THE PINOY TV
By Consul General Paul Raymund Cortes
Since my younger years, I followed many TV series that tacked the legal profession – Matlock, LA Law, Law and Order, Suits, The Good Wife, and many others. I also was a fan of political dramas like House of Cards and Scandal. The seeming underlying foundation of the characters in those shows is the quest for power and how those in law and politics skirt or tow the moral dimensions in the course of their search. Almost all of them often present the dilemma of choosing between the ends (higher political office, more influence) and means (gaining the upper hand at the expense of values —adherence to truth, equality, respect for others’ lives, and the like.) What made me look forward to episodes of these shows was that their writers took the greatest efforts to make their characters believable and praiseworthy and if they had qualities deemed contemptuous or despicable, at least the denouement provided some sort of redeeming value. The lines, scenarios, storyline, and depiction and development of the characters were well thought of and intricate.
I always wondered why our home-grown TV shows did not exhibit as much depth in storyline and characterization as those shows. More often, the attempts to rationalize the characters and the plots that revolved around them were shabby and, frankly, quite hollow. It was as if the stories of these shows were not really meant to provide a deeper understanding of the complexities of man’s political and social milieu. Their value lay in that its mission was seemingly to entertain and take the viewers to a rollercoaster journey of emotions — from the joy of two people in love to the introduction of a third character opposed to their relation and then revenge, most of you are aware of this predictable trajectory. I am usually wary of generalizations so take my aforementioned conclusions as those derived only from the sampling of shows I followed or from the subset of Filipino TV shows I watched hitherto. From this set, my subsequent premise that TV shows and the art we churn out mirror the values of society and governs the bedrock of the relations among Filipinos. It seems that our tendency to simplify plots so that the jump from one character to another does not need to be meticulously exhausted and analyzed reflects our national predisposition to shortcuts and quick fix band aid solutions as opposed to elaborately and fastidiously documenting all possible recourse to make things actually work.
Such has never been more evident as we Filipinos parade our love affair with social media and our use of it as our primary source of news and information, often our lone source of our political beliefs and sole basis of our preferred policies on governance. The recent Presidential elections served as a microcosm — many made up their minds on the basis of which pages reached their walls or which memes appeared to have the most likes. Rarely is there talk among Pinoys on going through detail and microscopic scrutiny to analyze an issue and reach for a better understanding of these policies or events that necessitate a national discussion. For many, it has become simply a binary issue of whether you are with us or not, and that would be categorical, valid for all instances.
And just as in our TV programs, that there appears to be no need for us, as a nation, to swim through the depths of analysis and dissect and fully comprehend all aspects of political and economic events in our society is most certainly a dire prognosis of what our society has been and possibly will be. This, unless we deem it more meritorious to painstakingly bifurcate the stream that carries our ails and cures so that we are led to as many tributaries as possibly, that aim of reaching these is to definitively identify how best to resolve our national issues. I suppose we cannot just simply pigeon-hole issues into things we believe in and things we do not. At some point, we must learn to re-categorize these dichotomies to allow us to look into a greater number of avenues to effect a more thorough understanding of things.
Is it really a chore for most Pinoys to perform this exercise? Most certainly it cannot be lack of discernment or the inability to use socio-anthropoligical realities to explain our political under and overtones. Sadly, perhaps it is the lack of political will to do so, maybe thinking that however much introspection we undergo, our political and social institutions remain, mired in the quicksand as we have been in the past century. I don’t believe our society has suffered more divisiveness as other states — America, Thailand, the UK, France, and some others are possibly more divided than we are but they have the political will to pause, study, analyze, amend and correct, and move towards finding solutions to their issues and once they have, they embark, with fervor, on the business of rebuilding, keeping in mind the lessons of the events they had just gone through. Lamentably, our solutions are feeble because those affected by the fixes take it personally — as if their dignity were robbed from them, shamed and disgraced, an obvious affront to their personas. And because it has become personal to them, anything construed as support for the “fix” is likewise an affront to them, no gray area — as it was said: either you are with us or not.
I suppose that the more introspective one becomes, one thinks less of his ego and more of the value and wisdom of ideas, societal conundrums, and issues that we face as a community. There tends to be more thought given to whether or not individuals contribute to an amalgamated communal goal rather than their worth as individuals, the realization that the vastness of the universe compared to our selves is too gargantuan to ignore. Perhaps we should give ourselves the chance to speak less on how counterarguments to our societal views are a slight to our personas. They never are and our discussions to resolve these can never dilute our egos. Maybe in this manner, our conversations in politics offer more on how we absorb ourselves to a greater whole, less about us.
We’ll get there!