Walking a fine line betwen critic and crab

A familiar concept to us Filipinos is the utak-talangka, or crab mentality. Explaining it in the simplest terms possible, I define it as the “if I can’t have it, neither can you” kind of mindset. Take crabs in a pot. In order to avoid that one of them escape from the pot, they all pull each other down, and as a result they all die a collective (and usually delicious for humans) death. Getting hungry?

To give a real world example of crab mentality, let’s say your boss is considering promoting your teammate because of his outstanding work. If you are asked for feedback and what you do is badmouth your teammate simply because you’re green with envy, then that is crab mentality.

Filipinos have the tendency to cry crab mentality whenever one of us criticizes an attempt by another to do a “good” thing. Need an example? Just try to remember the “It’s more fun in the Philippines” slogan. Personally, asking people to fill in the blanks for you using crowdsourcing is asking for trouble, but that’s another story.

I think the way many Filipinos cry crab mentality when we criticize each other, our “idols”, or our government officials is misguided. In fact, it’s actually the wrong usage. I am inclined to think that they’re confusing being crabby with crab mentality, but that’s not even accurate. The way they do it, I see it as a defense mechanism for the Filipino whose sense of entitlement is inborn. Part of this sense of entitlement is that he can do no wrong in his own eyes. Hide your insecurities by making someone else look bad, usually envious or “inggit”. That is the sign of a mature person for you right there.

Perhaps there is another quality to the crab that we’re overlooking. Crabs’ shells are tough. You won’t be able to get at the meat unless you use crack the shell with some sort of object. In comparison, many Filipinos often insulate themselves from criticism. Take your pick as to how they do it. They surround themselves with yes men/attack dogs. They display their credentials for the world to see, and assume it will shut everyone up. Or, they simply pretend they heard nothing.

It is no secret that you cannot agree with everybody. You will always find at least one or two persons in any group you interact with who will not necessarily agree with everything you say. Why is this such a difficult thing to grasp for us Filipinos?

Criticism and healthy exchange of different points of view are important because other people will definitely know things you may not. One of the keys to uplifting awareness of people to issues is to emphasize the shaping of well-informed opinions.

If all we did here at GRP and other critical voice blogs was disparage every one else and say nothing but “The Filipino is mediocre and stupid, and he will never improve”, then perhaps we could be considered as crabs. But that’s not our style. First and foremost, we bring awareness to people that there exists a problem in the first place. We don’t beat around the bush nor do we sugarcoat; that defeats the purpose. Thus, you could consider us the blunt object or nutcracker. Second, we also propose solutions where appropriate. So we’re not just all talk. We may walk a fine line between critic and crab, but we never cross it.

How do we know, then, when a line has been crossed from being a critic to being a crab? There are two sides to this: the person criticizing, and the one being criticized.

As a recipient of criticism, all it takes is an open and discerning mind. You don’t have to believe everything you hear; the most important part is that you don’t succumb to the balat-sibuyas tendencies which Filipinos are so famous the world over for. It is not always a personal attack. It definitely doesn’t have to be about losing face or losing an argument, either.

A piece of criticism can be considered a mirror. It reflects at you an image, though it may not be what you want to see:

“Why does a mirror reverse left and right but not up and down? But it does not reverse at all; it merely reflects what is in front of it. The confusion lies with the viewer.”

Look at the message, not the messenger.

Being a good critic, on the other hand, is merely the other side of being criticized. How do you quantify or even qualify it? While choosing our words carefully is of utmost importance, sincerity I believe is the defining trait. I believe constructive critics are sincere in wanting their target to improve.

We contrast this with critics who simply point out everything that’s wrong with everything else just because it makes them feel good about themselves, or because “no one can be better than them”. We call them nitpickers, fault-finders, or in the vernacular, mga pintasero. These are the crabs to watch out for; they snap.

The journey towards our maturity as a nation is a thousand mile one. Being mature about evaluating ourselves is one single step that needs to be taken. It goes a long way. If we can’t even admit to ourselves that more often than not, we need a good fixing-up, or douse of cold water, then we deserve to forever occupy the pothole we’re currently in.

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About FallenAngel

А вы, друзья, как ни садитесь, все в музыканты не годитесь. – But you, my friends, however you sit, not all as musicians fit.

Post Author: FallenAngel

А вы, друзья, как ни садитесь, все в музыканты не годитесь. – But you, my friends, however you sit, not all as musicians fit.

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11 Comments on "Walking a fine line betwen critic and crab"

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DaidoKatsumi
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In the immortal words of Jay:

“Crab mentality is for CRAB PEOPLE.”

Hyden Toro
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An old Chinese proverb states:” The journey to a thousand miles, begins with one single step…” The Filipinos Bloggers have already began this step…I don’t speak for the rest of the Bloggers. However, you can see the intentions of the Bloggers, if: (1) they are just here to contribute their ignorance. (2) they are here, to piss other bloggers, and sow confusions; YellowTard Bloggers do this…or (3) they want to point out the mistakes we have, and want to have better leaders…We don’t want to hurt the feelings of people…we hit you only , because: you are in our lines… Read more »
K3
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Crab mentality, forgive the language, is one of the stupidest and overused arguments in Filipino conversations, among the ranks of the “What if your mom!?!” and “Inggit ka lang (your just jealous)” arguments.

The moment the majority of people stop using these arguments means that we’re getting better at debate and logic.

K3
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And while on the subject of overused lines in Filipino online conversations, it’s “Come on!” people, not “Common!”

Joe America
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Fallen Angel, Another thoughtful article. I am very tall and noticeably white. I observe in the Philippines that if I pass one man on the street, the passing is either non-eventful or courteous. If I pass two men, there is a 33% chance one will crack a snickering joke, one to the another. If there are three men, the chance increases to 67%. If there are four or more men, the snickering jokes will be 100% assured. Same for women, but the snickers turn to giggles. Turn to the internet. One-on-one discussion is usually courteous. Get more people involved, and… Read more »
Ross
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i think you may have something there….there is this thing called “mob mentality” and sadly even smart people can get that way every now and then…there are so many well meaning and smart people here in GRP…too bad though that sometimes you feel that you can’t express yourself without being clobbered or ridiculed by very smart people…there’s so much ego flying around that if you’re an “ornery” person with a thing or two to say, you would feel their disdain for mediocrity…this is a sad thing..

Trosp
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According to Maher boy aka Joe America – “Fallen Angel, Another thoughtful article. (He he he, coming from him, it’s a phony praise. So that he can insert himself in the topic. His comment will always be, first, a phony praise, then a clincher or about himself again he he he…) “I am very tall and noticeably white.” (But then, take note – “You join the gang of courtesy-deficient thugs to talk ABOUT me instead of to me!” according to one of his comments. Let’s keep going with his comment on this post.) “I observe in the Philippines that if… Read more »
Jonas
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If all we did here at GRP and other critical voice blogs was disparage every one else and say nothing but “The Filipino is mediocre and stupid, and he will never improve”, then perhaps we could be considered as crabs. But that’s not our style. First and foremost, we bring awareness to people that there exists a problem in the first place. We don’t beat around the bush nor do we sugarcoat; that defeats the purpose. Thus, you could consider us the blunt object or nutcracker. Second, we also propose solutions where appropriate. So we’re not just all talk. We… Read more »
Mercury
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As I read the entry, I remember a particular narcissistic moron who criticizes me with full-force scorn utilizing the crab analogy: you need to crack the shell open to get the meat/the best of it. Be wary, in context that person suggest that he wants you to “improve” but knowing him personally he is a jerk type, the one who’s going to eat the meat; hence, taking advantage of you.

Good article. 🙂

SarongAmigo
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We are not yet a nation; we are just dreaming and still dreaming of developing one. Individually, Filipinos claim maturity but collectively, it is a lightyears away from reality. As long as we are acting like experts with little expertise or sometimes no expertise at all, the dream of building a nation is a mere hope if not a total imagination. Crab mentality is not the problem, it is our thinking that we think or our people think like crabs. Crabs and men are two different species and it is pointless to compare one with another because obviously one will… Read more »