opinion

Don’t be part of the problem

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In the 2010 national elections, I didn’t care who would lead the country until 2016. I only liked how, amplified by bright lights and loud music, the crowd’s energy was contagious. I wore a baller of a candidate only because many people were wearing it and I felt in.

My news feed and timeline looked nothing like today. Today, these are bombarded with election-related posts most of which are emotionally charged. Some posts are cohesive and thought-provoking, contributing to a fruitful discourse, while others tend to be crass and barbaric at the slightest hint of an opposing view.

I understand why people are so passionate in supporting their chosen candidates. After being on the receiving end of incompetence, people are desperate for change that transcends socioeconomic status, that is not confined to a circle of the elite, wealthy and connected; change that can be experienced in everyday life particularly among underserved, impoverished communities. People long for sustainable solutions that benefit not only the present generation but also the children of today’s children.

I honestly prefer such strong clamor for change, in which government leaders are instrumental, instead of indifferent people that have embraced learned helplessness or are inclined to being beneficiaries used to dole-outs. Needless to say, the election season is a manifestation of freedom and democracy. People have the power to choose who they want to represent them.

While I find relief in seeing family, friends, and acquaintances actively engaged in the elections, I am disturbed by the behavior of some supporters. It represents an attitude that can impede progress: inability to accept views different from theirs and to respect other people’s opinions. True enough, the supporters can be the problem. Although online discussions seem harmless, a person’s thoughts, especially when fueled by emotions, could translate into action. In extreme cases, then, this attitude can be displayed in violent and hostile behavior.

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First, people lack carefulness in consuming articles and photos posted online. In many cases, only the headline or first sentence of the article is read. They immediately believe in satirical articles, fake Facebook pages, and memes, which are usually uploaded without verification. In this digitized and hyper-informed world, double-checking materials is important. However, the responsibility doesn’t lie solely on the consumers. Media outlets should also avoid misleading headlines and chop-chopping quotes which will mostly likely distort the issue.

People feel strongly about raising awareness and spreading accurate information for a reason: knowledge can translate to well-thought-out decisions.

Second, people see the world in black and white. Whatever reasons are explained for a choice, they tend to put you on either side of the extremes. They don’t consider other factors in weighing an issue, and are prone to making hasty generalizations.

For example, if you’re against Martial Law, associated with  massive human rights violation and corruption, then you’re an avid Aquino supporter. A “yellow-tard,” as some people put it. Because Leni Robredo is in the Liberal Party, she is a vice presidential aspirant whose accomplishments must be dismissed, and is disconnected from the poor and will continue any inefficiency. When you vote for Rodrigo Duterte, you are an immoral being who doesn’t care for the country. The list is endless.

Third, people seem to define voters’ thinking process and ability to make sound decisions based only on political preferences. For one, they appear to classify themselves as superiorly ‘decent’ and intelligent because of their chosen candidates — giving the impression that voting for other aspirants equates to lack of decency, impairment of judgment, and inability to think. It reeks of condescension and causes further polarization in the election season.

Frankly, I understand the frustration when other people cannot see the reasons behind my decisions because they close their minds to preconceived notions. But tagging them as “idiots,” “retards,”  “lower class animals,” “non-thinking” groups and the like is insensitive and detrimental to any discussion.

Fourth, people strongly believe their candidate is the last card of redemption that they’ve reached the point of condemning anyone that criticizes him. In short, voicing out an opinion opposing theirs equates to receiving threats and insults. If supporters post their opinions to convince people, they must’ve forgotten to ask themselves, “Will people reconsider their decision and agree with me if I wish that they be raped, murdered or their family be massacred?” Some people with such atrocious behavior have family members on their Facebook photos. I wonder if they’ve asked themselves, “If other voters will threaten my loved ones for the sake of defending a candidate, will I justify the act?”

Lastly, people seem to perceive their chosen government officials as infallible messiahs, that no matter how valid a criticism, it will be considered a demolition job. Running for the highest post in the government entails facing criticisms and dealing with these accordingly, as people deserve to know the truth. Excluding our government officials from any form of accountability can encourage complacency and mediocrity. We can say yes “with reservations” to a candidate.

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While our leaders can heavily influence our life, we need to remind ourselves that we can make everyday life less stressful for other Filipinos. Behave well, both on the Internet and in the streets. Fall in line properly. Be a better driver; give way to pedestrians, ambulances, and firetrucks. Be a better pedestrian; cross on the overpass and pedestrian lane. Arrive on time for appointments. Be more considerate to workers in the service industry. Refuse to perpetuate a culture of nepotism.

Second, we can inform and educate while remaining collected. As shown on social media, misconceptions have surfaced and these are better corrected now than trickle to future generations. Given that accurate information and constructive criticism are greatly needed, we can help disseminate such instead of seeing our choices as the only legitimate ones and looking down on people with opinions we find absurd. Because discourse is a two-way process, listening is essential. How can we expect them to understand us if we ourselves are focused on replying at a fast pace instead of listening to their understanding?

Education can also aid in the lack of awareness. Hopefully, school curriculum of all courses will emphasize the role of the government. What are the job descriptions of a president, vice president, senator, congressman, and mayor? What are the requirements of a political candidate? What are the implications of democracy, dictatorship, and federalism?

Being more aware can help voters make informed choices instead of selecting based on popularity and survey rankings. Candidates known to be actors, athletes, or cronies of oligarchs could be elected even without a strong track record in governance. Also, people assume their “vote will go to waste” if allotted to a candidate with low survey results. We vote because we believe in that leader’s capability and vision to improve this country, not because we’re jumping on a bandwagon.

Lastly, we can remind ourselves that we are entitled to have opinions and so do other people. We can defend our preferred candidate with all our might yet we can’t force people to have the same opinion as ours. Relationships among family and friends have been jeopardized in this highly divisive season.

Ultimately, everyone wants the best for the country. But we see different officials capable, competent, and empathetic enough to lead in concretizing changes that are not only sustainable but can also be experienced in everyday life.

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