A tragic life is one spent noisily demanding respect instead of quietly earning it

Defeated, humiliated, freshly nuked, and under American military occupation, Japan rose from the ashes to become, within three decades, one of the biggest, most prosperous, and most powerful nations on the planet. South Korea, also utterly devastated by a war with the Communist Bloc beavered away; and one day the world woke up to find itself driving good-value-for money little Korean cars and, soon after, working for Korean factories making even better such cars in their own backyards. China and Vietnam, still communist by name, are already the darlings of the investing world despite a muzzled press, a compliant labour force, and a lack of the personal liberties taken for granted in the “free” world.

What do all these societies have in common? Quite simply:

Work, work, and quiet achievement.

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Compare these societies to the Philippines. The Philippines is a society best known for its melodramatic street “revolutions”, circus-like indignation rallies, tearful demands for “justice”, chest thumping in times when a compatriot is globally recognised, and maintaining an overall pompous self-described state of “vigilance” against threats of an imagined return of the “tyranny” and “oppression” we imagine ourselves to have vanquished.

As far as the slogans, the posters and the motions go, the Philippines is tops. As far as results go, the Philippines gets a zero.

Recall the 1967 seminal song “Respect” that became the signature hit of soul artist Aretha Franklin. The song is a loud call for “just a little bit” of it. A loud call for just a little respect. I can’t claim to be an expert in the art of taking apart the nuances of soul music, but I sense a deliberate irony in Franklin’s powerful booming rendition of what is essentially a sad appeal normally made in hushed tones. It is a song that may as well be the national anthem of the Philippines. We are after all a country famous more for our loud calls and less for our quiet actions.

Perhaps there is also some kind of cognitive bias at work when I observe what seems to be a standard formula used in developing the hapless characters of most disaster movies. Usually there are three- to five-odd averagely distraught characters, one Drama Queen (not necessarily a reference to the gender of such characters), and one cool, composed, and calculating protagonist. Maybe one or two of the averagely distraught character dies. But it is almost guaranteed that the Drama Queen flames out in a particularly violent or gory end — as if to highlight a general lesson that being a Drama Queen simply does not pay. You can see the pattern in classics like, say, The Poseidon Adventure, Towering Inferno, and Alien. The Drama Queen is usually a self-centred twit who sees his or her surviving the journey as an entitlement, and ensures that the rest of the group is constantly made aware of this belief.

Fade out of these cinema and music references back into the Philippine setting and take stock of recent events. Circuses, drama, and verbose pomposity pervade the mainstream media, “social media”, the halls of our legislatures, and the offices of the Chief Executive. What do these observations tell us about the character of our society? We are a people constantly screaming for respect, and highlighting our entitlement to “justice”, “freedom”, and the American Way. Funny but it seems to me that those who scream the loudest are usually those who end up getting the least.

Indeed, I wrote way back in the early days:

Right under our noses, the Filipino-Chinese community had gone from Third Class Citizenry to Captains of Industry. Although this phenomenon is by no means unique to the Philippines, we like other Third World cultures, have been on the front row to a self-development show that we have slept through for centuries. And during our waking hours, we as a people focused our efforts on mediocre and corrupt politicking and self-pity activism.

So how does one explain an ethnic underclass that succeeds in hurdling prejudice, poverty, and cultural isolation to turn their ghettoes into today’s prime real estate while the indigenous people bred chaos, mutual oppression, and decay?

There is something fundamentally off about the approach we take to attaining what we aspire for. But the lessons and models to help us change this flawed approach are sitting right under our noses.

9 Replies to “A tragic life is one spent noisily demanding respect instead of quietly earning it”

  1. We cannot blame our countrymen for their overall collective state at this point of time; there are elements in our society that try to make sure that we will remain where we are now forever; this is not to say that what they (our countrymen) did in recent days is justifiable, though.

    1. how long must we all be blameless, guiltless, faultless and clueless?

      ask any Pinoy what he thinks the scourge of society is and he will answer with any number of things: illiteracy, government corruption, religious coercion, ignorance, ridicule, poverty, so on. ask him if he considers himself the whipping boy of the things he just mentioned and he will gesticulate with a shrug and say he can’t do anything about it because it’s been that way since time immemorial.

      how convenient is it to anchor our beliefs on something so simplistic, as though we have been defeated and “forced” to accept that our fate is to stagnate and relinquish any hopes we may have for a better life?

      pinoys are so selective in what they want to see and whom they want to blame. it’s this behavior that makes it essential for the thinking minority to pick up a muck rake to expose the scum that’s polluting the pond from underneath. you know, to make it obvious to the masses.

  2. “di ba’t itong mga inampon kong mga instik eh mas masahol pa sa inyo nung nandito yung coño? eh sila pa ngayon ang may kakayanan na pangitiin ako. di ba basurero lang dati si manong sy? aba’y nagugulat ako sa mga raket nya. di lang sya ang umaansenso kundi pati na rin mga kapatid mong nawili sa piling ko. malay mo bang si ate kikay mo sa bulacan ay magkatrabaho maski contractual lang!…ang nakakailing dyan ay kung sino pa ang nakakaraming wala sa tabi ko at mga tsinoy na anak-anakan ko ay sila pa ang kolektibo.”

    mula sa ‘Ang pag-uumarte ng anak ng isang Puta” (http://www.facebook.com/note.php?note_id=332198557923)

  3. The Filipinos greatest enemy are themselves. Our politicians are self-serving…Projecting themselves, as paragon of virtues…in truth: they are the most corrupt people on Earth. Our Church leaders: project themselves as Holy; wearing flowing Robes, our religious evangelists; preaching goodness. Yet, inside them: are evilness…Pretension is in our culture…unless, we have a deep look inside ourselves; some true soul searching…we will remaain as we are, for centuries..

    1. Spot on, my friend; we should also blame ourselves too, for failing to help each other know the real status about our country as of this time…..

  4. Most tropical countries are laid back because of the climate. You can argue that Singapore and Taiwan are tropical but the populations are Chinese- Northerners. In Australia it is Anglo Saxon. So, they have strong work ethics because of the harsh climate. Indigenous tropical peoples have a different mentality, are relaxed and not in a hurry. So the Northern nations triumph economically. But they are not happy nations. Filipinos are much happier. When you are happy, you do not strive as much do you?

    1. The heritage of the Philippines may be tropical and laid back, and it may be true that needs here are minimal, when you sleep on the floor, find your CR in the back yard, and eat roots that grow abundantly all about, but the price of rice and electricity and gas is driven by the demands of more consumptive global economies, and is upward bound. So the choice for the Philippines is compete for global resources, or descend into riots and great unhappiness. Right now, the direction is the latter.

    2. @ Truthful Insights
      I don’t agree with you that filipinos are genuinely happy people,because most of the filipinos i deal with in life , are extremely jealous and resentful towards others who are getting ahead in life.
      So much contradiction in filipinos mind.

      1. Ann Marie,

        Our neighbors are amazingly insulting toward my Filipina wife because she married money. They don’t even know her, but are quick to judge. They are not happy that she found a way out of abject poverty and is getting an education and lives well. They are livid, actually, putting nails in our car tires, stealing from our property, calling my wife a prostitute, saying I can not have sex any more because we only have one kid (I am older than my wife). It is disgusting.

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