March 8, 2017
Politics is a field of landmines and partisans, especially for those near the halls of power.
We often think of politics as being built on a series of binary choices: yes or no, for or against. Positions become defensible only if you’re able to fully commit to it, and to many any commitment that falls short of being a full-throated endorsement of a particular political position immediately identifies you with the opposing side.
The very polarized nature of contemporary politics is often a reason why people try to shy away from it altogether out of fear of offending those who may be close to them, professionally, personally or otherwise. It’s often a reason why, despite me generally being fairly outspoken about what I believe in, I often keep my political opinions to myself even if I don’t want to.
Whenever we see children of the elite spout their political positions, they often tend to parrot what they hear from their parents. Sandro Marcos, for example, will defend his family’s (onerous) political legacy for those of my generation, saying that it was a good thing the dictator did what he did. But for those of us who are closer to the margins than to the center, we often play a politics that involves careful balancing of priorities, always thinking what to say and how it’s said. I don’t always parrot what my parents believe in, but because they’re the ones who happen to be well-connected I end up having to look over my shoulders twice.
I have a great deal of respect for people’s political positions, but it can be very tiring trying to navigate around the borderlines, avoiding hidden dangers in a bid to continue currying favor. It would be easier for all of us if we could truly separate the personal from the political, but in the Philippines this is a pipe dream that we all aspire to, but could never truly realize.
This isn’t just about the People Power Revolution of 1986, how we managed to fight back against the excesses of a unjust regime, or how we must defend our democracy against tyranny.
This isn’t just about how Congress decided yesterday to reinstate the death penalty, in contravention of our international commitments and against the values of justice that we are supposed to hold dear as a supposedly enlightened, progressive society.
I know people who are on the other side of each of those issues: those who are pro-Marcos, those who are for the death penalty, and even more so those who have sided with (and are siding with) President Duterte and his stand on everything despite the many things we know he’s done wrong and his general fallibility. I would like to condemn their positions the best I can, but it’s lamentable that in this country, we take politics so seriously, it is automatically presumed to be personal.
So personal, in fact, that for me to even consider speaking my mind on the issues of the day would be considered anathema just because I’m bound to offend someone.
I don’t think I’m particularly influential online, so perhaps my voice won’t reverberate as much as others’ voices do, but I hate the constraints of silence. I hate how I have to be cowed to silence because of what other people think, or what they might possibly think. I try to fight it every single day, which is why I try to be vocal about things when I speak up about them.
But, let’s face it: silence is the reality for a lot of people, especially people who are near those centers of influence. They will never be able to say anything unless we give them the space and latitude to do so, so I really hope we start developing the thick skin needed to take on political criticism without having to make such a big, personal deal out of it each and every time.
Because otherwise, how on Earth will we ever grow up as a nation?