Carvajal: Why cultural revolution

·2 min read

MAKE no mistake about it. Although I am advocating for the ideal political structure of a representative democracy, I don’t see it as the panacea for our social ills. It is not, and here are my reasons.

In the first place and realistically, that ideal structure will take long to come, if ever. Those who control the old structure are showing every sign they will oppose any change that would dislodge them from their position at the top of it.

Also, that structure merely gives the basic sectors a fair chance to be represented in and up to the highest seats in government. But it does not mean better government because the question still remains of how they will rule. Will they do a better job? Will there be less corruption?

And here’s where I feel sad that I have to answer that with a “No.” Representatives of the basic sectors, if and when in power, will not necessarily do a better job of governing. They could even do worse.

The reason is they are not foreigners but Filipinos stuck in one and the same cultural marsh as the oligarchs before them. Unless a cathartic event or a cultural revolution gets us unstuck from the regressive colonial culture we are mired in, Filipinos will always behave like Filipinos regardless of their economic, educational and regional provenance.

Filipinos take to hierarchical structures naturally. Thus, we are not truly democratic because while democracy vests power on the members of society, our culture vests it on those who are on top of what we think is a God-ordained hierarchy.

In that world, people on top — family, government, school, business, and religious elders — decide what is good for people below, get more economic, educational and other benefits than people below, and treat them as dependents not with justice but with condescension.

This stifles the creativity and initiative of subordinates, especially the young, from whom elders demand obsequious obedience to their commands.

Worse still is what could happen when and if people below get to the top. They could seamlessly assume the values of top people and act in the exact same manner they once condemned the former of doing.

Thus, corruption might not abate. Our cultural attitude towards power begets abuse among those with power, from the lowly security guard to the president. Corruption is more pervasive than we like to admit. It is not just in government but in every social group of Filipinos.

For this country to move forward, a new Filipino needs to be born. A violent upheaval would do it faster but will have deleterious effects. The peaceful way is through the long and high road of a cultural revolution.

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