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Tuesday, May 24, 2022

Bongbong’s Oxford Degree and the Absurdity of Filipino Meritocracy

It is futile to validate a degree that only exists in the arms of strong propaganda machinery.

Today, a degree can be used as a political weapon.

A Bachelor’s degree represents three things: competencies that are typical of any graduate of a prestigious institution, the network that comes with being affiliated with the said institute, and of course, written proof of one’s intellect. Just like any other job, decorating your resume by including a degree goes beyond satisfaction and pride as a working professional. However, it is only then when we truly realize that the moment we start counting our achievements is the time we abandon the true sense of academic triumph.

Structuring the Oxford Degree Narrative

The matter of BBM’s Oxford Degree gave birth to the following narratives:

  1. Outright denial of factual statements – Most supporters tend to deny factual statements coming from valid sources. In this case, their biases dominate their capacity to validate sources of information (something that is typical for a country that does not provide substantial support to educating its citizens at such heights). Their lack of informational literacy, much less their critical thinking skills keeps supporters from providing the benefit of the doubt, using distrust as its main source of blockage to counter the validity of factual evidence.
  2. A Special Diploma is the same as a Bachelor’s Degree – This is a surprising narrative that emerged out of a genuine attempt to do research about the issue. However, this case is equally problematic, or may perhaps be even worse to the former, since it is a matter of interpreting and responding to factual evidence. Oxford’s statements ranged from “did not finish his degree” (Oxford PH Society, 2021) to “only got a special diploma.” Although the words “a special diploma is not a degree” were already stated, supporters remain keen on defending BBM’s merit. But in this case, the mere mention of the Special Diploma is enough to solidify and rekindle their support to BBM even though they were already being straight-up lied onto their faces. Given that, this narrative could also breed sub-narratives mentioning that “at least BBM is still affiliated with Oxford” even though the presidential aspirant himself lied and blatantly promoted himself as an Oxford graduate of a Bachelor of Arts in Philosophy, Politics and Economics (PPE) degree – far from a mere Special Diploma in Social Studies.
  3. We do not need educated leaders – This is by far the most annoying out of all narratives that may have already took the internet by storm. This sudden shift to appreciating BBM as an honest man is nothing short of futile fanaticism in the sense that even though they have already recognized the invalidity of BBM’s Oxford degree, their pride as supporters do not allow them to admit total defeat. Instead, this leads them to commit yet another one of the Filipinos’ most disgusting cultures – crab mentality. It is also worth giving them credit for realizing that they can utilize BBM’s weakness and turn it into a strength by pointing out that the highly-educated ones are more capable of exploiting the common man compared to those who appear “humble.” It is through this narrative that BBM takes the moral high ground, still retaining his identity as someone who is trusted by his supporters, with or without the Oxford degree. This narrative can also go as far as saying that there is no perfect candidate, or that all candidates (or any other presient in history) has lied and has even committed crimes such as graft and corruption. Although, these narratives begs the question: does supporting a non-educated person mean that we are normalizing the entry and re-entry of criminals in public service?
  4. Respect my opinion – No questions asked. This is the peak of intellectual stubbornness that is unrivaled and typical not only to the educated, but most especially to those have not attained any academic opportunity. This is the peak of what it means to be a fanatic – to surrender before logic but not admit defeat.

Ultimately, these narratives give way to the most despicably hypocritical stances a loyalist could possibly patronize:

It is not about the degree. It’s about the person.

A lot of us could actually learn a thing or two from BBM’s indefatigably relentless defense of his Oxford degree because it entails what most people have already fallen guilty to in terms of judging one’s character. To most Filipinos, a degree is only an over-glorified decoration that gives licenses for one to be self-righteous and arrogant.

Education has now lost its true sense. It is now a means for one to be promoted to a higher ranking in society. And although BBM presents himself as someone who represents the layman, his pursuits to force himself into an educated disposition prove just how shallow his views are when it comes to education as well as representing his unsung tendencies to be elitist, ready to throw the toiling masses under the bus at the first chance he gets.

For BBM, an Oxford degree would amplify the range of his capacity to exploit.

BBM as an Intellectual

It cannot be denied that BBM holds an incredible amount of influence and stature as a political individual. This leads us to ask the question as to why his party is so hell-bent on proving the validity of his Oxford degree?

According to MIT Brain and Cognitive Scientist Prof. David Rand, social media provides people with little to no opportunity to slow down their consumption of information, further exacerbating their tendency to patronize false information that is consistent with their biases.

“People who believed false headlines tended to be the people who didn’t think carefully, regardless of whether those headlines aligned with their ideology” (Rand & Ross, 2018).

This factoid is of focal importance especially when it comes to promoting BBM as an intellectual candidate. The BBM personality needs something that is easy to remember and is more likely to be conspicuously scrolled upon, bearing that phantasmagoric micro-memory of BBM as a smart politician.

It is easier to remember BBM speaking in fluent English. It is easier to remember BBM inserting a few trivia then and there.

Instead of going through specific detail, idealizing BBM as an intellectual on the superficial level is much easier and way more impactful compared to actually going through the specifics of his degree.

BBM may have also realized that out of all the legitimate presidentiables for 2022, he is by far the only one who is academically inferior to a point that he is even beneath Manny Pacquiao in terms of sheer academic merit.

An Oxford degree (or at least the reputation of being affiliated with Oxford) could at least put him at par with the other candidates for president.

However, nothing about him is worth noting as derivative from an Oxford education. As far as we are concerned, BBM’s only advantage is that he is gunning for the presidency under the shadow of his dead, rotting corpse of a father.

Without the dictator Marcos, who knows who BBM might have been.

But then again, it doesn’t really matter. With or without the degree, BBM benefits from the intrigue.

The fact that BBM’s degree has been the talk of the town since 2015 already solidifies and ensures his presence in the online arena. It doesn’t matter if the comments and reviews are negative; what we have to understand is that social media has the capacity to spread a single piece of information through continuous engagement.

As long as BBM is being talked about, his mere presence contributes to the “association game” that feeds on our biases, may it be negative or supportive.

From likes to comments to shares, it all works for the benefit of BBM, and he knows that.

For BBM, the quest to prove the validity of his Oxford degree is nothing more but a means for him to enjoy free advertising.

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