The Long View: Uncertainty and craving order

The Long View
Uncertainty and craving order

By Manuel L. Quezon III
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 02:09:00 02/09/2009

LET me put forward this parable from The Analects of Confucius:

– Chang asked Confucius, saying: What are the essentials of good government? The Master said: Esteem the five excellent, and banish the four evil things; then you will become fit to govern.

“The Master replied: The wise and good ruler is benevolent without expending treasure; he lays burdens on the people without causing them to grumble; he has desires without being covetous; he is serene without being proud; he is awe-inspiring without being ferocious.

-Chang then asked: What are the four evil things? The Master said: Cruelty: leaving the people in their native ignorance, yet punishing their wrongdoing with death. Oppression: requiring the immediate completion of tasks imposed without previous warning. Ruthlessness: giving vague orders, and then insisting on punctual fulfillment. Peddling husbandry: stinginess in conferring the proper rewards on deserving men.”

In any national debate there are two sides actively campaigning to convince the uncommitted: there are the Pros and the Antis. The purpose of a debate is to put the issue on the table and present the sides for and against the issue. The public in the end is the audience and the one called upon to decide which side wins.

As people are appealed to by the politically active, the motives of opponents and proponents of those participating in these campaigns are briskly debated, too. Often lost in the debate is the point of view of the public itself, as differentiated, if possible, from those who have already embarked on their pro or anti advocacy.

Either advocacy on any question “Constitution, candidate, policy” has at its heart a particular vision of where the country is and where it ought to be; and of leadership in general and the things that are meritorious or objectionable in our leaders on either side of the fence. We are called upon to clarify, I think, our individual conceptions of three things:

1. What kind of nation do we want, and this means, what are the things that require improvement and the things that are already positive about our country? To achieve the former, will it endanger or diminish the latter?

2. What are our views considering leadership in its positive and negative aspects, and what are the characteristics that make for positive or negative leadership? And where do we fit in, as followers or supporters of such leaders, or as the constituents to whom all leaders must appeal for political support?

3. If there are times that call for great national divisions, how will those divisions manifest themselves in our communities? How do we ensure that we play a positive and not negative role in the great national division – that is, if you even wish to be counted – and just as importantly, how do we ensure the division is not so destructive that it will permanently endanger our communities or so fundamentally alter them, as to endanger whatever positive aspects either side may currently have? This includes whether a national division would be better off postponed to a more auspicious time.

Consider this extract from Garry Wills’ “Certain Trumpets: The Call of Leaders”:

“So far I have been discussing just two things – leaders and followers. That is better at least, than treatments dealing with only one thing – leaders. But the discussion cannot get far without a third thing – the goal. This is not something added on to the other two. It is the reason for the other two’s existence. It is also the equalizer between leader and followers. The followers do not submit to the person of the leader. They join him or her in pursuit of the goal.

“It is time for a definition: the leader is one who mobilizes others toward a goal shared by leader and followers. In that brief definition, all these elements are present, and indispensable: Leaders, followers, and goals make up the three equally necessary supports for leadership: The goal must be shared, no matter how many other motives are present that are not shared.”

Teodoro M. Kalaw in his autobiography, “Aide-de-Camp to Freedom,” quoted one Filipino leader as saying to a colleague, “The problem with you is that you take the game of politics too seriously. You look too far behind you and too far ahead of you. Our people do not understand that. They do not want it. All they want is to have the present problem solved, and solved with the least pain. That is all.”

This a point of practical politics, in which the satisfaction of putting forward and discussing theory and policy must be tempered by asking whether this is relevant to, or a real concern of, the constituencies the theories and policies are supposed to serve.

A decade later, the same leader, in this entry dated Dec. 23, 1938 in the “Diary of Francis Burton Harrison,” said, “The people care more for good government than they do for self-government ; the fear is that the Head of State may either exceed his powers, or abuse them by improprieties. To keep order is his main purpose.”

Which in a sense brings us back to (1), for there is the possibility that the electorate, the public, is being called to undertake a role for which it is temperamentally disinclined because culturally alien. Which means then that success may be within the grasp of whichever side is able to appeal to other instincts and cravings of the electorate – such as keeping order.

In an urban setting, too. Bobi Tiglao first put forward a critique of the Communist Party’s surround-the-cities-from-the-countryside Maoist model back in the 1980s: which was, that the Philippines was already well on its way, then, to being an urban society, and increasingly is headed there, if not actually there, now; that the political temperament and culture, then, of the national capital will increasingly be reflected in the political cultures of the other great urban cities of the country, except where they are old enough to retain a distinct, provincial culture of their own.

Manuel L. Quezon III.

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