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Shortcuts and the Forbidden Fruits of Politics

Fr. Carmelo O. Diola, SSL

Spaces of Hope


When Adam and Eve chose to eat the forbidden fruit, they did so thinking the fruit and their action were good. Nobody chooses evil for the sake of evil. We choose evil always under the guise of good. This is the gist of Jesus’ temptations: each option seems good but the discerning Jesus revealed them for what they really were and he acted according to God’s wisdom and plan.

Candidates at the local and national levels present themselves as good for the public. How do we discern the real thing?
Shortcuts often hinder our discernment of the true good. One glaring example is vote-buying that takes advantage of the poverty of majority of voters. Doesn’t this take advantage of our “utang-na-loob” mentality that distorts our capacity to judge correctly?

Reliance on surveys also prevent voters from going through the process of making up their minds based on their search for truth. Similarly, some voters also wait for endorsements from their religious leaders. Of course, these religious leaders throw in their lot behind front runners in surveys.

The clamor for a political Messiah, who will solve all our problems, also cuts corners. Good, effective leaders and active heroic citizenship certainly go together. Yet, as a priest-philosopher once wrote, in our modern world “when man drops the ethical reins, he places himself utterly at the mercy of power … In the long run, domination requires not only the passive consent, but also the will to be dominated, a will eager to drop personal responsibility and personal efforts.” Isn’t such clamor for a political Messiah symptomatic of this will to be dominated? What does this do to our capacity to think clearly and to be our better selves?

Many candidates for national positions portray themselves as political messiahs who will solve our problems for us, whether it be in terms of embodying academic brilliance or executive success, identifying with those who are or feel excluded from the benefits of development, or continuing a legacy. Isn’t the bottom-line discernment issue for voters a choice between continuity or rupture?

The clamor for change is indeed understandable. When EDSA 1 happened 30 years ago, there was heightened expectation for real socio-economic and political change. Has this been achieved? Not as far as those who want rupture is concerned.

Which option will bring about our true good as a nation? As someone puts it: to insist on continuity “would be futile and stupid” but “to assign that change to a presidential candidate whose very life and methods are in need of change would be … indiscriminate and fanatical.” In the final analysis, it will be individual consciences that will have the last say and this should be respected and protected.

We all need conversion. We need to form our consciences and not choose out of fear or desolation. Perhaps, as Archbishop Villegas has a point: “Not voting for a particular position, when no one is fitted for it is a valid Christian political choice. Voting for lesser evil is still voting for evil.”

Adam and Eve did not have to eat the fruit.

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