Our damaged culture needs urgent repair
AS I WRECK THIS CHAIR By William M. Esposo
The Philippine Star 2011-02-17
All this chatter about Charter change, the search for the ideal leader, instituting better systems and policies is precious time wasted on belaboring wrong solutions to our wrong problems. A people with a damaged culture will manage to make the worst of any system or policy.

A new Constitution or a good president cannot hope to reform the defective mindset of a nation — the way a people think, feel, act and react — unless the people themselves recognize their problem and solve it.

What exactly ails the Filipino culture? Your Chair Wrecker can easily cite the following aspects of our damaged culture:

Our colonial mentality

Despite all the documented and discussed abuses, exploitation and manipulation we had received from the US there are still many of our countrymen who think and feel that the US is a benevolent parent to the Philippines. Today, the US has a highly suspicious interest in Mindanao and many Filipinos — in and out of Mindanao — still think that the US activity there is for our best interests.

How many Filipinos have openly admitted (or secretly wished) that they had been born as Americans? This has been reflected in a psychographic survey that was conducted among Filipino youth in 2001. More than the material benefits of living in America — the overriding factor was the lack of pride in our own race.

While many Filipinos craved for all things American, the early Japanese tourists during the late 1960s and early 1970s were being criticized for traveling to a foreign land to be among fellow Japanese, riding in Japanese tourist buses and eating in Japanese restaurants.  

Our crab mentality

Nothing is more woeful for a nation than when its own people are its worst enemies. The wonder of it all is that Filipino crabs are aware that the Chinese community here had risen to greater financial standing — and social status — largely because of the cooperation Filipino-Chinese have. The Filipino-Chinese have their fair share of federation intramurals but this is not allowed to hinder their bigger goal of promoting their collective interests.

In contrast, when Filipino organizations start to grow, the crabs in us also start to itch and will commence to conspire in bringing down the top crab in the crab basket. Through the years when we were colonized by Spain and the US, Filipino nationalist causes and initiatives could not flourish because we were more inclined to fight among ourselves rather than to remove the foreign yoke hung around our neck. Even when we already have a good leader, there are still a number of Filipinos who are more inclined to believe US assessments about our country than that of our own government.

Part of this crab mentality is the knee jerk tendency to bring down any leader — regardless if a good or bad leader. Successful nations support their good leaders and police their bad ones. Here we do not seem to make a distinction between a good and a bad leader. The crab in us has this genetic link to the scorpion that will fatally sting anyone who will lead.  

Our fiesta mentality

We lack the Confucian ethic of the Chinese and the Koreans which made their countries rise from adversity and become two of the best performing economies in the world today. The Chinese will think of posterity — what to bequeath the future generation. Many Filipinos live for the moment and will indulge in a fiesta which the family can ill afford.

To the Filipino mind, a small amount is better spent on enjoyment since it cannot be enough to capitalize a business. To the enterprising Chinese, every centavo saved is added capital to the business empire that their grandchildren will inherit. The Chinese who used to live in cramp dwellings in Chinatown during the 1950s, where home and business were both located, have since moved residence to posh subdivisions.

Our ‘pwede na yan (that will do)’ mentality

Filipinos who manufacture “pwede na yan” products and render “pwede na yan” services will find themselves running out of customers and clients. We’re not even talking about attaining excellence levels here but the imperatives of survival.

Globalization has made competition stiffer. In order to survive globalization, technology handicapped Filipinos must strive harder in terms of effort, in going the extra mile for the customer. To subscribe to the “pwede na yan” mentality is to harbor a business death wish.

Clearly, these four cited aspects of our damaged culture — our colonial, crab, fiesta and “pwede na yan” mentality — a Charter change or a good president cannot hope to reform. Vis-à-vis these problems, Charter change is no better than a sea worthy ship that cannot be expected to function as a land transport.

Reforming our damaged culture is both a national and a community undertaking. It is a national undertaking because we cannot address such a serious problem if all Filipinos are not involved. It is community undertaking because it is in the community where the damaged culture is reformed and tested after the inputs.

The sooner we address our damaged culture, the sooner we will attain our big national goals.

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