Tapestries of hot air

ROSES & THORNS - Alejandro R. Roces -

Do you know how we know it’s election season? The people are popular again. And with the added focus on the electorate come the attendant campaign promises. It is the same world over. Promises are routinely made during the run-up to election time; promises that frequently are quickly compromised or forgotten once elections are over. To be honest though, the realities of the campaign trail differ greatly from the reality of public office. We wonder how many other democratic nations have to deal with as many broken election promises as we do?

The truth is we are not yet enthused by any candidate for president or vice-president. The reason so far is very simple: We have heard a lot, but seen little substance. In international elections, candidates always publish position papers and action plans in relation to issues. For example, during the recent US presidential election you could easily compare Obama’s healthcare plan vs. McCain’s healthcare plan. Here, for all of the rhetoric and speeches given, we have seen very little in the way of actual positions and solutions to issues. How can we differentiate between candidates when all of their responses to questions are similar: Q: “Where do you stand on education?” A: “We believe everyone should have a quality education.” What we miss are the follow-up questions: How will you make sure everyone has access to quality education? How will you determine what is a ‘quality’ education? How will you make sure that all students receive a similar standard of education across the board? But, then again, the Filipino is a born storyteller and story-lover. And what else are Philippine elections, except extended story time?

This then reminds us of an old legend from Benguet. We reproduced the version that ran in the column Halupi on February 11, 1988:

“Once upon a time there lived a woman who earned her living from weaving. People from all over came to see her cloths, as she wove beautifully. Proudly – excessively so – she claimed, when asked how she made her fabrics, that she had a way with the loom and threads that only she did: only she could weave such exquisite pieces. All others were inferior imitations.

One day, a fair lady came to see the arrogant weaver and queried if she, indeed, were the best in the land. ‘Yes, I am the best – and no one can weave better than I,’ the woman declared. The fair lady then put a challenge up: a contest to see who can weave the more beautiful cloth.

‘The loser,’ the fair lady said gently but firmly, ‘however, must be forever separated from her loom and spinning wheel.’ Sure of herself, the weaver agreed.

Next day, just as the sun started to bathe the misty highlands with its golden warmth, the two started their contest. As expected, the weaver lost. She wept as her loom and spinning wheel were taken from her.

The fair lady, who was actually an enchanted creature out to teach humans a thing or two, took pity. She could not, however break the rules of the game. So she changed the disconsolate weaver into a spider that she might be able to weave, even without loom and spinning wheel.”

There is a lesson in humility to be learned here. Some of our politicians seem to think they can weave gold out of words and actions out of hot air. One day, we would like to see plans and programs to accompany the tall-tales. With all the problems the country faces, the upcoming election is too important to be decided purely on personality and empty rhetoric. We challenge the presidential and vice-presidential candidates to deliver something more substantive than vague promises and demagoguery. The answers to our problems will never be found in platitudes, campaign slogans and (as our history has proven) military action.

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