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Commentary: Unity beyond togetherness

Silencing the opposition for the sake of “unity” only allows wrongs in society to run rampant without being corrected.

After the parades of the electoral campaign season, it is time to snap back to reality. The party is over. We would now have to face the ruins induced by our increasing polarization.

Fittingly, it is those that plastered the nation with calls for unity who would spearhead the rebuilding of burned bridges and piecing of shattered relationships. The captain of this unity ship, Ferdinand Marcos Jr., would be the one to bear the brunt of actualizing the unity hymns that he has sung to lure over 31 million voters.

As much as these calls for unity seem to be inspiring, it is noteworthy that Marcos, as well as other candidates who supported this cause, barely specified their vision of unity. This leaves us doubting whether the Marcos brand of unity will be a catalyst of or a hindrance to change.

Defining unity

Unity—pagkakaisa as we call it—goes beyond the simple definition of being as one. It may mean harmonious coexistence, just like how choirs use their vocal differences to please the people’s ears or the symbolic bayanihan, where everyone is committed to working together to attain a common goal. However, unity can have negative connotations, such as mere conformity.

To some extent, conformity is necessary in maintaining peace and order. However, it may become suppressive when abused, becoming a way to silence oppositions and minorities. That is when we reach a point where people assert that only one opinion or belief is valid, and the rest are not worth hearing. Instead of being united, we become entrapped. This births a false sense of what they seem to be after.

Thus, insofar as people view oppositions to be detrimental to unity, there is a need to acknowledge that eliminating the opposition would bear false democracy. This much-hated opposition plays a crucial role in nation-building, mainly revolving around checks and balances. Eradicating them in our flawed definition of “unity” would do no good.

Not the enemies

Every administration comes with a corresponding opposition. While they are perceived to be the causes of disunity, we cannot deny that a lot of the rights we currently enjoy have stemmed from the presence of a dissenting opinion—an opposition. Besides that, oppositions also provide check-and-balance systems, ensuring that the seated administration is held accountable for questionable practices.

This tells us that there is more to oppositions than just opposing. These dissenters are also there to support legislation they deem right and governmental actions that would, in their opinion, aid the nation. Most importantly, they are there to ensure that everyone is heard.

In wanting to silence and to subdue the opposition, we are going against our own call for unity. Once we leave them unheard, we become an enabler of that same disunity we condemn. We become believers of the notion that unity is attained only when we have a single viewpoint, which should not be the case. More concerningly, this does not just invalidate a person. It also invalidates struggles, concerns, and problems that the country should be collectively confronting and addressing.

Our first step

As a way to remedy our post-elections wreckage, the first step would be acceptance and acknowledgement. We need to accept that it would be nearly impossible for all the millions of Filipinos to actually have one common stance. But that shouldn’t mean that we cannot have or be shown the truth—which should be the sole basis for many of our beliefs and viewpoints. And that shouldn’t mean that we can never be united.

More than realizing our limits, we must also ponder on where we are bound to be. We must understand that our unity shouldn’t be about a common ideology but about a common goal—a common purpose, one that is grounded on the truth. Therefore, as individuals, we must take part in nation-building and truth-telling. Further, we—along with the government—should collectively plan how we are going to forge a better future despite our differences.

When setting our roadmap, we must acknowledge that the journey to genuine progress is grounded on truth and compassion. Everyone, especially the government, would need to take in that all voices are worth hearing—even the opposition’s. Instead of demonizing dissenters, the government must set the tone for unity and work hand-in-hand with and listen to the opposition to formulate solutions and policies that would best benefit the country.

We can say that there is much more to “unity” than what meets the eye and there is much more to the nation’s problems than just its opposite. It would now be at the hands of the next administration to take charge in healing our injured nation. Like doctors, the government would need to treat their patient—the Philippines—with hard, reliable diagnoses and a soft, guiding touch. As for us, Filipinos, we would need to be more confrontational to concerns and less clouded by our comforts.

After all, our healing can only progress once we swallow our bitter pills.

By The LaSallian

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