Political tipping point

FROM FAR AND NEAR - Ruben Almendras - The Freeman

“The Tipping Point” is a best-selling book published by Malcolm Gladwell in 2000 that sold more than four million copies worldwide. And I cannot find my copy. It is a socio-economic analysis that when an idea, trend, or social behavior tips spread like wildfire, it takes very little to tip the situation. Gladwell actually considers both the upward and downward tipping point, but “inflection point” is more descriptive of an upward swing. The tipping point is more akin to “the last straw that broke the camel’s back”, in the Bible. The book points out the importance of context, external circumstances and the environment in reaching the tipping point, so political tipping points are the most important since they affect the lives of many people and are probably the most historically dramatic events.

The rise and fall of political ideologies like communism, democracy, and socialism in many countries have had their tipping points over the years, and many lessons have been learned. Examples would be the fall of the Roman Empire, the French Revolution, the Russian Revolution, the Chinese Revolution, the loss of the British colonies, the Philippine revolution against Spain, and the EDSA revolution against the Marcos dictatorship. These are all about reaching the boiling point, achieving critical mass, and reaching the threshold. The events in Myanmar, Cuba, Venezuela, and Hong Kong are percolating and are potentially on the way to boiling points, especially with the extensive social media penetration in all social classes. So, you can see that all the governments in these countries are trying their best to control the internet in these places. Authoritarian countries are particularly sensitive of criticism, so they control external circumstances or environment to avoid tipping point critical mass.

The Philippine political situation is in a similar path but may be of a lesser volatility, but certainly in an interesting condition as the government response to the COVID-19 pandemic, to public health, and the economy are wanting, on top of the sovereignty issue with China, corruption, and human rights violations. That the government is mounting a massive propaganda campaign with trolls and positioning pro-government candidates for continuity, is indicative of the instability of their position and awareness of their possible tipping points. Most politicians are actually aware of their tipping points, and the building of family political dynasties is a way of postponing the tipping points. But many people in power are blinded/surrounded by supporters who are actually protecting their own interests that they do not see or refuse to see the incoming tipping points. If a capital investment analysis is done on the Internal Rate of Return, of investing political, human and financial capital to win an election, very few would yield a positive return. The depletion/depreciation on the health, family life, the family reputation and finances of the candidates will surely outweigh the perceived benefits. At best it is a power trip which may be psychologically needed by the politician.

All the current maneuverings for the coming elections in 10 months are designed to postpone the inevitable that everything ends. Tipping points are always reached and it is just a matter of when and how disastrous it will be for the politicians and the people governed. It could be a peaceful transition, or a deadly revolution as had happened over the years in many countries. This is the natural law of the universe, or God’s Law.

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