Why Filipinos suck at democracy

Here it is folks! Only in AntiPinoy.com will you find the answers to mankind’s biggest mystery: Why did the erstwhile posterchild of American-style democracy in the Far East fail so spectacularly in the application of what is arguably the single biggest achievement of modern human civilisation.

Here we go…

Democracy works in a society with a strong ethic of individualism.

In Philippine Elections: A Buffet of Evils I highlight the curious case of the way Filipinos subvert the whole point of democratic elections. Our electoral system is flawed because it allows a candidate who has the most number but not the majority of votes to win. Given that, some bozos presume to dictate upon the individual voter’s imperative to vote for who they personally believe is the right man for the job. That imperative should not be penalised by the existence of a fundamental flaw in the overarching system within which it is applied.

Indeed, Filipino society discourages individualism by propping up perverse subsumation of one’s aspirations to some nebulous “common good” as the only worthwhile personal goal to pursue. The themes of most FilipinoVoices.com blog posts reflect this ethic as a matter of fact — and it is SERIOUSLY misguiding the Filipino public. It is the reason why we practice the perverted “democracy” that we see today — because the most revered members of the “intelligentsia” encourage to Filipinos to vote baseed on who among the candidates in the running is “winnable” and/or who is “the lesser evil”. An example of this sort of thinking can be seen in how a noted blogger clearly espoused the Winnability Vote in a comment made on FilipinoVoices.com, to wit:

Why should we help the administration enemy (divided into Villar and Teodoro) by dividing our own house into Aquino-Erap-Perlas-Villanueva-Gordon?

We will see, as we go further, how the above benign-looking “suggested” course of action actually represents the anti-thesis of everything we as a people aspire to be.

An essential aspect of an ethic of individuality is a healthy regard for personal reward as a key motivator of one’s actions.

A lot of stuff that was achieved in other more advanced societies were pursued by individuals who didn’t do it for anything more “noble” than the simple reason that it was personally rewarding. In Pinoy society, you get judged all the time (specially when you make critical observations about how things are) on whether or not what you do is “contributing” to the “greater good”. I mean, who’s to say that whatever one happens to be doing will or will not contribute in the bigger scheme of things?

Did Bill Gates actually foresee how his work would one day contribute to creating employment for millions of Indians and Filipinos within their homelands? Did he foresee how the wealth he was gonna accumulate from all that would one day be used for the most massive philantropic work in human history?

For that matter, was it goals of the above nature what motivated the young Bill Gates to become the best programmer and (eventually) the cutthroat tech entrepeneur he was destined to be?

Of course not. His motivation was primarily personal gain. He did what he did for personal reward and personal fulfilment. In backward societies like ours, it seems there is a stigma attached to doing something simply because it is personally rewarding. You can see in FilipinoVoices.com for example how the majority of the articles there always trumpet the subsumation of one’s personal aspirations to the “common good” — to “sacrifice” and be “selfless” and all that crap.

To be fair, the opposite — rugged individualism (as is for the most part exhibited here in AntiPinoy.com) — is a Western (and specifically an American) thing. But then this reality flies in the face of our democratic aspirations as a nation. Most of these aspirations (standard of living, personal liberties, and the right to pursue one’s happiness) are all underpinned by that very individualism that we seem to be culturally-predisposed to shirk.

I did mention in a blurb I wrote way back

Great nations were not built on good intentions. They were built on business sense. Real change in Pinoy society will never be achieved through the “sacrifice” of altruistic “heroes”. True change will be driven by people who find no shame in expecting a buck for their trouble.

… or at least an ounce of personal fulfilment or reward.

Because of a lack of a grasp of the idea of personal reward as a source of individual motivation, there is always a search for a higher power behind every undertaking.

In the Philippine National “Debate”, in particular, contrarian views are often suspect; and people who publicly espouse such views are suspected to be the “paid hacks” of one person, entity, or another. Whether there is money or some sort of esoteric form of influence involved, there will always be the underlying theme of subordination of one’s motivation to some kind of higher power.

Well, for most of us here, that higher power is basically ourselves. In my case, me, and in the case of Mr BongV the AntiPinoy.com owner, himself, as he so clearly asserts in his article Paid Hacks and AbNoy Nonsequiturs where he quips:

I pay for this site using my hard earned paycheck because I put a value in the principles I believe in – among them to exercise my constitutional right to express myself. And because, I can afford it! $4.95/month hosting? Are you kidding me? That’s just two gallons of regular gas. I don’t need anyone to pay me to be able to afford hosting a site. I don’t need to pay anyone to maintain the site either – because I do it myself! It’s a hobby (better than ballroom dancing and karaoke as far as am concerned) and the site is a showcase of technical capabilities – good for my resume, too!

BongV may as well be speaking for all contributors to AntiPinoy.com (and, to be fair, many writers across the Philippine blogosphere who themselves put forth contrarian views). But, see, this is not even the point. The real point to be made here is even simpler and can be expressed as a question…

At the end of the day who cares what motivates anyone?

Regardless of the nature of any perceived motivation or even state of mind of the originator of an idea or piece of effort, the bottom line lies in the results to which any truly intelligent effort to evaluate the value of one’s actions should be directed. This is something I highlight in a previous piece of mine:

As for me being paid or what, may I ask what exactly is the relevance of whether one is paid to write or not? Money is a motivator to write just as one’s passions and desire to communicate cherished principles are. Whatever it is that motivates one to write about something whether financial or non-financial, ultimately it is the quality and sense of what you write that will matter. Comment on the content of what is written as speculating on one’s motivations to write said content is the favourite sport of the small-minded. As with the first two: keep on guessing.

Rather than focus on a message’s content, the ideas expressed within its content, and what these mean to the recipient of said message, Filipinos seem to zero-in on the messenger and their circumstances even if said messenger and circumstances are irrelevant to the message — which makes it quite understandable why we as a people cannot seem to graduate from the personality politics we’ve become so comfy with and move on to the sort of issues-based politics that befit a modern democratic society.

* * *

To recap, the question as to why Filipinos so spectacularly suck at democracy becomes more of a challenge to recitfy the deficiencies in the following characteristics:

– A strong ethic of individualism;

– Motivation underpinned by personal reward;

– Less reliance on subordination to higher powers; and,

– An acute focus on results.

Democracy is a personally-rewarding system of government that is hinged on strong expression of individualism in the pursuit of clear goals that are not necessarily subsumed to nebulous concepts of “the common good”.


The solutions are obvious!

… and as such, it is indeed simple, really (click here for an intuitive slide presentation that walks through the concepts described in this article using bullet points and simple pictures).


It is interesting to note how some people still cannot quite grasp the elegant beauty of how Web 2.0 is transforming the way ideas are disseminated in truly free societies. Perhaps some insight into how certain people comprehensively miss the point behind the technologies in these exciting times can be gleaned from a comment I found on the venerable blogsite BarrioSiete.com:

FYI, I can discuss Gordon point by point but the blog Ilda was whining about [presumably in her AntiPinoy.com piece Gordon is a Champion, there’s no time for losers] was about Noynoy, so I didn’t want to get off-point, that’s all.

And now they’re all addled and resentful that I might sue them. Grow up, people. You’re not a significant enough demographic. Why would I bother? Besides, I can’t control what some of my friends write when they’re mad. But, really, it’s not worth the effort because most r small-minded, parochial thinkers who think my-way-or-the-highway is how it should be, and have absolutely no tolerance for difference. Then they get all excited and resentful when they encounter someone with a “name” (so what?). And they start being prom-di by name-dropping every time they hyperlink me to their blogs. As u have seen, I’m not the one name-dropping here…

Quite simply (really), when a person…

– opts to remain silent; and,

– opts to remain ignorant;

…of published content that provides facilities within its medium of delivery for its readers, for their part, to publish open critique against said content that is equally accessible to the public, then said person in principle forfeits any entitlement to whine about anything in said content that causes him or her any form of personal distress. Note too that the comments of visitors to this site, AntiPinoy.com, do not necessarily reflect the far more brilliant sentiments and views of its owners and regular contributors. Ha ha!

In short, tough luck.


About benign0

benign0 is the Web master of GetRealPhilippines.com
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18 Responses to Why Filipinos suck at democracy

  1. Anne Boleyn says:

    Giving the Filipinos too much freedom is like giving a kid too much candy.

  2. Homer says:

    “Now, there’s one thing you might have noticed I don’t complain about: politicians. Everybody complains about politicians. Everybody says they suck. Well, where do people think these politicians come from? They don’t fall out of the sky. They don’t pass through a membrane from another reality. They come from American parents and American families, American homes, American schools, American churches, American businesses and American universities, and they are elected by American citizens. This is the best we can do folks. This is what we have to offer. It’s what our system produces: Garbage in, garbage out. If you have selfish, ignorant citizens, you’re going to get selfish, ignorant leaders. Term limits ain’t going to do any good; you’re just going to end up with a brand new bunch of selfish, ignorant Americans. So, maybe, maybe, maybe, it’s not the politicians who suck. Maybe something else sucks around here… like, the public. Yeah, the public sucks. There’s a nice campaign slogan for somebody: ‘The Public Sucks. F*ck Hope.'”

    —George Carlin

  3. ricelander says:

    “Democracy works in a society with a strong ethic of individualism.”

    Agree ako diyan, benign O. We Filipinos tend towards family, clans, friends. etc. more. We are always looking around for approval. Wonder if it’s genetic. Somebody should print Ayn Rand for free distribution.

  4. ChinoF says:

    The only reason for anti-individualism is to control people. It’s so demonstrated in Philippine culture, where the attitude of some about friendship is that they should have the same likes, the same opinions, the same reactions towards things – to the point of contriving them just for the friendship. It also results in the insane insistence to see eye to eye on everything. As a result, a person does not become true to oneself. One should pursue one’s individual self and function no matter what other people say.

    • BenK says:

      I’ve noticed that it starts at a young age here, too. Kids tend to be fad-conscious everywhere, but here they are extreme about it — one month it’s yo-yos, the next month it’s amateur magic tricks, this month it’s striped mesh trucker hats (worn two notches too small). On it’s face it seems harmless enough, but when you see the conformity reach a level that produces negative returns in adults, it makes one take a skeptical view of harmless kiddie fads. One begins to wonder if having no encouragement to explore individuality at a young age has actually fatally damaged peoples’ capacity to learn how to be individuals later on in life.

      • Ma Xianding says:

        Make an article of it BenK. Filipino fall for the cheapest marketing tricks. From Wowowee to ridiculous hats to Noynoy campaign.

    • benign0 says:

      The amount of conformity in Pinoy society is really astounding. There is not much latitude to express over a broader range than what is dictated by what is “in”. It’s the reason why the Bandwagon Effect is particularly effective in the Philippines which is why all these published “survey” results are so frequently bandied around.

      One just needs to come up with a punchy catchphrase or slogan and Pinoys will rally around it like flies are drawn to crap.

      While we sat at a party watching our kids play and interact, a friend of mine observed how kids here (in Australia) are so assertive and are so aware of their entitlement to speak out and define themselves. They lack self-consciousness, volunteer enthusiastically for everything, and have no qualms about addressing a group or even a crowd.

      Compare that to kids in the Philippines. They are at an early age so conscious of possible failure and embarrassment — which is why they grow up to be averse to exploration and discovery.

    • ChinoF says:

      Sure will be the time when society accepts that conformity can be a sin.

  5. Pingback: Dilettantes can be adorable, but not when they’re bitter | Barrio Siete

  6. John Amend-All says:

    A couple of things, if I may. Not only in Philippines do minority parties get to rule. In UK, we have not had a ruling party elected by >50% of the vote since, I believe, 1950. It is down to our first-past-the-post electoral system where concentrations of voters in an area are more important than numbers of voters in total. i hope Philippines does not go down that route when it finally adopts charter change. I don’t think people always vote
    for what will benefit them individually, either. Sometimes it is “what will benefit my class?”

    While I do not dispute the extreme conformity of society here (why do all the young girls have to have exactly the same hairstyle) it does seem to be different when kids here have a microphone thrust under their noses. They sing their hearts out on TV, in the karaoke bar, whether they can actually sing or not.


    • benign0 says:

      It could be a maturity thing as well. In, say, Australia (as I suppose it is in the UK), one tries their darndest to get the politicians they prefer elected to office, but then when that’s done we all go back to the business of, well, living life and making a living.

      So in that sense, a minority-elected official enjoys the benefit of governing in an environment where relatively everything is done via strong institutions and processes. As such, the social/institutional infrastructure is already there to govern efficiently; i.e. (1) institutions are trusted and therefore people defer more to these and (2) people in general are focused on enough productive and personally-fulfilling endeavours to be so hung up over their candidate not winning.

      Because people in advanced societies have bigger control over their lives, their feeling of well-being has less ties with who happens to be running the government.

    • ricelander says:

      “…it does seem to be different when kids here have a microphone thrust under their noses. They sing their hearts out on TV, in the karaoke bar, whether they can actually sing or not.”

      Hahaha, yeah, I like that observation. I have no problem with good singers. It is when someone obviously so unmusical who would want to hug the mic for himself and make music a medium for slow agonizing torture.

  7. FreeSince09 says:

    It’s not that whole bandwagon effect too, it’s the way we’re educated and what we’re expected from governement.

  8. DJ says:

    I had a very recent conversation where you were proven correct: Pilipinos, in general, do not like think highly of others who are individualistic. They view it as a major flaw in one’s personality.

    A friend and I were discussing the article “Why I will vote for Noynoy” by (a person pretending to be) Winnie Monsod. One of the reasons she gave for choosing Noynoy was that he has a legacy to live up to.

    (So you won’t be confused, my friend’s words are marked with quotation marks but mine aren’t.)

    I was adamant that family legacy and filial obligations shouldn’t be a criterion for choosing a president. My friend argued that it should be, after all “What drives a man to do things is just as important. Motivation is key.”

    What has that got to do with family legacy? Motivation is key, true. But what drives a man are his personal ambitions, not what his parents stood for.

    “DJ, napapaghalata ang individualistic worldview mo.”

    By this point, I was confused. What’s wrong with individualism?! And what has that got to do with our conversation?!

    “It fails to take into account the influence of, and the consequence on, the larger group. It comes from the individual, which is a false thing because we are products of our environment to an extent.”

    Huh. What’s wrong with it kung wala kang inaapakan at ninanakawan? People who put up businesses do so for want of money! But they employ people who, in turn, feed their families. What’s wrong with that?

    “The point I’m making is that motivation is important.” I already said I agree. But personal ambition is the strongest factor and not filial obligations. Hasn’t history shown us that? Repeatedly?

    “It may be stronger, but it is not nobler. A better motivation is serving something larger than himself.”

    I agree, of course. I, am after all, a Christian. But can we really expect any politician to be completely self-less?! Do be so self-sacrificing?! I say (quoting someone actually), there’s nothing wrong with ambition as long as that ambition coincides with the interest of the people. If there is anything true with a politician, it is his agenda and ambition.

    • Kahlil says:

      “…It comes from the individual, which is a false thing because we are products of our environment to an extent.”

      hey DJ 🙂

      though i agree that we are ‘products of our environment to an extent.’ we are, in the end, by no choice of ours, stuck with our own minds and free will. now i think therein lies our motivation: our constant wrestling with ourselves because its there to wrestle with. and of course, for some people, it’s just easier to not fight it and just go with the flow. i suppose your friend has an easier life compared to you, he doesn’t have to think so much 🙂

      personally, the best guide for individualism can be found on ‘The Fountainhead’. As the main character, architect Howard Roark, explained, his responsibility towards designing a building is in its purpose alone and nothing more. i suppose there are other better books to read out there but i guess i’m just too much of a stuck-up 🙂

      you’re not alone here 🙂

  9. Also let us not forget that economic develepment is also a pre-requisite for democracy. Well, knowing the situation of the Philippines, I guess people should reflect on this.

  10. Zadkiel says:

    sobrang pakikisama. sa dami ng mahihirap dapat maging mahirap ka rin para may pakisama ka.
    *just kidding*

    1 word = “maturity”

    a mature person can be independent. but pinoys, especially the poor depends on government to alleviate them from poverty.

    a mature individual knows the consequences of his actions. pinoys who voted for erap does not know the consequences of voting him.

    a mature human is accountable/responsible for his actions and accepts fault when it is his. pinoys blame everyone/everything else but himself.

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