“In order for us as poor and oppressed people to become a part of a society that is meaningful, the system under which we now exist has to be radically changed… I use the term radical in its original meaning — getting down to and understanding the root cause. It means facing a system that does not lend itself to your needs and devising means by which you change that system.” Ella Baker
We are deeply mired in a socio-political system that enslaves our people and devastates our land for so long. This inherently corrupt system is called ‘patronage politics.’ It’s like a poison tree. Its leaves and branches release toxic elements in our social environment. It poisons and destroys our land. It poisons and destroys our people, our children, and our children’s children. It corrupts the spheres of our society — arts & sciences, business, church, daily news & media, education, family, and government. We need to take out the radix or the root of this toxic tree from our beloved land. We need to work together towards a radical transformation in our society.
Praying for a Radical Social Movement. I’m praying for radical, active non-violent social transformation leaders who would give their lives and resources to establish alternative communities across our land because they love God, they love Jesus, they love the people, they love our land, and they love the Body of Christ. I pray for these radical transformation leaders who will lead alternative communities not because they are beholden to a religious, political, or civil society personality with a big name, but because they are stirred by the Spirit of God from the deepest aspects of their being.
I also pray for alternative communities who will operate proactively even within their current means and resources. I’m praying for a genuine network of alternative communities who are truly dialogical in their inter-dependent operations.
My spirit is groaning for a non-violent, radical, alternative movement that is moved by the Spirit of God from the ground up.
A Time for Radical Transformation. We are entering a new historical segment of radical transformation in our land. The people have started to question the prevailing patronage political system. They will advance a new liberating system that would free our government and our institutions from the abuse of the few political and economic elites whom we refer to as oligarchs.
As we trek through this new segment in our national journey, Christian leaders will be confronted with tasks so different from our previous and current ministry exposures. It will be the ministry of dialogical, justice-based reconciliation between those who belong to the oligarchies and the common people who are being oppressed by the oligarchies.
It begins now. A ministry challenge in the area of social theology and ethics is now confronting us.
Oligarchies, Traditional Politicians, and Patronage Politics. Oligarchies are mostly remnants of former colonial families and their cronies who maintained their ownership of the best lands in our country based on Regalian Doctrine. These elite families made sure that the laws of the land, especially those laws about land ownership, are not changed. To protect their interests, they made sure they control the executive, legislative, and judicial processes in our country. Their land capital was extended to commercial-industrial capital, merged with global capital.
These national-global mergers of mega-capital are protected by the laws of the land. Since the interests of these elite families and their global partners are legal, they are then protected by the armed forces and the police forces of the land, with the support of the global military powers operating in our land.
Some of these colonial families inter-married with certain landed, traditional leaders in many indigenous communities. These inter-married clans of colonial families and tribal royalties brought vast areas of lands within their ancestral domains under the Regalian system. When the new elites opened their lands to modern agri-business corporations, many indigenous clans outside these mixed marriages were pushed up to the mountains. Their traditional livelihood began to disintegrate along with their indigenous governance, culture and identity. Meanwhile, the new elites morphed into local oligarchies. Soon, they sent their children to senate and congress to join the national oligarchies.
The Big Media and the Perpetuation of Oligarchies. The big media, which are owned by these oligarchies, are the narrators of the story. The story, as they tell us, is that some oligarch families are more benevolent than others. The Filipino middle class and the masses must learn to discern which of the oligarch families are best suited to rule over them. And the story sounds so true! Actually, there’s truth that oligarch families try to annihilate each other, through violence and other means, just to be on top of other oligarch families. What the big media do not tell us is that, these oligarchies will always maintain their class dominance over the middle class and the masses.
Through the big media narratives, the oligarchies maintain a system in which the majority of the professionals would manage the oligarchies’ interests for them. And surely, those professionals get rewarded enough to be controlled by the oligarch master.
Through the big media, the masses are lulled into a kind of entertainment that paralyzes their analytic capabilities. They are also pushed into an economic state that made them easy targets for financial manipulation especially during election time. A dumbing media and an unjust economic system create and sustain a people of mendicants who are easy prey for patronage politics. And true enough, the masses indeed reelect the oligarchies. The price for each vote? Perhaps from 100 pesos to 1,000 pesos. Then as soon as the oligarch-politicians assume power, they would immediately get their money back through various forms of pork barrels.
This is the story of patronage politics that enslaves our people and devastates our land.
We need a radical transformation.
Patronage Politics of the Oligarchies and Violence. As a system, patronage politics is rooted in greed, historical injustice, blatant deception, violence and impunity. Although the oligarchies may be bloody competitive against each other regarding issues of wealth-and-power-distribution (what election has been all about), the threat of dismantling their system of patronage politics will surely bring them together to protect their interests as a class. In the face of this threat of losing their corruption-based wealth and power, especially from people outside their network of elite families, these self-righteous, church-going, charity-donating, descent-looking elites will join together into a phalanx-like cohesion against the outsiders.
The outsiders are the common people. The outsiders include you. The outsiders include me. The outsiders include anyone who will stand up for, and with, the common people. The oligarchies would ‘neutralize’ or ‘pacify’ the outsiders who would challenge to dismantle their base of wealth and power—which is patronage politics.
Would there be oligarch politicians who would join the people in dismantling patronage politics? Of course. Those are the exceptions though. As a class, these greedy clans will continue to be the perpetrators of patronage politics. They will have so much difficulties turning away from this system. It’s their source and base of wealth and power. Through many decades, these amassed wealth and established clan power have corrupted them and have become their gods. Within their realm of power, many of them have even manifested their view of themselves as gods. Impunity is one of such manifestations.
Active NonViolence as a Powerful Response. The instinctive response of many against the violence of patronage politics would be violence. But responding to the oligarchs with violence only increases their power because they thrive on violence. The violence of injustice will only be exacerbated by the injustice of violence. Violence begets violence.
The best approach to respond to violence is through active non-violence. Through active non-violence, we take the oligarchs outside their sphere of power. A radical, active non-violent transformation is what we need to really empower our people and thus liberate our nation.
The power of active nonviolence has been shown in recent history. People power in the twentieth century did not grow out of the barrel of a gun. It removed rulers who believed that violence was power, by acting to dissolve their real source of power: the consent or acquiescence of the people they had tried to subordinate. When unjust laws were no longer obeyed, when commerce stopped because people no longer worked, when public services could no longer function, and when armies were no longer feared, the violence that governments could use no longer mattered—their power to make people comply had disappeared.
(Peter Ackerman and Jack Duval. “Victory without Violence,” A Force More Powerful, p. 505.)
This is our kairos moment. There are two kinds of time. Chronos time and Kairos time. Chronos refers to seconds, minutes, hours, days, weeks, months, years, decades, centuries. Kairos refers to a moment of opportunity, perhaps borne by times of crises, nevertheless a moment of lasting transformation. Chronos is tic-tac-tic-tac. Kairos is “ta-daaa!”
There comes a time in the journey of a people when a path becomes available towards a radical transformation. Not through violent revolution. But through an election.
There comes a time in the history of a nation when all people–both friends and enemies–are invited around the table. Not through violent revolution. But through an election.
There comes a time in the use of our land when peoples’ rights are acknowledged. Not through violent revolution. But through election.
But because there is so much fear of the unknown in the path of radical transformation, some people would rather stay in the familiar state of their slavery rather than to cross, by faith, the yet-to-be-parted, uncertain waters toward liberation.
Some, who are comfortable in their current privileges, would rather maintain the status quo of injustice. Their self-interest is their god. They need to realize that the present system of injustice is violence.
Some, who are blinded by false sense of peace, that of seeming calmness brought about by anti-insurgency, will hang-on tightly on the present system.
Many Christian leaders are afraid of chaos. But there will be no genuine change without chaos. And chaos does not necessarily means violence. The birth of a child is a painful chaos in the life of a mother. The coming of a baby is chaos in the journey of a family. Chaos must not be violent. Chaos may bring life!
I’m begging my fellow Christian leaders to sharpen their discernment at this kairos moment, this opportune time to make a radical decision. I beg you not to not make a decision based on fear. I beg you to make a decision based on courage.
“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” (John 14:27)