The need for orcs
Social Weather Station reports that more than 60% of us otherwise fickle people of this country still recall and value the People Power event of 1986.
And a good 14 million voted, last year, in an eruption of hope. Like 86, it was the compressed humanity in the streets that animated electoral action against authoritarianism. Unlike 86, the 2022 event met a robust disinformation machine, not a sick dictator literally propped up by mad factotums.
Marcos Jr, his ate, and his missus know that this thing is alive: an undercurrent of hope in democracy, running around rocks and scum and party boys pretending to be leaders.
Otherwise, they wouldn’t still be spending big on bad movies and trolls per bad movie that they have to pay people to watch. They’d be easing themselves into power without needing the attack-minions.
But they have to keep feeding these, uhm, orcs.
Performing to Filipinos
They think the demolition derby successful. Spectacularly. So far. So good. They think the menu is genius. Tar the democracy advocates red, yellow, pink, pinklawan—for use to measure punishment according to palette, from pitik to bashing to doxxing to jail time to death. Also: the slimy art of personal attacks.
Also: people the bureaucracy top to bottom with only two types. Craven politicos, usually mentally challenged. And actual professionals to perfume the air.
Most importantly: look benign. Perform Marcos redux as mellow, hush now, it’s-not-what-you-thought lullabies waft from Marcosian precincts. Dance all the right moves. Declare February 24 a non-working holiday, however late in the day. Disarm critics. Make noises against China.
Still, these manipulations are really only necessary if the powers-that-be are, in fact, aware of majority sentiment.
Moreover, these manipulations are really only necessary if the powers-that-be are, in fact, confident of their win. Since Marcos and allies know that their 31 million is an incredible number—it is a number that forecloses electoral protest but not resistance—they know that democratic aspiration lives out there, outside the Malacañang Palace they imagine to be their birthright.
Filipinos on the other hand imagine democracy as birthright. The Philippine democratic project is more than a century old. Asia’s first Republic was birthed with a libertarian DNA that shows up in the best and worst times.
Perhaps more importantly, Filipinos recognize democratic decay. Yes, including those maligned for being poor and ignorant—who know full well the degradation they have to endure when trading election cash buy-out of their future. Yes, including Marcos allies who willingly exchange democratic culture for patronage, accepting the scraping and bowing required.
The nation lives inside a Willie Revillame tv program, where the needy are required to humiliate themselves for some cash. While the host, guests, producers, and advertisers laugh hardest and take the profit to the bank.
And yet despite this collective fate, and most likely during their worst degradations, Filipinos are hardwired to recall the moments in the streets and in the grassroots networks—and in fact even in the workings of certain parts of the government bureaucracy—when a few or hundreds of thousands took hold of moments of dignity, thinking together that collective action by self-empowered citizens can mitigate against the impunity of autocrats.
That gumption has not evaporated.
It remains in the ceaseless community organizing by all kinds of good-faith agents all over the country. This culturally in-grained faith in democracy continues to drive further institutionalization of consensus-building strategies, no matter how much political horse-trading tramples the efforts.
This—what else to call it but love of people power—seems impervious to hateful assault.
In truth, the political menu for crushing the republic only seems to be working. Will it manage to remove the people power aspects of the 1987 Constitution? Will it give the present overlords a long-term hold on power? Will the industrial production of hate and the creation of zombies succeed in yielding the country to dynasts with gahdawfullest addictions?
Love, unrecognized by these bad actors, is not a romantic, soft thing, in my experience. It is tough.
And stubborn. And able to pull surprises.
Even in the worst-case scenarios, it is unwise to look contemptuously at love.
Marian Pastor Roces works internationally as an independent curator, critic of institutions, and analyst of culture and politics. Through her corporation, TAOINC, she curates the establishment of museums. She is also a founding Partner of the think tank, Brain Trust, Inc.
She has long argued that governance, civil society action, and policy making in the Philippines are weakened by the absence of cultural analysis. Such analysis, in turn, needs to work with updated data. Hence Pulitikultura, Roces’ platform for probing the intersection of culture and politics.