The unbearable burden of being Grace Padaca
The Economist reports on how Grace Padaca, the crippled governor of Isabela, is having a hard time ruling the province once under the sway of the Dys. “I sometimes cry myself to sleep at night,” Padaca admits to the newsmagazine.
Padaca is facing the problem reformers inevitably face whenever a new order is about to be instituted: resistance from conservative people who have digged in their heels. If the recall election Padaca's opponents are planning fails to materialize, they can always hedge their bet on the next election. A reinforced--and less complacent-- Dy campaign has a good fighting chance of toppling the wobbly Padaca. Because of the opposition from mayors and other officals/bureaucrats in the province, Padaca's administration, I understand, is in a state of, if not disarray, nonachievement. What is a reformer to do in the face of pervasive opposition?
A thing or two can be learned from the experience of that great subversive from Malaysia--Dr. Mahathir Mohamad. A reformer to be effective must appear conservative. It is natural for men to detest change. Lulled by the familiarity of present things, however insufficient they may be, a man would always tend to choose the intimate present rather than the distant and uncertain future.
No Muslim leader (well, except, perhaps Kemal Ataturk) has done more to secularize Muslim society than Dr. Mahathir. He, however, did his best to appear conservative. There is simply no use ruffling too many feathers. Mahathir's anti-semitic speech with the Organization of Islamic Countries (OIC) as his audience is instructive of this particular useful political tactic.
Malaysia has unequivocally condemned Al-Qaeda's 911 attack and has cooperated fully with the United States's overseas efforts to round up Muslim suspects. Because of this seeming proximity to the United States, murmurs of Mahathir's insufficient Muslim credentials again began to surface (as they habitually did from time to time throughout his career). What did Mahathir do? Host the OIC and, in a speech closely watched by global media, lambast the Jews for trying to rule the world. There was instantaneous thunderous applause from the Muslim gallery. In an instant, Mahathir renewed his ties with the Muslims by saying what many of them could only think about. But was the speech really about the excesses of the Jews? No. It was, close reading of the speech would show, more on highlighting the intellectual laziness of the Muslims versus the fecund imagination and productiveness of the Jews. Had Mahathir simply talked about the historical unproductiveness of the Muslims, he would have been pilloried. But because he lambasted the Jews at the same time that he did scold the Muslims, he got a round of applause. He appeared anti-Semitic in the eyes of the world, yes, but he endeared himself in the hearts of his Muslim constituents at the same time, it bears pointing out, that he was berating their intellectual lassitude.
A reformer to be effective must appear conservative. Padaca should be rounding up the mayors of the province and telling them just how little things are about to change. A first term is for consolidation; real substantive reforms can wait the second term, when the status quo brokers have been lulled to thinking they are being served with just more of the same thing.