By Dean dela Paz
United we stand, divided we fall. It is a maxim attributed to an ancient fable told by a Greek storyteller named Aesop about four oxen and a lion.
To protect themselves from a lion on the prowl, four bulls entangled their tails to one another, so each faced outwards, their horns apparent and threatening.
Over time, foraging for themselves, each strayed from the herd, their union, short-lived. Sure enough the lion, ever vigilant, picked them off one at a time, eventually devouring the lot. So much for unity. The message is short and obvious, almost like a screaming soundbite heard over the cacophony of party chatter and loud karaoke music. Content-wise, the fable is itself overly simple, sufficient to be understood even by college dropouts.
Enoménoi stekómaste. United we stand. Magkaisang tatayo. From the original Greek to Pilipino, its inherent motherhood logic cannot be denied. It was the one campaign message incessantly repeated in the last presidential elections that stood, not simply as a battle cry but as an encompassing theme in place of a detailed and definitive platform.
The buzzword was well chosen given the personal circumstances of the candidate. A platform and blueprint of governance would have necessitated plans and programs set against the myriad colossal problems faced by an electorate victimized by six years of unprecedented neglect and incompetence.
But platforms were unnecessary to win an election in the Philippines. The greater electorate votes differently. And in each instance of our modern day electoral episodes, we seem to be discovering deeper depths to sink to.
It was a wise tactical move given his constituency’s evident lack of interest for any real platform that might substantiate promises characteristic of the genus politico who lie for a living. The majority, by their inherent nature, do not care beyond buzzwords and optics. Perhaps it is the result of a chemistry of hollow morals and shallow analytical skills, character weaknesses, miseducation, disinformation, momentary utilitarianism, and plain vanilla stupidity. In Maslow’s cliché hierarchy, most Filipino voters lie at the lowest rung.
Needing no genuine platform, and correctly if not accurately attuned to his constituent market, one candidate remained confident throughout, as we now belatedly realize the meaning of futility given the inevitability of his victory. All he needed was a buzzword.
He was well-prepared to win. But eventually leading was something else. Unfortunately, it does not take much for a shallow three-syllable axiom to rise to the surface like an air-filled bubble. The optics are clear. Toxic gases from rot and scum float aimlessly and drift along the northern banks of the polluted Pasig. Clumps of flotsam and jetsam coagulate, gravitate, and collect, attracted to one another by ad hoc fleeting pull. Like unity, unfettered save for inherent selfishness and insatiable hunger for power and dark greed, Pasig’s garbage quickly untangles, its divergent DNA unravels, and discombobulates.
Deep diaspora, discord, divisiveness, and disunity inherent in the last 100 days seen in recent acts either in the appointments of heads of agencies, the continuing exodus of key players, or in actual operations involving divergent and discordant policies pollute the definition of unity and reveal the campaign shibboleth for what it truly represents – nothingness.
Allow us a quick litany culled from what we judge are governance priorities, naive and foolish as that criteria might seem to the incumbents.
The fiasco involving the agricultural sector, specifically importation policies to fill shortages in food table staples, is the most livid example of disunity. Gross incompetence, the absence of leadership compounded by powerplays, in-fighting and subterfuge resulted in an exodus of good men of substance leaving in their wake remnant fluff.
In the critical energy sector where prohibitive costs are ever-present throughout all value chains, discern appointments yanked from influential corporate players in the generation and distribution sectors whose bottom-line objectives lie divergent, detached, and disunited from those of constantly cost-burdened consumers forced to pay the highest prices for energy in the region.
In the education sector, given our pathetic 90.9 education poverty index, note divergent and disunified prioritization. Where the obvious and glaring need is to address a festering problem that impacts on the future of the youth, the contradictory focus is on national security, ROTC, military training, the fight against critical thinking and dissent, labeling both among terrorism, insurrection, and rebellion.
Apparently, the unity party had invited much too many guests. Perhaps the most significant message in these examples of disunity is an apparent lack of a unified focus on public welfare. Rather than hold their constituencies as the most important there is instead warring self-indulgent albeit self-destructive personal and political agenda.
Remember the oxen. United we fall appears as sophistry, but it is latent reality. Note the increasing disunity. The party is over.