In a classic moment of anger after being told “you have a pimple on your face,” Filipinos again cried foul against an article of a Spanish researcher living in the Philippines. Jorge Mojarro, whose article was published in Interaksyon (his being called “spaniard” in the article seems to reflect the antiquated thinking in our society) drew flak after he blamed the problems of the country on the “Filipino mindset.” He described the problems of improperly occupied sidewalks, traffic jams, lack of city planning and rampant commercialization (malls, etc.) as a result of this mindset. Of course, the butthurts would claim he’s insulting and wrong.
However, his summary sentence, “Filipinos do not show any sense of shared responsibility for public space,” is a very accurate explanation about how Filipino attitudes cause dysfunction in our society. It can be summed up in one acronym: KKK (Kamag-anak, Kaibigan, Kaklase or it can be changed into Kamag-anak, Kakilala, Ka-Close). I will define it this way: If you know someone, you tend to respect them. If you don’t know someone you tend to disrespect or even try to scam them. In Mojarro’s own explanation:
The private sphere belongs to the kin and friends, and utang na loob obliges one to reciprocate help, support, favors, and even money. The public sphere, on the other hand, becomes the jungle where anything is valid in order to bring commodities to the private sphere.
Unfortunately for the butthurts, this is true about Filipinos. Just think of our politicians: they give positions and pork barrel to their kin, friends and people they have utang na loob to. That’s their private sphere. The public sphere, they rob to get money for their private sphere!
As Benign0 sometimes quotes from Jaime Licauco, “A nation whose policies and rules are based on the assumption that everybody is a cheat and liar unless proven otherwise cannot long endure. Take a close look at our bureaucracy and its rules. It is burdened by elaborate and often unnecessary checks and balances so that nothing ever gets done in the process.”
A true humane, civilized and advanced society that is truly worth being proud of is one where respect is given to even those we don’t know. If some will retort that people in other countries are also like that, that is not true in a significant way. Think of the observation that when Filipinos go abroad, they follow rules and become more productive than in their home country. Part of the reason is the that the Filipinos have been taught to respect people that they don’t know. In other words, the “value” of KKK was been replaced with a true civic-minded, law-abiding citizen mindset. This is what we lack to a great extent in the Philippines.
Some may rail, “hey, KKK is not a value!” Let me explain that I mention it as a value that we actually practice. I apply the word value, because it reflects what we actually value: our kakilalas, our little world.
Others may rail at Mojarro with an ad hominem: “he’s Spanish, his society ruined our country!” But that is a stupid retort, since Mojarro is modern Spanish, not part of the older society that had already faded. He like James Fallows (an American) get slammed for being astute and observant, seeing the problem for what it is and giving solutions. Another is objection to his suggestion that parks are better than malls to be in, citing air conditioning and all that. But aren’t there some Filipinos who recall a better, more habitable Manila of old where there were many parks and fresh air aplenty?
This is not to say every Filipino is a KKK practitioner. I am happy to see many Filipinos act respectfully towards people they don’t know and extend a helping hand. But the KKK attitude is sadly prevalent as well. The Aquino administration is the standard bearer of it and is perhaps the object of whatever snipes Mojarro had in his article. But let’s get to the point: unless Filipinos learn to respect even those they don’t know to a greater scale, and thus have greater respect and concern for the public space, we will continue to experience terrible traffic, high crime, high corruption and other problems that annoy us and even threaten our lives in this country.