DAVAO CITY — Pundits charge the Aquino administration with being run like a student council. “Lightweights”, as Sen. Miriam Santiago puts it. Their succession of faux pas and gaffes bears out the charge: careless tweets, unimaginative campaigns, and backstepping all around.
Really, what do you expect a government that’s run by consensus? And when it all comes down to it, isn’t that what we wanted in the first place? Consensus? Participation? Collegiality? When you have to take everybody’s opinion into account, you end up with no opinion. When everyone has to have a say on where to go, you end up going nowhere.
A lightweight administration? Indeed! But only because it chooses to pander to a lightweight constituency. What’s that old saw? We get the government we deserve.
Like the Obama administration in the US, the Aquino administration is a product of the Twitter generation. Their campaigns did not just run in the streets, they happened in cyberspace as well. And in the aftermath, you have an administration and cabinet with their own Facebook pages.
How apt. Nowhere else can we distill democracy into its purest form than with Facebook and Twitter. Agree with what I have to say? Like! Re-Tweet! See, you don’t even need a COMELEC anymore: you can gauge the popularity of an opinion by the number of times it was repeated.
Disagree with what I have to say? Sadly, there’s no Unlike button yet, or an Untweet. But hey, who needs that when you can set up a Facebook hate page. Then you just get your friends to sign up and then you roll out the vitriol. Fight fire with fire, baby!
So there you have it, democracy in its purest form: mob rule. Scream and shout until you get what you want because, after all, whoever shouts the loudest wins. Where are the voices of reason? Shouted down, I’m afraid. Ignored, because, you know, they just weren’t hip enough to be on Facebook.
In fact, opinion has now come to be counted as news. Mainstream media routinely reports that such-and-such has become a Twitter trending topic. Facebook comments from vetching joes and janes apparently now have the same weight as presidents, cabinet members, and congressmen. If you doubt this, just tune in to any broadcast “news” program: you can’t go five minutes without some host proclaiming “Over at Facebook, people are saying….”
Listening to others’ opinions, sharing your own — these aren’t of themselves meant to bad things. But we cannot expect to act on each and every opinion. Therein lies the way to madness, because you just can’t please everyone. Opinion has to lead to understanding of the other’s position, not necessarily surrendering your own.
I have more respect for a person or an institution that knows how to draw a line and say, “This is what I stand for. This is what I am. This is what’s right. This is what I believe in. I respect you, but I will not compromise with you,” rather than someone who erases and redraws that line at every hint of opposition.
And certainly, I have more respect for a person or an institution that translates their credo into action. Opinions are just words, after all. You can’t make a revolution based on Facebook, you actually have to go out there and act (just like you can’t feed anyone based on Farmville, you actually have to go out there and plant.)
Maybe it’s time to stop using Facebook and Twitters as means of governance, exciting and high-tech as that might sound. In the end, Likes and Tweets are all just a bunch of hot air, a clanging cymbal, loud yet devoid of meaning.
As Pope Benedict said in an address: “New technologies and the progress they bring can make it impossible to distinguish truth from illusion and can lead to confusion between reality and virtual reality. The image can also become independent from reality, it can give birth to a virtual word, with various consequences — above all the risk of indifference towards real life.”