Recently we the authors and contributors at AntiPinoy.com have turned our guns away from the moronisms of Filipino election politics and pointed them at the moronism of Filipino “ethnic pride” exhibiting itself as a result of the Adam Carolla brouhaha. Some argue that it was an unproductive distraction. Perhaps it was considering that we got into it in the middle of the ramp up to Elections 2010.
But I prefer to see the Carolla experience as a reality check on our attempts to provide reality checks on Filipino society and its quaint politics. It was an opportunity for me, personally, to reflect on how truly immense a well of dysfunctional thinking Filipino society and its culture is. Discovering the disgraceful behaviour of Filipinos over at Adam Carolla’s Facebook page can be likened to spending a fortune on pest control on your home and then uncovering a nest of termites that survived the whole thing. The experience had a humbling effect as it reminded me again (even as AntiPinoy.com soars in readership ranking) of how the scale of the inertia that Filipino Primitivism enjoys utterly dwarfs the Forces of Progress pushing against it.
A friend of mine who heroically spent the better part of the last twelve months trying to change the way Filipinos regard their elections — from a focus on personalities to a focus on issues — expressed her frustration at how dimwitted discussions on such things as whether Villar was “really poor” or not continue to dominate the National “Debate”. Indeed, Filipinos continue to lose the plot. Politics is, as usual, an end in itself — utterly disengaged from the whole point behind it.
It goes back to the Filipino’s inability to answer the simple question: What does the Filipino stand for?
A recent commentor put it quite succinctly:
Among other things, my take is, one of the biggest deeply rooted problems of Pinoys is we never really had a “nation” to speak of. My almost-half a century brain cells recall from my PoliSci-101 that a nation is formed when a majority of its people found a collective vision that propels and encourages everyone to work on ways to improve the path in following that vision.
This absence of nationhood is greatly illustrated in our dire strait of having a substantial sense of heritage. Having no past to be “proud” of, we can’t have a healthy and truthful sense of the present; most want to “escape” the past, the present and the future altogether by just leaving behind this archipelago, or watching Wowowee. I can’t blame both groups.
Lacking greatly in having a grasp of the principles behind nationhood, we ended up as personality-centric collective of warm bodies.
Slight correction then on an earlier statement I made: Filipinos are not losing the plot, they never had one to begin with.
I came across a discussion in a comment thread in another blog between three characters that used to be best buddies when they shared a distaste for, shall we say, an emerging breed of bloggers who represent a glimmer of hope for an enlightened future for Filipinos. But then since they had turned their sights back into — what else — Philippine election political “debate”, they had been at each other’s throats (though in apparent denial that they are as they struggle to remain civil). That’s kind of a microcosm of our society. Our small-minded focus on petty politics could be just a symptom of our lack of a bigger aspiration or challenge that we can all face together as a nation.
It’s not like there is a shortage of big things that Filipinos can unite to face — building a robust economy, improving our democratic institutions, producing better entertainment products, for example. Trouble is, doing great things is not what motivates Filipinos. Filipinos are driven by hiya (roughly translated to English: shame). We do things merely because the alternative for us is nakakahiya (roughly translated in English: shameful).
“Don’t talk too loudly. Nakakahiya.”
“Don’t piss on walls, nakakahiya.”
“Nakakahiya ka if you don’t finish your college degree.”
“Don’t take a risk on that venture. If you fail, nakakahiya.”
“What Adam Carolla said about Filipinos is nakakahiya.”
I therefore strongly believe that Filipinos need to be shamed into action. I recall a commentor already saying here that the softly-softly approach applied to Filipinos has all but failed. Despite so many symbols and monuments erected to imbue a sense of “pride” — Jose Rizal, the Flag, People Power, Independence (to the point of having to re-date that from 1946 to 1898), Gloria Diaz, and most recently Manny Pacquiao — there simply is nothing that underpins all that to sustain a natural pride in being Filipino.
The active ingredient in the pride in heritage we see in, say, the Japanese, Koreans, and the Chinese is achievement. And it is an ingredient that is so obviously mssing in the Filipino tradition. Those three great northeast Asian civilisations are not seen to be great simply because they are as such. They are great because they have civilisations aged in the thousands of years that delivered awesome achievement.
Quite unfortunate then. We Filipinos simply do not have our thousand-year-old civilisation to look back to for greatness much less any significant collective achievement of consequence. That’s just the hand we were dealt. The challenge for us, therefore, can be likened to being stuck with a bad hand of cards in a poker game with high stakes. Recognising that you’ve been dealt a bad hand in a poker game does not necessarily mean you’ve already lost the game. It simply means you know enough about your situation to come up with a winning strategy.
Being born Filipino is like being dealt a bad hand in a poker game.
You could still win.
But it takes brains and savvy to play a bad hand.
It begins with an appreciation of the concept of “being Filipino” as no more than an artificial construct. Be a distinct individual first and then a “Filipino” a distant second. Seen that way it becomes easier to take the next step and see our being “Filipino” as just an unfortunate circumstance that can be rectified by achieving. And with such an attitude, it then becomes easier to take people like Adam Carolla with a grain of salt, and even perhaps find the humour in his words.
Let’s not put the cart before the horse. Come the time that we achieve, greatness will surely follow. But to aspire to greatness without a resolve to achieve merely sets ourselves up for chronic failure.