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November 19, 2014

On a short essay I wrote in college about the topic Balance of Power, I used the analogy of a seesaw.  I wrote then that indeed as long as the weights on both ends of a seesaw are about equal, there should be balance and the seesaw would be parallel to the ground, representing equilibrium.   The idea is, where there is equilibrium or balance, in pretty much all analogous situations, there would be peace and stability.  In the race for superiority therefore of two competing or warring forces, relative equilibrium is assured as long as no side achieves a clear superiority over the other over the course of time even as rivalry rages.   As astute an analogy though it seems,  I warned that, just as in a seesaw, in due course, as you keep adding weight on either side, a point comes when the weight on both sides, though balanced, becomes too heavy for the seesaw to bear, it eventually crashes down on its own fulcrum.

My American professor must have loved than one, he gave it a good grade.    You make good analogies, he remarked, just don’t overdo it.

I like analogies.  If you construct a good one, the issue could emerge surprisingly with more clarity.  It simplifies the complex, you could see the whole more readily where you get so easily bogged down on details.  It lets you in on a view deck.  In an argument you could show your line of reasoning in a more picturesque manner.

But there are hazards.   One that abides by a foregone conclusion is hardly helpful or valuable.  Indeed, there are good as well as bad analogies.

Let us take the “Daang matuwid” slogan meant as a battle cry for Good Government of the incumbent for example.  Understandably, Daang Matuwid or Straight Path was appropriated for its connotation of righteousness, virtue, rectitude, goodness, honesty, uprightness and everything good and noble which the current administration presents itself to be.  In contrast, a crooked path is one which connotes malignancy and depravity and everything bad and crooked, which the past administration is supposed to embody.   Following this line, Daang Matuwid is clearly meant as analogous to good governance.

Yet literal paths or roads are in reality often not straight, more commonly winding, zigzagging, twisting, bending, meandering, always adjusting to the contours, formation and obstacles of the topography.  Straight paths, you find only in flat, open surfaces of unobstructed expanse, but even so, their straightness ends somewhere.  Indeed, roads are built not to conform to the straightness of a straight line but in consideration of the terrain.   For instance, no one builds a straight road that climbs a mountain or one that intends to cut across an impossible obstacle; that would be insane.  Good roads, reality tells us, are those that adjust well to the formations of the ground, not those that disregard it.

Thus, in the sense that Straight Roads are in actuality much too uncommon and unreal, Daang Matuwid too has become kind of an unwieldy, awkward representation of good governance.  No wonder therefore that Daang Matuwid has instead become an imagery to unthinking obstinacy, somewhat akin to a road that plows through straight to nowhere regardless… Straight indeed, and full speed ahead but… hey can I get off here please?

All in all, it is a clumsy analogy.  But then maybe it is a slip of the tongue, the subconscious suggesting?

Good governance, I would say, is more akin to a good service bus with a good driver on the steering wheel.  The bus is the bureaucracy and the machinery of government and the driver is the President.  The people are the passengers on board. The roads being traversed are rough and dangerous, slippery at times, on either side are deep ravines and falls, but the driver has a steady hand and the passengers are confident that the one on the steering wheel is one hell of a good driver and the vehicle would not sputter on the climb.  If occasionally he stops and checks the vehicle, it is to ensure that the engine and all its parts are sound and in their best condition.  When at times he takes a longer stopover to survey the road ahead and consult with the passengers, it is to ensure that the road is passable and that they are in this together,  come what may.

Now, is that not a better analogy?

I suppose that if pathways are to be useful as analogy, perhaps it would be more fit in relation to where we are now and where we are going.  Are we following the right road?  Or are we even going in the right direction?  How far are we to our destination?   Which one should we take next?   What does it take to bring us there?

With this revised analogy, you might come to the conclusion that we are going nowhere because, one, we, the passengers, are quarreling much too often over so many petty things that the driver does not know whom to follow; two, the bus is just too rickety and old, besides being overloaded, to get us anywhere, and third— the driver himself does not know how to drive.

One Comment leave one →
  1. Dick S. O'Rosary permalink
    November 22, 2014 5:02 pm

    Lets play with the “daang matuwid” analogy for a while. You said that there are no completely straight roads in reality, that they must conform to the terrain. But truly straight roads exist, the Romans built them in the ancient times.

    Now, the Romans were master road builders, but they built their road system as straight as possible–as the crow flies, so to speak. They carved mountains, bisected fields, passed over hills, cut through forests just to keep their roads as straight as possible. Indeed, their roadbuilding equipment betrayed their obsession with straight roads.

    Now, what does this tell us for the daang matuwid? A straight path, while desirable can make one decadent, complacent, un-innovative. It also becomes sinful, as when the Romans crucified those involved in the Spartacus revolt along the [straight] Via Apia. This makes your analogy of a careful bus driver on a rough road all the more desirable.

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