The Cult of Politics

By Lcid Crescent D. Fernandez

“One of history’s most dangerous games begins with dividing the world into the good guys and the bad guys and ends with using any means necessary to take the villains out.”

– Stephen Prothero, God Is Not One: The Eight Rival Religions that Run the World – and why their Differences Matter.

I could end this column on that quote alone. It’s brief, easy to understand, and already encompasses all that I am about to say. But let’s stop for a moment and discuss this in the context of politics in the social setting rather than religion. Although, the same point stands since we’ve treated our political affiliations like cults. I characterize these sides as cults because they appear to have clung to their political inclinations like dogma, and have looked at the other side of the spectrum as the antichrist. This, in turn, has left a lot of empathy and understanding out in the cold. All that is left is the perceived war between two political cults, interestingly named by each other’s opposition: the Dilawan vs the DDS.

This is exactly where the problem lies and where the quote comes into play.

This is not a discussion about which side is correct. My political belief lies with neither side. I don’t think anyone’s belief can be so easily and simply contained in a label. That’s the entire problem, and there are three levels as to why these labels created by the oppositions are self-defeating strategies.

First: The merits of the discussions end there.

Once labels are hurled by one side to the other, there is immediately nothing left to say. How many times have you been trying to discuss the merits of your position, and then received the reply of, “Ahh Dilawan/DDS.” This method avoids the merits of whatever you said. You’ve been reduced to a label. You’ve been painted as the other side’s bad guy. Everything you say, then, has no value because it’s already characterized as tainted by that label. You’re only saying that because you allegedly simply align with whatever President Duterte or the Aquinos do. All your experiential, visceral, and rational thinking are dismissed because you are the label and nothing more.

Second: Once that line is drawn, you make yourselves personal adversaries to each other.

Lex Luthor once said that if it weren’t for Superman occupying his mental faculties, he would have cured cancer, solved world hunger, and brought humanity into a golden age. He had no time for any other pursuit in life because all he wanted to do was destroy Superman. This is exactly what happens once that divide exists on a personal level and not a social issue. The divide is wider. Both sides begin to resent each other because their entire human experience is bottled tightly into a label. You were put on a side. That side has to win. That side wins when the other side loses. It doesn’t matter if real progress is had so long as one side can say they’re beating the other. How many times have you seen an article of either side looking bad on Facebook with the caption, “What say you, mga ka-DDS/Dilawan?” as a taunt. It’s almost as if it’s a boxing match, and the bloodier one side is at the end of every round, the better it is for the other.

Third: Echo chambers never solve social issues.

Discourse is a primary concern of every democracy. It’s the bedrock – the foundation. It can’t be called a democracy if there is no discourse. It’s how we make decisions. We talk to each other, we try to understand each other’s viewpoints, and then at the very least attempt to arrive at a decision that helps both sides. Once we paint the other side as bad guys and then dismiss them, all that is destroyed. If all you want is peace of mind in a room where everyone agrees with your every point, then be my guest. Live in your echo chamber and watch as the world is not changed by your stance. You’re action does not help you. It doesn’t help the world. It only makes either side feel like they’re the good guys and must win against the bad guys in every round.

Every round you perceive you win against the other side helps no one. Tearing them down only makes them redouble their efforts to tear you down the next time. Where is your country headed in all of this?

You created your own enemies.
You did it after you labelled them.
Are you racking up the victories?
Is the Philippines now winning?
As Bane told Batman in The Dark Knight Rises, “Victory has defeated you”, and it will continue to defeat the Philippines every round.