Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Inbreeding and regression

IN OSMEÑA country, an Osmeña recently said that “Cebu cannot prosper if we will have the culture of being attached to one family.”

In Linette C. Ramos and Rene H. Martel’s June 13 story published in Sun.Star Cebu, Tomas Osmeña “frowned” on the idea of an incumbent politician fielding a wife or offspring to run for office.

The Cebu City mayor was reacting to some barangay captains’ plan to request him to endorse his wife Margot, instead of Vice Mayor Michael Rama, for the 2010 elections.

The mayor’s stance is prescient for Cebu and the rest of the country. Not only Cebu City Hall and other local government units are restive during these times.

Citizens, civil society and institutions like the Church have taken to the streets to denounce the renewed plan of administration allies in the House of Representatives to amend the 1987 Constitution through a constituent assembly (Con-Ass).

The popular opposition stems from the perception that the Con-Ass proposal of some administration allies is aimed at postponing the May 2010 national elections and extending the terms of office of all elected officials, including President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, while a new Constitution is being drafted.

Protesters say that the law should be followed, referring to the holding of elections in 2010, as well as the strict implementation of Article II, Section 26 in the 1987 Constitution that prohibits political dynasties.

Yet, despite the legal provisions and the psychic scarring inflicted on the national consciousness by the Marcoses, Estradas, Arroyos and their ilk, why are we still so entangled with political families and their dysfunctions?

Analysts and foreigners say that the Filipinos’ fixation on political families reveals the state of our political immaturity: we may now move in information superhighways but we have retained a remnant of our feudal state. In a primitive agricultural economy where the state is hardly present or too bureaucratic and remote, the community leans heavily on the richest and nearest family that’s willing to help in exchange for labor and loyalty.

If the ties forged by the land ensured that a family ate, endured and died as their ancestors did for centuries before them, what did it matter if the local patron or his sons claimed, now and then, the feudal privilege of imposing their will and securing their interests?

Using this formula, the de Medici family converted their hold in Mugello, Tuscany, a small town in Florence, to an empire that made them the richest and the most powerful family in Europe.

Their power spanned four centuries, from the Late Middle Ages to the Renaissance, and then the Age of Discovery.

The name “de Medici” means “a family of doctors,” which, in the 14th and 18th century, could mean healers who tended the sick, as well as “barbers who made plant and herbal potions, drew blood with leeches, made pills, teas or drops from herbal and plant extracts,” points out

It can also explain the family’s interest in botany, as reflected in their prodigious gardens, where many herbs and exotic plants thrived, as well as in the unexplained deaths of their enemies and disliked relations.

The Medici family produced three popes, Florence rulers who shaped Renaissance culture, accounting and banking, strong women leaders, including a queen and a queen consort of France, as well as several members of the Spanish, French and English royalty.

Did the great Medicis have a weakness?

Honore de Balzac famously wrote that the House of the Medici was “the sovereign house with the greatest contempt for legitimacy anywhere in the world.” 09173226131

* First published in Sun.Star Cebu’s “Matamata” column in its June 14, 2009 issue

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