Too few to go right

A recent entry in Torn and frayed in Manila muses on the possibility that the Philippines is ripe for revolution. In particular, a revolution, in Marcosian terms, “from the center” -or a swing to the right.

The bloggist concludes,

The Philippines is not going to take such a radical course as Germany in the 1920s, but many of the features that Bullock talks about (“the crumbling of familiar landmarks and accepted values and … insecurity about its future”) are already among us, making some form of “right-wing radicalism” attractive to a desperate middle class. Stand up Ping Lacson and Bayani Fernando — your time is at hand.

The difficulties faced by any effort to get the country to “swing to the right” are many:

1. An upper class in danger can always summon money to its defence, as well as influence policy makers and politicians. Any succesful rightist effort, however, in the context of a constitutional democracy, requires public support. If a significant middle class exists, it can be convinced to share the fears of the upper class (loss of savings, dangers to the preservation of property, crumbling law and order).

2. However, the question in the Philippine context is: what middle class? The middle class at home is preparing to leave, or sinking into the ranks of the upper lower classes; the most capable of the middle class is already abroad. Worse still, middle class values and cohesion are being eroded by the bankruptcy of the educational system and the erosion of traditional middle class values, including the work ethic, because of the proven success of the get rich quick OFW mentality.

3. Either way, a succesful rightist effort requires some sort of mass base. The aspirations to social mobility -the desire of the poor to be middle class, if not rich- is one way. The other way is to simply manipulate the masses in order to serve the interests of, and protect, the upper and middle classes. The leftists have failed to generate mass enthusiasm for their ideals because of what I am convinced is the inherent entrepreneurial, if not actually rightist, mentality of many of the poor. The problem is, the right has not being able to use the selfishness of the individual, regardless of economic circumstance, to political effect.

4. Since the political class is dependent on public support, and since public support is based on a mendicant attitude, wealth is maintained through power which is, in turn, maintained through the bribery of the electorate, which is content to use the corruption of society to its advantage. Ironically, the need to bribe everyone makes political office, and thus power, more and more expensive -increasingly too expensive on a national scale. The political class has therefore clearly decided it’s better off with small fiefdoms which are cheaper to maintain than national office: hence the efforts to go parliamentary and federal.

5. Because of this attitude among the political class, the upper and middle classes are poised to lose whatever leverage they may have. In a country of small fiefdoms, the already dwindling middle class becomes even more politically inconsequential, just as national mass movements, which both the left and the right need to influence the politicians, become irrelevant or ineffective.

Manuel L. Quezon III.

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