Last week, I was having lunch with a couple of friends whom I seldom see. The conversation inevitably turned to politics, and one of them asked me who I would vote for.
I replied that, most likely, I won’t vote for any presidential candidate at all.He asked why, and I said, “They are the same dogs with different collars.” It hardly would matter for the average Filipino who sits as head of government.
If there is one subject that I have consistently avoided discussing in this column and in all my other writings, it is politics. And it is not because I consider politics unimportant, because it is, in fact, vital. But the way politics is practiced in this country, it matters little who sits in the highest levels of bureaucracy.
The Philippines will remain a third world country and the government as corrupt and inept as it has always been. It willdiffer only in terms of degree and extent of ineptness.
Assuming there’s no cheating in the election, which is a naive view, the ones who really choose the next set of officials in this country are the largely uninformed and poor masses, not the few intellectuals or the highly educated. So, those usually elected in government are the most popular—like entertainers, basketball players, movie stars, radio and television personalities, and the like.
Has any philosopher, writer or scientist been elected president in this country?
As one wit wisely said, “Politicians are like a banana. At first it appears green, then it turns yellow and eventually gets rotten.”
I don’t pretend to know better than anyone else how to choose the next set of leaders of our country. But if I were to be asked what should be the criteriafor a leader of a country, I could find no better suggestion than the one made by the great ancient Greek philosopher Plato (who lived around 450 years before Christ).
In book V of his greatest Dialogue “The Republic,” Plato insisted that a country’s leader should be a philosopher—that is, a lover of truth, wisdom, beauty and justice.
No end to troubles
Plato said that until philosophers are kings and the other political leaders are imbued with the spirit of philosophy, there will be no end to the troubles of any country—nor of humanity. Let me quote Plato’s own words from a translation of his “Dialogues” by classical scholar W.H.D. Rouse:
“The philosophers must become kings in our cities or those who are now called kings and potentates must learn to seek wisdom like true and genuine philosophers, and so political power and intellectual wisdom will be joined in one; and the crowds of natures who now pursue one or the other separately must be excluded. Until that happens, my dear Glaucon, there can be no rest upon troubles for the cities and I think for the whole human race.”
It is amazing how words of wisdom uttered by Plato more than 2,450 years ago are still relevant and true today. The leader of any country must be dedicated to the uncompromising and unflinching pursuit of truth, wisdom and justice if he or she would extricate our country from the moral and economic depths it has sunk into.
And now the greatest and most spectacular circus has come once again to the Philippines, and will culminate on May 9.This year, the circus stars five clowns with questionable intellectual, political and moral capacities.
I didn’t have the chance to hear or watch the first two debates of the five presidential aspirants to see which of them possessed the qualities political leaders must have, according to Plato. From what I gathered in the media, not one of them passed Plato’s stringent tests.
What is the essence of democracy? That the vote of the majority wins. And therefore, logically speaking, we, the Filipino people, deserve the government officials that we elect. So let us not blame anyone but ourselves for the kind of government that we have. It is the majority of us who placed them there.
Is it possible to turn a clown into a philosopher? Yes, of course—if you believe in miracles!
Attend ESP Kids seminar on April 16, Saturday, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Limited slots only. We prefer children of IMDI graduates. Call tel. 8107245 or 0998-9886292;e-mail: [email protected]