Unity is Disastrous

On August 7, 1997, Korean Air Flight 801 crashed into a hill, killing 228 of the 254 people on board. According to the investigation, one of the causes was the “the first officer’s and flight engineer’s failure to effectively monitor and cross-check the captain’s execution of the approach.” In the book Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell theorizes that they failed to do so out of respect for authority and fear of upsetting their leader.

While there are other factors at play in the story, there are lessons here for the Philippine nation. Our leaders are human and fallible, no matter how noble they may seem. There are those arguing that we must stop questioning, shut up and keep quiet in order for us to progress.

That thinking is misguided. As in the Air Flight story, blind obedience can lead to catastrophic outcomes. “Obey and never complain” is a recipe for disaster. Criticism hurts, but constructive feedback is a way to improve.

What do you call an organization that does not allow any dissent and expects absolute obedience to its tenets and the will of its leader? A cult. A whirlpool of destruction.

But criticism and debate doesn’t have to be hurtful. As a country of 100 million minds, it’s inevitable that we would have diverse perspectives. We all want a nation where every citizen enjoys a good quality of life. We just differ in how we think that can be achieved.

I believe we can learn how to engage better by learning how to argue better. Enough of false dichotomies where criticizing Duterte means liking Aquino and vice versa. Enough of black and white thinking where all the policies of our favorite party are good and all the policies of the opposing party are bad. Enough of ad hominems attacking the messenger. More evidence-based and data-driven thinking.

No, we don’t need less criticism. What we need is more critical thinking. Independence means having the responsibility to think for ourselves.