Beyond color lines
Filipinos have a vision problem. They only seem to see only two colors at a time. Everything they see and read are filtered through this bi-color lens. They impose a color on a person and even when this person cries out “I’m not a color! I’m much more than that!” they simply say “No, you’re just yellow/pink/red. You can’t be anything else.” They even use color to explain things. “He’s doing that because he’s red.” “She’s saying that because she’s yellow.” There are no beliefs, no principles. Not even a full rainbow; just two colors at a time.
We call this black and white thinking or dichotomous thinking. When we think in dichotomies, we assume that if one side is good, the other must be bad. And if one side is good, then they’re absolutely, irrefutably good—and any criticism logged against it must be out of spite or envy. In reality, most individuals have both good and bad, and everything in between. More importantly, black and white thinking limits our capacity to see reality as it is. We are unable to see the gray in a situation; we don’t recognize nuance and context. We don’t take a step back to see the larger picture. We are too focused on liking one color and hating another. No real solution can be found in a world of only two colors.
Let’s take, for example, a post from a supposed teacher that went viral claiming “psychological facts” (without credible sources to back it up) that BBM was more honest because his gestures are more animated while Leni’s clasped hands indicate deceit. As both a psychologist and teacher, I can’t begin to tell you how wrong and harmful this claim was. First, there are no absolute interpretations of gestures. Second, it is unethical to make conclusions about a person’s character based on micro-behaviors. Can you imagine if a teacher accused your child of lying simply because their hands were clasped together? Ridiculous and full of prejudice. This viral post was criticized by Dr. Inna, a foreign social media personality and psychologist known for clarifying psychology myths. The original poster then went on to accuse her of siding with her “idol,” even if Dr. Inna had no idea about our domestic politics and was simply fact-checking the claim. This is a clear example of how some cannot think outside color lines and assumes that any opinion must be because they’re from a certain color.
Here’s a more complex example: the Philippines just achieved a historic triumph through Maria Ressa, who became the first Filipino recipient of the globally prestigious Nobel Peace Prize. She joins the ranks of 109 Nobel Peace Prize laureates since the award’s inception in 1901 and is one of only 18 women who were awarded the prize. Her feat should be a source of national pride and the rest of the world is already celebrating. Her win is a crucial test for this administration—and its constituents—if it can think beyond color lines and recognize her achievement simply as it is. Alas, it was a level of maturity that was too much to expect. Social media posts and comments were divided into the all-too-familiar color lines—one side celebrating her achievement and the other downplaying her win and the Nobel altogether.
What people tend to overlook is why Maria Ressa won—and this goes beyond color lines and even beyond Philippine politics. She shares the prize with Dmitry Muratov, a Russian journalist, for “their efforts to safeguard freedom of expression, which is a precondition for democracy and lasting peace,” according to the Nobel Committee. In particular, they cited her work in reporting on the administration’s “war on drugs” that resulted in more than 6,000 deaths, per the government’s own admission (former ICC prosecutor Bensouda’s report estimated the true death toll to be between 12,000 to 30,000). They also lauded Ressa and Rappler’s investigation on “how social media is being used to spread fake news, harass opponents, and manipulate public discourse.”
Maria Ressa is fighting for a belief—a belief that truth and facts must be protected. Her fight goes beyond this administration as multiple governments around the world have been using similar tactics of using troll farms and fake news to render facts irrelevant and to silence genuine discourse. It requires much less thinking to see Ressa only as a color. It is a lot more difficult to take the time to understand her principles and why people recognize her as a vanguard of truth.
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