Philippine politics

[OPINION] The Dilawans, the DDS, the Dead Tired, and the Dedma

Ariel Ian Clarito

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[OPINION] The Dilawans, the DDS, the Dead Tired, and the Dedma

Illustration by Guia Abogado

'My wife always reminds me that whenever I resort to name-calling, I invalidate my political stance, never mind the facts or truth I cite to support my contention'

The noise from social media can easily be mistaken for signs of a vibrant political culture, where anyone with internet access can express an opinion and enter into a dynamic debate with some random person online. A much closer look, however, will reveal the starkness of the discourse, most of which is adversarial, hardly allowing any room for dissent.

The political landscape in the country in the age of social media is now being shaped by four categories of people: the Dilawans, the DDS, the Dead Tired, and the Dedma. Or for easier understanding, the four Ds.

The first two dominate the rabbling online. The duel often feels like a slugfest where all gloves are off, a heavyweight encounter fueled by emotions running so feverishly high one would think all parties involved were symptomatically afflicted with COVID-19.

Over 20 years ago, I was part of the civil society group in my province that launched the Adios Erap campaign. We met some resistance, but for the most part, the people in our city just looked at us as a nuisance that marched and held rallies at the town plaza. Those who did bother to oppose us – friends, family, colleagues – challenged us to discussions so intense but rarely enervating. How times have changed.

The engagement online nowadays between the two dominant groups rarely remains confined to the issues that stir them to conflict. Battle lines are drawn according to which personality each one supports, with both combatants making it a personal crusade to defend rabidly their partisanship regardless of the issue on the table. Then as if on cue, the debate degenerates into which side possesses more creativity in spewing scathing remarks.

I would be a hypocrite to deny that I have written narratives that mock people from the other side of the spectrum. I often find myself in situations where I am five deep breaths away from typing words I know I would regret, words that could lead to permanent strains in relationships that matter in my life. In my frustration, I too have belittled people who contradict the views I hold to be true. It is, after all, the path with the least resistance from my internal moral compass. It is an itch that simply is too tempting not to scratch. When faced with an antagonistic post online, the more difficult thing to do would be to ignore the urge to respond with a wittier retort complemented by a veiled snide remark. Admittedly, snapping right back is always the more satisfying proposition. It is, however, also the most divisive and the most damaging, like a scratch done so vigorously that it leaves wounds and scars.

Being behind the keyboard has been a proven elixir to emboldening people. The cloak of anonymity has seemingly been taken by some as a license for insolence and even false bravado. They know there is no real danger of immediate retribution. Tell someone to his face he is a moron and chances are, you would get your comeuppance and a swift brand of justice. Post the same thing on social media and you feel insulated from accountability.

My wife always reminds me that whenever I resort to name-calling, I invalidate my political stance, never mind the facts or truth I cite to support my contention. I have realized, rather begrudgingly, that my predisposition to manufacture and hurl invectives does nothing to forward my cause. Neither does it relegate to irrelevance the opinions which oppose mine.

It would be foolish to believe that a modicum of social media de rigueur will lead to people becoming more agreeable. That ship has long sailed and left the harbor. We have come to a point in our country’s history where the gulf between the pro- and anti-admin may be too wide to traverse without one drowning in the undercurrent of political bickering.

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But the ability to display perspicacity is something that never goes out of style, no matter the political climate, no matter the platform. To be forthright in advancing one’s position does not necessitate being unmindful of reflective argumentation that is within the purview of reason and respect. To be magnanimous when one is in the wrong is an invitation to the other party not necessarily to break bread, which might be too much to ask, but at the very least, to give you a listen. It also comes with the guarantee that you will afford them the same courtesy. Go high when they go low, as Michelle Obama very aptly stated. That is how we elevate the level of discourse in our country. That is how we should move forward as a people.

We cannot expect to build a nation when the foundation we lay it on is already compromised by hatred and an aversion to plain, good old-fashioned civility. A political culture that refuses to rise above the toxicity of social media squabbling characterized by a neverending flurry of contempt breeds the third category of people in the list I mentioned – the Dead Tired.

They are the people who believe that raising a cry of protest is futile, that making a point is pointless, lest one has self-flagellant fantasies of getting harangued by attack dogs on the prowl on social media. They are the people who have reached what was initially thought to be a bottomless pit of lassitude, those who have put their hands up in exasperation, as if saying “Screw that. I’m done with this shit.”

The Dead Tired are just a few steps away from crossing over to the fourth category, the one defined by indifference. And that is how a country is brought down to its knees, beyond salvaging, beyond reconstruction, when its people, desensitized and reticent, simply give up and stop caring. –

Ariel Ian Clarito works full-time in the private sector, but also writes on the side for Rappler Sports and the Manila Times. He is father to an 8-year-old daughter who he hopes will grow up to be socially aware and involved in shaping the fabric of society. 

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