Here’s the danger of seeking immediate satisfaction by being hurtful to fellow voters who don’t share your opinion: You betray your own conviction.
If you were trained to be meek—as is common in Filipino culture—we are sometimes convinced that all biting statements are proof of courage. But we must remember that the only ones who deserve lambasting are those who commit high offenses like abusing seats of power. We all lose when we sow further division within our communities.
In the days that followed COMELEC’s announcement of partial results, there have been posts circulating about rejecting the spirit of bayanihan as a form of retaliation against voters for opposition candidates. Sure, these posts are born out of deep hurt and disfranchisement. But it’s worrying that this could possibly be the “acceptance” that some people chose to arrive at after going through their five stages of grief. It’s not only petty, it’s also imperceptive of the fact that struggles such as lack of job opportunities with fair wages, lack of high-quality social services and infrastructures, as well as lack of disaster preparedness are all shared. And although we’re all living under the same reality, our perception towards these issues are largely shaped by our physical and digital circumstances.
Did we spend the last couple of months convincing just ourselves that our convictions are right or others, too? Is it beneficial to waste all that effort and let it wither in the past when we haven’t made COMELEC accountable for its shortcomings yet? Do we see our choices as a trendy badge that we can take off after patting ourselves on the back and calling it a day?
Want to continue using your sphere of influence post-elections? Let’s share notes on the underrated art of taking part in discourse with kindness. Here are some points that worked for me.
Find your common ground
As mentioned earlier, it’s important to remember that we’re never wholly separate from each other. The “You’re wrong, I’m right” isn’t as effective as the “We’re in the same boat” rhetoric because we inherently seek like-minded people. Finding similar hardships is also a grounding activity because it reminds us that structural inequality is the real enemy.
Hear each other out and find the base belief of each conviction
Discourse is a conversation. It doesn’t help if you’re both wearing invisible ear plugs. Understand where the other person is coming from. Once you see the overarching belief or values where their opinion stands, create a compelling argument with that in mind. After all, values and ideals are called thus because there’s something inherently good about them. It’s in the plans for execution where we differ in opinion.
Know what you’re talking about
Ad hominem is the last resort of people who don’t really know the basis of their opinion. You won’t really feel the need to be hurtful if your understanding of the subject isn’t surface-level. Arm yourself with knowledge and use receptivity as a gauge for adjusting your language.
Let love be your guiding force
Finally, remember that love is what has always propelled profound change within communities. In religion and politics, many seek love and support. Behind rage and indifference is a story of betrayed love. Speak out of love and speak sweetly if you want to be heard.
Of course, criticizing institutions and abusers of power is a different story. In those cases, it is their responsibility to listen. If they don’t, they should be prepared to face a reckoning.