From a war about personalities to a challenge of what we can do

The View From Taft
Patrick Adriel H. Aure

Posted on December 15, 2016

Having been exposed to both traditional and social media in the previous weeks, my close friends and I have felt a mix of heavy emotions -- from angst to bewilderment; from anxiety to deep curiosity. Fanatics of political parties and personalities, both local and global, have engaged in word wars (which felt like mini world wars). From “the pen is mightier than the sword,” it feels like “the keyboard is mightier than nuclear bombs.”

I have heard stories about years of friendship and relationships being strained, if not fully cut, by differing political inclinations. The aftermath of the US elections and the controversial Libingan ng mga Bayani issues have revealed a side of people that is opposite to what 21st century progress should look like. Flame and troll wars in the Internet have run rampant, as if to foreshadow that the next world war would take place not in physical space, but in the digital world. So much for unity and healing!

Perhaps we, as citizens both in the physical and digital realms, have been focusing too much on wars between personalities. These wars seem like battles of cults, where the goal is not solutions for a better tomorrow but rather, the massaging of a cult’s ego.

So instead of thinking about how to defend the personalities and idols we may be affiliated with, perhaps we can answer the challenge of “what can we do?” What we need is not a victor of a war between idols, but rather, continuous attempts to solutions for relatable problems such as poverty, mass transportation, telecommunications, and world sustainability.

This is why I offer my utmost respect to authentic volunteers, artists, movers, leaders, and social entrepreneurs who have relentlessly channeled their idealism towards something more practical and impactful for citizens. What I have learned from them is that we do not hold all the answers, but we have been empowered to act and do something in pursuit of the common good. As such, I offer the following questions for us to reflect on:

1 Instead of heralding someone as a hero and his or her enemy as the devil, is it not better to ask what we can do at work and in our free time to search for meaningful solutions to our problems?

We need to stop ourselves from fueling personality and popularity contests and instead focus on issues. Participating in personality wars seems to promote the trapo and epal culture we so want to deviate from. Social enterprises, non-profits, educational groups, and even well-meaning government units are looking for people willing to share their time and expertise to prototype solutions for our country’s problems. We may have been focusing too much on identifying a story’s protagonist and antagonist when we should have been internalizing the lessons and morals in the first place.

2 Instead of bashing, trolling, and pulling each other down because of perceived differences, is it not better to discover similarities in and complements to our skills and advocacies?

We may have been spending too many hours on Facebook and Twitter, focusing on politics when we can instead volunteer for nonprofits, jump-start advocacy projects with like-minded people, and work on issues. Social media has exposed just how much our bayanihan spirit has deteriorated. Progress in technology should not lead to the deterioration of our Filipino values, but should make authentic unity more seamless and feasible.

3 Instead of dividing ourselves into political colors and geographical regions, is it not better to call ourselves Filipinos willing to do what we can for our nation?

I thought President Duterte was elected because of the nation’s clamor for unity. But isn’t the war between colors and personalities highlighting our division instead of unifying our diversity as a strength? We may have been too busy treating each other as enemies when we should be allies working together. Moving on is not about forgetting about transgressions and living life as if yesterday did not happen. True moving on is acknowledging the sins of yesterday and the failures of today so that tomorrow, we can go beyond these war of personalities and do something... better.

Social activist and former First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt is supposed to have said: “Great minds discuss ideas; average minds discuss events; small minds discuss people.” Our country has been through too much to remain in small-minded thinking. It is high time we discuss ideas and solutions!

So, fellow Filipinos, what can we do?

Patrick Adriel H. Aure, MBA, is a graduate researcher at the Center for Business Research and Development of De La Salle University. He is excited about exploring cases featuring social enterprises, sustainability, innovation, and new business models.