The other enemy

Philippine news has always been a circus, but moreso now, at the height of the Covid-19 crisis, than ever before. This has divided people to the extremes. On one hand, there are those who complain about the government and are demanding better measures. On the other are those who are defending its policies, and believe that the course of action being taken now is satisfactory. I’m in the former, and I have always been vocal against our rulers’ out-of-touch, anti-poor governance.

I’ve observed us Filipinos pitting ourselves against one another. We fight with the “other side” – those whose opinions differ from ours – and we end up getting too distracted, lost in the myriad of pettiness. We generalise those who are of a different mind, and forget that this fight is with an invisible enemy, and not with each other.

A few days ago, two good friends of mine complained about my opinion of our government. They told me that I was too negative, and that I had no right to complain because I, “haven’t contributed anything to the betterment of my country.” They went on to list down a few other people who were “too negative,” and jokingly said these others should form an anti-government club with me.

My friends and I have different opinions, but we’ve always mutually respected each others’ differences. Why was this case different? Their complaints literally felt like a stab at the heart. These are my closest friends, how could they say this about me? How could they pair up and do this together? I saw a chunk of our mutual respect chipping off.

Their complaint drove the point home for me: that what’s happening in the Philippines – and, contextually, the whole world – drives a wedge between people. This wedge is so deep that we’ve begun to feel disrespect, and even a deep contempt, towards those whose opinions are different. This is why my country is at chaos: because we see other people as enemies, and cement in our minds that they always will be. As we plant these seeds of hate, we also set aside our salvation: uniting for the sake of our country.

Honestly, I’m far from being a saint. I also tend to stereotype those who have a different stance to mine. But I hope that my friends’ words would serve as a guiding light, to help me see that I should have more tolerance, acceptance, and respect towards others. If I could contribute anything to my country (other than taxes!), then it would be the will to set aside my differences with others, and collaborate in the face of turmoil.

Painting: The Raft of the Medusa by Théodore Géricault

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