September 7, 2019

#TPonMB: Personal advocacies and the ABCD of politics

The relative political calm in the months after the May, 2019, elections has come to an end: sentence reductions for convicted felons, the SOGIE bill, South China Sea tensions, Death Penalty’s revival, the Communist insurgency…the list goes on and on.

[NOTE: This piece was first published in the Manila Bulletin on 31 August 2019].

I have my own take on each of these issues and I have been quite vocal on most of them through my Facebook page ThinkingPinoy. More than just promoting my own views through this column, however, I feel that it’s more important, at least for now, to help everyone get back on track by sharing with my readers the four principles I generally follow when I publicly speak my mind.

Don’t get me wrong: I admit that I oftentimes fail to adhere to them, but I try to stick to them as best as I can. I think I am already done with the days when I approached issues with unbridled anger. After years of being in the public scene, I learned that moderation is key.

I noticed, throughout the years, that my efforts yielded better results whenever I seriously take into consideration the principles that I’m about to list down.

First, Politics is Addition.
We live in a democracy where popular opinion is the primary determinant of political advocacies, i.e., advocates should be able to gain popular support. But just like what I tell my friends over and over, you can’t convince someone to switch to your side if the first thing you do is piss him off.

A balanced mix of passion, knowledge, and compassion is crucial in every advocacy, and too much of one thing – and too little of another – can sabotage the entire endeavor. Advocates are passionate and they’re usually knowledgeable about the subject, but a lot of them fail because they forget that compassion is just as important, compassion not only for the ones they’re fighting for, but also to those who they are fighting against.

Proving to yourself that you’re right is one thing, but making others see it the same way is an entirely different matter, and that leads us to…

Second, Politics is Belonging.
Political debates are usually a zero-sum game, where one side’s gain is the other side’s loss… and we all know that losses generate resentment, resentment that may rear its ugly head when the next political issue comes along.

We can avoid this by showing opponents that all of us are mostly on the same side. Advocates should appeal not to their opponent’s position, but to their interests. See how a policy proposal can benefit its opponents, and explain this to them. For policy proposal that seem to benefit a few, explain how benefitting a few will, even in the long run, benefit the majority.

Third, Politics is Compromise.
I know for a fact that I cannot get everything I want, and I believe the same holds true for everyone else. We all have differing political interests and the way to go forward is finding a way to set policies that optimally reconcile these clashing desires. No single law is perfect: law inherently is a compromise subscribed to by millions of citizens with different ways of viewing the world.

As Norman Vincent Peale once said, “Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, you’ll land among the stars.” Advocates should learn that compromise is a core aspect of politics, and achieving a less-than-ideal outcome is so much better than maintaining the status quo.

Simply shocking the system into submission usually requires bloody revolutions, and I’m not really fond of those gory stuff.

Societal advancement is a process of iterative development where a society adopts less-than-ideal solution after less-than-ideal solution, in the hope that these successive incremental improvements will allow it to go nearer to its ideal state of affairs.

The world is imperfect and it always will be, but we can make it less so.

Fourth, Politics is Divisive.
Most importantly, I find it really odd that even some political analysts decry the divisiveness of Philippine politics, when the fact of the matter is that politics by nature is divisive. Has there ever been a time in Philippine History when ALL political factions united as one? Even when our forefathers fought against Spanish colonization, divisiveness existed among our own ranks: Emilio Aguinaldo himself readily confessed that he ordered Andres Bonifacio’s execution.

Instead viewing the divisiveness of politics like it’s some sort of temporal anomaly, we need to see it as a democratic political reality, and the primary task of every self-proclaimed advocate is to minimize it, or its ill effects at least. Nobody can eliminate divisiveness, but we can take the divisiveness down a notch. Case in point is the latest trust and approval ratings of the sitting President.

I know some may accuse me of hypocrisy after reading this article, but even Hitler saying the moon is round doesn’t make it flat.

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