On Philippine Politics and Perceptions
You know that we are entering the elections season once more when bickering and extreme views on different camps flood our newsfeed. To the annoyance of many, other people just opt to totally shut down from all these conversations which to them is futile.
On a different end, there are those people who are so engaged when it comes to discussion. I could not deny that as a student of Political Science, these types of conversations capture me. I like hearing people’s thoughts and views and make analyses out of them. Hence, I engage as much as I could. However, I am amazed at how diverse people’s views are and the reason for them. This was so evident today after a charged discussion with one of my work colleagues. In the end, I realized that political conversations are always personal.
People’s opinions are shaped by their perception of truth & sad as it may be, factual & data-driven conversations would not appeal to most people, at least not yet.
In the case of the Philippines, there is a lot of propaganda that we have to unravel in order to uncover the truth. Truth, at its current state, is different from people to people. This is not to say that there is no universal truth but to acknowledge the reality that from people to people, they have their own versions of the truth.
It is rather to highlight that people view truth differently — affected largely by their own experiences or their family’s experiences. A lot of times, our truths, or better yet perceptions of truth, are doubtful because we tend to fall, unknowingly, to our own biases. At times, to the detriment of discussions, we close our minds from different perspectives and listen only to our own echo chambers. I am still very much guilty of it.
Moreover, as a nation that relies heavily on the use of social media, it is easier to believe what is posted on social media platforms than the books, peer-reviewed journals, and other articles available. If we dig even deeper into how our information and education system works, we can also acknowledge the reality that not everyone has access to such information despite it being widely available. Often, the source of information is the authority figures such as teachers or family members — many of whom also have their own perceptions of truth and own biases.
A single video posted on tiktok, youtube, or facebook could cover so much information that appears to be true. With how I see in our culture, we tend to believe people who seem reliable without questioning their arguments — this is how much importance we put on the authority figures above us and also how we fall deeply into our echo chambers — those that strengthen our current views are accepted while those that negate what we currently believed in are discarded.
This, I think, is also heavily influenced by the way we grew up. As young Filipino, we were told to listen and to not question. Sadly, this has extended to how we are engaged in our politics. We tend to believe what the people we consider are “authority figures” and take their opinion as ours — at times, without questions. There is still so much work and a long way to go to actually develop critical thinking in the minds of the people.
Going back to the conversation on politics and perceptions, people’s views are always coming from their own experience or their family’s experience under a certain regime. It is important for us to acknowledge that people are always coming from a certain experience, hence, their perspectives. Thus, it is important to realize that when we engage, factual conversations, often, do not appeal to many people.
To be blunt, the Philippine electorate is still far from having a critical mind, i.e. people who based their votes on competence, track record, etc. Having intelligent voters means being able to be critical and withdraw support when necessary. We tend to view our politicians as if they are superheroes that could solve all problems and could not make mistakes and be called out for them.
The only reason I can think of why it is what it is is that most, still see politicians as an extension of themselves. Their votes go to the candidate who resembles them more closely. Among our politicians, we look for people who best represent us based on the reality of ourselves. This is also to say and acknowledge that Philippine politics is very personal and familial — thus the continued existence and thriving political dynasties.
Taking this in the context of our elections, sadly, the more that you highlight and appeal to people’s rational thinking to not vote for a politician that came from a family of plunderers, and the more that this certain politician keeps quiet, the more the people see him as an underdog who doesn’t fight against the bickering thrown at him. It follows then that the more people see it this way, the more that they relate to him because the masses have always felt that way — an underdog in the system that beats them where the elitist or learned people are always the antagonists.
This is of course a very hasty generalization. What I am trying to drive at is that factual conversation, based on the current level of our electoral maturity, would not appeal to most people. Engaging in conversations is far more than laying down facts, we have to appeal to their perception and to where they are coming from.
Sadly, and even to my dismay, when you question and correct the facts that people have, the more that they get defensive and emotional about their stance. Our tendency, when we believe in data, is to be baffled when people lay down justifications that are not factual and obviously are conspiracy theories, and yet they believe. It drains our patience but we have to understand that the fight is not between the person but in the ‘perception of each other’s truth’ and how these truths were shaped by the things we know and our own personal experiences. If there is one keyword, it is patience. It is a long arduous process and patience is important.
To end, the kind of politics that we are in is very much driven by our own personal experiences where we draw our perceptions. While arguing using facts may seem to be the most logical thing to do, we have to go beyond that if our aim is to really reach out to people. I guess the best thing to do is to listen and to see where they are coming from. While you irk when you hear conspiracy theories, suspending judgment should be the first response. It is only when we know where the person is actually coming from would we be able to engage with more understanding and more openness.
I am still learning this.