Fin de Siècle

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The recent Pulse Asia surveys show that Manny Villar is leading over Noynoy Aquino among the many poor, and two age brackets: 25-34, and 35-44.

Over at Blogwatch, Cocoy makes a rather interesting observation regarding this development:

What I think this survey tells us is that right here, right now, more and more Filipinos are focusing on the material, the bodily needs, rather than the big picture.  This is evident in two things.  First, the fact that more people in the socio-economic class E chose “cares for the poor,” which is Villar’s call to arms.  Second, the age bracket of 25 to 44 is more likely to choose Villar than Mr. Aquino is likewise a signal that they are more concerned about making a living and making money than looking at the big picture.

On the one hand, Cocoy is right: a political choice made by a person should be something favorable to him or her, and voting for a candidate who represents or appropriates that favorable characteristic translates into the unfavorable, unfortunate situation he sees in Villar leading over Aquino.  Cocoy’s second impression, however, does not sit too well with me: there is a bigger picture to all of this other than the desire of, say, my generation, to make money and to earn a living.

Manuel L. Quezon III writes a very interesting impression on “Arroyo babies:”

Perhaps they felt the disappointment of the post-Edsa Dos years (and the panic of Edsa Tres) most keenly – they didn’t go out into the streets during “Hello, Garci” or NBN-ZTE scandals.  The middle includes those who were college freshmen during “Hello, Garci,” and who are 22 years old today, fresh graduates who may not have participated in rallies during “Hello, Garci” but who expressed indignation over the NBN-ZTE hearings.

Interesting… this can either push me out of a bad case of writer’s block, or push me over the deep end.

Ten years into the new millennium, we have a crop of young voters who, in more ways than one, have had their political and ethical judgments shaped by the Arroyo administration: mass media, consumerist culture, and the way things are have constructed and conscienticized an entire generation on the road to 2010.  I’m pretty much part of this generation: at the fin de siècle, it’s a mindset that’s somewhere in between the pragmatism and the sense of alienated belonging of Generation X, and the radicalism and individualism of Generation Y.  While political resistance is important for this generation to prosper and to succeed, we’re faced with a rather interesting identity crisis: the only Presidents we know of, in terms of actual experience born out of participation, is Erap and Gloria.

Appealing to the “spirit of EDSA,” at least for this generation, is to appeal to EDSA II and EDSA III, where People Power is not a restoration of democratic institutions as it was in EDSA I, but regime change (and the attempt to do so) with the corollary, “If you can’t depose the leader, follow the leader; if you cannot follow the leader, good luck.”  If a $7-B BPO industry is a legacy of Arroyo, it is in part a consequence of a long, calculated program to make it happen: the emphasis on English, for example.  It’s to condition the youth, creating a culture circle of beliefs, morals, and politics for an entire generation of call center/outsourcing employees: the social cubicle of, “If I’m not affected, I shouldn’t care.”  Assuming that this generation hates Gloria (but nonetheless acknowledges the helplessness of social movements or acting from the periphery), it’s one that cannot bank on whatever nostalgia remains or exists of Cory Aquino and EDSA I, but does bank on wealth and, at least as far as our history is concerned, tolerating and accepting corruption.

Shaped by things we don’t necessarily like – a bumbling President and the corrupt one that succeeded him – the survey shows that whatever happened in the past has given us the present: the willingness to accept and to tolerate what the previous generations have disagreed with.  More than just the annoying LSS given to you by a Villar jingle, it is, in more ways than one, the fin de siècle. Degeneration: that the wealth that surrounds a generation raised on jobs hopping aboard BPOs and all sorts of gadgets and Starbucks and “I know what’s going on but I don’t care unless I get affected,” is precisely that which highlights the poverty of choices we have.  The clairon call is not “Feed us,” but “Let us know.”  Besides, the memories that should have shaped our generation – the many scandals of the Arroyo administration – are forgotten.  Nine years into a regime that was compared to Marcos, what memory can you bank on from a generation that never experienced Martial Law?  What indignation can you expect, when a generation that has been conscienticized and conditioned to accept cannot do so, out of deference or perhaps surrender to a prayerful, hardworking President?

All of this brings me to some rumination (in a cow-like fashion) of lifeworld: the groundwork that we all share in constructing our perceptions, our world-views, and our decisions.  At the fin de siècle, today’s grown-up Filipino went through the coming-of-age story: that despite the many unethical, corrupt, and despicable practices of this Government, it has managed to hold on to power because it used “all that is necessary.”  The questions that generations past have raised, like “sinong ipapalit” and “ano ang gusto niyong mangyari” and “ano na ba ang nagawa ng pagbabatikos niyo sa Pangulo” were communicated in so many ways to this generation that, at least in Gloria’s Philippines, God is in His heaven and all is right with the world.  In many ways, the generation was molded in compromises, and would make a choice because of a compromise.  It’s a consciousness encroaching on where we stand: between pragmatism and radicalism, between belonging and individualism.  Between “what’s important for the nation,” and “what’s important for me as part of the nation.”

Memory has as much to do with politics as it does everything else.  Our sentiment and knowledge for the past can feed our thoughts and impressions for where we are today, and help us make the decisions that will affect us in the future.  Without a memory of EDSA I or Martial Law, and the living memories of Garci and ZTE and Erap and Jose Pidal and all sorts of scandals vanishing and disappearing in accelerated amnesia, the quick memories of a campaign jingle and the systematic molding of our thoughts to submission and acceptance – instead of revolution and resistance – are all we bank on.  So to speak.

3 comments on “Fin de Siècle”

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    • lack of a better word
    • February 6, 2010


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