster of deceivers, self-labeling would require its subjects to be loyal, proud, and honest towards their philosophical category when watched by a people aware of the contexts of all the labels.
     Now, from a politics of cults of personality we would have been liberated or at least sublimated to embrace now a new politics of cults of philosophies. These philosophies will become the new gods whom the politicians shall serve, whilst previously they would only subvert causes in order to gather a bevy on their label-less selves’ charismatic wangwang-nesses.

6. Finally, Chasing After the Choices

SO, IF Noynoy Aquino is indeed a true social liberal, we may ask now how he might—as such a liberal—address the current water crisis, for
instance, and the entire issue of climate change and its impact on such large communal objects as dams for drinking water supply, irrigation needs and electricity generation. This early, Aquino intimated his openness to the idea of studying, at least, the practicality of nuclear power plants—this, despite early warnings from seismologists. If that alternative is approved in the high rungs of our government within the next six years, how then is the social liberal stand on nuclear energy going to be different from that of nationalist neoliberal Mark Cojuangco’s Nationalist People’s Coalition’s pro-nuke environmentalism via Loren Legarda’s green preachings? No different, it would seem. But if the conservative approach to these issues is traditionally to merely pay lip service to adaptations to climate change in order to service corporate welfare and consequent profits, might the social liberal approach be that which would only consider alternative water and electricity sources in so far as these benefit the masses and their future generations primarily and the industries only secondarily? Hmmm. Or would this supposedly social liberal approach soon betray a crack in its integrity when it awards an incompetent but friendly bidder the project? And what about Edcel Lagmans RH Bill? Would it take a different context under a social liberal government’s supervision from if it was implemented during an election year under a secretive and disbursement-hungry political conservative team of elite plunderers? Would this social liberalism betray itself by losing funds in the process of implementation? We would have to watch to be sure.
     We would need to be sure because labels must be dynamic upon subjects. What we labeled as social liberal today could turn out later to be nothing more than an old neoliberal student of corporate liberalism, as we said earlier. . . .
     Corollarily, context is also important in relation to how we as ideological partisans approach principles. For example, regarding the issue over the supposedly high principle of anti-nepotism, conventional wisdom preaches that nepotism per se is evil, regardless of which saint is sitting in office. Those who carry the flag of this wisdom, especially taking note that many who do are without confirmation bias, say that nepotism is a form of corruption, wherein families of supporters are rewarded for their support, and where as a consequence of that nepotistic decision families of supporters ought to have the magnanimity to refuse offers of an office. This is hogwash, of course, again a produce of our wont to disregard the schools of thought within nepotistic decisions. Everyone who participates in an election expects something in return: the ordinary voter vouches for the candidate who offers him a better life, while technocrats, including a family of technocrats, would support the candidate who offers them or their idols (or perhaps their entire families) the opportunity to implement their professional utopias outside of the academic paper to create revolutions in reality. If there is evil to be seen in any one member of that appointed family, it would not be due to the nepotism but due to the evil itself. Let’s go to specifics:
     Were I a conservative royalist, for instance, I would definitely not have minded had Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo appointed Mikey Arroyo as Secretary of Finance were he armed with the ability to run the office, and Dato Arroyo as Secretary of Defense were he too gifted with the technical capacity. I wouldn’t mind, because as a royalist I’d be loyal firstly to the principle of divine-right royalism as a necessity for strong governance (or a strong republic) and would look upon the principle of anti-nepotism as inferior to the first. If, on the other hand, I were a liberal, I might protest the nepotism, and might demand that then-President Arroyo appoint better-qualified people and ludicrously express likewise a preference for liberals to run these offices. Ludicrous, right? Ludicrous, because I in my turn—as a liberal—wouldn’t have protested John F. Kennedy’s appointment of his brother to the Executive Secretary post in the US government. If I were an American liberal, I wouldn’t protest much if the entire cabinet of a liberal president were to be occupied by close friends and relatives of that president, even if I knew there are professors better qualified for the posts, not only because the president may hardly know any of these professors, but also because as long as the appointees are all liberals with liberal principles, I would be satisfied with the thought that the principle of liberal governance will be served assuredly. . . . But, then again, of course I could also protest my president’s appointments. And should I protest, I would have been in a position to do that, because if there’s anyone who’s in a position to protest certain liberal appointments by a liberal president, it wouldn’t be a conservative, it would have to be an insider of the liberal mob who might have his own preferences for an effective liberal governance. The same with a conservative president. Were it a liberal mob protesting, say, a conservative Gloria Arroyo government’s appointment of, say, the people of business mogul and Mike Arroyo friend Enrique Razon to specific positions in the departments of finance and budget, that protest would be ill-placed (at least within our current thematic focus). Here, the liberals ought to protest not from the inferior principle of anti-nepotism but against the more crucial principle of conservative royalism itself lurking behind the nepotistic decision. The principle of anti-nepotism will always, always be inferior to the higher principles of the philosophies that run our lives.
     Unless, of course, the anti-nepotism smells a scheme for pork barrel politics via a number of nepotistic appointments to several finance-management posts, which nepotistic appointments could be used as a guarantee of a leak-free pork barrel program implementation. In which case the label on the system (pork barrel politics or pork barrel government) from which the ruling party operates would have to take precedence over the label on the purported political philosophy of the ruling politicians.
     But back to the contexts of Noynoy's new administration qua our present choice. If his wangwang-less idea at the get-go, of an elite following the same rules as the lowly pedestrian, was already a manifestation of social liberalism in action, soon followed by such other bright, possibly-liberal news as government’s identification of a lending mogul’s tax evasion practice (a sort of practice that could hinder fiscal-policy social spending), the crowning social liberal argument for this present young administration so far would of course still be the series of announcements concerning missing public funds and hefty and possibly-illegal disbursements of same from such entities as the PAGCOR by elements of the previous administration. These series of announcements, contextualized herein, would suggest that the social liberal way is the anti-corruption, anti-graft way, aside from being the way averse to the allegedly conservative way of raining public-fund favors on 1) industry people friendly to the conservative government and 2) government people who showed friendliness toward the industry friends of industrialist-friendly conservative governance. But, again, what we labeled as a social liberal today could turn out later to be nothing more than an old neoliberal student of corporate liberalism. Would Noynoy Aquino birth his own army of disbursement-hungry people in the government-operated or -controlled corporations? We would have to watch to be sure.
     But if that series of contextualization on the new Aquino government is exact as a whole, then we shall have to see (and note) how a social liberal government would run after such conservative corrupt deeds, and ask ourselves whether liberals are better at doing this policing (for the sake of the wealth meant for social spending) than any of the alternative conservative factions in investigation committees, factions that might be intolerant of corruption and selective favors but may nonetheless be just as pro-industries as their fellow conservatives now being investigated (assuming of course such conservative factions with some such Claro Recto morality still exist in our country).
     Unless, of course, we glimpse a similar corrupt conservatism among any of these liberals, in which case—again—it is the system (corrupt all over) that has to be labeled over and above the labels and pseudo-self-labels we have tagged so far on the individual sleeves of the politicians at play.
     Corollary to this vigilant thought, we might ask further whether a liberal is in an ideal position to investigate the corruption of government by corporate elements (corporate elements who may be in government themselves or merely friends of those in government seats), considering that liberalism is supposedly readily averse—ideologically, at least—to the premium placed by the conservative ideology as a whole on industry moguls. Within the same corollary field, we might ask whether it is possible for a conservative faction opposing another conservative faction to be truly opposed to the idea of favoring certain industry corporations, considering that conservative ideology itself is an ideology presupposing the necessity of favoring industries for development (under the determinations by government). This presumption of such a necessity is already quite a temptation, a social liberal would argue, being that such freedom accorded the government to make such determinations is almost a license for that government to extend its determinations of favor to certain special interests, with such micro-favors legally defensible as favorable to the health of the industries determined by that same government to be needful of development and favor.
     But, again, what we label as a social liberal government today could turn out later to be nothing more than an old neoliberal student of corporate liberalism. Would Noynoy Aquino birth his own army of corporate-interest-friendly people, rigging biddings and protecting tax dues by friendly corporations? We would have to watch to be sure.
     Still, it behooves us to ask the following question, for it should often be a tall order for a conservative to convince people of a conservative governance devoid of favors to certain special interests. However, distant and contemporary historical facts all over the world show that conservatives have not exactly been having such a hard time convincing people of their ideology’s morality. And so the question is: Is the conservative philosophy able to survive because the zeitgeist would every so often simply present the conservative ideology as the only workable or hope-offering one during a seeming failure of a social liberal policy at either the reins of governance at the time or in the winds of mass media noise during an election campaign?
     So, history has given us a see-saw of ruling between conservative and liberal governments. And given the above identifications of possible deceptions or subtle deceptions, however abstract and sweeping, of the two major centrist or moderate ideologies of policy, it may explain, also, why the moderate conservative and moderate liberal ideologies of politics and policies are often quite the magnet for people in politics who also are people in industries—say, the sugar industry or the banking industry. Or to power brokers who can employ a charismatic, sweet-talking pseudo-liberal to serve in government preaching social liberal sympathies while using conservative economic policy that would favor their companies’ interests.
     Not that people in industries cannot be real social liberals. Mar Roxas, for instance, a son of scions from the sugar industry of the Western Visayas (an industry now and again purported to be a prime beneficiary of state sovereign loans procured by both liberal and conservative governments), is also known as Mr. Palengke, a dog tag designed to refer to its owner as a champion (or dawg, as American blacks would say) of policies that place the clamors of market consumers over and above the clamors of manufacturers and producers of consumables. Whether that tag is precise or not, Roxas’ high place in the Liberal Party as that kind of dawg accords him the challenge of high liberal expectations as a possible Next Man to the presently-established social liberal flag. We only need to remember, though, that what we label as a social liberal today could turn out later to be nothing more than an old neoliberal student of corporate liberalism. . . .
     Is it harder, therefore, for a liberal to exist in the world, given the high expectations and the difficulty of fulfilling them? Is it easier for a conservative to live life, considering that his/her beliefs has him/her primarily answerable to his/her sponsors in the corporate and trading world than to the millions of the masses, given too that these corporate expectations are often easier to deliver (by way of both legalese defending conservative policies and PR journalese defending the trickle-down effect of it all)? If Noynoy Aquino’s is therefore a true social liberal government and Gloria Arroyo’s was a true industry-policy conservative George W. Bush-style one, can we say that it would be harder for Aquino’s government to fulfill itself, given masses’ and mass media expectations, compared to a conservative government for whom masses and mass media opinions are traditionally of no consequence to its manipulation-savvy spinners whose conservative industrial priorities have been placed higher than that of addressing the majority’s cries? (After all, these cries can be pacified, as it were, by the classic claim of conservative trickle-down economics, to mention it again, around investments that, taken good care of, would supposedly create a lot of jobs.)
     Well, yes, and no. True, it’s harder to please a people than a bunch of friends, but given that both social liberalism and conservatism are faiths as well as data-armed beliefs, politicians from both philosophieswhen they are sincere about these philosophiescarry their principles in their heads as “the right thing.” Armed with the belief in the correctness of their right thing and deed, therefore, true social liberals cannot be assumed to have a harder time in government than their conservative colleagues. For regardless of their popularity or unpopularity, both parties unwaveringly rest in the assurances of their ideologies’ standards of measure, and so therefore—whatever the outcome—the true social liberals will walk away when it’s their time to walk away with the belief, happy or sad, that they did the right thing. They will exit the same way then-deputy presidential spokesman Gary Olivar did, hailing, chin up, all the things that happened under the political conservative Arroyo style of governance as the best to ever happen on and to the Filipino nation. No need to change the Constitution, then, to keep itself in power, simply the graceful exit with head held high. . . .

     We, in the general polity, meanwhile, will do our part now from within and above these ideologies or ideological claims. Our part in and above these in the future shall hopefully be not as “screwed up” as it is now, as my blogger friend Lila Shahani put it, for presently we are still in the process of labeling our leaders and their philosophies according to data from our memories and observation, a process we have at least recognized as necessary now; necessary, that is, that we may neither be eternally duped by more pseudo –ists to come nor become unrecognizing traitors to the very –ists we should be rallying for instead of against.
     I have long been puzzling over why protest rallies today display more of those “party-list” banners than placards announcing their specific demands, or at least as many as the placards. Now I understand. For it is indeed ripe for us to henceforth pick our heroes not by their commercials on TV, nor by their slogans, nor by their insulting jingles, but by the flags (and philosophies) they belong to.

     Until our democracy and democratic practice learn to get to that next level, it’ll always be game over for us all, and we’ll continue to be our leaders’ labeled “jejemons” at the online election game instead of what we ought to be and can be from now on—their indexers in our own labeling and label-checking revolution.
     Hopefully, in the near future too, we can move on to an even higher level where we shall have to label the system itself that we are all under (is it an aristocracy? an oligarchy? a plutocracy? a necessarily elite-managed pure representative democracy?). For that will take precedence over the labels on the purported political philosophies of the politicians at play, as that labeled higher reality would impact on the struggles from within sincere beliefs or pretenses. It will impact each politicians sincere beliefs, as when campaign contributions from persons and media corporations belonging to an enemy-ideology within, say, our plutocracy, lay down the conditions for one politicians pragmatism. In such an arrangement, the politician’s social liberalism cannot be rendered pure nor can be expected to be implemented fully, concessions having been deemed a necessity for his reaching his well-funded dream position, thus already deemed to have corrupted the politician’s stand and beliefs from the beginning. Hell, sometimes such intrusions external to one’s philosophy or claimed philosophy can come from the other side of one’s very own personality, a side with its own contravening philosophy or claimed philosophy that may reveal itself later.
     But whats important, for now, is that we are now today able to see such things happen, having now been culturally trained to look out for such things. We should now be readily equipped to diagnose anything within our new diagnostic republic, both at the micro and the macro level. Let the revolution of label-readiness begin.  [END]

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