Monday, April 14, 2008

Democratic facade highlighted by the Philippines

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By last posting on the Philippines highlights the fallacy that democracy is a credible political system. Typically anyone airing criticisms of democracy would be labelled as a fascist or communist, but my learned friends no nothing of such concepts if they dont understand their philosophical foundation, which they dont.
By getting back to concrete reality, because some of you will be getting bored. We have a concrete example of 'vested interests' in the Philippines, families related or associated with some of the wealthiest families in the country, who are able to influence the course of justice, who are able to malign the pursuit of truth, who are able to wrecklessly steal money without regard for the interests of others.
Now I here you say 'Thats not the democracy that you signed on to!!' But isn't it? Sure the Philippines is a more blazen version of West democracy, but its the same institutions. I know I've seen some pretty dodgy examples of 'due process' in Australia. Is it any better in the USA, Britain or Canada? I think not. I am speaking of:
1. Rhetoric of regulation: There is barely any regulation of corrupt business in Australia. I have seen the media pursue more cases of wrongdoing than the regulators, and that ignores the fact that the media gives their case load to the regulators. Do we really want the media regulating corruption and crime. What we see instead is the empty symbolism. The high profile case of Rene Rivkin. Some powerful people must have hated him because they really made an example out of him. I wonder is it because he didnt give any political party campaign contributions? Was he an embarrassment to someone?
2. Political vested interest: I have seen governments misuse their political powers to perform certain illegal acts like sky on people, use defence personnel for non-defence purposes.
3. Political opportunism: I have seen a government minister have a political opponent placed in prison for a minor matter that would have been laughed off if one of his cabinet colleagues had done it.

But getting back to the Philippines because that is where things are so bad that any deceit educated person knows this fragile democracy needs help - and its not from democracy. So what does the Philippines need? What does any country need? I would suggest a country is only as good as the people who participate in it, but that responsibility does not fall equally on all people, and in the Philippines it falls on a smaller percentage of people than it would in other countries. Yes we demand a certain level of ethical conduct from voters that they will vote out bad people, but it goes even deeper than that. What I see evident is an absence of reality about this sordid affair in the Philippines, and given the support of the Philippines people, mostly expatriates, I think there is a good chance that the Philippines could be the birthplace of something more special than democracy - its a meritocracy. Critics would argue that the Philippines is already a meritocracy in as much as the countries is controlled by a political and business elite. But lets not forget that some of these business leaders were just good in business, some received government favours. Some likely just acted with little regard for government, and maybe that is a good thing. Ultimately power is vested in the politicians who are voted by the people. So where is the prospect of 'good governance' when the uneducated are determining public policy. Little surprise they have a propensity to vote for 'underdogs' who quickly align themselves with the elites. So how do you find people with integrity? Well integrity is a derivative of honesty, which presupposes a respect for reality. Where are you going to find much allegiance to that in democracies which 'might makes right', where the number of people you know or how much money you have determines the 'right'
Well in the Philippines, there is a group of Filipinos who are supporting Brian Gorrell because he has brought back a sense of reality to the Philippines. He is important because he is not just describing an isolated incident of corruption or wrongdoing, he is exposing a culture of deceit. And what is even more telling is the extent to which the media is implicated by creating a facade which was intended to appear objective. Its very clear that this is a major political storm because no one is willing to touch it. This guy is up to 5mil hits on his blog and he deserves them.
The world has yet to appreciate the implications of this blog because it highlights the extent to which a blogger can have such power. What if a blogger could capture the same power in future? Might he be able to bring down a government. Don't think government is looking into blog censorship for your interests. If they walk over your 'rights of free speech' to prevent cases of libel, it is to protect them.
The sad part of Brian Gorrel's blog is that whilst he seems certain to get his money back given the level of support for his crusade by Filipinos, the issues which he raise and why they occurred are likely to die. Fortunately he has enough 'dirt' on this family to keep this issue hot for a while yet. I am captivated by the importance of this issue and how governments around the world will respond.
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Andrew Sheldon www.sheldonthinks.com
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