Why Colonial Mentality is a Bogeyman

colonialsmol-300x249I once blogged about colonial mentality, stating that seeing it as a problem is a myth. After more thought and encountering further opinions on the subject, I still think it is a myth – a dangerous one. A bogeyman, an imaginary monster in the closet. I’ve seen so many discussions where others fiercely blame it for many of the problems of the Philippines and that foreigners are the reason why the country is messed up. But I realize that it’s all a decoy meant to throw us off the course we must take to truly fix our broken nation.

White is Beautiful?

Some often cite the popularity of skin-whitening products as proof of the effect of colonial mentality. But now, someone is debunking this explanation. The Wikipedia entry on Colonial Mentality, indirectly quoting Maria Bernadette L. Abrera of the UP College of Social Sciences and Philosophy, has this to say:

Many Filipinos believe that the idealization of fair skin had its roots during the Spanish colonization. Actually, fairness of complexion was attested as a characteristic of the upper class women and appears as the standard of beauty among the Austronesian peoples of the pre-Hispanic Philippines. The desire for white skin is definitely not a result of colonial mentality during the Spanish rule.

(Postscript: sadly, this text was edited out since then, but the article still quotes the study saying the desire for fair complexion predates colonial rule)

If people say white skin is better, it does not include only Caucasians: Asians, including Chinese, Koreans and Japanese have white-skinned people as well.

And there is another issue, a common analogy used all over the world: the color white is a symbol of cleanliness. The darker, the dirtier. Isn’t that why we sometimes use, “Ang puti ng labada” (the laundry is white) instead of “ang linis ng labada” (the laundry is clean)? I don’t think you can say that this laundry phrase comes from colonial mentality; that would be stretching it.

Creation of an Historical Decoy

Some Filipinos believe that shedding colonial mentality is the way we can move forward. However, after I analyze it, I realize that it is based on a lot of myths and misconceptions. Hatred of colonial mentality is red herring – it distracts us from the real problems. Yet why are we concerned with colonial mentality? What is it that causes people to violently hate it?

Love for white skin has often been attributed to colonial mentality. But a UP researcher considers this idea a myth.
Love for white skin has often been attributed to colonial mentality. But a UP researcher considers this idea a myth.

One reason is how biased and propaganda-riddled our history education is. We have many biased and history books in our schools that influence our views one way or another. Two major writers of these were Teodoro Agoncillo and Gregorio Zaide.

Gregorio Zaide was anti-Spanish and pro-American. Because his history books were common and became official, he may have been influential in causing even the post-American era young people to chase after American culture (even if American commercialism was already doing that). He may have even taught that Rizal and cohorts wanted independence from Spain, when this is clearly false. Rizal and cohorts wanted the Philippines to be a province of Spain, similar to how some would want the Philippines to be a state of America. Such twisting of history has led to wrong perceptions and growth of anti-foreign hate campaigns.

Not all of these can be trusted. Pick carefully.
Not all of these can be trusted. Pick carefully.
Both writers are biased in my view. Firstly, Agoncillo had leftist views, and his writings were staunchly anti-foreign. He promoted peasant culture and the bahay kubo, and divestment of modern influences to reach the “real Filipino culture.” What he failed to realize is that the bahay kubo is common with Vietnam, Thailand and other Southeast Asian cultures, and is not uniquely Filipino.

The net effect of these two historians’ work may have been to promote demonization of anything foreign. Although Zaide promoted America, Agoncillo’s attitude of anti-foreignism became very strong in Filipino culture. Somewhere along the line, the notion of colonial mentality came in to define the “evil” left by our former colonizers.

The Manipulative Media Monster

We always see this slogan, “Kaya din natin,” (we are also capable), “We Filipinos can do it too.” That’s the basis of colonial mentality – Filipinos think of themselves as inferior and look at their colonizers as superior. But hold on; where did this attitude come from? Who told us this?

Perhaps the answer is, the Filipinos never felt inferior before. Perhaps they never did. Until someone gave that idea. Who’s that someone? Local mass media.

Exactly what Pinoy mass media is
Exactly what Pinoy mass media is
Media depicts Filipinos as downtrodden, depressed, oppressed and inferior… but point to the wrong causes. They conditioned the minds of people with an inferiority complex and diverted the blame to those who are actually not to blame (because the real culprits actually own the media companies). It’s also a play on the victim mentality of poor people in order to get viewers for garbage shows like Wowowee. And it helps in resistance against solutions… solutions such as bringing in foreign investment to create jobs.

In the end, colonial mentality has been used as red herring, just as the use of Villar by the Yellow faction during the election and the use of GMA by media today has led Filipinos on wild goose chases.

What see on TV and radio (even local media) drives us into a love-hate relationship with foreign ideas. We see a lot of skin-whitening products because they are the major sponsors of the shows. As I stated above, what is passed off as colonial mentality is merely commercialism. They are actually part of a new health and wellness fad that uses white skin as a sign of health. The pseudo-patriots or even leftists jump at this to point an accusing finger at “colonial mentalists,” but themselves wear Levi’s jeans and Lacoste shirts while doing this.

Media is also hypocritical in depicting foreigners. They copy American concepts and shows, but portray people from other countries as cruel and inconsiderate. The notion taught is that people from abroad are all bad apples. Media portrays foreigners as robbers and spoilers of our “nation’s wealth” and takes advantage of it to draw attention away from who is actually robbing and spoiling our nation’s wealth.

What to Do?

Of course, I agree that Filipinos have to believe in themselves and work to solve the country’s problems. But it’s not the colonial mentality thing that’s holding them back. It’s not lack of belief in themselves. It’s the lack of means. Such means have been limited thanks to the lack of economic opportunities here.

OFWs go abroad, get separated from their families, get abused and all that. Some people may be blaming foreign countries for taking OFWs. But the cause of the OFW phenomenon is lack of opportunities at home. There are just not enough jobs. And the way to generate jobs, which is to bring the companies here, is being blocked by those using colonial mentality as one of the excuses to oppose foreign investment and want to maintain a monopoly over business in the country.

I do agree that there are some things not worth taking from foreigners. For example, one of our former bloggers has mentioned that the primadonna style of sports from America is being imitated by our basketball stars – and thus they lose to foreign basketball teams. He also claimed that Americans also introduced the idea of racism, saying that while Spanish mingled with with indios, Americans forbade their kids from playing with them. While it may be argued that Spanish also had the indio, insulares and peninsulares descriptions (not to mention that Filipino actually meant only a specific class of people in the archipelago before), such racism may still be around today. We also have rampant consumerism and commercialism that comes from America. These are the things we must practice discernment on.

A Japanese American. Are they loudly complaining about colonial mentality as we are?
A Japanese American. Are they loudly complaining about colonial mentality as we are?

One other effect of hatred of colonial mentality is not just diversion from the true sources of corruption. The most harmful effect is that it is dividing Filipinos. Some Filipinos are quick to raise a finger and point to other people, blaming them for colonial mentality, while the thieves do their worst under their noses.

It also looks to me that hatred of colonial mentality reflects the mentality that nations SHOULD be enemies. It’s like, ang Pinoy, naghahanap talaga ng away (Pinoys are really looking for a fight). It’s like the teenage gangster picking a fight in the street to try and prove he’s superior to get over his inferiority complex. We’ve been taught that we are oppressed by other countries, so we should pick a fight by blaming them for our problems.

Let’s get rid of this fixation on colonial mentality as a problem: it isn’t. The real problem is that our own corrupt countrymen, who have power both politically and in the media, are duping us. They’re most likely using this to draw attention away from them and divide the Filipinos so that they’re busy witch-hunting the “colonial mentalists” while the kurakots get away.

As stated in other articles here in GRP, let us embrace the good parts of our lineages, which includes “colonial” influences, and forge a real identity with them. And, let us focus on the right goals.

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About ChinoF

I stick with this blog because I believe, as my cohorts do, that many things Filipino embrace as part of their culture keep their society backward. And blogging freely to show that in a truly decent society, with true freedom of speech, even nobodies have a voice.

Post Author: ChinoF

I stick with this blog because I believe, as my cohorts do, that many things Filipino embrace as part of their culture keep their society backward. And blogging freely to show that in a truly decent society, with true freedom of speech, even nobodies have a voice.

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29 Comments on "Why Colonial Mentality is a Bogeyman"

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Carmichael
Guest

“As stated in other articles here in GRP, let us embrace the good parts of our lineages, which includes “colonial” influences, and forge a real identity with them. And, let us focus on the right goals.”

With that said they’re still hope in making Filipino culture. It’s just that people finds it easier to ignore it and just succumb to higher power.

twisky
Guest
Been quietly following many of the blog posts here for awhile, thought I’d finally break the silence. I think the blogs really have covered material on what the problem is, which is well identified over and over, which group it stems from, the end result etc. Everyone’s entitled to an opinion, and its nice to see people who think for themselves instead of simply toeing the line. Having said that; my two cents worth now: What I don’t see documented well here are the why’s of addressing why we are this way, and the how of to change it. There… Read more »
Carmichael
Guest

Indeed. These ideas are great the problem is getting it started and having the majority consider this over short-term possibilities.

I get the feeling that this is all just reading about what could have made this country better and yet that’s it..for practical examples we look at our neighbor countries.

JT Jerzy
Guest
The last two paragraphs of this article spell out what needs to be done, and it is long overdue. The ‘real’ enemy or ‘oppressor’/THIEF or CRIMINALS are not the foreigner but the Filipino’s masquerading as the representatives of the ‘people’. It is not necessarily so that what is needed is foreign investment to create jobs, NO IT IS NOT. There are plenty of wealthy oligarchs who, if they really cared about their fellow countrymen, could create industries at home. A filippine car manufacturer, a filippine textile manufacturer etc, etc etc…. BUT, the filippine oligarchs are too busy exploiting those who… Read more »
Tokwa
Guest

IMHO it is hard to require the local companies to scrap hiring contractual workers when the government itself is also doing the same practice.

Hyden Toro
Guest

It’s Aquino’s blame game…occuring in the minds of Filipinos…Aquino’s mental illness is a communicable illness…watch out!!!

Robert Haighton
Member
If I read and understand Twisky’s post/comment correctly then I agree with him/her. Maybe its time to accept the facts how it was back then and how it is today. Now is the time to start (to) change. Its never too late to do that. The way I look at the Philippines, all I see is a big mess. I would not know where to begin: – education is on a poor level (lack of quality), – over-populated country, hence not enough jobs – poverty (cut the current Phili population in half and you will still have the same GDP… Read more »
Johnny Saint
Guest

Robert,

As per the Twisky comment, this is a list of symptoms. Even the issues Chino discusses in his article. The challenge is to determine the root cause, the malaise that afflicts Filipinos.

twisky
Guest

Right on the nose 😉

Robert Haighton
Member

John,

I know, I know, Isnt the root cause too diverse and too varied to narrow down to only one?

Johnny Saint
Guest
I don’t believe they are. One recurring theme among both critics of the Philippines and those all-too-quick to defend the so-called ‘Filipino way’ is a tendency to couch their opinions in a vacuum. Overpopulation, poor education, government corruption, a ‘dysfunctional’ culture and society, a ‘conservative’ way of thinking rooted in a religion considered ‘out of touch’ according to the standards of modern civilisation — these aren’t unique to the Filipino experience. Moreover, these are traits we share with other countries with whom we have common colonial roots. If you look at the majority of the countries colonised by Spain and/or… Read more »
Tony
Guest
There’s a common Western habit – it’s a sort of pseudoscientific meme – that if we can only define the problem, we can fix it. What we then end of doing is examining the problem in minute detail until we can no longer see the wood for the trees. People who have success in development projects all say the same thing: talk to the kids. Adults have their ideas fixed already. They’re gone; nothing you can do. Teach the kids a few simple things about the reality of life, and they’ll figure it out from there. Unfortunately, the oligarchs have… Read more »
Robert Haighton
Member

Tony,

I completely agree with you. We totally want to dissect the problem (looking at it from all possible angles, not just one angle) and after that we think we know how to solve everything. Sometimes this approach may work, other times it wont work.

twisky
Guest
We are a mess, I agree… but i’d rather act on changing the source of it. I want the source identified; and a plan of action. Or using the media as an arm of that plan of action, instead of a comfy chairside commentary of how shit has hit the fan. For example, I want to read about: Plans on how do we make the middle class grow to make the country richer. I have nothing against the poor or the rich. I’m just dismayed at the disparity of wealth— we all know developed countries rely on a good number… Read more »
Merc
Guest
That’s all well and good and all, but you are aware that why the middle class just can’t grow here is because a good chunk of them have left the country for greener pastures right? The population just keeps shrinking to make such a significant impact. The cards are stacked way too against them with the upper echelons of society constantly pushing an environment that forces them to pack up their bags and leave. With that out of the way, what are left are the majority of impoverished people to be easily manipulated with however they see fit. These people… Read more »
Robert Haighton
Member

Twisky,

I understand you want to read a plan (or plans) of action(s) how to set things in motion.

I can only come up with extreme ideas of which I dont even know if those ideas will be successfull. I dont have such a large, big faith in the phili populace. Hopefully I am wrong.

cynicjam
Member

Since Filipinos prefer mediocrity over change, yes there’s a possibility that this country will get worse if we don’t do anything right now.

That’s the reason why as of now, I remain as a bachelor because I don’t want my child to grow up in a cesspit of a country where corruption and lack of moral empathy are the norms.

twisky
Guest
Again, it was just one example. And a long term solution is precisely that— long in time, distance and effort, even in risk. I don’t hold out hope that I’ll ever see tangible change in my lifetime. I know I will get worked to the bone and probably chase myself away again to have a life without worry. But as long as we are sitting pretty, as long as there is no move to kickstarting these needed solutions— we might as well abandon the sliver of hope. I never deny I am Pinay, despite my multi-racial background. It’s where I… Read more »
FBautista
Guest
There’s one thing that you got right in this embarrassingly rambling discourse: colonial mentality is evil and something to be feared as per your headline. However, your attempt to explain this complex, psychological trauma as experienced by millions of people throughout the world, who lived for years in their native countries occupied by colonial masters and forced to adopt colonial culture/values, is shallow and lacks insight. Imagine, if you can, that you were raped for 300 plus years every day/night, every hour, every minute, and every second 24/7/365. Would you be the person you are today? “The popularity of skin-whitening… Read more »
Aeta
Guest

ChinoF,

“Oh no. Colonial mentality is not evil.” Yes, you’re right. Colonial Mentality is not evil; but, it does compel Filipinos to condescend on one another for status quo: social standing, wealth and influence, and appearance (mestizos lineage).

Aeta

Aeta
Guest

ChinoF,

Colonial Mentality may not be evil, but it has definitely contributed to the aristocratic/arrogant (“hambog”) mentality of our people to compete with and condescend on one another for:

1) Wealth and influence

2) Social standing

3) Lineage (striving for the mestizo appearance and demeanor).

Aeta

Marc Nathaniel Agcaoili
Guest
Marc Nathaniel Agcaoili

I personally admit to having colonial mentality.

Ali Pin
Guest

“let us embrace the good parts of our lineages, which includes “colonial” influences, and forge a real identity with them.”

You really need to differentiate that concept of “colonial influences” from that of “colonial mentality”! There’s a fine line between the “colonial influences” as being part of the socio-politico-historical culture and “colonial mentality” as part being the attitude of the subservient mind of the people.

Colonial Mentality is downright surrender… depicting the peoples willing embrace of the victim/slave mentality!

It’s like unsoundly, perpetually and proudly declaring “I like what I don’t have!” (You know what I mean?!)

Gordon Rumore
Guest

The Phillipine Islands could have all become US states, just like the State of HAWAII, had the right choice been made for the common Filipino. Educatuion, jobs, US Citizenship and a high standard of living would characterize our society today.

“Better a Philippines run like hell by Filipinos, than a Philippines run like heaven by Americans”

Yeah Right! BUT, those so-called “Americans” would have actually been native born Filipino statesmen with American citizenship.

Nice job, nationalistas! Everybody fell for your bullshit and you established your own little self-serving kingdom. So Sorry!

1111Hyden007Toro9999.999
Guest
1111Hyden007Toro9999.999

Puerto Rico, a commonwealth of the U.S. is bankrupt…they are a colony of U.S., like, we are, before independence…the Governor of Puerto Rico was responsible for running Puerto Rico. Not, the U.S. Federal government…he ran Puerto Rico,into bankruptcy!

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