Who really wins a game, the star player or the team? Our star players — doctors, IT professionals, artists — are leaving in droves for a better life with the winning teams because they are tired of propping up (being heroes for) what essentially is the losing team. Lea Salonga, for example, is an achiever. But cascading her achievements to the rest of Filipino humanity is a stretch and nothing more than pure fantasy. To be proud to be Filipino because of the achievements of a handful of individuals is an underclass fantasy. Let’s instead be proud to be Filipino — but let us be proud for the right reasons. Our pride needs to be underpinned by an ethic of collective achievement. Collective achievement is achievement that cannot be attributed to any one person. For example, Japan’s achievement of recovering mightily from its World War II defeat is not because of the efforts any one Japanese hero or even small handful of them. Its success can be attributed primarily to the overall character of Japanese society.
If we have achieved nothing collectively as a people, then how can there be pride in being a part of this collective? We need to at the very least feel a shared accountability for the overall character of Filipinos collectively. Individual achievement is easy because each one of us have direct control over our individual destinies. There are in fact thousands of examples of Filipinos that are individually successful. To have true, sustainable and natural pride in being Filipino the real challenge lies in pulling ourselves together to achieve as a people and not only as individuals. Our success as individuals is our own individual business and no one has the right to piggyback on any one’s individual achievement. The collective success of The Filipino, on the other hand, is our collective business.
We therefore cannot go out there and achieve individually and then trumpet the overall greatness of Filipinos on the basis of this individual achievement. For every successful Filipino individual there will be hundreds of thousands of others who will undermine this achievement. How then do we impart the mindsets of achievers on the collective character of the Filipino? Unfortunately there is no easy way of doing this. Pointing out the obvious fact that the Philippine nation amounts to nothing more than a dismal failure merely elicits anger and denial. Indeed, careful examination of what so-called “nationalists” encourage us to uphold in the name of “national pride” yields some disturbing insight. Be proud to be Filipino and the rest will follow — this encourages delusional and empty pride that is ultimately unsustainable. Express yourself in “Filipino”, our national language — this essentially cuts Filipinos off from the language that connects us to cutting-edge knowledge — English. Protect and perpetuate Filipino tradition — why should we if there is nothing in our tradition that made us successful as a people?
We need to cut through the layers of mindsets built up over the centuries and get to the very heart of what it means to be a nation — a collective dream to achieve together and not only as individuals and certainly not apart from one another. Once we have achieved this, then the substance we crave to feed our pride to be Filipino will come naturally.
[Excerpted from the book Get Real Philippines Book 1 on the occasion of the 150th birthday of Jose Rizal.]
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