According to Philippine President Noynoy Aquino (PNoy), Filipinos’ resilience will see us through any crisis. Here’s what he had to say as reported in a Philstar.com news item:
“Resilient? Yes, I believe so. I always try to look at every problem as an opportunity,” he told Palace reporters. “We have industries that could recover after being adversely affected by the developments in the world.”
He cited the businessmen from the sugar-exporting province of Negros Occidental, who later became exporters of prawns and flowers.
I personally think that the word mediocre better describes Filipinos in general than “resilient”. PNoy’s statement itself reeks of mediocrity. Being resilient means having the capability to return to an original position, so his example of sugar-exporting province Negros Occidental that “later became exporters of prawns and flowers” is hardly something I can call “resilient.”
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Indeed, it was rigidness and the lack of “resilience” of the sugar industry of Negros Occidental that led to a lot of the hardship suffered by the region and Philippine economy in the 1980s, the decade the industry met its demise. To quote a columnist from the Iloilo Views:
The closure of the farms forced widespread unemployment among farm laborers. The economic difficulties brought hardships to the planters, causing them to curtail their extravagant lifestyle.
The mortal weakness of the Negros economy is that it is underpinned by a mono-culture crop. This made it vulnerable to exogenous economic upheavals and the price fluctuations in the world market. Negros had no other crops or industries to serve as alternatives to absorb the shocks of changes in the world market. The lifestyle of its people, both rich and poor, rose and fell with, and was determined by, the vagaries of the market in a globalized economic system.
Obviously, the real reason behind the collapse of the sugar industry in Negros seems to fly over PNoy’s and most Filipinos’ heads, which is why he thinks that Filipinos are “resilient”. Never mind that the sugar barons and their farmers did not get to bounce back to their original position â€“ an achievement that would have earned them the description of truly resilient.
The word mediocre means “barely adequate and rather poor or inferior”. The word “mediocre” should not be mistaken for the word “resilient”. Most Filipinos cannot claim to have the character to recover readily from adversity, depression or the like due to the simple fact that our society has never really gone past the level other societies consider “sufficient” or “superior”. Our society has actually stayed at the same level or some may even say, had gotten worse since we gained our independence from the Americans in 1946. PNoy may not have realized it but when he said that Filipinos are resilient, he actually expressed a common misconception among Filipinos.
One is considered mediocre when his performance is not up to par with the performance of the rest. One is mediocre if he is below average according to the standards set out by a committee. In other words, PNoy’s statement that we are “resilient” only means Filipinos like him do not aim for a target higher than the average.
Unfortunately, people who wallow in mediocrity do not know that they are wallowing in mediocrity. The mindset of mediocre people like PNoy was best explained by French Romantic artist EugÃ¨ne Delacroix. According to the late artist,
Mediocre people have an answer for everything and are astonished at nothing. They always want to have the air of knowing better than you what you are going to tell them; when, in their turn, they begin to speak, they repeat to you with the greatest confidence, as if dealing with their own property, the things that they have heard you say yourself at some other place…. A capable and superior look is the natural accompaniment of this type of character.
In other words, mediocre people usually say things that they only heard from someone else. And because the second-hand information they use is not supported by empirical evidence, it usually does not make any sense. But when their audience is easily impressed or those who do not really make an effort to challenge the speaker’s statements, mediocre people often get by usually by “winging” it.
It should not come as a surprise that PNoy just keeps “winging” his every move in Malacanang. His former professor in Ateneo de Manila University, Prof. Pablo Manalastas claims that the Philippine President was just an average student in school:
“Explaining why he did not vote for Aquino, Manalastas said, “I had this idea that a president must be smart.” Resignedly, however, he said, “But as long as it’s not Gloria, it’s okay. But I did not expect much from him.”
Manalastas’s less-than-overwhelmed assessment of his former student may have something to do with Aquino’s performance at the Ateneo. Back then as a college student, he recalled that Aquino, though diligent, was an average student.
“I remember him very well because he got a C+ which allowed him to stay at the Ateneo,” the professor said. On a scale of 1 to 4 (with 4 as the highest), Aquino rated a 2.5.
“He was not among my best students; he just made it,” Manalastas said. Performing better than Aquino were his cousins Robert and Paul.
PNoy’s former professor had a basis for saying that PNoy was just an average student. His benchmark was PNoy’s cousin themselves who did “better” than the incumbent President. I guess PNoy probably never heard of the famous quote, “Good, better, best. Never let it rest. ‘Til your good is better and your better is best.”
Speaking of resilience, the photo of a highway destroyed by the earthquake that hit Japan on the 11th of March and the photo taken on the 17th March, six days after the repair commenced should show everyone what the word means.
There was nothing mediocre about how the Japanese people repaired the road.
Compare that to the condition of most of Philippine roads whose state is never really good enough to begin with even without being destroyed by a natural disaster like an earthquake.
Until Filipinos learn the real meaning behind the adjective word good in its comparative and superlative form, better and best, we cannot consider our society “resilient.”
Perhaps we can all take some inspiration from what Steve Jobs said in a speech to the graduates of Stanford University in 2005:
“Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma – which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of other’s opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.”
Sadly, the reason why most Filipinos like PNoy consider themselves resilient is partly because of the adjective bad. Most Filipinos actually take comfort in the thought that if the Philippines is bad, in their mind, some countries are worse or the worst off. And I do believe that Filipinos are still waiting for the day when things go from bad to worse before they do something more drastic to uplift their condition.
[Photo credits (Japan earthquake): The Daily Mail]
In life, things are not always what they seem.