Most Filipinos are anti-elitist. A good proportion of the Philippine population would prefer that they be seen as being one with the common tao rather than be seen as one of the elites. Indeed it is a land full of contradictions. This mentality is inconsistent with the behavior exhibited by a people who also routinely act like The Talented Mr Ripley (read: social climbers) — those who want to see and be seen with the rich. Case in point is Senator Manny Villar who kept emphasizing during the presidential election (without success) that he was once as poor as a pauper. Let’s not forget to mention Erap Estrada whose slogan “Erap para sa Mahirap” in 1998 so resonated with the masses that he almost won the presidency again in the last election. Now, the incumbent President, Noynoy Aquino is so overcompensating for being a member of the Philippine oligarchy by trying so hard to project an image of being just your “average guy” next door.
Another case in point is a recent experience I had as a blogger here at AntiPinoy.com. A commenter in my previous blog labelled me snobbish for my preference for using the English language over Tagalog. To be precise, most Filipinos who misguidedly think that the use of Tagalog is a reflection of Filipino pride and nationalism seem to think this way. They actually believe that those who prefer to use the English language more are being elitist and unpatriotic. I find this mentality rather disturbing and backward-thinking, considering that Tagalog is not the only language being used by Filipinos across the Philippines, and despite me having explicitly stated that the overall advantage of being proficient in English far outweighs that of being proficient in Tagalog. But this blog is not about which language is more beneficial anymore. This is about the Filipino people’s penchant for being anti-elite and suckers for populist rhetoric.
Initially, I didn’t know what to make of this supposed insult thrown at me for everyone to read. Now that I have thought about it more, I actually feel flattered that someone would think of me as a nerd and actually say “If your type would be leading the country, only nerds and keyboard-potatoes like you can find inspiration in your kind of mentality.” Who would have thought that someone would think that I can actually serve as an inspiration for intellectuals? He made me laugh, really. This just proves how small-minded some Filipinos are and how a discussion can easily threaten them when they deem the subject too out of their depth.
To be honest, every time I read something about people like Steve Jobs introducing his new Apple product or Bill Gates doing so much for the advancement of technology and humanity, I feel so damn insignificant. I mean, there is no way I can possibly achieve in my lifetime what those two have achieved in half of theirs. They are the real inspiration for nerds and not someone like me. A lot of people would even claim that if they were only half as talented as Steve or Bill, they could still be world-renowned innovators. Steve and Bill’s achievements are something to aspire for, definitely.
This brings me to the question: What’s with all the anti-elitist sentiment that Filipinos are fond of wallowing in? It is again a misguided notion that being a member of the elite is a bad thing. It is actually this kind of victim mentality that keeps us from moving forward.
First, let us define the word elitism. According to sources found on the Net, “elitism is the belief or attitude that some individuals, who supposedly form an elite — a select group of people with, intellect, wealth, specialized training or experience, or other distinctive attributes — are those whose views on a matter are to be taken the most seriously or carry the most weight or those who view their own views as so; whose views and/or actions are most likely to be constructive to society as a whole; or whose extraordinary skills, abilities or wisdom render them especially fit to govern”. They say that the personal characteristics of those considered to be a member of the elite include: “rigorous study of, or great accomplishment within, a particular field; a long track record of competence in a demanding field; an extensive history of dedication and effort in service to a specific discipline (e.g., medicine or law) or a high degree of accomplishment, training or wisdom within a given field”.
Based on the definition given above, I am hardly fit to lead a nation let alone any group of nerds as claimed by that commenter, and if we go by the definition, neither is P.Noy Aquino qualified to lead a nation of 100 million Filipinos. Let’s face it, it has been a well-documented fact that P.Noy does not have “extraordinary skills, abilities or wisdom” to “render” him “especially fit to govern” because he does not have any “great accomplishment within, a particular field; a long track record of competence in a demanding field; an extensive history of dedication and effort in service to a specific discipline (e.g., medicine or law) or a high degree of accomplishment, training or wisdom within a given field.” What P.Noy does have which is also a well-documented fact, is membership in one of the wealthiest families in the country — and that’s about that.
Unfortunately, even if P.Noy is a member of the privileged few, his is a situation in “which a group of people claiming to possess high abilities or simply an in-group or cadre grant themselves extra privileges at the expense of others.” This form of elitism can actually be described as discrimination and such elitism has social and psychological consequences as evident in what has been happening in the last few decades since the late former president, Cory Aquino came to power. Unbeknownst to a lot of Filipinos, the Philippine oligarchies who have been in power since 1986 actually endorse a form of elitism that excludes a large number of people from positions of privilege or power. That means they only give favors to those who are in their inner circle or those who support their cause. This is the kind of elitist attitude the average Juan de Cruz should be wary about and be resentful of because P.Noy is not truly an elite in the sense that, he is not an expert of anything but rather, just privileged enough to be voted into power. As such, he is actually not in touch with the poor, which is precisely the reason why he does not have a clue as to how to elevate the country from poverty.
In defense of the true elites
I don’t know about you but if I ever have to undergo brain or heart surgery, I want the best surgeons to perform the operation. Who in their right mind would want to see a quack doctor to cure their disease?
If the Taliban or any member of the Al Qaeda ever kidnaps me, I can already picture Navy-Seals-like commandos barging in through the doors of the Taliban hideout where they are keeping me and rescue me safely. Why would I want the Philippine National Police (PNP) undergoing the rescue operation? They will just bungle the operation and I might end up in a bag on the way to the morgue.
If I ever have to hire a lawyer to counter a libel case, I want someone who was a bar topnotcher and who wins most of his court cases. And if I ever have to be in front of a judge, I will pray that it be someone who was also a bar top notcher, won most of his cases, and is compassionate. Why would I want to hire a two bit lawyer who was average in the bar exam and who only settled his cased out of court? I would definitely end up losing my case, land in jail and pay a fine.
It should follow that if I ever have to vote for a president of my country…well, I will never vote for someone as mediocre as P.Noy. Life is too short to give my trust to people like him who waste people’s time learning on the job while millions go to bed hungry every night.
I don’t know about you but every time I meet someone new, I have to be careful about mentioning the school where I graduated. Mentioning it seems to elicit a few predictable responses like “naks naman ah…” and then I can tell that the person suddenly becomes overcome with this preconceived notion of how I am like. No, I didn’t go to that school you are thinking of. That’s the thing; just mention an exclusive school to a fellow Filipino who went to another school which is considered to have a less than average standard from your own school and you will find yourself labelled as a snob or an elitist even if you haven’t done much to deserve being called such. It is indeed another form of what is called reverse discrimination.
Frankly, I have met some of the kindest and most generous (also some of the cruellest and selfish) people in my school. I’ve also met some of the kindest and most generous (also some of the cruellest and selfish) people from other schools. What I’m trying to say is that, Filipinos should stop labelling people they hardly know and judge everyone they meet on their merits.
If someone considered me snobbish and elitist for choosing excellence over mediocrity, I would definitely take it as a compliment because my definition of an elite person is someone who is the best of the best and not someone who is just a member of the privileged group. The two should not be confused as one and the same. The former group being good and beneficial to society while the latter just takes advantage of the underprivileged for their own benefit. They also enjoy a relatively large degree of control over a society’s means of production, which includes those who gain their position due to socioeconomic means and not personal achievement (read: the Philippine oligarchy).
If I have to choose between talking to someone who knows what he or she is talking about or someone who just pretends to be in the know, I would definitely choose the former. How I wish the country could have more of them though because it is really nice to have a conversation with someone who understands what you are saying and someone you can actually learn from as opposed to having a discussion with people who talk like they actually know what they are talking about when in reality they’d much prefer to just keep the conversation going around in circles.
Being anti-elitist is what’s preventing our country from progressing. It’s what gets actors, athletes, singers or anyone from the entertainment industry and anyone with a popular name like Aquino getting voted into public office even if they don’t have any “extraordinary skills, abilities or wisdom that render them especially fit to govern.”