The Telenovela that is Politics

MP-KNN teamUncategorizedLeave a Comment

By Miel Feria, contributor

On my way home one Friday, the jeepney that I was riding made the mistake of passing in front of the Veteran’s Hospital several moments after the former president was brought there. The usual traffic caused by the incessant rain was made worse by the presence of several media vehicles and a handful of supporters of the former president who were camped at the hospital entrance

The people in the jeepney made passing remarks regarding the transfer of the former president, but just like a movie that was no longer in theatres or a particular telenovela that had been cancelled. They did not really dwell on the issue. Soon, everyone was talking about something else.

It struck me as amazing how these people who, a couple of years ago, would have strained their necks to catch even a glimpse of the former president, could now easily dismiss the topic. Then it dawned on me: the former president was old news. Everyone got on with their lives, and the former president, just like a cancelled telenovela, no longer held their attention.

Many, if not all, Filipinos view politics as some sort of entertainment. We have our heroes and our villains. That these are the people whom we entrust our country to is not an issue. We populate the Senate and Congress with individuals who have made names for themselves outside politics. People who have colorful life stories and people whom the masses confuse with the characters they play on screen have served in the Senate and in Congress. People who don’t really have any first-hand experience in formulating laws or even enforcing them before they assume their elective posts, relying instead on their army of consultants and expert staff to draft and write their speeches and proposed bills.

This perception of politics is not lost on the people who vie for our votes. Being aware of this fact, there are some politicians who capitalize on it and adopt a larger-than-life persona to capture the imagination of the voting public. Just like actors, they pretend to be someone they are not to gain the support of the masses that see them as their knights in shining armor. Maybe it is because of this fact that there are a lot of actors in politics. They need not try, for they are already trained in portraying roles on screen, and being a politician is just one more role.

Just like in showbiz, children of politicians also enter the trade. Political families are as common as showbiz clans, where a number of their members are simultaneously in office. From the Sangguniang Kabataan to the highest posts in the land, scions of these political families have been elected not by their individual achievements but by way of name recall. And there are showbiz clans, too, that have transcended show business and found their way into politics.

This perception of politics as entertainment may be to blame for a number of our problems. We refuse to look at people’s track records. Instead, we firmly believe that if a person shares his parents’ name, then he must be as good as his parents. Conversely, a member of a particularly unpopular political family must be as bad as well.

This seeming disregard of the individual’s capacity and the focus on their names and genealogy shows the amount of so-called ‘respect’ we have for our institutions. If we had more respect for these institutions, then we would be more careful with our choices. We wouldn’t be blinded by bright lights and empty promises.

We should take time to find out whether these candidates vying for our votes really practice what they preach. It is only through careful analysis that we can determine which candidates are right for our country.

Though some actors have turned out to be good public servants, and some members of political families have lived up to their family’s names, there are some who have simply capitalized on their name and popularity to be in office. We should learn to tell the difference between facts and manufactured propaganda. We should bear in mind that the effect of choosing the wrong people lasts longer than it takes for us to forget the telenovelas that hold our attention for a time.

In a little over a year’s time, we will again be witnesses to another spectacle: the campaign for the 2013 elections. There will be those who will bank on their famous names and their popularity to gain favor in our eyes, so it is imperative that we learn to see through all the propaganda. Unless we do, we have no one to blame if our country is going nowhere and the national situation is something akin to a telenovela: melodramatic, surreal and crass.

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