General events happening in my country have never interested me in the past because it was difficult for me to see how these policy changes and executive orders could affect my everyday life. But due to recent developments, and now that I’ve been in the workforce for long enough, I’m starting to see the importance of educating myself on the actions of our government so that I may have a more holistic view of the world around me and know how to help change it, if need be.
Starting with awareness
This video by Kirby Ferguson talks about the importance of being aware of the part that media plays in forming your subconscious beliefs and biases. Breaking away from this form of brainwashing starts by being aware of it and the tactics used by channels to achieve it. By starting with this awareness, I think I’m making space in my brain to not just simply consume what I see. This, in effect, will help give me a clearer picture of the information that I want to process.
I spoke with someone who I thought held a well-rounded view of American politics and asked him on how one can maintain an objective view on the news. His advice was to build the muscle of knowing what is real and fake, meaning, the intuition you have to determine the likelihood of what you are reading or seeing is something worth believing.
For a muscle to grow, you have to keep using it at regular (but reasonable) intervals and so the suggestion was to mindfully get into the habit of consuming news and seeing if I could find patterns that could help me identify if something was real or fake.
Part of this practice also means developing an intuition on what makes a well-written or badly written legislative document (or any literature produced by our government that we wish to review as citizens) so that we’re able to develop our own opinion of what needs to be improved or expounded on. This was discussed in a comment from my previous post which said:
If the most concerning issue in the Anti-Terror Bill is the broad definition of terrorism, what constitutes “good” definitions of terrorism? Dig into the academic literature by checking websites like google scholar or databases like JSTOR. In this specific case, knowing the reasons behind why a proper definition is necessary and being able to offer a valid definition is critical if you want to make a compelling argument.from N. Rinth
I personally think that the analyses and opinions of seasoned professionals in the field should always be respected but by honing our abilities to better understand and even question their findings to push for more clarity is still a powerful tool we can have as citizens.
Channels I am following
Similar to the other systems that I’ve created for myself, I’ve limited my preferred tools to 2 platforms: Twitter and Facebook. Twitter seems to work best for national news and personalities whereas Facebook works best for more local news and personalities.
Before I started looking for news channels to follow, I started by learning about the Philippine Electoral System and checking which precinct I belong to. This is important because this tells me to whom my vote matters most to.
After following the Mayor of my city, Governor of my province, and Congressman of my district, I went on to follow all the Senators. Painful, I know, but I admit that I’m not yet too familiar with which Senator or which party has the goals that I agree with most. I will probably add an update to this blogpost when I’ve narrowed down the list.
Full disclosure: Some government officials didn’t have a clear social media presence either on Facebook or Twitter (or anywhere else for that matter) and that is a red flag for me, so I chose not to follow them actively (as there is nowhere to follow).
Given that my home province is in Bohol (and I am registered as a voter there), I started with following various news channels like The Bohol Chronicle, GO Bohol, and PIA Bohol who I’ve seen report on different topics at a time.
The two official government agencies that I found who talk about different government programs that are being launched to the different provinces are Philippine Information Agency and Presidential Communications Office. I chose to pay closer attention to the programs that the government is running because I realize that I’m quite clueless about where our taxes are being spent and what the effects of these programs are to the general public.
Going back to the point of “exercising a muscle”, I try to follow channels that report on different topics at a given time to add variety in my news consumption and to get to know what each channel’s positions are on certain topics. If you have any suggestions or thoughts on your experience in following the channels above, please let me know by commenting below.
The most important role of a citizen in the world of politics
Educate yourself. The fact that you’ve gotten this far in the blogpost is already proof enough that you want to do something about the place we, and many people that we care about, live in. Learn about the Philippine Electoral System, vote, be able to confidently assert your position by staying informed, and help keep our politicians accountable by following their work and letting them know of your approval or disapproval of their actions.
You can also help educate others to be more mindful by creating infographics of complex issues or bills, sharing existing media and resources about them, and even simply talking about media literacy to your friends already goes a long way.
I personally found that sharing this video on how the economy works helps put into perspective the role of the government in making sure that the country is on the road to prosperity. This method of approaching the topic makes it less awkward to get someone who was originally uninterested in politics more aware of the big picture.
An idea that needs validation
I created this blogpost mainly to help those who feel passionate about our country in creating their own systems of consuming (and acting on, if necessary) the news that we see but since it will be tough for most people at first, I had an idea.
I was thinking of creating a newsletter that gets published every weekend with news articles I find important. Since it’s curated by me, it will directly reflect what I’m paying attention to and care about but, of course, I’ll be as objective about it as I can be given that that’s the point of consuming news mindfully.
I thought that this would be a manageable way for me to not only help my friends get started, but also a way to force me to stay connected and accountable.
If you think that this idea is something you would find valuable in your journey to playing a more active part in our democracy, subscribe to my TinyLetter so I know whether this is worth acting on or not.
Update: I got less than 5 subscribers so I’m not as diligent with keeping this newsletter active. However, I want to keep it live to have fun with. Might pivot to making it a place where I can dump my reactions and takeaways from general events, or something else entirely. Let’s see.
Thank you to Nicholas Rinth and my boyfriend for helping me process my thoughts on this topic.