Why credentials matter in a non-thinking society

We need to exercise a bit of that non-Filipino trait of lateral thinking when we regard this whole issue of “credentials”. I find that the best way to induce this rare form of thought is to ask a child-like question:

What are credentials?

Any schmoe can Google the term or look it up in Wikipedia so I won’t waste time and bandwidth posting a link here or quoting off those venerable sources-of-truth. Rather, I am more inclined to rely on a better well of wisdom to set us off in our exploration. Me!

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For me, it is quite simple.

Credentials are thingies that define one’s place in a structure.

Consider the structure known as a social order or a human society. For most people, a person with a high-school diploma, will tend to be less-regarded than a person with a university degree. So in the social order we have come to be familiar with, degrees of education fit the definition. In the job market, a person who’s worked longer than a person looking for a job for the first time will be looked upon favourably by a prospective employer. So in the same way experience is also a credential by my elegantly simple definition. Even more unfortunate for the typical born loser is a tool commonly used by recruiters — aptitude tests. Aptitude tests have come to be developed for measuring certain qualities and profiling and categorising people into various arbitrary classes. But the test we are most familiar with is the Intelligence Test — a test that ultimately results in a single number that determines how adept we are at thinking — the Intelligence Quotient or “IQ”. So again, intelligence can be considered a credential. Low IQ = moron. High IQ = ace. One number, sez it all, right?

Note the common denominator emerging here. For those who are still scratching their heads, I’ll spell it out:

Credentials are measurable.

They can be quantified easily — number of degrees, number of medals, number of years, number of basis points, etc.

As such they are good proxies for evaluating one’s worth. They make sense in the recruitment industry — an industry that requires its players to McDonaldise human evaluation to survive as profitable businesses. It works for us too. At a cocktail party, we use credentials to quickly work out who to schmooze with and who to merely smile politely at. For that matter, our very DNA as a result of millions of years of evolutionary honing make us at a very primal level el primo credentialists. Things like anatomical symmetry, facial and body hair, fat in the right places are proxies for evaluating heritable fitness. Thus even in the mating game, we rely on biological credentials (which to be honest, is also a factor to reckon with in a cocktail party).

Credentials are also very handy. Just announce that you are a lawyer and suddenly everyone grants you summary license to dish out your views on the Constitution. Tell them you are a doctor, and you suddenly become attractive to the average Gray’s Anatomy fan. Credentials play well into the human mind’s continuous effort to symbolise and classify everything it perceives.

Credentials are a good tool for, say, shortlisting applicants for evaluation when filling a job vacancy. A good text search facility will do the job quite effectively in a database of jobseekers. However, it takes an astute interviewer to recommend a handful of candidates to their client. And even then, it will take several more months (or as the case may be, a six-month “probationary” period) before a person fully proves his worth in the organisation.

On the Web, keywords and tags are two key “credentials” of content. A search engine such as Google, will quite easily (you can see how much or how little time it takes to do so) generate a list of sites fitting the “credentials” you type on its search box. Aside from the keywords you provide, it also uses an internal credentials framework to rank the search results it serves you. These may include the number of times said content is linked or referred to, how many times it is selected among other results in previous queries, and maybe even how frequently the site hosting it is updated. Ultimately, though, it is up to the human client of the search to properly vet the results in a way that only insightful human thought can — insightful relative to automatons.

This brings us to the second property of credentials:

Credentials lend themselves well to the goals of automated or low-level evaluation mechanisms.

Now in the world of memetic competition in a wired world, there is a field called search engine optimisation (SEO). SEO is made out to be a “value-added” service provided by Web jocks to their clients to help “improve” their page ranking in sites like Google. But then SEO can be as simple as peppering your article — or website — with keywords that get the hits (Paris Hilton Paris Hilton Paris Hilton Paris Hilton), or cramming the resumé you submit to a jobsite with industry jargon and, well, professional credentials (Doctor of Economics Doctor of Economics Doctor of Economics). Such stunts are effective at gaming the one-dimensional thought processes (I use the word “thought” here by its loose definition) enshrined in algorithms used by mechanical evaluation facilities — the automatons and “bots” that do the dirty work that pave the way for the application of more high-level thinking on a rough cut of candidate content.

Indeed, SEO finds its analogue in Philippine society’s bricks-and-mortar world, in the all-too-familiar phrase: Alam mo ba kung sino ako? (“Do you know who I am”). Right away in an audience of one-dimensional minds, credentials often hit an effective home-run.

So here we come to the third property of credentials:

Credentials are an effective medium for gaming and perverting low-level evaluation faculties.

Because credentials are so effective at firing synapses in the most primitive reptilian complexes of the human mind, they are the tool du jour when dealing with, shall we say, less-capable minds.

Every now and then a whole monstrous debate fueled by a moronic regard for a certain concept erupts and rages for days. That’s because, we often forget to first understand the concept at the nucleus of such “debates”.

22 Replies to “Why credentials matter in a non-thinking society”

  1. Hah! Credentials!
    Among Da Pinoys, in order to be respected,
    a) graduated at the “top”
    b) from a “top university”
    c) must have light skin
    d) play basketball
    e) passed bar/board at the “top”
    f) be a frat member


    College is supposed to teach a specialized academic daynamic skill, not a stagnant pool for oligarchs-in-waiting.

    Pinoys would appreciate being yelled at by a twat with “credentials” and humbly comply with a “yesser”, but will not lift a finger for self-improvement because of “kamangmangan”. Real Filipinos would say “do it your damn self!”.

  2. I wonder, if Philippine society is so quick to look for credentials, do we disregard them for people whose advice we don’t agree with?

  3. This article reminds me of a quote I read somewhere in the internet.

    “Don’t be a typical ‘Filipino’ who asks for credentials before they can believe in what others are saying. Credentials are not exactly evidence.”

  4. Noynoy Aquino has several Honorary Doctorate Degrees, from various local universities and a foreign university. However, he remains a Retarded Person. You can put the finest clothes on a Monkey with the finest Silks and Diamond Jewelries. However, he remains a Monkey…nothing changed. Because, that is the Monkey’s nature and behaviour…It is a Spanish colonial culture – this credential seeking culture, we have inherited. The Spanish Colonizers placed titles on themselves, to put importance, on themselves. Do you not see, how our public officials are addressed: from Barangay Captain to Mayor to Governor, etc. If you are a lawyer: Atty. So and so…If you are a Doctor: Dr. so and So…the wife also of a Doctor is Doktora…the wife of a Mayor is Mayora….etc…Maybe, I’ll call also the wife of the one selling “Puto”…”Puta”…Joke lang ito, mga tindero ng Puto…alam ko malinis ang hanapbuhay ninyo…

  5. Credentials = shortcut

    “Alam mo ba kung sino ako?”

    Parang sa pelikula ‘to ah. LOL. It’s usually mentioned by people in a bind.

    Anyway, for real people with a lot of “credentials,” that’s the last thing you’ll hear when they’re in a bind.

    Non-thinking society? Imho, that’s probably the whole world. Otherwise, pyramiding schemes and the Nigerian scams won’t even prosper.

  6. One thing to note is the need to paste our photos in our resumes/cvs. A relative of mine told me it’s strange and funny how someone she knows has to put an ID on his CV. She said it’s not necessary.

    Aside from the outrageous need to have “good credentials” in a country that pays peanuts on its employees, the job seeker also has to “look good” for the job.

      1. CVs here do contain a lot of absurd details. TMI for me actually. What does it matter what religious affiliation you have? I don’t care if you’re married either. And having an extra page just to list down “interests and hobbies” is plain nuts.

        1. The best CV’s I’ve seen are those that are limited between 1 to 2 pages, with only a slight mention of project details.

          It also tells that the person can keep confidential information.

  7. blah. Employers are fuzzy when it comes to their “future peasants” credentials but do not give a cr@p who they hire to run… the country.

    Also, I hate salary-comparing conversations.

    1. IMO, you’re right.

      As an applicant for a job, an employer would not accept your “integrity” credential. It’s always your education (neophyte) and experience (old-hand).

      As a running for public office candidate, uninformed voters (read: Penoy voters) would not accept your education credential but first the pedigree then the perceived integrity.

    2. This struck a cord. Two actually 🙂

      I remember a relative telling me in 2010 she’d vote for NoyNoy Aquino because he’s the son of a god-fearing woman, notwithstanding his lack of credentials and concrete achievement. I pointedly reminded her that Kris Aquino came from the same uterus.

      Those salary comparisons are too grim they’re not even funny. “Yung [kamag-anak] ko na [caregiver/what-have-you] sa [some foreign country teeming with OFWs] mas mataas ang sweldo sa doctor.” Yeah, I tell them that you can work at a BPO here and earn more than doctors working in government hospitals or doing the Doctors to the Barrios that it’s not even a contest.

    3. From my experience, avoid salary conversations.
      Never ask, let them ask you and answer directly e.g. I can buy 2 Bichon Frises in one month.
      If they’re that nosy/interested, let them do the research.

  8. Ahhh, credentials, it keeps older but bad workers hired at the same time keeping the younger, talented and good worker from the same thing. Good thing I’ve been seeing a lost of IT firms actually looking at competence instead of just the CV. Hope this sinks in to other industries as well

  9. I’ve been studying modeling and simulation theory, and I agree with the key fact that credentials are not definitive measures of prosperity and success. Kaya I hope na may mas advanced pa na mathematical models to measure such. Maybe I could derive a couple of those.


  10. Great read, benign0! This is the reason why people from the HR Depts. of our companies are among the most hated people of job seekers.

    How I wish these people would come up with ways to measure a person’s ability for creative thinking, for example, I’ve heard that if you want to work for Google, they’ll ask you questions such as this:

    “Imagine yourself shrunk to the size of a dime, and you’re placed inside a blender that is about to start spinning. What would you do?”

    In all my years of living, I have never heard of an employer in the Philippines ask a similar question like this.

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