Fanaticism on both seemingly “opposite” sides of the political spectrum is something that will never truly be non-existent in any society. The peculiar thing about fanaticism in the Philippine political scene, however, is that it doesn’t have a track record of being rooted in opposite ideologies. Rather, Filipinos have become used to characterizing it as pro- and anti-whoever the dominant personality is.
In other words, the personality may change, but the fanaticism pretty much remains the same.
If you think about it, though, such fanaticism is actually rather…unexceptional in a country like the Philippines. After all, this is a country fond of being fanatic devotees of religious statues.
Ever since Rodrigo Duterte’s ascension to the presidency, fanaticism/extremism has been currently delineated into the pro- and anti-Duterte camps.
The pro-Duterte camp has the numbers, locally and among the Overseas Contract Workers – the OCWs – or so they would like us to believe. But without an organized, effective, communications monolith, and without machinery that allows information to be disseminated on a large scale, the throngs of supporters have little net weight. Perhaps the biggest, and most pathetic, irony that hounds the pro-Duterte camp is that for their exposes, and shows of force, they’ve practically all but begged for mainstream media to notice them – the very same media they insist is compromised and out to bring down Duterte. What the pro-Duterte camp has on its side, for now though, is that the armed forces and the police – generally considered linchpins in regime changes – have not shown major signs of discontent yet.
The anti-Duterte camp fares little better. To put it quite simply, it is one big disorganized mess. The remnants of the Liberal Party (LP), the party of both former president Benigno Simeon “BS” Aquino III and losing 2016 presidential candidate Mar Roxas, are inarguably the loudest and most structured among the components of the “opposition”. The LP, however, has done little to unite and give coherence to the opposition’s voice. The LP may have all the pull, all the connections, and monopoly of the narrative in the international scene, but due to their 30-year no-results track record as the dominant political force, they have little credibility left among Filipinos. Unfortunately, they also do their “opposition” in a very exclusive manner; if you oppose Duterte but criticize them as well, they deem you as unworthy to hang with them.
Both sets of fanatics are generally intolerant of criticism of their chosen sides. Both of them believe in, and propagate, a false dichotomy of “our side or the other”, while ignoring that there is a whole spectrum of gray that is tired of, disinterested in, and whose voice has been overpowered by, such fanaticism.
Frankly, to begin with, no one should really be blindly defending anyone anyway.
A standoff, an impasse, is easily observable, because neither side has really been able to gain an advantage that lasts long enough. Both the supreme deities of the pro- and anti- camps, Duterte and Leni respectively, seem to consistently stumble from communications gaffe to another communications gaffe. Perhaps the solution, ironically, is for both camps to make sure that their figureheads keep their mouths shut – for as long as possible.
Both camps have essentially contributed to the dumbing down of Filipinos in their own ways. They did that because they can’t help but make discussions about personalities, instead of ideas.
The pro-Duterte camp has emphasized straightforwardness and “being true to your nature” (pagpapakatotoo), which, sad to say, has come at the expense of basic civility, and has further driven the illusion of “coolness” of kanto-boy talk. The anti-Duterte camp insists on decency in speech and manners, but unfortunately, their brand of “decency” comes with an unhealthy dose of hypocrisy.
Perhaps, the fanaticism could have been a wee bit more tolerable, had it resulted in an elevation of the national discourse. But alas, it was too much to expect that either side could do that. The impasse between the two fanatic sides strongly affects one unfortunate group of people: the rest of the Filipinos who just seek to go on with their lives.
[Photo courtesy: ourknowledge.asia]
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