‘Dutertards’ versus ‘Yellowtards’
A CIVIL war of sorts is happening in Philippine society alongside the ongoing “war on drugs” that is being waged by the administration of President Duterte.
To be precise, an uncivil word war is taking place between two opposing camps. One camp scornfully calls the other “Dutertards,” and the Dutertards contemptuously call their opponent “Yellowtards.”
The term “Dutertards” refers to supporters of the President who are viewed by the opposing camp as tolerating absolutely no form of criticism of him. Dutertards are accused of putting blind trust in the President, and of treating him as a virtual god who can do no wrong.
The term “Yellowtards” refers to those perceived to be loyal to former president Benigno Aquino III, and who are viewed by the Dutertards as losers engaging in sour grapes and who cannot move on from the defeat of their presidential candidate. They are accused of faultfinding without appreciating the overall good that the President’s actions are supposedly bringing to the country, and of treating him as doing nothing right.
The word war is most virulent in social media. If words can kill, the casualties will be countless because of the harsh exchanges between the members of the two camps who are so passionately—and often rabidly—against each other.
There are no data on the approximate number of people identified with each camp, or how comparatively large one group is compared to the other. The Dutertards assert that they are 16 million strong, in reference to the number of people who voted Mr. Duterte into the presidency. On the other hand, the Yellowtards point out that the number of people who voted against Mr. Duterte was more than 16 million.
The last nationwide survey showing that Mr. Duterte enjoys an unprecedented 91-percent trust rating was conducted by Pulse Asia on July 2-8, or at the beginning of his presidency. Many people are surely eager to find out if this impressive trust rating has been sustained or has declined after the crises and controversies that have since happened. These crises and controversies include the bomb attack in Davao City on Sept. 2, the increasing number of deaths resulting from the war on drugs, Mr. Duterte’s cussing of US President Barack Obama (which Mr. Duterte denied after expressing regret for it), the war against the Abu Sayyaf, and others.
There is also no indication of any social and economic divide between the opposing camps because each counts supporters from both the rich and poor.
The Indian parable of the blind men and the elephant serves as a perfect caricature of the heated clash between the Dutertards and Yellowtards.
In the parable, a king summons six blind men to the palace and tells them to describe what an elephant looks like by feeling it. “The blind man who feels a leg says the elephant is like a pillar; the one who feels the tail says the elephant is like a rope; the one who feels the trunk says the elephant is like a tree branch; the one who feels the ear says the elephant is like a hand fan; the one who feels the belly says the elephant is like a wall; and the one who feels the tusk says the elephant is like a solid pipe.”
The men proceed to compare notes, end up in heated argument, and even come to blows.
The king then explains to the blind men: “All of you are right. The reason every one of you is telling it differently is because each one of you touched a different part of the elephant.
So, actually the elephant has all the features you mentioned.”
Like the blind men in the parable, supporters and detractors of President Duterte’s war on drugs see different aspects of it. The aspects that each camp sees are partial truths that do not show the whole truth about the antidrug campaign.
The supporters speak the truth when they point out the benefits of the campaign in aspects where it is carried out the right way. The detractors equally speak the truth when they point out the cost of lives in aspects where the campaign is carried out the wrong way. The supporters cannot invoke the benefits to deny the existence of the cost. The detractors cannot use the cost to deny the existence of the benefits.
The parable of the blind men and the elephant has been used since ancient times to warn people against preachers and scholars who talk about “absolute truth” or “exclusive religious claims” when, in fact, they see only one side of an issue. It is also used to “illustrate the principle of living in harmony with people who have different belief systems, and that truth can be stated in different ways.”
The parable has been further used to explain “that one’s subjective experience can be true, but that such experience is inherently limited by its failure to account for other truths or a totality of truth.”
The parable highlights the importance of considering all viewpoints in order to obtain a full picture of reality.
In the heated national debate over the war on drugs, we reenact the parable in our real lives when we refuse to acknowledge the different perspectives of reality that our neighbors truthfully see from their own vantage points. Even with our eyes open, we betray ourselves as a nation of blind men and women.
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