|By Princess Tarhata Lucman Pacasum
Witnessing candidates having lame if not selfish reasons for deciding to run, the use of force and armed weapons on people, vote buying which visibly happens during elections, bribery on teachers, military and the rest of the COMELEC officials, the people’s wrong notion on choosing a public official, the emergence of power grabbers and political dynasties… No other province probably exercises suffrage the way it is exercised in Lanao Del Sur.
Over the years, the Province of Lanao Del Sur has been infamous when we speak of Politics and Governance. It has been concluded as having the most controversial elections in the whole country, and sadly, this has been an underlying fact as reported by the media. The political behavior of both politicians and constituents, including decisions and actions of Lanao Del Sur’s public institution has consequently become dysfunctional and negative all in all. Everyone in the society of Lanao Del Sur has contributed to what everyone sees as a Political Circus. This isn’t just about the candidates who bribe their way to win, nor is it just about the people who give in to vote buying, it’s not just about the teachers who cheat during canvass and the military who are paid to allow all these things, its about everyone in the society who are carrying wrong notions about Politics and carrying wrong values in them.
Political Culture as defined by Almond and Verba (1966) , is the set of shared attitudes, beliefs and values within an entire population with regard to politics. It is supposedly defined by the value system of that group as well as its orientation towards social and political structures. To understand Lanao Del Sur’s problematized political culture, one must therefore delve on the Maranao Culture.
Taking these things into consideration, is the Maranao’s Political Culture truthfully defined by the Maranao Culture itself? Or is there a presence of MYTH that has distorted the people’s idea on Politics and the Maranao Culture?
For the longest time, the values and beliefs of the Maranao Culture along with the meaning of POLITICS has been far different from what it has originally upheld. It has left its contingencies behind, emptied itself, has been impoverished, history has somehow evaporated, and only the letters remain. As Roland Barthes defines MYTH, its history has drained out of its form and has been wholly absorbed by the concept, the concept of a MYTH that has surfaced for such a long time.
Today, Politics is often taken as the mortgaging of a nation’s future to the short term interests of an elite few. Politics has been sadly about money and power for most of us. Election Day has been a day when every voter in Lanao Del Sur would earn P10, 000.00 for one single vote at the most. It has been about who pays us more and not who better deserves to be a public official. Druglords, loansharks and all the rest are now public officials of the Province. Regardless of their incapability to run an office dutifully, they win the polls. The people of Lanao all know about it. We all witness the shameful practices. And sadly, we live by it. It’s not about public service anymore but really about money, popularity, social status and who is able to threaten a large number of people to vote for them in the name of their selfish interests.The abuse of power and politics has not just given politics a bad name, in Lanao, it’s all ‘NORMAL.’
With its tainted form mistaken as the real thing, Maranaos has been carrying the MYTH of both the Maranao CULTURE and POLITICS.
As discussed by Barthes’ in his MYTHOLOGIES, MYTH transforms meaning into form by distorting it. It is always a language robbery. By witnessing a Maranao lady buying votes, a Maranao kid accepting money, Maranao teachers cheating during the canvass… We rob their “Maranao-ness” and naturalize what we see for being their practice.
MARANAO CULTURE EXPLAINED
Maranao means “people of the lake,” our homeland is called Lanao or “lake.” Forming the largest Muslim community and cultural minority in the Philippines, their families are traditionally large and close knit. Feudal standing is in some parts still visible. The position, wealth and land ownership of those considered from an ancestry of “royalty” still maintain some political position or prominence in their area. The Maranaos are considered the most traditional of the Muslim communities and they have braved much of the attempts to conquer and subdue them.
Belonging to the Philippine’s Muslim Community, this tribe essentially carries out values, traditions and beliefs that are traced from the Islamic religion. Islam is taken as a unified way of life, crossing both religion and secular way of life, from the percepts and principles of right and wrong to the system of law, government and economic life. The traditional Muslim structure in the Philippines was then headed by a Sultan who assumed both religious and secular authority. The Datu assumed a communal leadership, providing aid and arbitration through agama courts under his leadership. The wealth amassed by the conquests of the Datu is provided to his subjects for aid, employment and protection when needed. Interestingly, the Datu was not determined by his wealth but by the number of his followers. Further, the Holy Qur’an, the source of both secular and religious percepts and laws of Muslims provides a sense of oneness and fraternal bond between Muslims as an Ummah or Islamic Nation. Islam changed the community’s once fragmented nature into a single nation.
Provided with a code of conduct for every believer, the Maranao Culture, tracing it from the Islamic Religion, has taught Maranaos to live decent and refined lives. Upholding the values defined by the Maranao Culture, it has never taught one to cheat, use force, buy votes, etc. The Maranao Culture, following the teachings of its religion, has always carried out righteous values for its people.
Politics is defined as the science and process of governance that is essential to the functioning of any democracy. The effective and efficient operation and equitable allocation of power lies the key to a country’s development.
Politics is the means to creating a more organized, by providing methods to resolve conflicts that naturally occur between men by means of civil discussion and rational compromise. It is about structures and systems for social order and the behavior of individuals in those systems. Politics is the art and science of managing and using power for social and public value. It is the domain of social life that implies power relationships.
Barthes tells us that Myth has a task of giving a historical intention, a natural justification and making contingency appear eternal. Formally, myth is the most appropriate instrument for the ideological inversion which defines this society; at all levels of human communication, myth operates the inversion of the origin of a thing. What the world applies to Myth is a defined historical reality, even if it goes back quite awhile, by the way in which people have produced or used it; and what Myth gives in return is a natural image of this reality, it is constituted by the loss of the historical quality of things: in it, things lose the memory that they once were made. The world enters language as a dialectical relation between activities, between human actions; it comes out of myth as a harmonious display of essences. A conjuring trick has taken place and turned reality inside out, emptied it of history and has filled it with nature, it has removed from things their human meaning so as to make them signify a human insignificance. The myth then functions to empty reality, the meaning evaporates.
The signifier of Myth presents itself in an ambiguous way; it is at the same time meaning and form, full on one side and empty on another. As meaning, the signifier already postulates a reading. As total linguistic signs, the meaning of the myth has its own value, it belongs to a history, that of the Maranao lady buying votes or the kid who is being bribed. In the meaning, the signification is already built and could very well be sufficient if myth did not take hold of it and did not turn it suddenly into an empty parasitical form. The meaning is already complete; it postulates a past, a memory, a comparative order of facts, ideas, and decisions.
When it becomes form ,the meaning leaves its contingency behind; it empties itself, it becomes impoverished, history evaporates and only the letters remain. MARANAO and POLITICS. There is an abnormal regression from meaning to form, from the linguistic to the mythical signifier. Form does not suppress meaning, it only impoverishes it, it puts it at a distance, it holds it at one’s disposal. Meaning is said to die but it is a death with reprieve, the meaning loses its value but it keeps its life from which the form of the myth will draw its nourishment. The meaning will be for the form like an instantaneous reserve of history, a tamed richness which it is possible to call and dismiss in a sort of rapid alternation; above all, it must be able to hide there. It is this constant game of hide and seek between meaning and the form which defines myth. The form is not a symbol: Taking Barthes’ example: A matchbox where a young Negro in a French Uniform who salutes is not a symbol of the French Empire. He has too much presence, he appears as a rich, fully experienced, spontaneous, innocent, indisputable image. But at the same time this presence is tamed, put at a distance, made almost transparent; it recedes a little it becomes the accomplice of the concept which comes to it fully armed, French imperiality; once made use of, it becomes artificial.
MYTH is what has been carried and adopted by most of the people in Lanao del Sur which has led to the Political Circus everyone witnesses nowadays. MYTH has been the most appropriate instrument for the ideological inversion which defines the Maranao Society today. Myth has been constituted by the loss of the historical quality of things; in it, the Maranaos for example, lose the memory that they once were made. Myth has really spread its depoliticized speech in the minds of many.
Now, if myth is a depoliticized speech, there is one type of speech which is the opposite of myth; that which remains political. There is one language which is neither reality nor mythical, according to Barthes, it is the language of the producer; wherever a man speaks in order to transform reality and no longer to preserve it as an image, wherever he links his language to making of things, metalanguage is referred to a language object and myth is impossible. This is why revolutionary language cannot be mythical. Defined as a cathartic act meant to reveal the political load of the world, Revolution makes the world; and its language, all of it, is functionally absorbed in this making. It is because it generates speech which is fully (initially and finally) political and not like myth, speech which is initially political and finally natural, that Revolution which excludes Myth. Once the Maranaos characterizes Maranao Ideology, the Meaning of Politics and the Myth itself, revolutionary denomination identifies revolution and the absence of myth. The people has hidden the fact that it is the Maranao and thereby produces Myth; revolution announces itself openly as revolution and thereby abolishes a particular myth.
But conceding to the fact that whatever it takes, Myth is certain to participate in the making of the world, the author perceives that as one abolishes Myth, another myth will most likely emanate as time passes. To avoid another myth-driven Political Circus in Lanao Del Sur, we should mythify it in its turn. A reconstituted myth, so to speak. In wanting to yield for a lasting development for the Province of Lanao Del Sur, another Myth should be produced by a producer who very well knows and carries out the values of the Maranao Culture and the original meaning of politics. With this ‘new myth’ reaching everything it possibly can, development in the political culture of Lanao Del Sur will be attained.