Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Choose or Lose

At the height of the Watergate hearings, I saw a bumper sticker that proclaimed "Don't blame me. I voted for McGovern". At the time, though I was not eligible to vote, I could not understand what satisfaction a citizen of a democracy could derive from not having voted for a president who had disgraced himself and the office of president. It was like a passenger on the Titanic telling everyone that he had not bought shares in the White Star Line.

In fact, I have never found the least satisfaction in voting itself. I did not even begin to vote until I adopted a genuine political conviction, only because it took me that long to penetrate the layers of lies encrusted on Socialism. I am not so cynical as to believe that it makes no difference who one votes for. But I have never cast a vote without having serious misgivings.

Voting for a candidate that most closely approximates to one's views (to the extent of the approximation), who represents a party whose platforms do not sharply diverge from one's understanding of reality, is about all that anyone living in a democracy can hope to expect. People who claim to "go with their gut feelings" when they vote are probably just dyspeptic. I have never even voted with the expectation that my choice might be the winner. It is probably a better idea to vote against one's emotional reactions, since they are likely to be conservative.

"We see the need of engaging in politics," wrote George Orwell in 1948, "while also seeing what a dirty, degrading business it is. And most of us still have a lingering belief that every choice, even every political choice, is between good and evil, and that if a thing is necessary it is also right. We should, I think, get rid of this belief, which belongs to the nursery. In politics one can never do more than decide which of two evils is the less, and there are some situations from which one can only escape by acting like a devil or a lunatic. If you have to take part in such things - and I think you do have to, unless you are armored by old age or stupidity or hypocrisy - then you also have to keep part of yourself inviolate."*

Elections are being held in England tomorrow (Thursday) and on Monday here in the Philippines. The British election is understandably more important than the Philippine election, since there is a great deal more at stake, even for Filipinos. Every election in the Philippines since the 1980s has been so fraught with the potential for disaster that I await the results in five days with a kind of morbid fascination. This is to be the first automated election, but the voting machines are not functioning properly in tests and have been producing false results. A parallel manual count has been proposed, but too much money has already been spent on the Chinese-made machines (nearly 80,000 of them), and there is not enough time to retrain all the election staffers. Add to all this the distinct possibility of power outtages everywhere in the country, and you have the makings of what this country has always threatened to fall into - absolute chaos.

But whichever oligarch wins the race for Philippine president, I believe that he should be the one who has the most expected of him, who has the most to live up to, and, ultimately, the most to lose if he fails. Based on this criteria, the winner should be Benigno "Noynoy" Aquino III. If he isn't the winner, I hope that Filipinos will have the intestinal fortitude, which is dicey in a hot country, to tear this country apart.

*Orwell, "Writers and Leviathan," 1948.


Anonymous said...

Who are you to say who Filipinos should vote for or what they should do if he loses?

Dan Harper said...

The 2nd "who" should be "whom". I was merely going by the polls, which show Aquino way ahead. If the election results vary significantly from what the polls suggest, then it would point to a departure from the actual results - i.e., election fraud. Of course, I could have just expected that Pinoys will do what they usually do in such situations: turn around and bend over.