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MONDAYS WITH PATMEI | Is it what it is?

When I was a little girl one of my favorite things to watch on television with my cousins was wrestling. It was the 1970s and it was the time of Pedro Morales, Andre the Giant, and Bruno Sammartino.

It was only much later in life when I learned that the wrestling matches we watched as kids on television were staged for our entertainment and not real.

Kayfabe (pronounced kay-fayb) is a term used in professional wrestling to describe the practice of maintaining the illusion that everything is real. This includes the scripted personas, rivalries, and storylines. It is the “suspension of disbelief” and the tacit agreement between wrestlers and their fans to pretend that the whole thing is genuine.

According to one theory, kayfabe came from a word manipulation of the term “be fake” while another theory claims that it was derived from the expression “keep cavey” from the Latin word “caveo” which means “look out for.”

I bring up the concept of kayfabe because all this spectacle surrounding amending our Constitution reminds me of my childhood wrestling-watching days.

I am now in my early 50s (emphasis on the early) and I have witnessed and survived several attempts to change the Philippine Constitution. I have seen this too many times to bother to react. I am experiencing “the boy who cried wolf” fatigue.

I was in college when we had the unfortunate task of studying the new 1987 Constitution, which was longer than the previous one and we had no idea what changes were made because we were no longer allowed to read the old one.

I wonder how majority of the Filipino masses read and understood the 1987 Constitution when it was proposed because our teacher did not do such a good job teaching it to us.

Like many Filipinos, I could not relate to the charter change project because it has been my observation that we do not follow or implement what’s written in our Constitution anyway.

Starting with our Preamble itself. I do not see any evidence of a government that promotes “the common good” or even “the rule of law.” Never mind the “regime of truth, justice, freedom, love, equality, and peace.”

Yes, there is actually “love” in our Constitution. I am surprised I forgot it’s ever there.

What struck me when I was forced to study the 1987 Constitution in college was this provision in Article II Section 7: “The State shall pursue an independent foreign policy. In its relations with other states the paramount consideration shall be national sovereignty, territorial integrity, national interest, and the right to self-determination.”

It made a big impression on my young mind because all the while I thought the Philippines always aligned with the United States of America. I remember thinking it was such a bold move to declare that in writing for the Americans to read.

But then again, it must be another kayfabe. Like the separation of Church and State.

Physicist David Bohm said in a 1977 lecture: “Reality is what we take to be true. What we take to be true is what we believe…What we believe is what we take to be true.”

Such an experience is so universal that it does not spare even the most intelligent and most self-aware among us.

In examining how our minds mislead us, Nobel-winning psychologist Daniel Kahneman noted: “The confidence people have in their beliefs is not a measure of the quality of evidence, but the coherence of the story that the mind has managed to construct.”

Which reminds me of what lawyers are always fond of saying: “It is not the truth that matters, but what you can prove in court.”

But in a society where evidence can be destroyed or manufactured, witnesses can be silenced or bought, and prosecutors and judges can be bribed or threatened, people turn to the court of public opinion instead.

So those who have the ability to weave a convincing tale that suits what most people already believe to be true succeed.

Sure, we all lie. We have our own kayfabes in life.

“But what sets the con artist apart from the mundane white-liar is the nefarious intent and the deliberate deftness with which he or she goes about executing the reality-manipulation,” wrote Maria Popova in The Marginalian.

Popova shares what Maria Konnikova wrote in her book, “The Confidence Game: Why We Fall for It…Every Time”: “Human beings don’t like to exist in a state of uncertainty or ambiguity. When something doesn’t make sense, we want to supply the missing link. When we don’t understand what or why something happened, we want to find the explanation. A con artist is only too happy to comply — and the well-crafted narrative is his absolute forte.”

Konnikova added: “We are, after all, the best deceivers of our own minds. At each step of the game, con artists draw from a seemingly endless toolbox of ways to manipulate our belief. And as we become more committed, with every step we give them more psychological material to work with.”

Our political and economic elites are working a long con. Cons thrive in times of transition and fast change, when new things are happening and the old ways of looking at the world no longer works. Cons are effective during revolutions, wars, and political upheavals. Transition is conducive to con artists because transition breeds uncertainty.

The con artist will find those things where your belief is unshakeable and use that as a foundation to subtly change how you will look at the world. You won’t notice it is even happening.

Because a true con artist does not force us to do anything. We will be complicit. We will believe because we want to, not because anyone made us.

In fact, our own leaders deliberately create the uncertain conditions we are in so we will always be susceptible to being conned.

Are we doomed to be perpetually deceived? No. But the first step is realizing that we are participating — wittingly or unwittingly — in a political kayfabe.


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