by CRUSADA or the Christian Union for Socialist and Democratic Advancement
*The owner of this blog does not claim that it was made by him or is a member of the organization. The article is owned by CRUSADA and is being published in this blog for promotional purposes.
A few hours after the polls closed, the Internet was ablaze with comments that categorized the votes of the Filipinos as either being “smart” or “bobo.” The “bobo” voters- or in other words, the “masa”- are said to be ruining this country with their “uninformed” vote, while the “smart” voters–also known as the middle class “intellectuals”– claim that their bets will lead the country to progress. The task of the intellectual is clear- to save the “masa” from their ignorance.
From here we are led to a discourse that has fascinated thinkers throughout history: the idea of an “enlightened” class, or a specific group of individuals that would, through the sheer sensibility of their ideas, bring about a more progressive society. Though the idea obviously still pervades, we must question its validity. Is there a true enlightened class?
We, the Christian Union for Socialist and Democratic Advancement, reject the unenlightened / enlightened voter dichotomy. We reject the “enlightened” intelligentsia who take it upon themselves to liberate the “masa” from their supposed ignorance. We reject the fabricated hierarchy of rationalities and the oppressive structures that reinforce it. Instead, we believe that the role of the intelligentsia is to encourage plurality rather than to eliminate it.
Now, from Plato’s “philosopher-kings” to Lenin’s Party, the idea that only the enlightened should rule is based on the idea that they possess The Truth. They know for a fact what is good for this country, and therefore they have the right to rule it. We reject this idea because we cannot know The Objective Truth. Thus, the philosopher-king is a myth, and claims of absolute certainty should be met with suspicion.
Objective knowledge is impossible because how we think is conditioned by who we are. Our ethnicity, socio-economic class, age, gender- all of these factors condition the way we think and act. A teenage boy who grew up in Forbes Park would think differently from a middle-aged Aeta woman. They have different values and concerns because of who they are. To say that one way of thinking is superior to another is absurd because there is no objective, unconditioned rationality to compare these ways of thinking.
To claim otherwise is to legitimize- and reinforce- the violence committed in the name of The Truth. This claim justifies the violence done by the Stalinists in the name of Communism. This is the logic of those who claim that indigenous people need not be consulted because they are uneducated and ignorant. This is the logic that comes into play when labor unions are silenced. To claim- and treat- voters as ignorant by virtue of being “uneducated”, then, is to legitimize the logic that has led to social injustice throughout the ages.
These acts of injustice are justified by the notion that some people are “objectively” more intelligent than others. In turn, the “enlightened” people can do what they want because they have possession of “objective” knowledge that cannot be denied by the “ignorant”.
But there is one thing that has frustrated the so-called enlightened ones: democracy. Democracy takes that exclusive right of speech from these “enlightened” ones and opens up a space that promotes discourse regardless of one’s status. In a true democracy, everyone is allowed to participate in the space of deliberation. The “enlightened” intellectual, though, prevents deliberation by denying the people of their ability to think rationally.
And where there is no deliberation, there is totalitarianism.
Should we then say that the intelligentsia is harmful to democracy?
Here, we present another kind of intellectual. This intellectual does not pretend to possess objective knowledge. They are aware that the search for Truth is asymptotic; we can get closer to it but never get there. This awareness, then, saves the new intellectual from falling into the mythologizing trap that leads to the reinforcement of oppressive structures.
This intellectual, instead of being frustrated by democracy, lives and thrives within it. Instead of closing off the political space to the “uneducated” masses, they create, expand, and open up that space so that it could help nurture and let flourish their ways of living. They go down from the imaginary plateau traditional intellectuals set themselves upon and interact with the masses, therefore making education more dialogical rather than monological.
The key difference, then, is that the “enlightened” intellectual speaks to the “masa” while the other kind of intellectual speaks with the “masa”. In fact, the the new intellectual finds the “masa” label to be totalizing while the “enlightened” intellectual reinforces it. The goal of the “enlightened” intellectual then is to homogenize the many when they should really be creating space for plurality.
CRUSADA believes that we must all use our knowledge to dismantle these structures of oppression. We remove the risk of marginalizing the Other by speaking with, fighting with, and being with them instead of speaking for, fighting for, and being for them. If we are to fight for labor unions like PALEA, the people of Casiguran, or oppressed women, then we must do it as equals rather than as self-proclaimed saviors.
On a more fundamental level, we must undergo self-examination on how we use our knowledge: are we using it to strengthen or resist structural violence? When we call people ignorant because of their vote, we legitimize a mentality that strengthens structures which ranks individuals base on their class. In doing so, we abuse the privilege that we have been given, and exclude individuals from the discursive spaces that define democratic life.
If we are to make the Philippines a better place then the solution is not to push away the “masa.” Rather, we must work with them in dismantling the structures that oppress us all. We therefore need to use our knowledge to let other discourses from the traditionally silenced demos flourish, opening spaces for debate and disagreement instead of closing it off. If you disagree with someone’s vote, then the solution is not to label them as inferior and irrational. Instead, understand where they’re coming from and persuade them in the next elections.
Only by seeing and treating our “unequals” as equals, do we become equal. Only then will we have democracy.