Filipinos need to develop a sense of shame or guilt

Japanese prime ministers resign every now and then, some of them for as little as the shame of breaking an election promise. One I remember from a couple years back won in a landslide victory but was forced to resign because of mounting criticism for his flip-flopping on the issues he promised to solve during his election campaign. At the time he was the fourth Japanese PM to step down in four years, with the others resigning under similar circumstances. I have to hand it to the Japanese people; they really know the meaning of shame. This is something our elected officials and we as a people need to emulate.

Japan is actually known for its shame (Haji) culture. It is said that the society of Japan uses shame as a primary agent of social control. Though taken to the extreme, shame seems to lead to a high suicide rate on its members, all in all the society of Japan thrives in the culture of shame. Paul Hiebert characterizes the shame society as follows:

Shame is a reaction to other people’s criticism, an acute personal chagrin at our failure to live up to our obligations and the expectations others have of us. In true shame oriented cultures, every person has a place and a duty in the society. One maintains self-respect, not by choosing what is good rather than what is evil, but by choosing what is expected of one.

There is definitely not a lot of downside to having a shame culture. It promotes a heathy environment of trust among its citizens that the right thing will be done. In contrast to Japanese culture, Western culture uses “guilt” as an agent of social control. It relies on the notion that one should do an internal evaluation before doing something — to reflect on what one believes one should or should not do. Otherwise, if one does something in defiance of what is the norm, one believes that he will receive the wrath of God or worse, the wrath of the entire community. Guilt is an emotional experience that happens when a person realises or believes that he or she has violated a moral standard and accepts responsibility for that violation. The feeling of guilt is closely related to the concept of remorse, when a person feels regret for what he has done. When guilt as an agent of control does not work, they have the criminal justice system as a last resort.

To Filipinos, honor is an alien concept.
To Filipinos, honor is an alien concept.

Psychopaths are said to be those who lack any true sense of guilt or remorse for harm they may have caused to others. Instead, they blame their behavior on someone else, or deny it outright. They lack moral bearing (in comparison with the majority of humans) and are unable to evaluate situations within a moral framework. They also have an inability to develop emotional bonds with other people.

Philippine society keeps trying to model its way of life based on the western model but we fail to grasp the fundamentals of what make Western society work. Indeed, we fail at even being a copycat. With the number of public officials and common citizens who get away with fraudulent activities in the Philippines, I am beginning to believe that there are members of Philippine society who are turning into psychopaths. A lot of our public officials do not have a sense of guilt or do not feel remorse for not being able to fulfill their social obligations and for causing harm to the rest of society. They also blame their behavior on someone else, make all kinds of excuses and therefore do not feel accountable for their actions.

Filipinos find no shame in their mendicant culture.
Filipinos find no shame in their mendicant culture.
Added to the lack of sense of guilt or remorse, Filipinos in general are averse to giving a critical evaluation of our public officials based on their past performance. This is part of the reason why the public officials who are guilty of embezzling public funds or those who simply do not do their jobs to the best of their abilities still get re-elected or worse put on a higher ranking position like the presidency. There is no shame in having accomplished mediocre work because Filipinos just “let the matter slide” into pwede na yan (“that’ll do”) oblivion and hope that things will become better eventually. Our false sense of hope has gotten us nowhere. I hear a lot of people say, “There is still hope for the Philippines” but until we develop a sense of shame or guilt, there is no hope for the Philippines. We do not like being criticized at all, whether it is a fellow Filipino or a foreigner doing the criticizing, Filipinos tend to lash out or dismiss the criticism as lacking in merit. We as a people, lack the ability to evaluate our circumstances or apply a bit of self-reflection.

According to cultural anthropologist Ruth Benedict, shame arises from a violation of cultural or social values while guilt feelings arise from violations of one’s internal values. It may make sense that Filipinos do not feel guilty or shameful about fraudulent activities if we perhaps consider that our internal values may be flawed. Worse, there seems to be a highly developed unconscious justification for deceptive actions within the Filipino mind. What we value as a society seems to be more around saving face by way of acquiring material possessions, family connections and having a good time. Whatever our neighbors have, we must have. Whatever our family and friends do even if it is illegal (i.e downloading films or DVDs or rigging votes), it must be ok because they have acquired a lot of material possessions through it and they seem like they are having a good time while they are at it. We as a society do things as a means to an end no matter the circumstances and we tend to be ok with it when we do it with family or friends, sort of like when in a pack mentality.

The things that bring us dishonor or shame are really trivial, do not benefit the whole of society, and only give us useless anxieties. Not having enough money to host a feast during a town festival or fiesta gives us a feeling of shame. Similarly, not having enough money to hold a Christmas party can give us a sense of embarrassment to other people. In both circumstances, some Filipinos would go to extra lengths as to spend all their hard earned cash or borrow money just to be able to hold a feast for that one-day event without thinking of the consequences. When the neighbors see that the party was held, we find our source of pride.

Pinoy-style guilt motivator: Family comes first when it comes to government appointments.
Pinoy-style guilt motivator: Family comes first when it comes to government appointments.
The things that give us a sense of guilt are also trivial, do not benefit the whole of society, and only give us useless anxieties. The family connections we value the most are also a source of dysfunctional behavior. Our family obliges us to hire family members when we own a company or if we are in a position to do so. There are many Filipino stories about family members who are working as overseas foreign workers who are obliged and made to feel guilty about sending money back home even if unnecessarily. Likewise, not having any presents or pasalubong for each member of the clan and the entire neighborhood is a no-no. Filipinos do not expect balikbayans to come home empty handed. Our family connections are a double edged sword. It can be a source of comfort and a source of sorrow.

Our religion also plays a big role in how we quickly remove our sense of quilt and shame. We have been made to believe that our “sins” are forgiven once we confess to a priest or a member of the Catholic Church; it is as if our conscience can be wiped clean of every abominable act — and then we are ready to do it all over again. There is no real sense of atonement or remorse after the confession but the cycle of dysfunctional behavior continues until it becomes part of our system. In short, a lot of Filipinos hide behind their religion as they continue their fraudulent activities. We often see a lot of households adorned with the images of saints and the members of the holy family. It makes some Filipinos believe that they are holy despite their unholy acts.

If we are to imitate the culture of shame by the Japanese or to genuinely adapt the western culture using guilt as an agent of social control, we need to develop a sense of responsibility for others and ourselves. The only way we can attain stability and progress is to honor our promises and value what is best for the whole society and ourselves in the long-term, and not just focus on trivial pursuits that only cater to instant gratification. In short, we just need to develop a conscience.

[Photos courtesy Reuters and GMA News.]

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Post Author: Ilda

In life, things are not always what they seem.

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111 Comments on "Filipinos need to develop a sense of shame or guilt"

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Gogs
Member

Excellent piece Ilda. As I said from Day 1 , don’t expect me to whoop it up with Pinoy pride on trivial matters when the population treats shameful acts involving matters of consequence like they don’t exist .

libertas
Guest

Shame occurs when you transgress/violate standards – personal and/or cultural.

But in the case of many filipinos/politicos – no standards, no shame

Phons Ang
Guest
If this was written by a Chinese or Chinese Filipino, it would be considered as racist. Lack of sense of shame in Filipinos has long been observed by people of other cultures. A Chinese author Bo Yang had written a book entitled “Ugly Chinaman”, exposing the dark side of Chinese culture that stirred up a hornet’s nest among the Chinese chauvinists, and I was told that there’s a similar book also written by a Japanese disparaging his own country’s cultural flaws. In the Philippines, I could not imagine what will happen to the author of a similar book about Filipinos… Read more »
vibeit
Guest

The closest writing you’ll find that points out cultural flaws among Filipinos is the article “A Heritage of Smallness” by Quijano de Manila. I don’t think the author got heavily bashed for it but his work is certainly not discussed in schools.

Arthur Vincent Simon
Guest

A very insightful article indeed. I hope that this article gets read and understood rather than be relegated to oblivion in the internet.

Tom Solski
Guest

Great article, an eye opener into the mindset of many of the people of the Philippines and a cultural insight.

SacreBleau
Guest

about as accurate/realistic as the price of real-estate on Ardent Springs Rd..

harold
Guest

i believe that we are on our way to accept honor through our president, Benigno Aquino III.

Blackagar Boltagon
Guest

(Nice TROLLING, Mr. paid Malacanang hack)

πŸ˜›

redlead
Guest

k (which stands for “keep telling yourself that”). πŸ˜‰

Felipe
Guest

“Honors” from/through BS Aquino III are empty or hollow, and are just as meaningful as receiving them from the likes of Hitler or Kim Jong Un. BS Aquino is not genuinely honorable himself. Receiving “honor” from BS Aquino is like being conferred a PhD degree by someone incapable of even finishing first grade.

Gerry
Guest
believe that last statement if you want to, BUT the guy is a lawyer and had to pass a bar exam to become a lawyer. to equate the guys education with that of a 1st grader is in-correct. I do notice something about Filipino’s, in general(and call me whatever name you want, it will not mean it is not true), they will reason something to be logically true and then using the same formulation, even if it is in-applicable to the subject, to rationalize another completely un-related matter. and then make a profound pronouncement using the flawed logical arguments conclusion.… Read more »
Felipe
Guest

Hayyy susmaryosep Gerry! It’s called an analogy or metaphor!—I’m not even referring to a person’s formal educational attainment. A person may have a doctorate degree, even multiple ones, and still be a ‘first grader’ when it comes to being honorable in any truly meaningful way. Josef Mengele is a very competent doctor no doubt, but less than a ‘first grader’ in terms of being honorable. Lawyers are not necessarily honorable, and that’s also true even to judges whom we refer to as “honorable judges.”

Some people are either just metaphorically challenged or simply lazy to read things carefully.

harold
Guest

PNOY is not a dictator.

Blackagar Boltagon
Guest

He is. Senseless Yellow propaganda you’re spouting there. πŸ˜›

Johnny Derp
Guest

“PNOY is not a dictator”

My reaction:

Johnny Derp
Guest

“PNOY is not a dictator”

My reaction:

Johnny Derp
Guest

“PNOY is not a dictator.”

And the majority of people here don’t believe you.
Why you ask?
Think for one second, if he wasn’t a dictator, why does he keep idiots like YOU to attempt to silence his critics?

Thomas Jefferson
Guest

@harold
“PNOY is not a dictator.”

You are right he isn’t a dictator. HE IS A FASCIST DICTATOR!!!

domo
Guest

ORLY vincensus ignoramus? Then what do you call that endless stupid propaganda that malakanyakanyang paid you to do it you dummkopf?

Gerry
Guest

@ Felipe, Ha! U make an idiotic statement and then tell me I am challenged. As I said in my comment, if you READ IT( “ALL THE WAY THROUGH”), you will see that you made my 2nd point for me. Call me lazy or challeneged when in fact your comment was idiotic. I do not even like the guy, but he is a smart guy. Your probably jealous of his position in life.

Felipe
Guest
@Gerry It’s either those reasons I’ve mentioned or you’re pride simply gets in the way of acknowledging your mistake. To respond to your irrelevant ad hominem, you obviously don’t know me. You’ve made me chuckle when you accused me, of all people, of being jealous of someone else’s “position in life,” given that (without putting too much a fine point on the matter and I hope I’d only mention this once) I’ve refused offers on positions coveted by others when I sensed that management or the board would compromise my personal principles & sensibilities. Here, BS Aquino and I are… Read more »
Gerry
Guest
@ Felipe, Helps? Helps what? it really doesn’t matter to me what you think of the guy. The last three sentences of your last comment are contradicting, you say you don’t dislike the guy, just what he does? IDK, but what a person does is usually the basis for my liking or disliking a particular person. IF IF IF you do not like what the guy does, why would you like the guy? I really do not need to know the answer to the question, but now you may see the reasons for why I stated what I stated above.… Read more »
yup
Guest

If your beloved president have a sensed of honor in the first place, he should resign or commit “hara-kiri”..

harold
Guest

why? his satisfaction rating is still high. that means he is still capable.

Blackagar Boltagon
Guest

http://newsinfo.inquirer.net/507861/aquino-blames-arroyo-for-fall-in-ratings

Read and weep. That’s because it proves that the president is a COWARD. πŸ˜€

Gogs
Member

The guy can’t even change a tire. He was never given responsibility all his adult life then mommy dies. Then the nail in his coffin . Proof he is not capable is he hires YOU. Nothing good can ever come from that.

Johnny Derp
Guest

Its already over, you lost.
Nobody here is taking you seriously.
Might as well change your name to “why bother”.

Johnny Derp
Guest

Besides, you sound like a saturday morning cartoon villain like this one but not as intimidating

Blackagar Boltagon
Guest

“the pork scam happened during the arroyo administration. because of the complications of the scam left by arroyo, aquino takes the blame which is not right.”

“he is not a mechanic but an economist and a trusted statesman.”

(WAAAAAAH WAAAAAAAH I’m a PNoy cocksucker and nobody believes in my propaganda a.k.a. MY LIES? WAAAAAAH WAAAAAH I love being a coward since I’m not a real leader WAAAAAAAAH WAAAAAAAAAAH)

πŸ˜€

Johnny Derp
Guest

Ironic that harold is reduced to this:

Tokwa
Guest

A very flawed belief by most of our countrymen:
“Di bale nang mangisa kesa maisahan.”

Giovan
Guest

I remembered PNoy’s statement during the APEC summit in Bali as he again refused to apologize for the mishandling of the Manila hostage crisis that “it is not Filipino culture to apologize for actions committed by others” #facepalm

Amir Al Bahr
Guest

It is not in Filipino culture to apologize. Period.

Bjorn
Guest

Aquino has/had no reason to apologize for what Mendoza did. They way it was handled was not the Presidents job either. Manila’s chief of police, mayor and the provincial governor all may take SOME heat for the handling of the hostage crisis BUT it was not for Aquino to apologize for or even be involved in.
Barrack Obama as the President of the USA NEVER gets involved in hostage negotiations…NEVER, it is not his job! and it was not Aquino’s job either.

Hyden Toro
Guest

Who is the Commander-in Chief? Aquino is also to blame. He cannot escape the blame, by pointing , the
blame to others…

Gerry
Guest
@ HT, Aquino is the commander-in-chief of the Philippine ARMED FORCES, not the Metro-Manila Police Dept.. Look, blame the guy for the handling of the HK hostage crisis if you must, If you need to feel like your right about something, good for you! my simple point is, it is not his job. Never was, never will be. A President of any country has sub-ordinates that handle the internal police matters of the country. That is why you will never see Barrack Obama, or any other president of a country, getting involved in any hostage crisis negotiations. If he did,… Read more »
ChinoF
Member

Refusing to apologize even for another’s mistake is the mark of one who is mayabang and pikon, as a friend would describe the erring Filipinos.

OnesimusUnbound
Guest

Well, I find it funny that the President will take credit on what others did. Is that part of Filipino culture? :-S

NeoGeo
Guest

After over a half century of idiocy that saw the Philippines drop from being second Asia to being an example of how NOT to run a country, the Filipinos still dare to have a Pinoy pride mentality.

I don’t think the Filipinos know the real meanings of either shame or pride, and I doubt that they ever will.

Gerry
Guest

it is actually ALMOST unbelievable. What has happened in the Filippines is a direct result of an oligarchic set-up that has exploited the shit out of its own blood relatives. it is to the point which is beyond obscenity and that it has been allowed to continue, in the way that it has, says just as much about the governed/raped as it does about the oligarchic masters.

eachhisown
Guest

You truly covered the whole truth about the nature of most Filipinos.

Almost everything they do for their personal benefits would always be at the expense of other people.

Perhaps when God poured out into all his creatures shame, guilt and conscience the ones caught by the Filipinos were that for pigs.

It’s really unbelievable but very true.

eachhisown
Guest

Almost everything that majority of Filipinos do for their personal benefits need to be at the expense of other people.

Perhaps when God poured out into all his creatures shame, guilt and conscience the ones caught by the Filipinos were that for pigs.

It’s really unbelievable but very true.

Hyden Toro
Guest
Filipinos expect too much; once they elected their political leaders. Their political leaders uses: lies, deceit, and political promises, to get elected. Once elected, political leaders will take advantage of their positions, to get rich. Relatives and followers also take advantage of the position of these political leaders. We have a mendicancy attitude. Relatives who are working overseas; are expected to remit money to help relatives back home. If you run for public office; people expect you to: give free food; free rice, tuyo, noodles, etc. like Erap Estrada. And other free things. It is a vicious cycle. A cycle… Read more »
Gerry
Guest

IDK about AMORAL, MAYBE? but certainly living in denial of reality. A sort of delusional state that enables them to somehow rationalize the de-gradation of their fellow countrymen as not being their fault. Again, IDK, I’d have to interview some of them first to be able to make any sort of assessment/diagnosis of their mental faculties.

Paolo Jovellanos
Guest

BULLSEYE!!! Relatives expect you to take care of them. No spine whatsoever. Its ok to help but you have to help yourself. God helps who help themselves.

Joel
Guest

Congratulations Ilda! You hit the nail right on the head! The absence of shame and guilt from the Filipino psche is why we have all sorts of social problems like anarchy, plunder, corruption, etc. Factor in ignorance and poverty, BOOM! If you’re a wayward politician, It’s More Fun in the Philippines!

Gerry
Guest

Anarchy?

Loy
Guest

The Filipino politicians or government officials must read this article, it would probably open their eyes and teach them that stealing is wrong and shameful. What can I say, they were known to be educated and from well known families and yet they are the most thieves in the community. I guess greed made them shameless. Shame and Guilt it is Zero in their brain.

libertas
Guest

A good example of no shame is tge dishonorable frank drilon.
Corrupt, turncoat, no integrity, conscience, or principles, – an administration lackey ( for now), who puts self-interest first at the expense of the country and democracy itself, and who has no conception of honesty or the truth. A truly despicable individual.
Only in a country with no standards would such a gutter politico even exist, let alone thrive.
P.s. why is he in korea with his best bum boy aquino.

Frank
Guest

This is why I refuse to be a sheep with the rest of the Filipinos. I don’t follow Christianity and I don’t worship anything western or foreign. I believe in personal responsibility and self-determination. Whatever bad that comes to me, for the most part can be attributed by my own actions. No Abrahamic God is my savior, nor do I seek to be saved by one. I’m my own man and responsible for my own actions.

Hyden Toro
Guest

Be an ANIMIST. Let us worship the: trees, mountains, brooks, etc…Filipinos were animist, before these Western and Middle Eastern religions came. Now, we are fighting each other, because of these religions.
I guess, we have Peace; when we are all Animist.

ChinoF
Member

Actually, my Christianity teaches me that. ” I’m my own man and responsible for my own actions.” That’s why we have free will. Free will entails responsibility.

Bjorn
Guest

inaccurate statements pertaining to thought processes of ‘Psychopaths’ have nothing to do with Filipino politicians lack of ‘conscience’ as far as robbing the treasury goes. they just do not have anything to do with it.

Hyden Toro
Guest

Hey, Dude…open your eyes. We are being robbed blind…

Bjorn
Guest

@ HYden, DUDE? my comment does not say ‘politicians have nothing to do with’ the raping of the treasury, OK?
it says that an in-accurate definition by the author as far as the characteristics of a PSYCHOPATH goes, ‘has nothing to do with it'( the raping of the treasury funds of the country). As if I have no clue about the nature of the scumbag politicians who run the country, they that are stealing everything that is not cemented to the floor, LOL! HA.

ChinoF
Member

Let compare notes from my older article. My point is that many Filipinos place their sense of shame in the wrong things. For example, Filipinos actually seem more ashamed of apologizing or admitting mistakes, of looking poorer than someone (which is why consumerism is rampant among Filipinos) and are even ashamed of intellectualism. But when they’re on the other side of the fence, like when they steal something, or even claim superiority to other people (Pinoy Pride), they’re shameless. We have a misguided, poorly placed sense of shame.

Walt Gomez
Guest
I was walking in Ermita once and two policemen slowed down their car when the passed me and told me that it was one of the cop’s birthday. And he ” was hungry”. I gave them some money to buy food. Then they circled the block and one approached me and asked me if ” I wanted a girl”. Can you just imagine? Another person faked a birthday and even invited me to the house to celebrate provided I paid for the cake. Some people cheated me by faking illnesses and asking me for help and one faked own parents’… Read more »