Renato Tibon .
“Politics is the art of looking for troubles, finding it everywhere, diagnosing it incorrectly and applying the wrong remedies.” – Groucho Marx
WHILE discerning directions, issues and ideas worth writing about, I find, to me at least, nothing indubitably stimulates the subconscious mind as much as “political” matters can. I hope readers tolerate my obvious preference and bias towards politics, a subject which, despite my exiguous political background, training and experience, I hit upon as edifying, utilitarian and challenging, notwithstanding that like religion, my other interest, it is unfairly despised.
Come to think of it, politics is the domain of those who genuinely desire to learn and serve as leaders of the community including, I admit, those who consider public service as the ladder to gaining prestige and popularity and perniciously, financial returns. They are, in Greek Democracy termed as “polites,” persons who are interested in public affairs, who consider citizenship both as a right and a duty. Being polite is “marked by or showing consideration for others and observance of accepted social usage.” Thus, the derivatives of policy, polity and, of course, politics would have its root from “polis” (Greek city-state), referring to the body of systems and standards, laws and regulations appurtenant to governing a society or community. The “polites” of this community receives incentives and gratifications in their social involvement and are thus politicized by their association with like-minded individuals. The motivations are as varied and portentous, as current social concerns could take away focus on crucial political and economic legislative issues.
Consider for example the extant issue on the Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity and Expression Equality bill (Sogie), an anti-discriminatory bill proposed in Congress which seeks to prevent prejudicial acts against some people based on their sexual orientation, gender identity or expression. Some claim there’s really no need to pass them since there are numerous statutes that ensure discrimination is avoided and penalized such as in the 1987 Constitution, the Anti-Sexual Harassment Act of 1995 and the Magna Carta for Women, among others. But the bill, earlier filed in 2000 by the now late senator Miriam Santiago, and refiled even today, seeks an expansive law preventing discrimination against lesbians, gays, transgenders, bisexuals and queer sectors (LGBTQ++) lumping them with differently abled and indigenous groups, protecting their rights on the basis of their Sogie (e.g. right to access public and private restroom services, admission to educational institutions, among others) and providing penalties. Its political undertones are unmistakable, further dividing this benighted country splintering our social consciousness with more disruptive issues than our lawmakers and citizens can handle. I myself, would vote against the bill unless they amend provisions that will unnecessarily incriminate otherwise sane and innocent people and the stiff penalties provided therein that are by themselves discriminatory to the rights of the rest of the populace.
In his treatise on Politics, Aristotle made distinction of the political animal as a “social creature with the power of speech and moral reasoning,” and being naturally sociable, human beings are drawn to associations and activities of society. Such activism, not necessarily engaged in any form of protests, rallies and marches, is any activity “that promotes or directs social, political or economic change designed to improve society.” He went on to say that those who turn their backs on society, declare themselves to be “lawless, tribeless and heartless,” alluding to a bird flying alone which, of all the wild animals, “refused to be domesticated by human beings.” To be alone, concerned only of one’s private affairs, deciding only that which unequivocally benefit one’s self is being birdbrained or idiotic.
Aristotle might have called them political idiots, from the Greek idios which pertains to one’s own self, private, peculiar, self-focused or separate. In Athenian democracy, an “idiotes” was a person not active in – or not capable of being active in – public affairs and engaged only in self-interested pursuits or private matters, never mind the “civic space and the common good.” The words idiopathic (basic) or idiosyncratic (peculiarity) derive from same roots. From this flowed the idea of an idiot as an ignorant or mentally retarded person, and later evolving into our modern sensibility of an idiot as an insult to someone’s intelligence. They typically represent the majority in today’s society who could not care less if the locality swims in flood and garbage, boils in terrible heat due to traffic and elects similarly disposed idiotes who are concerned more on recouping campaign expenditures and perpetuating themselves in power, largely ignoring the general good.
Another issue of idiotic proportion, is the concern about our judicial and penal system particularly on GCTA, which brings home the point on the idiocy of a flawed interpretation of the law. First, our legislators created laws which abolished the death penalty found to be an ineffective deterrent to crimes and settled with reclusion perpetua which guaranteed perpetual punishment minus the killing. I have no argument with that. Then they amended the laws allowing for good behavior (Good Conduct and Time Allowance) and converting them into days and years, which could be deducted from their penalty, to give chance for those repentant ones who did sufficient time, made amends and capable of reuniting with society. All these are commendable acts that show our judicial system is more reformative than punitive. But embedded in the same system are corrupt and corruptible elements which circumvented the law to serve their own private interests, the idiotes of penology.
According to their own convoluted computation, even those who are not allowed by law to qualify and are in fact expressly disqualified by law, the rapists, murderers and plunderers who were consigned to perpetual punishment, can make time with good conduct, deductible from their total stay, regardless if the number of years meted out are meant to ensure they stay for good. Even if they have five life imprisonment, each life being equivalent to 20-40 years, if their behavior inside the correctional facility showed them as reformed, then they qualify. What about the injustice done to the victims and their families, can the crime be reversed too and get the dead to come back from the afterlife because they have made time wherever they are now? It is utterly mind-boggling and thus, exacerbated by a flawed system, interpreted by corruptible prison officials and supported by idiotic politicians, understandably, the polity of idiots howled.
According to Mark Twain, “Never argue with an idiot. They will drag you down to their level and beat you with experience.”
(Renato Gica Tibon is a fellow of the Fellowship of the 300, an elite organization under Centrist Democracy Political Institute with focus on political technocracy. He holds both position as political action officer and program manager of the Institute. He is the former regional chairman for Region 10 and vice president for Mindanao of the Centrist Democratic Party of the Philippines.)