By Mark Raygan E. Garcia, Director, Office of Information and Publications
Believe it or not, there is a study now leaning towards an analysis of human being’s genetic composition and whether somewhere along the way, there is something telling of the attitude or behavior of one towards politics. A quick search online doesn’t lead to a good number of literature about it. But absence something written doesn’t downplay the reality that there is after all some sort of genetics in politics.
Genopolitics, spliced as “genome” and “politics”, seeks to understand whether there is a correlation between our DNA and our political inclinations. When we go for a celebrity for government, is it purely a socio-cultural attraction that is connected to media’s portrayal of the celebrity as that hero we all so want? Or is there something built into our system that physiologically, biologically or genetically causes us to respond in a certain way, with socio-cultural influences being mere triggers?
But lest I volunteer myself for a lab rat by scientists in their discussions on hallucinations for what could be my misunderstanding of the term genopolitics, I rather discuss it in layman’s terms. Best to call my version “political genetics”.
A few nights before the elections, I posted on my Facebook page:
“Bongbong Marcos tops the polls. His election could either reflect the amnesia and apathy of millennials or the extent to which Filipinos are convinced of the malleability of democracy in the streets. To say he’s a Marcos therefore is corrupt perpetuates “political genetics” – that skewed concept of inheritance and entitlement which, on the reverse, equally presupposes messianic qualities upon those of celebrated lineage or victims or recipients of circumstance. Either way, they create variations of a political dynasty, reinventing the wheel of traditional politics.”
Political genetics explains the creation and survival of political dynasties. It feeds on the same principles behind succession planning in organizations and estate planning in families. It is one’s political machinery that doesn’t necessarily need the 3Gs of Philippine politics: guns, goons and gold. It is a reputational capital investment that families force down the line from one generation to another.
But unlike human genetics where mere commonality in DNA binds you, political genetics doesn’t rotate within filial connection. It creates a web that pulls to the same center a community, if not communities, that cuts across demographics. As much as human genetics does, political genetics makes blood thicker than water, oftentimes distributing platelets to networks on the brink of losing grip.
Philippine politics being highly personalistic and collectivist breeds political genetics. Because one is a son or a daughter of a politician, there is an automatic assumption of inheritance of leadership qualities. When Ninoy Aquino died for the country, his wife, Cory, inherited the Filipinos’ high public regard for her husband and thus, was reposed with the same expectations of liberation from a dictatorship. Cory created a web that connected communities around the Philippines. She became a symbol of hope and every Filipino’s fight for freedom. Had she not been thrust in that scenario, would she have become who she is to us in our hearts and memory? Then came the son, PNoy. Many say his claim to the presidency emanated from his being an “Aquino”. He could not have gone closer to the presidency had his bid for the top position of the land not come after the death of Cory. When the beacon of Philippine democracy passed away, political genetics caused Filipinos to envision him as the next best thing. Filipinos transferred ideologies espoused by Ninoy and passed on to Cory to PNoy. The name “Aquino” itself then became the merit.
Many of today’s public servants, including those who ran for public office, share the benefits of political genetics. Their stories are woven by the same thread, echoed throughout generations, and create an imprint in national life. In the transition process, they create a niche in the memory of many – some weak that they fade away into history books gathering up dust; some strong that they manage to slither through cracks into unrealized aspirations for self and country.
While not completely condemnable, political genetics raises a red flag when people dangerously resort to it for lack of a better choice. Many times over, in the midst of hopelessness and desperation, Filipinos conveniently go for someone who traces his or her roots to a narrative that celebrates men and women for who they were in the past.