Are Filipinos individualist, collectivist, or just a bunch of moochers?

Labels are now the “in” thing among so-called “intellectuals” of the Philippine blogosphere. Some Filipinos who are actively participating in debates are suddenly identifying themselves as either libertarian, conservative, progressive, socialist, communist, etcetera, etcetera.

Apparently, there are people who think that you need to identify yourself with a particular ideology. Otherwise, they insist on putting a label on you based on the way you think. I was once labeled a “statist” just for advocating responsible speech. I tell ya, the way some people label others is very intrusive, short of literally putting a tag on you the way the Nazis placed tags on Jews to separate them from the non-Jews.

Of all the labels that I hear being slapped around, there are two that stand out: “collectivist” and “individualist“.

Filipinos demand much while offering nothing in return.

I don’t consider myself belonging to a particular political or social ideology. I just tend to believe in whatever works. I noticed lately that those who tend to be over-enthusiastic about labeling other people this and that tend to be those who describe themselves as “individualists.” But individualism is supposed to promote self-creation and experimentation, so I find it ironic that such people appear to adhere to a particular ideology.

Since I do not subscribe to any labels, I could be the one being true to the definition of “individualism.” But I refuse to put myself in a box because I want be free to change my mind any time later on.

So what is the difference between individualism and collectivism?

Collectivism defined “is a political or economic theory advocating collective control especially over production and distribution or; (the) emphasis on collective rather than individual action or identity.”

People who subscribe to collectivism believe that the rights of each individual (the right to life, the right to liberty and security, the right to a fair trial, freedom of expression, etcetera, etcetera) belong to the government or the state and that those rights can also be taken away from the individual.

A scenario where government can take an individual’s rights is when the institution decides that an individual is more harmful to the rest of the members of society if he remains “free” so therefore; the best solution is to lock him up thereby denying him some of his civil liberties.

Collectivists supposedly put more emphasis on “the greater good for the greater number.” But since these movements have been associated with suppression of individual rights, most individualists tend to be wary of any legislation governments introduce fearing a veering of the state towards socialism, communism or totalitarianism.

Social movements such as socialism, communism and totalitarianism have been known to follow the collectivism approach under the banner of prioritizing group goals over individual goals. China is an example of a country with a communist-totalitarian form of government while Singapore has a democratic-authoritarian government. Both countries adhere to collectivism. It should be noted that both countries are doing well economically partly due to their sound economic policies, which include opening up their market to foreign investors. Obviously, both countries use a simple equation: “economics trumps politics, prosperity precedes polls, and social stability prevails over individual expression.”

Former Prime Minister of Singapore, Lee Kuan Yew is proud to admit that he used a few incentives, bordering on “coercion” to motivate people to work hard. It is interesting to note that Singapore is proud to claim that they “never went on the same type of dole-out distribution spree that characterized many prosperous Western countries who believed in socialistic welfarism.” Lee seems to indicate that there are people from different ethnic groups who are not prone to independent thought and need outside stimulus to be able to “get going.” In other words, in some societies, some people really do need to be whipped into shape.

Former Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohammad echoed the same sentiments in the past. This is what he had to say about the Malay ethnic group:

They are laid-back and prone to take the easy way out. And the easy way out is to sell off whatever they get and ask for more. This is their culture. Working hard, taking risks and being patient is not a part of their culture. It should be remembered that in the past the Malays were not prepared to take up the jobs created by the colonial powers in their effort to exploit the country.

Since the Malaysian government recognizes that not everyone in Malaysia is created equal, they had to introduce an economic policy called New Economic Policy (NEP) in an effort to level the playing field across the entire population and help those who are poor and marginalized particularly members of the Malay community to catch up economically with the more entrepreneurial minority, the Chinese and Indian migrants.

Individualism is the opposite of collectivism. It is defined “as the pursuit of individual rather than common or collective interests.” Individualists believe that governments should not give rights to the individual but rather, protect them. To an individualist, “human right” is an abstract concept that is inherent to every human being. Individualists usually advocate less government interference and more independent thought or action. Individualists seem to live in a world where they assume that everyone is created equal and that people can rise above dire circumstances on their own with little or no help from the government.

Individualism is also associated with egoism, which is the pursuit of one’s own welfare. It also seems to incline one to an excessive or exaggerated sense of self-importance. Now you know why I do not want to be called an individualist. My personal encounter with a few so-called individualists confirm that they tend to be paranoid about the government or any individual they perceive to be advocating for more laws that they fear will take their civil liberties away.

Americans are proud individualists. They say that what makes America great is the freedom of individuals to be who they want to be. Their constitution clearly states they want no further laws introduced that can potentially take away some of the freedom they enjoy. They are very particular about legislation they deem to be infringing on their human rights.

Americans are also very wary about socialist movements that they think are creeping up onto their society. US President Barack Obama’s health care system has been widely regarded with suspicion that it operates under too much of a socialist model. It is hard to determine whether it is the individualists or the corporations who benefit from the current health care model that is behind the loudest complaining though. I wonder if some of these Americans ever stop to consider if their fears are unfounded? After all, the Cold War is over.

Unfortunately, the singular pursuit of one’s own welfare could have been a key culprit behind the 2008 global financial crisis (GFC) that originated in the US. A lot of egoistic and narcissistic men running US financial institutions neglected to think through the consequences of their actions when they offered too much credit to people who could not afford to pay them back.

Australia, some European nations, and the United Kingdom operate under some aspects of the socialist model and recognize both collective and individualistic philosophy. Individual rights do not seem to suffer from their form of government. In fact, they promote the spirit of true egalitarian societies where everyone is given a fair chance of survival.

The Australian economic policy for instance seems to indicate that they believe in “the greater good for the greater number” with the way higher income earners are taxed more than the lower income earners. The health care system in Australia, which is funded by taxpayer’s money, seems to be working well for the people. In other words, Australian society doesn’t seem to be suffering even with a socialist form of government. In fact, The Economist earlier reported that Australia’s “textbook economics” and sound management have truly worked wonders for the country.

Are Filipinos collectivist or individualist?

People belonging to Southeast Asian countries are usually considered collectivists but I would not consider Filipinos as such in every sense of the word. Being a Filipino, I still find it difficult to describe us as either collectivists or individualists given the way some of us behave and think. I suppose Filipinos tend to follow a religious ideology, namely the Christian ideology more than a political or social ideology. And Christianity tends to default to individualism more than collectivism.

But with 7.4% unemployed today, there are so many Filipinos who expect the government to give them handouts. They also expect their elected leaders to lift the status of the economy without regard for what they need to contribute on their part as individuals. These characteristics might be mistaken for collectivism but really, their actions merely reflect those of moochers or those who are in the habit of trying to get something for free. Individualists say that these moochers rob taxpayers and what irks them the most is that taxes should go where they will yield better results than to people who will just squander the cash.

Individualists say, and I tend to agree in principle, that moochers should not be given handouts because grants tend to prolong their reliance on government. It is safe to say that in general, individualists are averse to the redistribution of income for “the greater good for the greater number.” But one can also argue that since not everyone is created equally, how can some people who have a handicap or those who are disadvantaged in society have a fair go in life if no one gives them a break?

An example of a group of people who are disadvantaged are the Filipino farmers of Hacienda Luisita. It had been alleged that the Cojuancos have not kept their promise to distribute land to the farm workers under the stock distribution option (SDO) scheme of 1988. Under the scheme, the nearly 5,000 to 6,000 hectares of the estate was placed under a stock distribution agreement between the landowners and farm workers.

Not only have the landlords (or some might say, land grabbers) not kept their promise, but they were also embroiled in the death of 14 people during a strike that erupted because of negotiations and unfair dismissals in the farm in 2004. In this instance, the farmers never had a chance to change their social status because they were not given a fair treatment.

In the above scenario, a collectivist approach or a government intervention might just be the solution to the farmer’s woes. I can’t imagine an individualist having a problem with that idea.

Another example is the issue of the proposed Reproductive Health bill, which is supposed to address maternal health care and curb population growth. A lot of people say that the proposed bill is a product of a collectivist mind. Some say that the proponents of the RH bill are trying to rob taxpayers of their hard earned money and give it to people who don’t deserve it.

The men and women who are against the proposed bill argue that the government should not be handing out free contraceptives because it is not fair to the rest of the taxpayers. What the poor people need, as they say, and I tend to agree in principle, is to get a job so they can buy their own contraceptives. But how can these poor people, the very ones who keep multiplying at a fast rate, possibly get out of the cycle of poverty if they can’t even afford an education, let alone contraceptives?

Let’s face it: not everyone is created equal. Not everyone possesses the same constitution as Henry Sy, Donald Trump or Bill Gates. Heck, even Bill Gates thinks that the bulk of his money should go to charity instead of his kids. So it is not very realistic for an invidualist to expect each member of society to have the ability to make it without some form of assistance from a private or public entity.

Top scientist Stephen Hawking himself defended socialised health care in Great Britain, his home country, after Investor’s Business Daily ran an editorial asserting that Hawking “wouldn’t have a chance in the U.K.,” and that his life would have been seen to be “essentially worthless” by the health care system there.

Hawking’s response to the editorial:

“I wouldn’t be here today if it were not for the [British National Healthcare System (N.H.S.)]. I have received a large amount of high-quality treatment without which I would not have survived.”

There is no denying that there are a lot of Filipinos who tend to put their own interest first before others. They also believe that the right to self-survival is intrinsic in every individual. To put it simply, a Filipino would find it easy to pretend that the squatters living along Pasig River and those people living among the dead in the North Cemetery are okay as long as he is comfortable in his home in Forbes Park.

So it would seem that most Filipinos have the mentality of an egoist or an individualist. And since a lot of the public servants in Philippine government are also considered moochers on account of the way they pocket public funds, they too can be considered individualists because they don’t seem to care about the welfare of others.

Isn’t it in every individual’s interest to help others to be more self-reliant so the number of moochers or those who are reliant on dole-outs will be less in the future?

Since not everyone is created equally, some people need assistance or incentive to be able to work their way out of poverty. What the country needs are programs or incentives to level the playing field across the entire population and help those who are poor and marginalized to catch up economically with the more entrepreneurial individual members of society. This might take some kind of government intervention, which some individualists might detest, but it is the only way for our society to move forward because there are a lot of Filipinos who seem to need coercion before moving their ass.

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40 Comments on “Are Filipinos individualist, collectivist, or just a bunch of moochers?”

  1. maybe not moochers all of them, but here’s one way i would describe (a whole lotta) pinoys (o ayan gabbyd, hindi ko nila-lahat ha! just for you pare, malakas ka sa akin eh.):

    collectivists on the outside, individualists on the inside, completely dressed up with nowhere to go

    1. “collectivists on the outside, individualists on the inside, completely dressed up with nowhere to go”

      ahahahaha, and dancing and singing really loud in the meanwhile

      1. “and dancing and singing really loud in the meanwhile”

        hey that does sound like any given neighborhood where state-of-the-art videoke technology exists. (or perhaps where willie revillame on tv is an apparition of God, which equals practically every corner of this many-cornered country) (a.k.a. dole-outs bonanza, televised) (a.k.a. will dance sexy for cash)

  2. great article, ilda, a fair and balanced treatment of the prevailing ideologies. i believe no nation on earth, past and present, can compare to america’s “exceptionalism” in all areas of human endeavor. i believe this is due to its adherence to individualism (as opposed to socialism or collectivism).

    but, mind you. there are enough “socialists” in america, since the era of woodrow wilson and fdr, who are gaining inroads into the american politics, e.g. the election of obama, pelosi and reid and the appointment of known leftists in the obama administration. i believe these corrode america’s position of greatness and excellence in the world.

    as you mentioned, and i agree, “rights” don’t come from the government. on the contrary, the government derives its rights to govern from individual citizens. that’s why the american constitution is a check on the government and not the other way around.

    1. Hi bencard,

      Thanks for liking the article. I hope the system of check and balance will work against the forces that can potentially “corrode America’s position of greatness.” If not, I’m pretty sure America can rise again. They just have to be prepared to accept where they have gone wrong and do something to amend it.

      😉

      1. it seems check and balance didn’t work under the triumvirate of obama, pelosi and reid. it took a mid-term election, i.e. “shellacking” to change the “balance” and undo some of the most harmful policies of the obama administration. i hope the “restoration” of america’s greatness will happen after the 2012 elections.

        1. @Bencard

          I didn’t realise that Obama’s policies are that “harmful”. I hope you can elaborate. I am really curious to know why.

      2. Ilda, Ben and I go back to FV arguments, as we occupy opposite ends of the spectrum on things. His is Tea Party right and I am Obama left, so I have to put tape over my mouth and let him have the perspectives to which he is entitled.

        I am intensely proud of the US for electing President Obama, nailing a big coffin of racism tighter shut, and opting for a thinker and diplomat instead of a cowboy hipshooter. Ben’s opining won’t change my view, as anything I would offer up won’t change his. We just talk past one another, I suppose.

      3. @ilda, these are cold facts: (1) massive public spending, e.g, bailouts, stimulus, cash for clunkers, 105-week unemployment benefit. etc.; (2)14.5 trillion public debt; (3) gas @ $4 +/gallon; (4) higher food prices, indicating inflation; (5) worsening illegal immigration and border crossings; (6) massive unemployment at 9.1%; (7) lower gdp, and flight of businesses abroad (8) real estate values hitting rock-bottom; nationwide foreclosures; loss of prestige, influence and respect in the world stage, especially among allies, e.g., israel; etc. need i say more? anyone who wishes to rebut that must do so also with cold facts, not tired cliches or platitudes like “racism”.

        1. From memory, I thought the bailouts and stimulus started even before Obama was elected and that the biggest question was whether Obama was going to continue them or not, which he did.

          I’m pretty sure the two wars the US engaged in in early 2000 and the GFC in 2008 had a lot to do with depressed economy now. The financial institutions responsible for the GFC did not just start their ugly business during Obama’s term too.

          Unfortunately, globablization has been bad for the US as well with countries like India taking over some of US citizens jobs.

      4. ilda, note that bencard didnt really answer your question. he just put a few facts there and blamed obama.

      5. The only thing missing from Ben’s fact-based argument is that the economic train was rammed onto ice by President Bush, under a steam of a 9 trillion public debt increasing daily by his policies of funding two wars “off budget” and granting tax breaks for rich people. So he is omitting one very profound fact. Now he wants President Obama to yank it back onto solid footing ASAP, which is easy to do as a sloganeer, but hard to do as a train engineer, on ice. I’ll elaborate more on my own site rather than muddy up your thoughtful article with silly debate.

      6. benigno, indeed the train has been a bit wild, if you consider the financial arena and some of the unregulated instruments of fashion, or if you consider wild consumption. There are many culprits. President Obama is the least of these.

    2. @ilda, sorry to say you’re misinformed re bailouts and stimulus. it was by obama through his tax-dodging adviser, tim gietner, with approval of captive congress (pelosi) and senate (reid). at the end of bush’s term, unemployment was 5% and the debt was nowhere near the 14.5 trillion dollars that we have now and yet, the liberals rabidly demonized him. if the wars that bush started were so wrong, why is obama continuing it even as we speak (now adding libya to the mix)?

      obama was elected on his “messianic” promises that he would correct everything that was “wrong” with america. he failed in each one of them and, instead exacerbated and made EVERYTHING worse. i said those who wish to contest my views should present COLD FACTS, as i did.

      1. @Bencard

        You do have valid points. Obama did not accomplish the “change” that he promised. I personally would call it as continuing on from where Bush left off.

        Just from an outsider’s point of view because I’m neither a US resident nor an Obama/Bush fan:

        1. Could it be that it was really hard to just pull out of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, which is why the Obama administration had to continue on? Maybe he didn’t have a choice and was met by opposition when he brought up the idea that he would stop the war.

        2. Same with the unemployment rate: the increase could be attributed to businesses that closed due to the GFC. And also to the employers who laid-off employees and are still wary of hiring more people again. Likewise, I see globalization as a bad thing for Americans because some of them lost their jobs to Indians (outsourcing) or Chinese (factories now based there).

        Cheers!

        1. “Likewise, I see globalization as a bad thing for Americans because some of them lost their jobs to Indians (outsourcing) or Chinese (factories now based there).”

          They lost their job because of excessive regulations like minimum wage, not globalization.

      2. I think the real question here is how far back the causes of the problems the US is experiencing now can be traced. Is it all within the scope of what Obama’s administration could have controlled or influenced? Or does it go further back to Bush’s term? Oor even further back than that?

        Seems to me that Obama’s only fault is making a campaign promise and then breaking it. But to put the entire thing on his watch seems to me to be a bit unfair.

  3. There’s a white elephant in this… and it goes by the name of objectivists 🙂

    oops did I just kick the hornet’s nest?

    @JoshuaT: no truer words were said

  4. Labels are super-generalizations, a way to distill a whole raft of ideas wrongly into one word. Obama is a socialist like I am a Japanese. It is a convenient slur in the modern America, a place where sound bites are more important than thoughtful reflection. The way I figure it, if the US continues its descent into shallow thinking, and the Philippines continues its assent into good thinking (RH and Divorce Bills), the Philippines may just pass the US in terms of overall enlightenment. ‘Course I’ll be pushing up vines in some old dilapidated Philippine cemetary.

    1. I tell ya, some people are so paranoid. Imagine, I’ve been called a “statist” just because of my article on freedom of speech!

      ‘Course I’ll be pushing up vines in some old dilapidated Philippine cemetary

      I was laughing out loud when I read this. We are all going to be doing that to the tune of “Thriller.” hahaha.

  5. Feudal Oligarch Filipinos are collectivists…putting their greater good over the welfare of most Filipinos…
    I don’t know how to define our own situation ; I don’t like being put into a Box and labeled, such and such person…I believe in thinking freely…but, have to be altruistic, enough to contribute to the good of everybody…

      1. There are mostly people who just started reading Ayn Rand. One thought I had though: when you care about your country and want to see it out of poverty, isn’t that altruism in a sense? I mean, it’s better to want to see poverty solved, but why hate altruism if you understand it to be “helping other people?”

        1. Yes, there seems to be a lot of individuals nowadays who get suckered into someone’s idea on how to deal with inequality in the world.

  6. Labels seem to be used mostly by people who believe their view of the world is the only one anybody should have. “My point of view is always right, any others’ point of view should be non-existent.” Well, sorta like that.

    1. It’s ok if the ones who are like that are still in college but there are some who are already in their 40’s or 50’s. They seem like they are having some sort of identity crisis.

  7. Yep.Great Article.

    Filipinos are efficient and effective workers.

    Pinoys are lecherous and pathetic moochers.

    End of Story so Sue me!hahahahaha.

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