At the end of the day, we all do what we do (whether it be running triathlons, climbing Mt Everest, or — hey yeah — blogging about Pinoy dysfunction) because we get off on it. If doing something for our own personal pleasure yields the bonus of actually delivering an outcome that might one way or another have an impact on someone’s way of thinking or start a chain reaction of thinking that may unfold over a year (or 100 years), then that’s a nice outcome. But as far as I’m concerned, I don’t hold my breath for bonuses like those much the same way that one doesn’t quit his day job just because he buys a lottery ticket. It is unlikely, for example, that Bill Gates saw himself someday having $40 billion to his name even as he spent 10-12 hour days glued to his school minicomputer back in 1975. For all we know, he may not have gone on to become the richest man in the world and still not regret a single minute spent at that terminal.
Now consider for a moment a world where all those who would go on to come up with groundbreaking ideas and contributions had thought to themselves “I only fight battles I could win”. If they had thought this way, these people would not have worked anywhere near the crazy hours (if at all) on stuff that the people of their day thought to be silly, eccentric, and even hopeless undertakings. Indeed, among those who did, we hear about only those who won. The majority of such people failed or didn’t live to see what were then counterintuitive ideas of theirs bear fruit or go mainstream.
Men and women who delivered the great ideas that changed the course of history didn’t spend their time dabbling in what were considered to be the winnable ideas of their time. They took a chance on what a brilliant application of their minds led them to — paths of exploration, often bumpy and twisted, that hinted at deeper truths relative to the belief systems that prevailed then. Many of them did so even under threat of persecution, excommunication, and incarceration. There were things that simply needed to be figured out. Perhaps there were certain beliefs that simply didn’t quite sit well or hang together. And as such there was an alternative out there to be found.
Like solving a crossword puzzle is an intellectual challenge, so too for some of us is the task of trying to find, figure out, and articulate deep truths about the nature of Da Pinoy. Because at its most basic, the chronic failure of Pinoys to advance socially and progress economically is a grand puzzle — one that even the most revered minds of our society today seem to comprehensively and spectacularly fail to grasp.
What could be missing in our society so much so that a puzzle on whose solution rests the entire long-term viability of our sovereignty remains beyond the reach of the most educated and becredentialled of our lot? I can think of one such ingredient that is key to an individual’s and even an entire society’s prospects for advancement — curiosity.
Are Filipinos a curious people?
In thinking of the answer to such a question, consider a people who could go through the last half century without even wondering at a deep enough level why they fail at every step. Could it be that we simply aren’t curious enough to try new things? Or curious enough to find merit in spending time even thinking about these things? Or at least curious as to why some societies with bigger odds stacked against them succeeded mightily?
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Sometimes excellent days like this come along where events come together to reveal clear differences between the men and the boys. Today I learned that one can classify Filipinos into roughly three boxes based on the way they regard the nature of our character as a people. I’d label these boxes as follows:
1) People who deny that there is a problem
2) People who see the problem and look for solutions based on what they see
3) People who see the problem but deny the existence of solutions
Obviously most of us who either write for AntiPinoy.com, comment insightfully here and in other blogs, or see Noynoy Aquino as an epitome of everything that is wrong with Pinoy politics fall within Category 2. It’s one thing to see problems. But what separates the men from the boys is the ability to see opportunity in problems. Some see the problem of the idiocy of Filipinos as an opportunity to make lots of money off them. That’s fair enough. After all, it is quite easy to sell mediocre products to people with an ingrained taste for the mediocre.
In my case, I find no particular urgency around making money off a bunch of lemmings, nor do I see any merit in going beyond my comfy means to “help out” then pitch it self-righteously to those who gawk at those efforts as some sort of noble “sacrifice” on my part. My reasons for doing what I do here are quite mundane. I, personally, first saw an opportunity way back in 2000 to hone my HTML coding skills building a website focused on a topic I happen to have a lot of stuff to say about. As I learned more about the quaint ways that Pinoys of conventional means of thinking respond and react to my views, I saw an opportunity to step up to the challenge of securing the long-term integrity of the frameworks that were crystallising in my head (and in my site) as I subjected them to the scrutiny of detractors.
The rest is history and you probably catch my drift by now. There’s is nothing particularly “noble” about what motivates me to be “benign0”. I dare say this is all just a hobby to me. But like most hobbies, it is personally rewarding. And that is primarily what I am in it for. If there is anything that remotely resembles a bigger reason why I do this, it lies mainly in the minds of people who regard what I do from an outside perspective. They may as well judge a person who spends most of his leisure time hand-restoring a car from scratch on the same grounds.
Like most other things, however, the nature of one’s motivation evolves. And as people began to come on board with me (and I with them) on the basis of shared views and principles, my motivation broadened. If I begin now to even consider what to me is a miniscule possibility that some of the stuff we write passionately about is gaining traction in our society and even changing things in small ways then I am guilty of allowing these to find their way into the scope of my motivation.
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Now that my motivation has evolved from the contrarian-for-contrarian’s sake phase that characterised my early days in this thing, it does bother me now that the work that we do can be misconstrued as license to be anti-everything. There is a clear line between being critical of a situation and being dismissive of it. Being critical results in creative solutions. In contrast being dismissive simply breeds anarchists.
Take the career commentor Renato Pacifico, for example. Renato Pacifico (and some of his copycats) has not much else to say other than to emphasize that there is not much point in, well, anything (which too begs the question as to why he bothers…). I’ve once been called a “professional commentor” and therefore am in a takes-one-to-know-one position of authority to size up this guy (even before that I’ve already been marked many times as this fan blog demonstrates). So some blog owners ban characters like Pacifico and some tolerate these kinds of morons. AntiPinoy.com chooses to tolerate his kind. But is there a point in debating with him? The answer to that is debatable of course just like everything else. The argument I put forth is quite simple given the short exercise I took to concluding he is anti-anything-and-everything (the following is a transcript of the messages I directed at Pacifico on the AP shoutbox):
i’m pretty much aware that ur not the kind of person who has much to lose so there is really not much in the way of making countercomments against u that can make a dent on ur pa-cool exterior.
ur style is to be anti-everything, renato. the mark of a true loser. because by being anti-everything, you put urself in a position of not having to defend any principles.
and the trouble with debating with someone like u, renato, a person who lacks any principles to defend, is that we all end up wasting time even trying.
One of the things Lee Kuan Yew implemented back when Singapore was still developing was to make it easier for ordinary Singaporeans to own their own homes. The thinking there was that if Singaporeans had a personal stake in their surroundings, they can be expected to do their individual part to be decent and civic-oriented citizens. In contrast when people see themselves as not part of something (or for that matter anything) they become the sort of people who see themselves as entitled to piss on any public wall they happen to be walking by at the time Nature beckons them to empty their bladder. The irony that escapes some morons (specially those who presume to criticise Pinoys in the one-dimensional look-at-me-i’m-an-anarchist way that they do) is that the behaviour they exhibit mirrors the same kind of pissing-on-public-property mentality they claim to loath.
Unfortunate, indeed. Being a “getrealist” it turns out is not as clear-cut as some people think it is. There will always be a square that defines an outside region that beckons us to think over there. Even “getrealism” is defined by such a square. It may be a square bigger than conventional Pinoy thinking, but that doesn’t mean that there won’t be a region that lies outside of that bigger square as well.
The challenge will always be about moving the perimeter of the square we happen to be sitting within further outwards. And having the humility to continuously seek to do so begins with being perennially curious about what lies outside the proverbial squares we inhabit.
[Image courtesy Simanion.DeviantArt.com]