In the video podcast above I talk about the beginnings of family dynasties.  Let’s now briefly discuss why they persist to this day.

As you can see from the opening slide 94% of the provinces in the country have dynastic family rulers.  Despite a lot of talk & media attention, despite the stalled attempts at legislation, they remain an immovable political object–and will remain so for the near future.  Why?

The most common refrain is that this comes down to the electorate not being wise enough to vote them out.  I consider this to be simplistic.  Worse I consider this blame-the-people strategy a form of colonial mentality, a throwback to the days of colonialism when the people were considered ‘too stupid’ to rule themselves.

We have to ask ourselves: is it really that easy to elect rulers that work for the best interest of the people?  Because if it is, then we surely are left with the grim conclusion that it is due to the electorate’s lack of education, or worse, that they actually want the situation that is.

But let’s simply look at supposedly well educated and ‘civilized‘ nations.  Even in the so-called ‘advanced’ and ‘developed’ West (North America and Western Europe) is it not clear that even there progressive candidates face a near impossible task?  Look at the collapse of economies of countries like Italy, Spain, or Greece.  Yet despite this even moderately progressive candidates are consistently defeated by the same old same old politicians that got them into the mess in the first place.  Look at the US, is Barack Obama really the best possible candidate for the growing legion of disenfranchised, poor, and unemployed?  Look at Canada, we voted in Harper twice, and if he doesn’t win again neither the Libs OR the NDP really have a platform that will significantly change the course we’re on towards more precarious work, more cheap migrant indentured labour, and growing social inequality.

This is the global reality.

It’s time for us to break free from the false mythology of elections being ‘the will of the people.’

No.  The truth is that winning an election comes down to much more than ideas and political platforms.  Winning elections comes down to who has the money to fund expensive campaigns, and down to fear of actual change.

Elections cost big money.  Both in the Philippines and around the world.  Yes there may be multiple candidates, but if we honestly look at all of them, they deviate very little in their actual platform.  What they share greatly outweighs any small differences.  And this isn’t really their fault.  The representatives of the rich all belong to a similar economic class, and like all people, we take care of our own first.

Having the money means that they get their message out to people, and they get their name out.  Where they differ usually comes down to small differences in order to attract people from the more numerous lower classes.  It’s really that little bit of bait set upon the hook.  Elections is where they fish for us, but once we bite that’s it, we’re hooked, the game is done–until next election at least, and even then we’re again left with little choice between which bit of bait looks best until we get hooked again.

So why then don’t the people simply refuse to bite?  Why not instead choose to lead themselves?

Fear.  People naturally fear change.  This is the system we’ve known our whole lifetimes, it’s what our parents knew, and those before them.  And that’s why choosing between the rich fishermen is normal–they know the system best (because they are the system).  Change is a step to the unknown.  Just try to imagine real progressive change.

Imagine trying to create a fair and just socioeconomic system in the Philippines.  Think of how disruptive this is in actuality.  Think of the backlash that would occur.  The people aren’t stupid, they’re just being “realistic.”

Most of us fit into this camp.  We of the so-called middle class live on a precarious edge.  Our relative wealth is based on the system that is.  Imagine changing it to make a better world for the poor majority.  We like to imagine ourselves as supportive of this, but in reality we fear how this affects us.  We don’t want to be impoverished ourselves.  As George Orwell wrote:

“We all rail against [poverty], but very few people seriously want to abolish them.  Here you come upon the important fact that every revolutionary opinion draws part of its strength from a secret conviction that nothing can be changed… So long as it is merely a question of ameliorating the worker’s lot, every decent person is agreed… But unfortunately you get no further by merely wishing [poverty] away.  More exactly, it is necessary to wish them away, but your wish has no efficacy unless you grasp what it involves. ”

A simple thought experiment: if we wanted to change the labour export in the country (4500 leave everyday to work abroad) what would that entail?  This means changing the entire neocolonial structure which means cutting into the interests of the big economic powers (like the US and Canada).  Of course these countries won’t take kindly to this.  Canada’s economy, for example, requires the influx of cheap disposable labour–this would drive Canada’s economy into a greater crisis.  And in the Philippines think of the poverty that would result if the 4500 people daily who remain in a country with not enough jobs to support them.  A national industrialization plan would need to be implemented or chaos would result.  But to implement this means ending (or at least minimizing) the economic exploitation of foreign companies.

All this impacts on the money being put into the pockets of the Filipino rich, those whose families make up the dynasties–as their foreign benefactors would stop being very kind.  Clearly this isn’t in their interest at all.  And so the system continues on as it always has.  With the Philippines providing for the needs of foreign powers, and the foreign powers providing for the needs of the local Filipino elite that ensure that the status quo stays as is.  All the while the majority suffer.

The truth is that our political reality is built into the system.  Not only is this the way it’s always been done, the system is built to reproduce it.

To break free of this system will require more than a magical electoral fluke where progressives suddenly take power.  It will require a realization of the systemic ties that hold us down, a break from fear, and taking the brave step to organize ourselves and step into the unknown.

Luckily our hundreds of years of suffering has a positive lining: it has forged through hardship one of the world’s strongest mettles, found in the progressive legal movements–and even in the understandable armed rebellions–that are active all across the archipelago.

Because a bright and truly independent future IS possible for the Philippines.  But it won’t just happen.  And it won’t be easy.

An end to political dynasties means an end to the current political superstructure.  Let’s not blame the people, let’s join them in the struggle.

*     *     *

Alex is the Toronto spokesperson for BAYAN-Canada

Twitter: BayanCanTO / alexf_ramblings