Your Chair Wrecker’s February 15 column (“The shameless Filipino elite”) elicited some very interesting reactions from foreigners and Filipinos alike.
Your Chair Wrecker now shares with you two of the most noteworthy of these reactions.
From Julio Rey Hidalgo, a well-informed political watcher and occasional STAR contributor:
“The elite’s preoccupation is how to protect, if not enlarge, their base of political/economic power and continue the entitlements, prestige, and privilege to which they and generations of their kind have been accustomed to. The middle class, for the most part, would prefer to be left alone to live their separate lives in relative peace, minus interference from others and from government, so long as the situation does not threaten or affect them. The masses are chained to the necessities of daily physical survival and pragmatism. It’s not that they do not understand the higher ideals, the lack of which you are lamenting. It’s just that there are more urgent and basic needs they have to attend to first. Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy applies.
I don’t think it is possible to shame the elite anymore than it is useful to hector the masses about their lack of civic responsibility. Each of us has our own — individually and collectively — flawed traits. And these have been so deeply buried in our habits and consciousness that we no longer see them, much less their dangerous implications. Again, the image of Filipinos acting like fish in the ocean — aware of everything around them, except the water in which they live.
The crux of the problem is precisely that we pay lip service to the need for change, but are unwilling to personally take action to bring it about. Behavioral science says that to change behavior, it is first necessary to “unfreeze” the old sets, introduce the new, and then “re-freeze” or institutionalize these into the perceptual, attitudinal, and behavioral systems.
Yes, but exactly how to do this? Looking at the trajectory of events and the incredible nonchalance among our three segments of society, it may not be long before the top of the dam is reached. When, not if, that happens, I hope those with a clear perspective of the errors and wrong decisions of our national past will come forward and help provide the guidance to constructively channel the tidal force that will ensue.”
From Cris Villahermosa, a nationalist forced by economic circumstance to work abroad:
“Although the vast majority of Filipinos are homogeneous (and this is important as homogeneity facilitates integration and unity as in Japan where as in the last war it seemed that the Japanese were ready to die for Yamato Dama-shii to the last man, woman and child) our ruling classes share little common ground with the rest of the population.
By ancestry, members of our elite claim and are proud of their Spanish, American and Chinese ancestry. A rich educated Filipino though he may be as dark as his obvious aboriginal ancestors, the Agta, would still claim no matter how distant, a drop of say Castilian blood although that drop may only be in between his toenails.
Or, just like the British ruling class of the previous centuries, he may fancy himself/herself as genteel with almost nothing in common with the rest of what he considers hoi polloi. But there is a significant difference in that the British poms were at least united within their class and in their loyalty to “King and country” which was why there was a British Empire. The members of the Filipino ruling elite, on the other hand, are not even united among themselves and have little or no sense of loyalty to their class, institutions, religion or ideology. They act like Pacmen motivated only by greed and self-aggrandizement.
How about ethnic regionalism? Although some accused Marcos of Ilocanizing the government and the Armed Forces, it is curious to note that his closest cronies who helped him maintain power and amass wealth were not even Ilocanos. They were of all other ethnic groups, mestizo Pampangos, Visayans, Tagalogs, etc.
You know who they were. As a matter of fact, and I have personal knowledge of this, the worst victims of torture and rape were social and religious activists in the Ilocos Region. You may remember our two women poll watchers in Ilocos Sur who were raped, tortured and beheaded during the 1985 Snap Election. There were more Ilocano victims well before that during the Marcos regime. So unity through ethnic regionalism is also a myth.” (End of quoted reactions)
As the Information, Education, Opportunity and Wealth Gaps worsen, the country comes closer to the edge. A student of history knows that under the prevailing Philippine social conditions, it is just a question of WHEN (not IF) the long feared social explosion will happen.
What should worry the elite and the middle class here is that the apathy and cynicism of the masses insinuate total loss of confidence on the right leader emerging from the current crop. If so, then that opens the door for adventurers to grab power.
How much time do we have before the desperate, the hungry, the disillusioned and the hopeless start thinking that revolution is the only means left for attaining economic relief?
Do we, who can initiate reform and improve their lot, just sit and wait for the bloodbath to happen?