Expanding questions

There is widespread belief that the common Filipino voter is an irrational voter; that he votes with the guidance of emotion rather than reason.

A view of the Monumento area in Caloocan City, Philippines

In his latest column, The ‘satisfied’ in surveys, Randy David corners a critical thought many of us have probably realized at some point regarding public “approval” or “satisfaction” surveys. On these polls, which are regularly performed in this country by Social Weather Stations and Pulse Asia Research:

Unfortunately, it is not awareness of the public official’s performance of his or her duties that is explicitly being probed here, but mere awareness of the official’s presence in the media. Let us imagine ourselves being asked the same question with regard to Vice President Binay’s performance in the last three months…

…it makes little sense to rate the performance of a vice president as vice president, given that the function of this position is largely that of a spare tire. In VP Binay’s case, it would make more sense to assess him in his role as presidential adviser on overseas Filipino workers’ affairs or as chair of the Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council (HUDCC). In this regard, it might be worth probing, for instance, how much the public knows of Binay’s duties as HUDCC chair. My guess is: not much…

What, then, does this artifact of public opinion represent? In all probability, it represents a general emotional predisposition toward a person or an institution.

David avoids making the connection, yet one cannot help but think that the same conclusion might apply to that most important of polls, the one with true legal and social consequences: the election of government officials.

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Old Year’s Day

Last summer, and over the months that followed as I finished a rather substantial book by Professor Randy David, I was introduced to the idea of life as a narrative. I’m pretty sure it’s an idea that would stick with me for many years to come. And it’s bound to come up especially during times like this, on the eve of the new year, when the sociable thing to do is to reminisce and tweet about one’s favorite moments from the past year. (The more contemplative ones like to blog the products of their ruminations as well.)

Here’s one way to think about everything that has happened to you in the past year: they were either things that you planned, or they were the things that you didn’t plan. Thanks to the things that you didn’t plan, you can tell a story of the past year that’s more exciting than if everything turned out well. For example, if you’re a student like me, tonight you can tell the story of how you planned to get your grades up, but then you got caught up in the activities of some charitable cause-oriented organization so much that your grades suffered, but it’s alright because you found that work fulfilling and there you learned things you will never learn inside the classroom. Compare that to if things turned out well: you planned to get your grades up, and, well, they shot up. End of story; you need not provide further details because no one will listen to such arrogance.

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