When the Davao blast happened on September 2, my first impulse was to start on a barrage of social media posts – maybe an FB post and tweet every 30 minutes, and then in between, shares and reposts of every link, every bit of “news,” every “report” on my social media feed.
But I was watching the news coverage of CNN Philippines and of ABS-CBN News Channel, with newscasters struggling to prolong their coverage, interviewing people on the ground who also had very little information at that point and were therefore only adding to the confusion. I realized that shooting from the hip would be no different.
When you know so little, silence seems to be the order of the day.
But with Pinoy social media, silence is unacceptable.
By the following morning and across the weekend, things were just crazy. The blast was pinned on every group imaginable, and soon enough there was a conspiracy theory about how it was all of the President’s critics coming together to destabilize the government. It was also either a destabilization plot, or a martial law plan, the latter pointing to the possibility that the government itself had planned the blast so that the President could – as he did – declare this highly arguable “state of lawlessness.”
But that would contradict what we know of this President: that one of the things he is most consistent about is his sense of compassion for the masses. And sure, we might say that this drug war is in fact victimizing only the masses, too, given the growing list of poor who are now dead. At the same time, the President’s premise for this drug war is also about liberating precisely these impoverished communities from the chains of the drug business.
This compassion contradiction is worth talking about, but no one seems to want to have this discussion.
Besides, who has time for discussions when we can just compose a Facebook post or ten? Why problematize and rethink anything, when you can just share what the next person you agree with has written? Why engage more fully in disagreement and debate, when it takes less time and energy to speak to each other in an echo chamber?
This is the case for both the pro-Duterte and anti-Duterte camps. And after Rappler launched an anti-bullying campaign premised on blaming the President for the online “hate,” and then in the same breath revealing that it practices hate in the form of elitism, you see how at this point the anti-Duterte people could also be calling the kettle black – just with more acceptable “decent” words.
It’s a fun show to watch for sure. Fun, if it weren’t so dangerous.
I’m not even talking about our “diplomatic” relations with the rest of the world: I think the President comes from a very specific place of defensiveness when he is questioned about human rights violations and the drug war. It does not help that no one wants to understand this better, no one’s demanding data, and no one – at least as far as we know – has actually gone to court for those extrajudicial killings.
Were the militant Left the ones taking on these human rights violations, there would be lawyers filing multiple cases at this point. Alas, we realize that without the militant Left, no one really knows what to do, and we are left with a whole lot of issues, and no clear direction as to what we can do beyond the noise we’re making on social media.
The same might be said about everything else. The Film Development Council of the Philippines (FDCP) employees, for example, whose services (according to my sources) have been terminated under the Liza Diño leadership even when they have years of service and should have been up for regularization instead – as per President Duterte’s directive to end “endo” – have wondered when the Concerned Artists of the Philippines (CAP) will come to their rescue.
Alas, CAP has no stand on the Diño appointment; and no stand as of yet on the suffering of cultural workers under this appointee.
The same silence is what we hear from CAP as per this purportedly representative arts development summit proposing an agenda to the President – an agenda that was created via exclusive by-invitation-only meetings, and which reeks of patronage politics that the President himself has said he stands against.
With the militant Left mostly falling silent, there is no real opposition here. And while there are so many of us who are wanting to be critical, dealing with one issue at a time, we are also overpowered by the noise of the rabid anti-Duterte people, for whom the President can’t do anything right, and which is unsurprisingly tainted at this point by the yellow menace that is this undying idea that Leni Robredo is so ready to take over.
This is what keeps the anti-Duterte noise from actually becoming valid and real opposition. That, and the fact that without a real organized voice – and actions to back it up – then all this is just noise.
Makes you appreciate the militant Left when they were still fighting these battles for all of us.
In his essay in The Sunday Times (4 Sept), critic Patrick Flores captures succinctly what the challenge is for the intelligentsia in the time of President Duterte, given the predisposition to comment, throw our two cents’ worth into the ring of “public” “discourse,” without nary a moment to breathe, take stock, think and rethink about what is we’re doing.
“<…> in the time of Duterte, a new method of thinking and writing is required and warranted, one that is idiosyncratic enough to keep pace with the quick-change, ludic temper of the President, a departure from the warped partisanship of the yellow operators and their jaundiced commentariat.”
But that warped partisanship is not just about yellow privilege anymore; it’s also about the Duterte supporters who see through bias bias bias and not much else; it’s also about the Duterte haters tainted by jaundice because without a clear plan for what to do beyond noise.
And even when it might seem like we’re keeping pace with the President, one also wonders what it is we are being distracted from as we are baited into issue after issue, given soundbite after soundbite. Then you wonder what is silenced by all this noise that we generate ourselves.