Proverbs 26:11

“As a dog returns to its vomit, so fools repeat their folly.”

Such was the phrase that turned over and over in my mind when I heard that A– had seized speakership of the lower house. Surprisingly, the thought came neither with anger nor with dismay but with bemusement. Three years down, this is the change that you all voted for?

As with many such biblical expressions, the proverb is fraught with meaning. I looked up its history and usage. Apparently in ancient times, dogs were considered unclean as they were scavengers of the dead. That a dog should consume its own vomit, this doesn’t need a long stretch of imagination — it is meant to evoke shame and revulsion.

The image of the fool is more interesting. Unlike our common modern association with diminished intellectual capacity, “the fool” in Proverbs is a person lacking moral behavior and discipline. Contrast this with “the wise”, who behaves righteously.

Of late, I’ve refrained from talking about politics, apart from times of private conversation when I know well those I am speaking with. Almost all that I’ve needed to say I’ve already said in past essays. In these charged times, what can I really say to change anybody’s opinion?

Except perhaps this thought that’s been turning over in my mind all this time: that what we have, fundamentally, is not a political problem but a moral one, and that the dividing line where this was all made clear was back in May 2016, and even in the days leading up to it. Many people chose to ignore their moral sense when they cast their ballots, trading it instead for the sense of excitement and titillation of a telenovela character, when all the while it was already clear who and what it was they were getting.

For a time I wondered why people couldn’t seem to find it overly hard to be disappointed with D–, and I think I’ve figured it out. It boils down to the two aspects: the promises and the character. The promises have been trivial or exaggerated, and therefore easily achieved or easily broken; and besides, promises are broken all the time. The character on the other hand? To his credit, he has never really presented himself to be anything other than who he is. Whatever good he could do was a matter of delusion or projection. How can you be disappointed when from the start you can’t really go any lower, as far as character goes?

So when I see the return of A–, I am not terribly surprised. Disgusted, certainly, but tempered with the expectation that it was bound to happen. It was clear enough from the alignments right from the start. The only difference is that people gave up their latitude to complain about it because they chose to go against their moral sense from the start.