The Philippines’ social media ‘influencers’ are mentally ill-equipped to tackle national issues

The Philippine political “debate” remains as confused as ever because partisans across the spectrum cannot agree on who or which administration is at fault for the persistence of a number of problems. Many of these problems are big ones: Manila’s traffic and public transport woes, foreign policy around which bloc of superpowers the Philippines should be in bed with, the scourge of illegal drugs and crime, etc. The fact that they are big and have been problems across decades and across multiple administrations seems to escape the small minds that contribute to the Philippines’ dysfunctional political chatter.

Public transport, for example, is a long-standing national problem. No one government can solve this problem because agencies that are critical to overseeing these across governments have been hopelessly politicised to the core. Instead, public transport is regarded from the perspective of short-term political agendas — like how politicians routinely use the massive base of warm bodies that operate the Philippines’ vast fleet of buses, jeepneys, tricyles, pedicabs, and kuligligs as vote farms. There really is no incentive for government officials to get on board on any strategic initiative to replace this disease with modern mass transit systems.

Big problems require long-term solutions across multiple governments. Thus it is an abject exercise in futility to be focusing a “debate” on who did what when it comes to big and hard problems like these. And so the Philippines’ ability to deal with such problems remains stubbornly problematic at several levels.

For one thing, each administration is limited to only one six-year term with no possibility of re-election. Thus big problems that require big strategic solutions (hard enough to implement under more ideal conditions) are already at risk at inception thanks to the six-year cycle of disruption caused by expensive national elections.

For another, Philippine political parties are mere election winning machines. They are not true parties that are guided by a stable ideology or set of principles. So even within partisan blocs, continuity in vision and execution is already a huge challenge. Thus, political parties consistently fail to be stable foundations for national vision.

And third (but likely not the last), is the tendency of the national “debate” to become polarised into camps loyal to people rather than ideologies and principles. And, as we are seeing today as in the past, the sorts of “thought leaders” that emerge out of this landscape are as mentally bipolar as the discourse itself. Social media may have democratised national chatter, but has not, in any way, uplifted the quality of said chatter. Rather, it has created an epidemic of narcissism that emanates from cliques of celebrity social media personalities chronically enamored to their massive followings and their power to harness the herd behaviours of their million-strong disciples to further their holier-than-thou agendas or, worse, their own personal aggrandisement. Organised religion once held a monopoly over such power. Not anymore.

Seen under this light, it becomes easy to understand what a massive disappointment the country’s “thought leaders”, “activists”, and social media “influencers” are. They quibble over the people who did this and that in one administration or another but utterly fail at connecting the dots across governments and across time to appreciate the underlying common denominators that make up the foundation of dysfunction that account for the consistent failure of many initiatives to deliver results.

In short, it is that same old intellectual bankruptcy of Philippine society that is at work yet again — thinking faculties even amongst the supposed “best and brightest” that make up the noisiest cliques in the national discourse quite simply are not up to the grade required to tackle these big national issues.

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6 Comments on “The Philippines’ social media ‘influencers’ are mentally ill-equipped to tackle national issues”

  1. I disagree. I have followed Philippine politics for decades now and I am sensing change in the psyche of the Filipinos especially the generations x. Our manner of debate or discussion may not be as intellectual as we want it to be, but the patriotism and desire for change is there. Ordinary Filipinos are now engaging in political debates online with passion. We have tendency to get carried away with loyalty and/or hatred but we will mature and we will improve. The so called influencers may not be as eloquent (Mocha is well aware of it, and we appreciate her honesty) but we have some like the bloggers of GRP that are inspiring us to elevate our level of proficiency and substance. Keep up the good work, we are looking up to you!

    1. Thanks, @TheresaAlvarez. Yes, the passion and vigour is there in the discussions and debate. We just need to channel that energy towards the right ends. Unfortunately many of the so-called “thought leaders” I observe, rather than do that towards productive ends, instead, further fan the flames of unproductive emotionalism.

      This is where I believe the challenge lies in any initiative that aims to uplift the quality of the discourse. We are up against people who are good at stimulating emotional responses, but are lacking in any inclination to focus on asking the right questions.

    2. Typically, we are a highly reactive easily butt hurt people. But we can mature when we try to win the opponent by helping them get back to their senses. When the Yellows call for “hukayin ang bangkay ni Marcos sa LNMB”, you can respond by saying “If will it add a single peso to your monthly take-home pay by doing so, go ahead”. If the Reds insist in fighting for their “never ending revolution”, ask them “have your actions so far brought in more jobs for Filipinos?” And if martial law cry babies bring up their “Never again” slogans, ask them if they are willing to be the ones in the front lines battling terrorists in the South.

      The purpose of a debate is to win the opponent over to your side; so that together you can unite and build the nation. We should also take the initiative to not just react, but also “Set the agenda – the topic of discussion”. The more we move away from emotionalism and personalities, and towards discussions on principles, strategies and solutions, the closer we are to maturing intellectually as a people.

      The last article I wrote garnered a surprising 15K hits on FB – i guess because I included the magic words “Duterte” and “Yellows” in the title. Otherwise, if it were a rather neutral topic like “The benefits of harnessing green energy” – hardly anyone will read. So at this point, Filipinos are still very immature. Somehow, we still need to balance it out: between getting an audience and having relevance. Many of us are still learning as we go along on this journey towards national and cultural maturity. The quality of our debates and discussions is our mirror to keep us moving in the right direction.

      Then there’s the concept of branding – Sass, Mocha and TP have all set up their own pretty impressively; and they did it riding on a bigger giant – Duterte himself. They deserve the socmed clout they’ve worked hard on – hopefully, they won’t squander the opportunities and huge potentials of having enormous followings. It’s quite interesting Sass started out here in GRP with that Tagalog article: Mga katanungan tungkol sa Philippines vs. China arbitration case. Since then, he/she never looked backed.

  2. We have good discourse in the social media websites. However, you cannot prevent, paid trolls and paid bloggers, of whatever partisan color, to infect the good discourse of sensible bloggers.

    You cannot separate a Filipino from his political party loyalty. Partisan politics has been destroying us , ever since the Americans introduced to us the two party political system. Now, it is multiple party political system. More chaos. The more the merrier, of course.

    Any blogger, with sensible mind, can just continue blogging; his voice may be a voice, crying in the wilderness of stupidities. However, just keep shouting. Someday , you may be listened to some people who really care for their country.

  3. As many of us probably already know, Filipinos are very prone to amnesia. It is because of this that many politicians (I prefer not to name names) were able to get the votes that they had for their respective political positions. If Filipinos were not too forgiving, or not too forgetful, or not too “resilient” (I hate this word being used by politicians to cover up for their incompetence during every disaster), most of these politicians would have never been voted back into government.

    What I see as the issue is that the whole political system needs to be replaced by a purely party-based voting system. This way, no one politician could become a “celebrity” through which other less popular politicians could anchor themselves. You probably already know this as the Parliamentary System used by Japan, Canada, UK, Germany, etc. The presidential system is deeply flawed since it does not allow the executive and the legislative to work as one. Although the presidential system theoretically allows for a more “democratic” system, the parliamentary system is still much more effective at actually getting things done since the executive and the legislative branches are interwoven. The major problem with the parliamentary system is that if multiple parties form a government and those parties couldn’t agree on the platform (proportional representation). Thankfully, the parliamentary system is very diverse and the most stable (albeit less democratic and representative) I’ve found during my studies is the first-past-the-post voting system in Canada (winner takes all).

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