The Filipino files: trolls and diplomats
I’m thinking much more broadly than the internet and apply the term to any debate or argument undertaken by anybody at any time, any where, for any reason. In other words, the term is comprehensively applied.
Before you haul me off to the shooting fields or lambaste me about what trolls Donald Trump and most Americans are, kindly allow me to establish some definitions so we can rid ourselves of this little bit of needless angst. We can use The Humpty Dumpty New World Dictionary, which fortunately provides definitions exactly suited to our purpose here:
Troll, noun, a person who advocates for a position and holds nothing back in order to defend or promote that position; is not interested in knowledge if it upsets his position and will name-call or distort facts to win.
Diplomat, noun, a person who is impeccably open minded and gracious of thought and speech; may advocate a position, but is always respectful of the opposition’s separate motivations and purposes, and is always open to learning.
So, statistically speaking, how do you peg the ratio of trolls to diplomats in the Philippines?
Now an attorney or other devious person . . . an intellectually and morally fluid person . . . has the capacity to be either a troll or a diplomat, depending on the circumstance in which he finds himself. But most of us are one or the other, as to argumentation style.
Well, let’s use the base of attorneys as a guide for a very rough estimate of the intellectually ambidextrous amongst us. There are about 40,000 lawyers in the Philippines.
Incidentally, you can find a list of attorneys on the Supreme Court’s (SC’s) web site. I can’t imagine why one would find that information valuable, versus . . . say, a treatise on how the SC believes it upholds the power and integrity of the independent Ombudsman. I say this because Ombudsman Morales has once again complained that the SC is undermining her Constitutional mandate with its rulings. So maybe the SC can expound on why the Constitution gives certain agencies independence from the three primary branches of government, and what obligation the Court has to follow the Constitution in this regard.
It seem to me that transparency ought to mean something other than a financial data dump. It ought to mean giving citizens information that is important. In fact, I wish ALL government agencies would do that by improving the relevance of their web sites. Like, tell us what the REAL problems are and what they are doing to deal with them.
But I digress mightily.
Okay, so if we have, say, rough guess, 500,000 intellectually and morally fluid persons, I’d peg the number of diplomats at some multiple of that, say five. That computes to 2,500,000 diplomats. I suspect that is generous.
In a population of 102 million, that means there are roughly 99 million trolls here, working diligently at their style every day.
See my point?
In the past, I’ve called the group of debaters who will not bend in position from the starting point of the argument to the end . . . either to protect their agenda or their esteem . . . the “100 percenters”. That’s admittedly a rather clumsy term, so ‘troll’ is better. Invariably, troll discussions unravel to become one of insult and nastiness. That’s because of the little known Law of Human Chemistry under Duress:
When unforgiving contention meets new-found knowledge, the human intellectual chemistry produces caustic acid.
It is a little known law because I just concocted it. But it seems true, does it not?
Over and over again we see this caustic form of civility in newspaper, blog or social media discussion threads. And we can witness it in discussions and arguments in person. We are, after all, an emotional species. So discussions turn condescending or insulting or angry.
But I do think, to be fair, we need to sort the trolls into two discreet batches to separate the innocents from the manipulators. The two batches are:
- Those who are naturally defensive, to protect their ‘face’ or esteem.
- Those who are intentionally combative, to advance their agenda.
Well, we all have faces and esteems, and I’d bet almost all of us at one point or another have found ourselves as a troll because of the emotions that rise up in a conversation gone south . . . based on how we see it. So I think this is not a malicious kind of trolling. It is the kind that we can manage or limit with a reasonable degree of introspection and discipline. But it would appear that most of the general population does not pursue introspection. They are just being what they be. And that is stubborn. “Gahi ulo”, as I learned it early on during my residence here. They are defensive but shift that to offensive, for self protection. And so we have trolls and posturing and name-calling in the name of discussion.
This is hard to change because social circumstances hereabouts are unforgiving of mistakes. Therefore, Filipinos resist admitting to them.
Okie dokie. Pause to take a deep breath, then onward. . . . I think we are making progress here on our troll analytics.
We can figure that most trolls are benign, or natural, or non-manipulative, outside their own emotional needs. We can calculate how many of these trolls there are if we estimate how many agenda-based trolls there are. Those pushing an agenda include senators and mayors and anyone of any political party, as well as lobbyists and business negotiators, and even salesmen and saleswomen. Throw in priests, preachers, imams and rabbis as well. It’s a big crowd. What do you think? Maybe 2 million of them? That’s probably generous.
That leaves us with 97 million regular face-saving trolls.
Should a President be a troll, do you think? A Supreme Court Chief Justice? A Legislator? Or do we expect them to have more discipline, more perspective, reach a little higher, listen a little better, get angry a little less often, and set self-interest and politics aside . . .
. . . because they have sworn an oath to take care of all the people, even those who criticize them.
Well, I don’t think a President should be a troll, because he should always be open of mind and respectful of the people he is elected to lead. All of them. He should be a diplomat. A statesman. The serving father of our rather unruly country.
Nor should a judge be a troll. It disqualifies him or her from being an impartial evaluator of facts.
A legislator? Hmmm . . . that gets a little dicey.
When pro-women’s rights Senator Pia Cayetano endorses and promotes a candidate who humiliates women in public, is she a diplomat or a troll?
It is hard to get the politics out of a legislator, I suspect. It is hard to find non-trollish legislators because their field of politics is so favor bound. They end up being salesmen and saleswomen to get elected, get on committees, get laws passed, and schmooze their constituency. Maybe we can never get politics out of the legislators. The best we can hope for is that when they put forward a bad law, the President, not being a troll, has the fortitude to veto it.
Presidents. Judges. And throw in the Ombudsman and members of COMELEC and the Commission on Audit.
We need diplomats in these key posts, I think.
People of open mind, listeners, students of new knowledge. Kind people who respect whomever they face.
We don’t need trolls in offices that define what the nation will be. Trolls are not objective. They can’t find a common good that respects all of us.
We need adults, people of strong esteem and no juvenile need to put people down for the sake of winning the fight. We need people who can lose a fight gracefully when new information emerges. Not defend the indefensible.
We need accountability.
We need diplomats.
For the President, that is especially true.
We don’t need a troll leading our nation. And we for sure don’t need an army of trolls representing the President of the Philippines, pounding out insults and division on social media. That ought not be what the Philippines stands for.
We need an army of diplomats who embrace diversity and even opposition.
We need class.