President Duterte has only been in office for seven months but, to me, it feels like he’s been president for seven years. Whether you are an ardent supporter of his or not, you can’t deny that these past few months have been intense. There has been so much going on–the EJKs, the Marcos burial, rogue cops, even the Miss Universe pageant. There has been so much controversy, so much fighting and so much overall negativity. Change truly has come… but whether that change has been beneficial or harmful, I can’t say.
Here is what I will say… What I’ve noticed over these past few months is that Filipinos tend to think in black-and-white. (DISCLAIMER: Yes, I know that Filipinos aren’t the only ones who are guilty of this.)
You are either a supporter or a basher. You are either for or against. You are either a fanatic or a hater. We tend to ignore nuances and make no room for grey areas.
One recent example of this is the “interpreter controversy” during the Miss Universe pageant. When our candidate Maxine Medina decided not to use her interpreter during the Q&A portion of the pageant, Filipinos were quick to react. All the reactions I’ve seen were either overwhelmingly negative (“She should’ve used the interpreter! Tanga naman!”) or overwhelmingly positive (“Basta! Support our own! Mga bashers lang kayo!“). Here’s my beef with these two extremes: The situation is a lot more nuanced than that (to quote “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend”).
The thing is… Yes, of course we should support and encourage our fellow Filipinos, especially when they are representing us in international events but this does not mean that we should just shut up and not voice our opinions about things. Criticism is not bashing.
I repeat: CRITICISM IS NOT BASHING.
Bashing is something done out of spite and is often used to mock and belittle a person (i.e. “Tanga tanga naman niya! Dapat di nalang siya sumali!!!”). Criticism, especially CONSTRUCTIVE criticism, is an assessment of a perceived fault intended to help said person (i.e. “Hmm. She has trouble expressing herself in English. Maybe she should use Tagalog or whichever language she is most comfortable with.“).
When your English teacher tells you that your spelling needs work, that is a criticism. When the schoolyard bully tells you that you are stupid, that is bashing. We can and should learn the difference.
We can and should learn to find the middle ground between two opposing extremes. Making statements like “Di mo sinusuportahan ang Presidente, Dilawan ka kasi!” or “Sinusuportahan mo si Digong? DUTERTARD ka!” is not a productive way to debate with others. The key to productive intellectual discourse is through acknowledging facts and then making your point without resorting to name-calling, personal insults or generalizations.
To my fellow Filipinos, black-and-white thinking will not get us anywhere. The world isn’t so black-and-white. The real world is oftentimes complex, ambiguous and nuanced. I think we all ought to start acknowledging the shades of gray in all situations–whether political, social or personal.