Why Should They Listen To Unsolicited Advice?

by Jose Ma. Montelibano

It’s that time again when traditional sources roll out their unsolicited advice. Vote wisely, vote responsibly, don’t sell your vote, etc. Now that the Internet affords more opportunity for any user to join the chorus from traditional media, including posters on Church walls, the volume of unsolicited advice has increased.

I have been listening to or reading the same unsolicited advice for more than fifty years. It puzzles me why it doesn’t stop. It sure has done from little to nothing in pushing the objective of the unsolicited advice. Why do the givers of unsolicited advice continue to do what has failed their cause for decades?

Maybe, we can ourselves dissect the advocacy of voting wisely and responsibly.  The advocacy is simple enough and the basic facts are available. Let us start with the principal ingredients of the advocacy, of which there are three: first, the message itself; second, the messenger, and third, the receiver.

The message.

The message is sound and simple enough to be universally understood. Voting wisely and responsibly can give us the best available leaders who can, then, protect and promote our societal well-being.

The messenger.

Ah, this is not as simple as the message. There have been so many messengers and they continue to increase in number. Yet, their increased numbers have not necessarily increased their credibility. Weak messengers dilute the substance of the message. Worse are bad messengers who can turn off their audiences and damage the message itself.

Who and what can qualify the messenger? The more important the message, the higher the qualities of the messenger should be. Message and messenger must be seen as complementing each other. For example, a thief and liar cannot be a credible messenger of truth.

Do these messengers have an exemplary track record of intelligent and responsible voting? Who did they vote for in the past elections? Among the winning candidates they voted for, did these live up to the standards of good public servants?

Unfortunately, those who have been delivering the message themselves either are not known to their audiences or have no established credibility with them. They are weak messengers, and some may even be bad messengers.

The receiver.

For whom is the message intended? The target of the message must be clearly identified as the form and tenor of the message should then be adjusted to them. The intended audiences of unsolicited advice regarding wise and responsible voting are, apparently and traditionally, the poor among us. The Filipino poor, by their own self-assessment, are in the range of 60 percent or the clear majority of Filipino voters.

It used to be higher, by the way. The growing population of OFWs and their families, however, has dramatically reduced the percentage of the poor who are the intended audience of electoral advice by self-proclaimed advocates. Because OFWs are very much more exposed to the standards of other countries, their own experience teaches them to be more discerning in voting.

Now, if we are receivers of a message that is important enough for us to listen to, and even agree with, how do we wish to hear the message and who would we like to deliver it to us? Definitely, the message and messenger cannot make us feel as though we are stupid. That will surely turn us off right away. If possible, too, we should admire the messenger for possessing the virtues we want for ourselves. At the very least, if the messenger lacks these virtues, he or she should be popular with us. That popularity means we have a positive relationship with the messenger.

Remember, if we are the receivers in this case, we are poor. Our poverty is not deserved – we were simply born into it. All our lives, we have been on the outside looking in with nobody inside minding us, nobody inside interested in us. Worse, half of us are so far outside that they cannot even look in. In one way, that insulates them from more frustration because they cannot even see what is possible. But in most other ways, their greater distance away from the center of abundance or overabundance dictates that they surely will breed into this world only more impoverished generations of Filipinos.

Why will we listen to both advice and adviser who mean nothing to us, just as we mean nothing to them?

Why are those who give us money, or food, or medicine, or promise us jobs, why are they worse than those who only shake our hand, or hand out leaflets we cannot understand? We are broke, hungry and hopeless. Why can we not vote for those who ease our suffering, even for a few days?

In summary.

If there are among us who truly desire the best for our people, and that desire includes having elected officials who will best serve our people and nation, the election period is the worst time to give lectures. Everyone is suspect during elections, and the most credible is the one who is friendly and has goodies to offer the needy. If we are afraid of their poverty and ignorance as the main causes why the poor can be bought or fooled to vote for the wrong candidate, then it is poverty and ignorance that we have to address.

Election Day is just days away. The best time to dismantle poverty and ignorance is the first day after elections, and to do it everyday until our people are freed from the curse of being born poor. It is not so difficult to transform our people who are poor and ignorant – they themselves are praying to be rescued from their pitiful fate.

What is more difficult is us, if we are willing to move beyond our comfort zone, or sacrifice part of our wealth, cede some of our advantage, then care enough to handhold our people towards a kinder future.

Meanwhile, let us not be surprised if the majority poor among our people will vote exactly as they will, according to their circumstance, no matter the unsolicited advice.

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