One way to regard Philippine roads and the motorists who use them is to see these as the putrid contents in a laboratory petri dish. In it we can study more closely certain behaviours that can be observed in a people that seemingly find it impossible to work with any of the systems they pay their hard-earned cash in taxes for. By isolating a small cross-section of Filipino society — our traffic ecosystem — within that hypothetical petri dish, we can more easily analyse why Filipinos quite simply cannot be expected to do the right thing.
Road systems in the Philippines are not designed properly. Most roads do not have coherently-laid out signs and lane markings. Where they exist, lanes can end just as abruptly as they may appear as you drive down a road. Six-lane highways are made to feed into two-lane roads. Signs guide drivers in a way that does not consider nor is consistent with actual road conditions.
You just cannot trust the system of road markings, signage, and traffic signalling, of Philippine streets to facilitate your safe arrival at your intended destination — not if you plan on observing traffic rules as you drive to where you are going. For example, sticking to one lane usually results in you at some point getting hemmed into a slow-moving cluster of jeepneys or gettng cut-off by other more aggressive drivers. And giving way to other motorists often results in a loss of one’s own chance to move forward as other drivers rush in to exploit your generosity. In other words a typical motorist does not see herself gaining anything from working with the system.
Scale this simple model up, and some insight into the whole reason why the Philippines does not work can be gleaned. There is a prevailing kanya-kanya mentality that copes with systems that are designed with little more than our renowned bahala-na and pwede-na-yan mentalities applied to the task. And this kanya-kanya approach is applied with impunity.
Note those three elements mentioned above:
– bahala na
– pwede na yan
They are elements in that Filipino Cultural Trinity framework I described a while back and illustrated in the following diagram:
Taken in the above context, it becomes a bit easier to come to terms with the confronting reality of Da Pinoy Condition, which can be described quite simply thus:
In the Philippines, you play by the rules, you lose.
The above is a good response to the lament Dr Jose Rizal II makes in a recent article. In that article he observes how Filipinos, despite possessing some semblance of intelligence (believe it or not!), most often apply their thinking faculties towards the wrong things:
Sa totoo lang, maraming Pilipino ang matalino. At ang talinong yan ay nakikita sa larangan ng musika at iba pa. Ang BPO industry mismo (lalo na’t sa mga specialized sa back-office operations) ay isang larangan kung saan ang talino ng mga Pilipino ay nagagamit.
Ngunit sa maraming bagay, nagiging kahiya-hiya ang ipinapakitang “kalidad ng talino” ng mga Pilipino.
The short recommendation given these observations is that the problems of our nation need to be seen as a system of issues. It is only in that light that systemic solutions can be formulated and implemented.
Are our politicians up to that sort of world-class thinking?
Ben Kritz in his recent article MB Polls Voters on Critical Issues takes a stab at some answers. He provides insight into the way we regard that oft-bandied demon of Filipino society — corruption. Through the hollow-headed “insight” on “corruption” routinely disseminated by the Philippine Media and in the way our society’s leaders (politicians and the Clergy) follow-through on these banal moronisms by engineering “crusades” against it, Filipinos have been progressively assured of their helpless role as mere victims of endemic corruption rather than major contributors to it.
Because we Filipinos have become so comfy with the notion that “corruption” is an “evil” that “victimises” us, we don’t consider the part we play in propagating it. That goes the same for most other seemingly insurmountable problems our sad society need to overcome in our slow crawl to prosperity. Instead of electing Presidents to solve our problems, we should see ourselves electing them to lead us in a collective effort to solve them.
Note the word collective. It highlights that:
The problem includes us and therefore the solution needs to include us.
This is an important point to take given our messianic regard for Presidents. We see them — their person — as signs of “hope” despite the lack of any clear evidence of any strong causal link between who the president is and how probable our achieving our national aspirations becomes. On that note, I take us back to the example of the way Filipinos see “corruption”, with a bit more of Kritz’s take on the matter:
[…] a significant part of the electorate seems destined for a big disappointment in how corruption is handled by whoever is eventually elected president. For the most part, the root causes of corruption are not being addressed by the candidates. Dick Gordon is a significant exception, but even his message could use a little refinement, because the connection he makes between the fundamental problems underlying corruption and the fact of corruption itself is clearly not yet getting through to the voters. The same can probably also be said of Nick Perlas. Neither of the two supposed “front-running” candidates, Manny Villar and Noynoy Aquino, have addressed the issue effectively at all, instead offering only vague administrative or institutional fixes. Apart from the fact that the sincerity of these ideas is questionable given the significant corruption issues dogging both candidates, they are simply not good ideas. The underlying problems that cause the administrative or institutional flaws that directly result in corruption are given short shrift or ignored entirely, and as a consequence, the proposals are as good as doomed before they even get the chance to implement them.
I think we need to be careful of what we wish for. If our presidential candidates somehow get around to delving deeper into the more fundamental causes of “corruption” in the way they pitch their value to us, I am willing to bet that their journey will bring them (and us) face-to-face with the real reason behind why corruption and Filipino society are such loving partners in crime. And many of us won’t like what we find, for I believe that all roads in the journey to gaining some clarity around why our society is corrupt to the bone will lead to only one thing — the fundamental nature of Da Pinoy Condition.
Only when we see ourselves as key contributors to our problems will we find solutions that we can consider ourselves to be part of. And only then can we come to appreciate how much our Presidents can really do for us.