It’s a common mistake to liken the way one feels for or regards a country to the way we feel for or regard an actual person. So when we say we “love” our country, poets will wax lyric about how this “love” is like the love we feel, say, for a parent. In reality, that’s an apples-to-oranges analogy which spawns other flawed ideas in the way we think of approaching how we implement reform in our society.
The love we feel for our parents and children is unconditional. Many nationalist poets will point out that we are duty-bound to feel this same form of love for our country. So, we are told, even if the Philippines continues to fail consistently in many of the aspects and metrics to do with national development and progress, we should continue to “love” the Philippines regardless. But unlike our parents, however, there is no real evidence that the Philippines, in that same sense, raised its citizens to the best of its abilities — like a good parent. Indeed, Filipinos residing in other countries will attest to the fact that the governments and societies of those countries treat them with far more dignity and respect than the government and society of the Philippines, their homeland. So to love the Philippines like one would a parent simply does not make sense.
If we step back and examine the core ideas around why people come together to form modern nations, we will find that all roads lead to a general assumption — that a nation formed on the basis of a shared culture, philosophy or ethnicity will necessarily be the place where said people who share said culture, philosophy, and/or ethnicity will most likely be treated justly and, therefore, prosper. Thing is, it worked for some and didn’t for others. The Philippines has, so far, failed to demonstrate that the Philippines is good for Filipinos. There seems to be more evidence to the contrary — evidently, Filipinos are more likely to prosper when hosted by other societies and when subject to other governments.
Most Filipinos are likely to find opportunity, justice, and even sustained happiness outside of the Philippines rather than from within it. It
begs raises a rather confronting question:
Of what benefit is it to Filipinos to form a self-governing nation for themselves?
That puts into perspective what, in hindsight, turns out to be a rather arrogant remark issued by the first president of the Philippine Commonwealth government, Manuel L Quezon…
I would rather have a Philippines run like hell by Filipinos than a Philippines run like heaven by the Americans…
Quite remarkable that people at the time this statement was made did not ask: Why be a nation then if the risk of it being “run like hell” is higher than if the status quo (at the time, to continue being a colony of the United States) virtually guaranteed a heavenly state? Suffice to say, hindsight gives us the benefit of seeing the true folly in Quezon’s words.
The Philippines, almost 70 years after it was granted independence by the United States, is being run like hell. None of its leaders can be trusted and the checks-and-balances baked into the very design of the system of government it adopted from the United States are all but broken — rendered impotent by a vast corruption ring that envelops two of its three pillars, the Executive and Legislative branches.
What is there to “love” — much more, love unconditionally — about the Philippines?
It turns out that this is really not the right question to ask. The Philippines does not need love. It needs respect. And it does not need this respect to come from the outside, it needs it to come from within — from Filipinos themselves. Whereas Filipinos raise stink after stink about perceived insults from foreigners, we fail to see the gross disrespect Filipinos themselves reserve for their own country. Filipinos treat their land like a vast garbage dump, routinely fail to be considerate of their neighbours, produce the shoddy and mediocre products that have turned “Made in the Philippines” into an indictment, and consistently elect idiots and crooks to run their government. Has there been a foreign entity that has shown more disrespect to the Philippines than Filipinos themselves?
The Philippines will prosper only when Filipinos gain a bit of self-respect — when we respect our own laws, when we respect the people who purchase our products, when we respect the people whose lives are affected by the leaders we elect, when we respect our environment and appreciate how easily it could make or break us, and when we respect our own individual abilities to determine our own respective futures.
Love of country? That notion becomes relevant only come the time when there really is something about the Philippines to love. Achieving that is something Filipinos need to work on first.
[Photo courtesy France24.]
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