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Thursday, June 1, 2023

[YOUTH SPEAK] Dealing with Political Fanaticism

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If there is one thing Filipinos are known for when it comes to politics, it is their propensity to self-sabotage. Case in point, the fanatical attitude of Filipino voters towards elected officials has always been one of the impediments to development and democracy in the country. Such political fanaticism is common in the Philippines since there is an absence of consistent political participation beyond the election day.

Fanaticism in the context of politics basically means the subservient veneration of voters to so-called public servants. It suspends the vital importance of the inquisitiveness of the voters when holding government officials accountable. Hence, elected officials often consciously see it as an invitation to satisfy the public with mere lip service and not act upon their vowed responsibilities.

Although it has always been part of the pattern of Philippine political climate, political fanaticism has been at its peak since 2016. Manifested in surveys, many Filipinos remain in support of the current regime despite the latter’s obvious blunders and failure to deliver sweet campaign promises. For instance, Pres. Rodrigo Duterte’s self-imposed 6-month drug war deadline failed miserably; if anything, his war on drugs campaign has only resulted to alleged police brutality. This failure, however, has not changed the minds of many of his supporters.

Personal and collective efforts to challenge the political fanaticism of Duterte’s supporters have been rampant on social media platforms. Many users provide counterarguments against the political propagandas whose sole purpose is to intensify the blind devotion of Filipino voters. Some directly respond to the comments of legitimate users expressing their continuous support for Duterte and his political allies. Although the intention is good, many of these efforts do not bring changes at all because of the unexamined aggressive approach.

Those who identify themselves as against Duterte or “anti-Duterte” are commonly in the frontlines of combatting political fanaticism. They are the ones who actively engage in discussions taking place on social media. Counterproductively, these efforts have only led to further widening of rift among the political divisions in the country. Instead of seeing a growing number of Filipinos changing their political views, what we have only witnessed is hostility from different sides of spectrum.

This outcome may be attributed to the way responders approach the situation. When dealing with a Duterte supporter, those who are against Duterte are quick when labelling someone as “Diehard Duterte Supporter (DDS)” or “Dutertard.” These names are often equated as having no ability to critically ponder on issues. In a more vulgar term, being a DDS or Dutertard simply implies “stupidity.” The aggressive nature of this attitude wastes the chance of establishing a good conversation that could have responded to the real problem underlying political fanaticism. It only triggers people with a firm devotion to retaliate violently and, therefore, heightens the line separating the public. Hence, not only does distinguishing a supporter of a political figure as inferior to those who hold a different opinion bring no change, but it also exacerbates the problem.

It is very important not to lose sight of the intention of joining conversations using any platform. Participation always means helping synthesize discussions with an objective of delivering a more intelligible story; otherwise, it can no longer be called as such. In the context of political fanaticism, opening a discussion is ideally intended to make up for the exclusion of ordinary Filipinos from actual political dialogues.

Political fanaticism is essentially a manifestation of the failure of the government to unleash the citizens’ ability to think critically by institutionalizing policies.  

Although the Filipino people remain deprived of having access to an institutionalized voters’ education, bringing discussions closer to the public by allowing a two-way communication will help disabuse the voters of their illusions. This requires an effort of showing sympathy, providing information, and not treating the people as the problem, but as dialogue-partners in bringing change in Philippine politics.

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