Techno-politics in the Philippines

By Christopher Ryan Maboloc

      According to Herbert Marcuse, one of the accomplishments of modern society “is the non-terroristic, democratic decline of freedom – the efficient, smooth, reasonable un-freedom which seems to have its roots in technical progress itself.” By implication, Jeffry Ocay writes that it is worthwhile to examine closely how modern politics and its technology as an apparatus of power, to use the words of Mario Bunge, has been employed to “to control, transform or create things or processes, natural or social,” in order to achieve “some practical end deemed to be valuable.”

       For Marcuse, machines have replaced the autonomy of the individual, and for this reason, technical rationality has dominated the latter’s life. Socially, the individual has been reduced into a commodity whose needs, desires, and life as a whole are manufactured as a false consciousness of reality. This same type of technical rationality is operative in our modern political system. It is a type of thinking that enslaves the individual where political values now depend on personal advantage. The world in which moral virtue defines the highest form of qualification for public office is nowhere in sight. It has long been overtaken by the metamorphosis of political power into a monstrous megamachine.

       The use of technology is ubiquitous in any capitalist society. Technological development defines the modern way of life. But the unholy alliance between capitalism and politics is very dangerous. Without a doubt, if it is the self-serving interests of political patrons that dictate the design of economic policies, governance becomes nothing but a negative value-laden tool in the misuse of power. This is what techno-politics is all about. Techno-politics is that system in which the politician knows how the electorate thinks, and for this reason, he uses modern technology in order to control and manipulate the psyche of voters.

       The improvement of the standard of living of people in the cities means easy access to modern gadgets and the internet. It also means the advancement of social media as a potent political tool. The positive aspect of this emerging trend so far is the active and dynamic involvement of academicians, professionals or civil society in the intelligent discussion of political issues online. Cyberspace has created a new agora for public discourse. Moreover, social media plays a crucial role in insuring the panoptic power of authority. A viral video or post of any scandal can change the fortunes of any politician overnight.

       In the rural areas of the country, the online avatar cannot replace the human face of politics. Local politicians know this by heart. It means something to a congressman’s constituents to be able to attend baptisms, weddings, funerals, town fiestas and the like because presence matters to barrio folks. Technocrats dismiss this as another form of exploitation. The point, however, is that in an impoverished country such as ours, people do worship local idols with whom their lives resonate. Rightly or wrongly, a very firm handshake, like rhetoric in a timeless past, remains indispensable as a tool of persuasion.
       The thing is that we have to be cautious in terms of online technology for it can also mean that political publicity, and not moral virtue, could determine how our political leaders conduct themselves publicly in cyberspace. The negative side of online technology then is that the knowledge of some learned voters about their political heroes is only an outer layer. Traditional politicians also maintain their presence online where they utilize social media as a new tool for deceptive political propaganda. While technology can aid humans in making decisions, true democracy still depends on the maturity of the voter. In this regard, moral virtue remains to be our fundamental guide in choosing the right leaders with whom we give the sacred mandate to govern.


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