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Addiction, power and elections



Addiction. The word recently hogged the headlines. It is a disease, a disorder, and a social malaise. It comes in many forms, and the most addictive is power. Holding on to power for too long is intoxicating. It can destroy relationships and communities. Like cancerous cells it can also be corrosive because greed for power consumes the person’s inner soul and the physical body.  A person with an addiction to power is sarado sa pagbabago or resistant to change.  


Do you know that inside our brain is this dopamine hormone, also known as the “happy hormone,” which rises when it experiences pleasure or well-being? With power, one feels a “high” or gets highly motivated. If you have low dopamine, there is less drive and motivation. That is why, with power, there comes a feeling of great pleasure, and often, it may cause paranoia if it is difficult to let go and becomes an obsession. That was the disease that afflicted the German dictator, Adolf Hitler, a meth addict.


Addiction to power, status 


Mario was a top executive at a prominent local business company who enjoyed the status that came with his job. He liked receiving attention and having people look up to him. He was used to ordering his subordinates to go anytime at the quick sleight of his hands. He delights in joining corporate affairs and rubbing shoulders with influential people. He always experienced a high talking with people at the top of the industry. He was used to bypassing colleagues to enjoy power all by himself.  For Mario, power and recognition as the head of the company was a life he would never exchange, even if it was already time for the company to choose a new leader. He would always find a way to wrestle his power through manipulations - fair and foul.  But fate found a way to get back at him. He fell ill forcing him to relinquish his position to a more qualified executive.


Fernando was the town mayor for two terms until he ran for congressman with his sister, who ran for governor, and they all won together to rule the province. They belong to a powerful political dynasty that began with their father, who won with the proverbial 3 Gs of guns, goons, and gold in their heyday in the 60s. Some of the clan’s powerful kin have passed and left a legacy of notoriety.  Another dynasty openly challenged the dominant one, but it was a risky gamble that killed its political chieftain.


In the following months in Bicol and on the national scene, the battle is on for the grab for the influential political aspirants for Mayor, Governor, Congressman, and their line-ups. With elections in the air, politicians start rebuilding their political bases. We know that the start of every election has always been a stage for preparations for the next. The day the politico wins his coveted seat is also the start of the next campaign and consolidation of power for the next elections.


Have you noticed how some politicians have changed their addresses or residences to beat the deadline for filing their candidacies? Tarpaulins and political ads are up, and political regroupings, radio, and social media noise are agog. Old alliances are regrouping, and money is beginning to flow like honey in some camps.


Other addiction


Addiction is usually associated with the abuse of chemical substances like shabu, cocaine, or fentanyl. Or addiction to coffee, soda, and alcohol. In these days of the corporate and digital world, addiction also refers to compulsive behavior like being engaged in excessive and uncontrollable gambling, video games, pornography and sex, social media, cellphones and the internet, shoplifting, and the like.


At the national level, an exciting kind of addiction continues to engulf the nation with rampant cases of corruption.  Infightings among former political allies and friends persist. People with an addiction will never allow their opponent to win without a fight. Swapang, ganid, even about clinging on to their powerful position.  But nothing beats the huge-scale grand corruption of the Philippine dictator Ferdinand Marcos, his family, relatives, and cronies, whom historians call the extensive use of money laundering devices (kleptocracy).


Power per se is good because it is an inherent need and desire for people to have a say in the decisions that affect their lives. It is a fundamental force in human relationships and plays a valuable role in all our social, political, and economic interactions. Power is about control. But when abused, it gets out of hand; it afflicts communities and destroys the core of our social values. Corruption as addiction to power becomes destructive, a social disease, and a disorder.


As elections increasingly become the national pastime, may I suggest that Comelec and independent poll watchers begin an inventory of “addicts” among prospective applicants or candidates for elections - national and local?  I do not think it would be discriminatory. Public office is public trust. There should be a policy to subject individuals in public office to corruption and addiction tests, provide rehabilitation and recovery options for corrupt individuals, and appropriate penalties or punitive actions for all to deter addiction and abuse of power.

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