When I woke up this morning, the first thing I did was access my Facebook Newsfeed, a bad habit I developed over the COVID-19 lockdown in Manila. To start the day with this is the worst thing I can do nowadays, for I’d be sending myself off an emotional roulette, not knowing what I’ll end up reading and how it would make me feel. I shouldn’t be surprised; social media’s success relies heavily on engagement, not on substance. We are more likely to be ‘fed’ with emotionally-charged content because we engage more if a post incites, fear, anger, or surprise than apathy.
For breakfast, I had a serving of hate; hate for the government, hate for those who support the government, hate for those who are against the government and hate for those who choose to remain silent. Scrolling down my Newsfeed is like riding on a pendulum, swinging from one extreme to the other: left-wing to right-wing, warm to hostile, pro to anti. Add a layer of pandemic, and the chaos of cyberspace is multiplied a hundredfold.
If you are, like me, disheartened by recent events, I invite you to do the three things in response to this madness.
Prudently discern the information you take in.
Part of discerning information is searching for context. When all evidence points to the government’s inefficiency, it is easy to point to them and say they are not doing their job. But that seems too simple a conclusion for me. How come it is difficult for such able individuals, who would not have earned a seat in power without some kind of intellect, to do what is seemingly simple and obvious — a matter of common sense? That’s because it may not be that simple.
When we know how our government is structured, and how politics piles up more layers on top of it, we understand why it is difficult for to streamline operations, and why it is challenging for those at the helm to ‘unite as one’. Apart from that, we do not have full access to information the government has, and until we do, we can never be sure that their decisions are completely unsound given the circumstances.
We must be aware of the power of the press to shape public consciousness, too. I remember watching a short-lived HBO series called The Newsroom, which depicted the undeniable politics and power-play by media agencies. This is not to say that all reporters are unethical, but that news media is a major industry at the end of the day and there are selfish few who profit from exploiting the public.
We are very limited by what is being reported. To make sense of the world through news pieces alone is like seeing things through binoculars alone. What goes on behind the camera, or outside the words of an article, are unknown to us. And what is unknown to us could make a whole lot of sense, if only we know them.
There are over- and under-reported stories, and pieces that are politically-slanted. Words are spliced out of context, and phrases are awash with emotion. Some well-meaning journalists are unable to separate their emotions and personal views from their work and in turn mislead their readers.
If we do not read our news with some skepticism and learn to distinguish fact from opinion, we become prone to prejudice, a staunch enemy of the very things we fight for.
Seek a higher plane of discernment, called prayer.
God brought the Israelites on exile throughout the wilderness for forty years. He put a cloud over their heads, parted the sea, and supplied manna from Heaven. Jesus calmed the storm, fed five thousand with five loaves of bread and healed the sick when they touched His cloak. Only the Sovereign Power behind this universe can reveal truth, deliver peace and give Love as a remedy to the human condition.
When we pray, we acknowledge that God is in control.
We do not ask for our wishes to be fulfilled in our terms, but His.
Our hearts are then humbled and prepared to accept His will.
Like putting a witness on a stand, we lament and question God for every unpleasant circumstance.
But He turns the tables around because we are the guilty ones.
We face our natural frailty, and when the soul sinks into despair, His grace uplifts.
We give thanks, because we realize there is always something to be thankful for.
Slowly, our gratefulness expands, and before we know it, His peace sets in.
And we free up our hearts to do the next thing.
Support those in authority.
We do this not because we share the same values, but because we recognize the larger impact of working hand in hand than divided.
We support by doing what is lawful.
We support by offering help. A quick inventory of our skills, network, and resources can spark a welter of ideas.
We support by responding wisely to people’s sentiments. Dialogue is a fruitful way to challenge and change perspectives for a better outcome, as long as we listen and argue with respect and with the intention not only to teach but to also learn from others.
Humility and empathy will pave the way for meaningful discourse and peace of mind.