I’ve asserted many times in the past that the trouble with the Philippines does not lie in its politics but rather in a profound dysfunction in its society’s character. It is a dysfuinction that is interlaced at the very fibres that make up the very fabric of our society. In taking this view, my over-arching argument has always been that politics are but a mere manifestation — a symptom, one might call it — of this deep flaw in the collective character of the Filipino.
The emerging outcome of this year’s election remains breathtakingly consistent with every single idea put forth by GetRealPhilippines.com since its inception in the midst of the Erap Resign! movement at the dawn of the 21st Century and all through our it’s-the-culture-stupid thesis that AntiPinoy.com itself stands for.
As we turn the page and regard the new six-year chapter in Philippine history that is about to transpire, it is worth revisiting the core idea upon which our view of the world is built:
Who is the Anti-Pinoy?
The answer to the question is encapsulated in the following paragraph from this site’s About page:
In the day-to-day exchange that defines real life for most Pinoys, the daily news, radio and TV broadcasts, our cinema, and in casual conversation, the masa and those who celebrate mediocrity – those who are quick to boast about how ingenious Pinoys are and point to our colorful Jeepneys as examples, or who count the number of look-alike, sound-alike local celebrities or the once-in-a-generation gifted professional athlete as a measure of national greatness – set an UNPATRIOTIC example and lower the bar of public debate.
The more the Anti-Pinoy glorifies these mediocrities and focuses on the vacuous and the trivial, real issues that affect ordinary lives and futures are forgotten or pushed aside. Like the unambitious student who is praised by his parents despite consistently doing poorly in school, the bad habits and low expectations of Pinoy society are reinforced, making it that much harder with every passing day to find the right path.
Not surprisingly, this is a message that Filipinos quite simply find hard to swallow. Indeed, perhaps it hasn’t been swallowed at all, much less digested and internalised. So one is inclined to wonder…
What is the extent of our dysfunction as a people?
As stated earlier, the dysfunction is profound, extensive, and pervades every belief system and approach to thinking that characterises the Filipino. In short, it is cultural — a malaise that is culturally-ingrained, something that is summarised in the About page of GetRealPhilippines.com from which this excerpt is taken:
Any way one looks at things, the reality is this: we’re stuck with each other and that stigma of being Filipino that was aggravated by Erap’s presidency. The first step in the right direction is to swallow the bitter pill and take a good look at ourselves. That’s us! Non-partisan, nothing personal. It’s all in the culture which in GetReal-speak is defined thus:
Culture is the collective character of a people who have given themselves a collective identity.
The Filipino’s greatest enemy is himself – the Anti-Pinoy.
That Filipinos would go out to give their collective thumbs-up to Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III, a man widely regarded by people who apply a bit of brain to the way they generally regard things, as having no character, no vision, and no plans over the next six years as Chief Executive is one thing. But to see Joseph Ejercito Estrada coming in second, a man convicted of plunder and supposedly given a thumbs down (to the tune of more than one million people) back in 2001 by a mob that represents everything that the Aquino clan stands for is quite an amusing revelation to the global community.
This year’s election pretty much describes what the Filipino is all about. To describe all of this as ironic is now too much of a compliment. I prefer to call it moronic.
Given my youthful personal ten-year perspective on this I’d like to defer to a more elderly and presumably wiser take on Da Pinoy Condition from the venerable F. Sionil José related by Financial Times writer David Pilling in his article “Philippine Democracy Under Fire“:
I was in Manila to see F. Sionil José, the Philippines’ most famous novelist and a trenchant social commentator. I found him several flights up a narrow wooden staircase above the Solidaridad bookshop he founded in 1965 in the city’s old Ermita district. A large, forceful man, with a shiny, bald head, José, now 85, bears a striking resemblance to Marlon Brando’s Kurtz in Apocalypse Now. He was less than enthused about the election. “Nothing is going to change,” he chuckled grimly. “I am 85. I have seen three generations of Filipino leaders fail. They have never been able to transcend themselves, neither their class nor their ethnicity.
“Did you read The Economist obituary on her?” he asked, referring to Aquino. “It said her greatness ended when she became president. Many people were angry. But for those of us who had eyes wide open, her rule was a disaster,” he said, hissing the final “s”. “She promised land reform. She didn’t do it. She restored the oligarchy. I never forgave her for that.”
José is a polemicist, who has been branded both a Communist and a CIA spy. But his views on the Aquino presidency are not that unusual. In spite of the outpouring of emotion that I had witnessed at her funeral, many Filipinos had been disappointed by what her presidency actually achieved. She was, after all, say her critics, a member of one of the biggest landowning families in the Philippines. In the end, she did little to antagonise those from the privileged class into which she had been born.
All that said, here’s the thing: There is really nothing new about the Philippines being stuck with a moronic politician and, as such,
The challenge faced by the Filipino remains the same.
Same challenge, different politician. That’s all it is.
We need to become less anti-intellectual and conduct ourselves in a smarter way. It is a simple approach to participating in governance that democracy demands.
It’s simple, really™ — though not for the small-minded.