(Note: Dharma is a Hindu term that is most equivalent to sacred duty or even raison d’etre. It is also one of the fundamental teachings of the Buddha.)
I have received a lot of comments since I began this blog. While the majority of feedback are pats on the back, it is the fewer minority that scream louder. That is how it always is with criticism after all.
I was very vocal about Manny not running for office. I even wrote a long treatise on why he should lose. These posts were met with loud criticism from Pacman fans, most of them echoing, “How about you, sir? What have you done for the country?”
Same with Gawad Kalinga. I received a lot of responses from those passionate about GK. While most of their comments missed the fact that I set the boundaries of my article to Sitio Target only, they were pretty unanimous in telling me to “Volunteer for GK, see how wrong you are, and write about the other side of the story!”
And while my post about GMA’s SONA yesterday is rather new and there has been a couple of people who challenged me in MLQ3’s blog, the counter-argument is all too familiar. If I don’t buy into GMA’s sweeping vision, he said, perhaps I should propose my own. One person even went farther to ask me who am I to speak for the people.
There is actually a label for this kind of argument where you try to turn the tables on your opponent by asking him or her to own up to what they say and tell everyone what they would do in the situation. It’s called tu quoque (thanks to commenter cvj!) and is somehow a combination of a non sequitur and an ad hominem fallacy. As an argument, it is a desperate maneuver, a cop out. It is designed specifically to hush the opponent by attacking his character albeit indirectly. And when you look at it, it is rather illogical in form and immaterial to the debate. Illogical because I am not in the same position as the person in question, and therefore immaterial because your attacking me doesn’t weaken my argument. Don’t shoot the messenger, as they say.
I can’t measure up to the Pacman. I haven’t achieved anything close to what Tony Meloto has. Above all, I am not the President of the Philippines. However, that does not deny me the position to criticize them. This is what a democracy is all about, so take a moment before you play that “crab mentality” card. Please. Don’t let that be an excuse for us to be lazy and indignant about people who criticize the status quo — regardless of how good or bad it is.
So who am I to speak for the people? I am no one. And you are?
At the least, one can shoot down my arguments for its innate weaknesses. I can concede if my critique — as merely a young high school social studies teacher as a lot love to remind me — is weaker compared to that of a seasoned political scientist, a lawyer or even a public official. Our perspectives and level of expertise may vary, but a debate is the realm of logic and reason, so may the best facts or reasoning win. If one is less qualified than another, then let the arguments speak for themselves.
Therefore, this leads me to a more ‘extremist’ example which I’ve received a handful of times. To say that I have no right to criticize Pacman or GK because I am not in a position to do so is logical suicide. All I have to do is use that same logic and say that one has no right to criticize me because he or she is not in a position to do so. It may be bad form on my side but I didn’t falter first. So notice how I never responded to people who told me this.
Originally, this article’s train of thought ran differently. It was less venomous.
It was entitled “A Different Dharma” and was supposed to be a reflection on how we Filipinos define duty. However, when I think about the comments I receive, I just grew convinced at how illogical they were and how little they had to do with our sense of duty or even honor. When people ask me about what I can do, it’s not really to discover what I can but to reveal what I can’t. It’s a lazy form of debate which I think will be difficult to excise from the Internet considering how it is structured.
Nonetheless, the original insight of “A Different Dharma” is a response to all those who challenge me about what I can do better than the Pacman, Tony Meloto, or GMA. My response? I teach. So, I apologize if I’ve never stepped in a boxing ring; I’m too busy with the four walls of the classroom. I apologize if I don’t have time to commit to GK; I work hard each day to form men and women of commitment to our country. I apologize if I can’t give a sweeping vision like GMA; I’m busy making these students’ dreams possible and hopefully one of them can give us a sweeping vision one day.
I don’t pretend to be superior to those I criticize. I just simply wonder how they could do their job better since that is one thing I think of for myself every day. Pacman is a hero; I hope he stays that way. GK is a symbol of hope; I hope they realize the enormous responsibility that carries. And GMA is a president with a vision and a dream; I just hope she could get everyone on board.
We all do a different Dharma. We all have our roles to play. Though we don’t often agree how, we live in a society where it is so easy to check and balance. But even that we have to learn to do right, and that is the point of my brief lecture on logic.
After all, Karma is Dharma’s sister.