Filipino activists have it all wrong. The scope of their advocacies is defined by people, and not by principle, issues, and ideas. When one defines her interests or advocacies around a person, she necessarily locks herself into a non-negotiable loyalty to that person’s own advocacies. It is a lazy sort of advocacy — picking based on brand rather than on a deliberate evaluation of options.
For example, the majority of Filipinos see themselves as devout Catholic followers of Jesus Christ. Catholic dogma clearly prescribes adherence to “natural” birth control and, presumably, puts forth a Jesus Christ who frowns upon condom users. That puts its adherents at odds with the reproductive health bill that the government of former President Benigno Simeon ‘BS’ Aquino III pushed past Congress during its term. Current President Rodrigo Duterte, also runs with this law and intends to carry it through to its full application. So are Filipinos Catholics first and Yellowtard or Dutertard second? Or is it the other way around? Whatever way you look at it, there will be conflict and inconsistency at the ideas level when personal positions are defined around personalities.
Going down to a lower level, we see the current social media “activist” industry in full swing with one or the other “expert” or maven in that rarefied community of powerful “digital influencers” preaching to their respective choirs of followers and subscribers. Each one is a successful communications manager in their own right having built a strong following on the basis of compelling content consistently delivered to their audience.
One wonders, however, what motivates the followers of these “influencers”. Are they drawn to them for their personal brands? Or are they drawn to them because of their ideas? While it is quite edifying to be hired for one’s looks, eventually looks fade. One’s intelligence and consistency, however, usually outlives the gloss of cult of celebrity and personality. Look no further than those who were once drawn to current “vice president” Leni Robredo’s prayerful colegiala veneer and her tsinelas humble widow act. They, in effect, hired Leni for her looks before they eventually discovered she was a dud of an employee.
Yet, today, here we see the same people — former Leni admirers — now latched onto Duterte like barnacles. Indeed, a predisposition to put personalities first before substance is a hard habit to break for these people. When people go shopping for advocacies and look for brands rather than ingredients they often make expensive mistakes and likely spend entire lifetimes making the same mistakes over and over again.
Duterte and, for that matter, BS Aquino, are all just branded people. Like a pack of Marlboros or Camels, there is usually only one or a couple active ingredients that make political personalities tick. Thus one’s beholdenness to one politician or the other is, for the most part, irrational and, therefore, subjective. This is why no one camp will win over the other. Lazy minds will latch on to their respective Prince Charmings — or spouse beater, as some cases may be — regardless of what they are told about that person.
Truly intelligent people, on the other hand, put in a bit of brain work when shopping for their advocacies. They pick and choose on the basis of ideas guided by their personal positions in various ideological spectra — attitudes towards sex, law and order, diplomacy, social welfare, “decency”, etc. Which personality stands behind those positions is secondary. Indeed, selecting a person to support and elect is just an unfortunate administrative necessity that is a limitation of the “democracy” we choose to subject ourselves to. Usually the politician who comes closest to embodying one’s personal positions on a number of issues important to her wins that person’s favour — and her ballot.
If today’s social media landscape is composed of more of the latter sort of people — people who put ideas first and regard personalities as a mere secondary administrative annoyance, the Philippine National “Debate” would be a vastly more intelligent and productive one. Duterte’s dysfunctional communications apparatus, for example could be openly criticised by both Yellowtards and Dutertards and solutions found. For that matter, there wouldn’t even be any such things as Yellowtards and Dutertards. There would only be a modern and intelligent nation composed of an electorate who hold politicians to account on the basis of administrative and leadership performance and not the mere stage performance that the current crop of Filipino “activists” and self-styled “thought leaders” cannot see beyond.