Repeat after me: I am the Philippines and I am home to a dysfunctional society

I realised the whole problem with the prevailing discourse within the social media space I inhabit: there is too much discussion about politics and not enough about the underlying issue with Philippine society that I have long highlighted is the real deal here — Filipino culture. Fact is, the Philippines is beset by a really profound problem. Criminality is deeply ingrained in the very fabric of its society. Philippine government institutions are populated by some of the vilest criminals in the land — officials who were elected by the popular vote; that long-trumpeted construct associated with that supposed “power” Filipinos wield against the forces of evil. We may aspire to be led by the most honest, the smartest, the most prayerful, and even the prettiest politician the Filipino gene pool has to offer. But for some reason, we only get the most deceitful, two-faced, uninspiring, crooked, and insubstantial of the lot. A consistently baffling outcome in a nation of 100 million unique DNA sequences.

philippines_dysfunctional_societyWith every election that passes, it becomes more and more evident that Filipinos are wielding this power to “vote” the way a two-year old armed with a blowtorch would redecorate her house. With every “promising” president comes with him or her a cadre of opportunistic clansmen: former classmates and hangout-mates, cousins, brothers, mothers, fathers, half-siblings, mistresses, shooting buddies, canoeing buddies, frat “brods”, sorority “sistahs”, family drivers, etc. who somehow get “appointed” to sensitive government positions within a few weeks of being sworn into that lucrative office in Malacanang. And the pattern repeats itself. The campaign promises morph into excuses, and the voters turn into mere spectators sporting silly canine grins.

In no other time has the underbelly of this lethal political cycle been more obvious than under the administration of President Benigno Simeon “BS” Aquino III. Under the watch of President BS Aquino, the national lament has become walang masumbungan. There is no one in the Establishment to whom escalating important issues will yield sympathetic action, much more clear resolution. Even the nation’s activist scene has become a vast wasteland of inconsequential debates and half-witted hashtag-branded “movements”. The last elections which saw candidates viciously maligned by social media “activists” topping the polls was an indictment of the hollow catchphrases and slogans tweeted by the nation’s top self-described “social media practitioners”. More important than that, the three pillars of check-and-balance, the Executive, Legislative, and Judicial branches have all been tainted with corruption scandals. The office of the President, the very source of the funds whose pilfering is a deeply-institutionalised tradition in Philippine government and politics, is in the midst of an unprecedented excuse engineering exercise while the whole effort to hang perpetrators of that thievery in Congress is imprisoned by a pointless “Blue Ribbon Committee” “probe”.

Many would think the Philippines is a “lost cause”. It isn’t. It only seems like it because the popular discourse revolves around politics rather than around the underlying issue that we have long insisted is the real deal: Filipino Culture. Philippine politics and the bozos who populate it are mere reflections of the character of the society they infest, much the same way that rats infest an unsanitary building or home. Killing the rats does not cure the underlying malaise. You need to clean up the rot and deodorise the stink so that the rats don’t come back.

Until then, the powers-that-be will protect the status quo. With deadly force if necessary. That is why pork barrel scam “whistleblowers” are dressed in flak jackets whenever they are paraded before the public. It is widely-accepted that they are not safe even within the confines of a Philippine government building. That’s fair enough. When was the last time you felt safe in the custody of the Philippine police? That says something about the Philippines. It is an inherently unjust society. Changing this status quo cannot be done by simply showing that “lots of people” agree that it should be changed. That change may have to be won by the sword if necessary — because the people who profit mightily from the status quo will not be moved by pakiusap.

Look no further than the next headline. Do we really seriously think any of the people of consequence embroiled in this pork barrel corruption scandal will end up behind bars? I wouldn’t bet good money on it. As much as our hope of one day electing an “honest” and “smart” president is like betting on being dealt a royal flush in a game of poker, the prospect of seeing alleged perpetrators Jinggoy Estrada, Bong Revilla, and Johnny Enrile behind bars is a full house at best. President BS Aquino being held accountable for the criminal farce that was the impeachment “trial” of former Chief Justice Renato Corona and his continued sorry efforts to defend the virtually un-auditable Disbursement Acceleration Program funds is a pipedream. He will likely simply go on and run for Vice President in 2016. There are no consequences in the Philippines — only new slogans.

So, “hope” in a better Philippines? Dude, buying a lottery ticket is not an investment strategy. The real effort here is to give substance to this hope. We will not find that substance in the colourful media whoring of our “social media practitioners”, nor will we find it in “non-traditional” politicians. You just need to recall that bozos like Risa Hontiveros, Teddy Casino, and the rest of their commie comrades were once bandied around as the “hope” of rotten Philippine politics. Well, look around us now. They are now anything but. They are hopelessly inconsistent, discuss people more and ideas less, and are reduced to arguing on Twitter with disembodied avatars.

Walang masumbungan. Kahit si Tulfo kelangan isumbong.

You cannot pull substance out of social-climbing airheads who parrot the latest popular slogan ad nauseum, retweet the latest “trending” topic, and insist that debates be carried out over a series of 140-character one-liners. Neither will we find that much-needed substance in “thought leaders” who are hand-tied by media organisations owned by Indonesian taipans or held to returns-on-owners’-equity ratios. And certainly we will not find that substance in politicians who are members of political “parties” that lack any sort of ideological or philosophical underpinning.

Filipinos need to learn to think. Yes, the Philippines is a renowned non-thinking society. But just because it is so does not mean that national character flaw cannot be changed. We just need to recognise — by overcoming our instinctive inclination to get butthurt by The Truth — that our society and culture needs not just a major makeover, but a brain transplant.

I am Juan and I am an alcoholic.

Those words represent the single biggest step a wino can take on the road to recovery. The Philippines needs to undertake a similar journey. Only when we recognise our society’s most fundamental problems with eyes wide open can we consider ourselves on our way to real recovery.

[Image courtesy pxleyes.com.]

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37 Comments on “Repeat after me: I am the Philippines and I am home to a dysfunctional society”

  1. Excellent. 100% agree

    ‘I am juan and i am a cultural luddite’

    Cultural norms are the embedded reactions to historic stupidity.

    Change management is well understood in a corporate environment – both in terms of its importance to overall performance, and the mechanics/tools to change/adapt cultural values as organisational needs dictate. Business psychology now also starts to become an allied specialism aimed at ensuring people and processes function in harmony, not conflict. Systems invariably fail not just from design, or planning, but because of the human interface, hence total systems methodology, and total quality management.

    Social re-engineering at a national level is less mature and has added complexities in balancing multiple interests and sub-cultures, and a far longer time-frame in achieving any significant results, but nevertheless it is a conscious strategic goal in many countries, and individual initiatives/policies form part of a holistic approach where the objectives are clear and the benefits quantifiable.

    As any business consultant or change agent knows, culture lies at the root of most problems, and becomes either a driver for change, or conversely a barrier to progress, or in many instances both at the same time.

    In the philippines it is predominantly a barrier to progress since the centralisation of power, and the related systems/institutions, are more interested in maintaining the status quo, and retaining a plutocracy rather than establishing a meritocracy. Modern day luddites with an island mentality, where superficiality rules, individuality is discouraged, and criminality abounds.

    GRP is an oasis of enlightenment, but for a country of 100 million which likes to claim a high penetration of technology, few such sites/forums exist, and rather than being used for education, advancement, or discussion, the personal use of technology is almost exclusively for games, selfies, and text voting! Anti-cultural drunks.
    The political use of technology extends to propaganda, misinformation, and trools! Anti-intellectual p!ss artists.

    The country needs a 12 step programme aimed at cultural change to enable sober and productive citizens, rather than barflies scrounging drinks, bartenders who water down the drinks, and bar owners who don’t know a negroni from a pepperoni.

    Step 1. Identify the key component parts of current culture/psyche – in terms of values etc. and major groupings. A cultural and societal audit.

    Cheers.

    1. Trouble is, people in the Philippines suffers from a massive affliction called culturolatry — a baseless worship of their own culture coupled with a closed-minded regard for external influences, which is ironic considering the colonial mentality Filipinos are renowned for. It’s as if we embrace the colourful and fancy cosmetic aspects of what the prosperous world has to offer but shun the work ethic and discipline that underpins their ability to export — even aggressively prescribe — their culture.

      1. Wow! Very well put! Thank you for this. May I quote this reply of yours?

        Or perhaps you could make a whole new post about this? Or is there already one that I have yet to come across?

        I am a Filipino born Canadian who moved here (in Canada) around my teen years. I have memories of the ‘motherland’, but I feel I could very well be one of those generation 1.5 Canadian Immigrants – well assimilated and owing nothing to the ‘motherland’.

        However, I do love the Philippines, my Filipino heritage, and of course, I still have childhood friends and family over there. …so I am always at odds with the dysfunctions of Philippine society vs. my desire to see it improve and rise above such dysfunctions.

        That said, this reply of yours is a very neat way of summarizing what I was trying to get at in two posts about my travel memoirs in the Philippines. I guess I should practice brevity more! (then again, mine is a travel memoir… so length is never an issue, while detail and specific experiences are always the target)

        In this post I had a run in with a lady who scoffed at a common courtesy often practiced here in Canada/North America.

        I then wondered:

        “They’re westernized enough to speak English, consume ‘western’ products and entertainment, but not westernized enough to emulate the best of the Developed World’s values?”

        In another post, I had another run-in with a Filipina matriarch who annoyed me with an assumption about our (or my) character; as though she imagined me as just an English-speaking, Canada residing version of her kids – without regard for how I may be differ from them philosophically.

        This again, made me wonder:

        “…instead of asking me what makes living in Canada so great, instead of probing what values have I learned during my transition to being a Canadian, and what style of ‘pamamalakad’ I feel could be applied to the Philippines, there is a kind of Filipino who would rather ask me how much money I make, what car I drive, how many white chicks I’ve had sex with, all while marvelling at my accent that is ‘oh so, distinctly Fil Am!’ (Canadian.. American.. all the same to them)

        More than anything, the material advantages and the superficial glitz and glamour of living here in ‘The West’ seem to interest them a great deal more than the values, social justice, and social mores that I personally feel are what make living here so great.

        So again, thank you for this post!

        1. You’re spot on with this observation you made, that Filipinos you meet “would rather ask me how much money I make, what car I drive, how many white chicks I’ve had sex with, all while marvelling at my accent…”!

          That’s sort of encapsulated by that story about that Filipino scholar in Singapore who stood up during a forum that had Lee Kuan Yew as a guest speaker who, instead of asking him about matters of public policy, asked him about the influence on his life of his recently deceased wife. Cringe!

  2. I happen to think that the Philippines indeed is a lost cause. The current voting habits of Filipinos will not change for the following reasons:
    1. People are getting dumber by the month. You can judge a country by checking what is shown on TV. It reflects the level of intelligence (which is that of a 5 year old).
    2. People still take money for their votes.
    3. The mob rules and anyone who has half a brain leaves the country. The rich vote with having their wallet on their mind, not the betterment of the country.
    4. Filipinos in general lack and do NOT want discipline. They will vote for some pudding head like Aquino who they feel will let them get away with their shenanigans.
    5. Filipinos are the most egoistic people I have ever come across. They vote the way they drive. Me first, fuck you. Reckless and stupid. They will vote for shits and giggles before they vote for someone with substance, because someone with substance, would not be one of them.
    6. With regards to point 3, the mob does not care what happens with our taxes, because they do not pay any. They will vote for someone who will promise them free rice, a bottle of gin and a BJ.

  3. Great article Benigno… There is really something very wrong with this yellow influenced improved society under the matuwid na daan which in truth is really ang baliw na daan! Ours is a manipulated society where mass media propaganda, political slogans, promises and manipulated surveys control the minds of the weak, the ignorant and the gullible. The fever of yellow fanaticism is very much alive due to the subtle mind control lies being fed to our people. We have seen the incompetence, stupidity and inaction of a laid back national leadership that cannot produce results to improve the lot of the people. Massive corruption, rising criminality and a lot of other major problems have not been addressed. The rule of men is slowly destroying our democracy and freedom! Genuine reforms in the bureaucracy are not being implemented! I hope and pray that a social volcano does not result in a violent uprising. We must stay united as a people. This is the only way. BS Aquino still thinks he can fool all of the people all of the time with his propaganda machinery. As the saying goes… “you cannot fool all of the people all of the time.”

    1. Yeah, Filipinos being prone to being suckered by propaganda suggests the obvious lack of critical thinking faculties we all have for so long been beating the drum about. In a democracy where people enjoy the power of choice, this is an essential skill that needs to be developed.

  4. Philippines is a lost cause for the educated middle class, change will not happen because first, The rich people are pretty happy with the way things are with their businesses (backed by policies of their politician buddies) thriving. Second, the poor people are also contented living in their squatter house surviving even without jobs waiting for the noon time show program to come by and give freebies.

  5. 2 thing rise to the top – cream and scum.

    Culture and its associated values are major factors in determining whether the cream or the scum ( metaphorically and in reality), dominate in politics and society, and which/who become the ‘role-models’. Bad apples exist in any society, but with the right values, better mechanisms are created to identify and dispose of such malignants and retrobates

    The problem is that if it is the scum, then like the bacteria, over time it infects everything else, and only radical disinfectant will change the situation.

    “You can think of this self-perpetuating cycle, where promotion of self-interest increases status in society, which further increases willingness to behave unethically. It may help explain the runaway rise in inequality in the last 50 years.”
    Piff – professor of sociology

    The cultural/personal values which i consider are largely absent in the philippines, in the population at a whole, and therefore which, through their absence, act as an enabler for the scum, rather than the cream, to flourish are
    Individuality
    Responsibility
    Accountability
    Creativity
    Honesty
    Equality
    Hard work
    Open minded
    Compassionate
    Forward looking
    International/open
    Inquiring mind
    Dynamic
    Realists
    Problem solvers
    Self pride/personal achievement

    The majority of filipinos are in survival mode, where planning is day to day, hope is an emotional crutch ( or a cult church), and any escape from the monotony and desperation is welcomed, however banal. The need to belong is paramount, and creates a fear of dissent and banishment.

    The psyche translates into a philippines which is
    Defensive
    Emotional
    Lazy
    Hypocritical
    Copycats
    Victim mentality
    Narcissistic
    Idolatory
    Superficial
    Hubristic pride/bandwagon
    Collective thinking
    Low self-esteem
    Pessimists

    Pnoy aquino is almost a perfect reflection of cultural shortcomings in many respects, and that alone explains why a lifelong failure could suddenly become president on an emotional wave, despite complete incompetence and an indolent life spent avoiding work.

    Filipino may be good but simple people, but they remain slaves to bad masters. Colonialism and subjugation of your own people must be the greatest crime. Pnoy aquino, and his forebears, and his cronies, represent the scum of the earth, but accepting servitude so readily is also not a path to self-respect and therefore individuals need to take personal control and responsibility first and foremost.

    Enough excuses, blame games, and cowardice.

  6. There are at least 6 drivers/key areas for cultural change, and each should have their own primary focus/individual initiatives, but work in concert to reinforce each other, and to agreed core values.

    Education/parenting
    Entertainment/media
    Environment/arts
    Employment/training
    Entrepreneurship/business
    External/partnerships

    There is always a more prescriptive approach at the outset of any cultural change/social re-engineering programme, but that gives way over time to greater freedoms as solid foundations are established, institutional change occurs, and genuine progress is made.

    Responsibility slowly transfers from a centralised propaganda based state to an informed, opinionated, and empowered society/individual, where democracy rather than elitism flourishes, and where government serve the people, rather than being subservient to the ‘criminal elite’

    Eventually initial top down strategies are overtaken by bottom up momentum. A bouncing ball effect.

    But where no-one in power/influence has the conviction or courage to pick up the ball and run with it, then change remains an elusive pipedream.

    “In 1823, William Webb Ellis, a pupil at Rugby School, first picked up the ball in his arms and ran with it, thus creating the game of Rugby.”

    As an alumnus of Rugby School and an international i know the importance of commitment, conviction, teamwork, and what separates winners and losers in sport, business, or life.

  7. Nice play on the Alcoholics Anonymous code. Admission that one has a problem is always the first step to solving a problem. And refusal to admit the problem means refusal to solve the problem too.

    I think that first line will always have this as the ending phrase: I need help. Of course, not dole-outs, but help in thinking straight.

    1. Indeed, that first step is a big one, and, in even taking that one alone, Filipinos are exhibiting that usual failure-to-launch that has for so long characterised their prospects for a prosperous future.

    2. Exactly what I was getting at when I wrote why GRP is a positive website. You need to see reality specially if it’s ugly if you have a hope in hell for improvement.

  8. The great German Psychologist Carl Jung, called this: “Collective Unconsciousness”…we think on this matter. That is the reason, we are, what we are…In worldly sense: it is called: “Earth Mind Conciousness”. We can only help ourselves; nobody in the whole world will help us. The job of everybody, is to clean house. Remove those political dynasties; which prevent the true leaders to come out. Destroy the Feudal Oligarchy, which the Aquinos and his cahoots have established. Inform people about our true condition. A Chinese proverb says: “A journey to a thousand miles, begins with a Single Step…” It seems impossible, but it can be done…Japan and Germany rose from the ashes, after World War II…why can’t we???

    1. Put it bluntly, a culture as self centered and as self entitled as ours (Basta Pinoy Da Best) will not have the collective mentality necessary to undergo the national rebuilding you mentioned. Remember my piece on Isreali X Factor? I put a screencap of a friend of mine who thought that win by the caregiver was a sign Pinoys taking over the world. If that is the glimmer of hope, we are truly in the dark in what it takes to be even semi great.

      1. @Gogs, you got that right. The collectivist attitude that needs to exist for a society to prosper is absent in the Philippines. What needs to be done, the first step, could be accomplished in little more than a few days. The rest would be a multi-generational task. it has been this way for at least 15 years now, and the longer the waiting, the more difficult the latter mentioned task will become.

      2. The society is dysfunctional; the people are dysfunctional; the leaders are dysfunctional…they even elected a Mentally Retarded President, with issues of Mental Illness. Her sister has the same issues of Mental Illness. And, she is in the Media…to be a role model for the young…Now, the people and country , is irrational and weird.

  9. Unfortunately, this article will probably not be read or comprehended by the people who really need to read and comprehend it.

  10. is there a chance for the bloggers on this site to elevate to a higher medium like creating a TV or radio program so you can reach out to ordinary folks thereby awakening them from their ignorance. Topics here are really true to form, if ever granted a slot in a yellow media it will actually transform viewers what life realities we Filipinos have.

  11. If it’s systematic cleansing of rot that’s needed, what’s your opinion of the Marxist argument for a two-pronged attack: One in parliament and one armed wing, both under the communist party? (The one in the Philippines though is a joke. It lost its ideals when it became power for the sake of power)

    From the soclialist point of view, we are on the verge of another revolution. Weber says that once the legitimacy of the state is questioned due to its inability to deliver its promises to the people who appoint it, the people have the power to take it down. A good example was the first EDSA.

    But what our parents didn’t realize in EDSA was that instead of cleaning out the system, we put the problem back in: the Oligarchy. And THEY made sure that they wouldn’t be so easily displaced in the future by writing the constitution for us.

    What now? The anarchist’s answers through the Occupy movements and Million People March don’t provide answers with their exposes and hashtags. And our Communist Party is ineffective. People are tired of EDSA. What now?

    1. Stop looking for ‘once-and-for-all’ solutions or pretentious phonies with a messianic complex.

      Stop looking to mass murderers for some nebulous ‘revolution’ that only produces more misery.

      Follow a formula that has been proven to work. One that even anti-establishment rock musicians have realised is the proper course of action:

      http://www.forbes.com/sites/parmyolson/2012/10/22/bonos-humbling-realizations-about-aid-capitalism-and-nerds/

      and

      1. Mr. Saint, free market capitalism is good because competition is good for everybody. But we do not have free market capitalism. Instead, majority of our rich have trouble spending what they have. That’s a problem we, as a third world country, cannot afford to have. I am, however, totally for the rich helping to bring up the standards of living to the poor.

        Imagine, however, this scenario: You have helped the poor so much *without changing the system that made them poor in the first place* so much that they have become dependent on the subsidy of the rich. That is not good for the country. When people realize that they don’t have to work in order to survive, you have turned a small wound into an infection.

        My main point is that reform is needed in government and I don’t think anybody can argue with that. If you are afraid of the police, there is a problem. If you don’t trust public officials, there is a problem. If you can’t even trust the election system or the judiciary or the legislative or the executive, there is a very big problem.

        Free market capitalism and generosity are both very good. But both are hard to come by. In the meantime, we live in a country where you cannot trust the system.

        1. @ Kevin Carpio, pay no attention to J. Saint. He hears what he wants to hear and then comments on it, as if it was said to begin with.

          ****EXAMPLE: I did not see anywhere in your comment the searching for ‘pretentious phonies with messianic complexes’, no I did not…..

          What you propose flies over most Filipino’s heads as they equate the words:”Socialism’ ‘Communism’ as things that they really are not and lead me to suggest that, collectively, they posses very little understanding of what those two ‘ism’s really are to begin with.

          ANYWAY, doing away with the phony ‘CRONY CAPITALISM’ that has been put in place in the country is a much better idea than to just keep putting up with the shit.

          SEE THIS:
          http://rt.com/news/line/2014-03-28/#57809
          Attackers throw grenades at Thai anti-graft office ahead of PM hearing

          Grenades were thrown at the offices of Thailand’s anti-corruption agency, police said on Friday. The National Anti-Corruption Commission earlier summoned the prime minister to answer charges of dereliction of duty next week, Reuters reported. Nobody was injured in the overnight attack, the second on the agency’s offices this week. The commission is examining the alleged failure of Yingluck Shinawatra to stop corruption and stem huge losses in a government rice-buying program.

          Thai’s have finally become sick and tired of being sick and tired of being robbed by the people they have elected and are taking matters into their own hands. However, They will fuck it up though, they will…just watch ’em! But Filipino’s are smarter and could probably pull it off pretty easily.

  12. The yellow media are the propaganda machines for indoctrinating the masses. Could the many years effects of brainwashing and indoctrinations be reversed? We really needs drastic measures to counteract their devilish agendas. Perhaps we’ll just take over these yellow media. I’m afraid that is the only solution. These yellow media were illegally acquired anyway.

  13. I’m Filipino, and I don’t sugarcoat the fact that yes I live in a dysfunctional cuntry. 🙂

    That said, if a society such as the Philippines considers itself sane, I’d rather be the dysfunctional one.

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