The trouble with Filipinos is that they don’t see any meaning in their lives that is bigger than themselves. At best there is, like most warm-blooded mammals with bulges in their heads wider than their brainstems, that instinctive altruism for his own immediate family. But even that one is often brought to question on account of the hundreds of thousands of Filipino children being left to beg on streets and, worse, pimped out to both local and foreign perverts over the Internet.
Perhaps it could be due to their upbringing under the teachings of the Philippines’ Roman Catholic Church. Filipino-style Catholicism promises everything in death and not much else in life. As such, it encourages the sort of inward thinking tunnel-visioned approached to living Filipinos have become renowned for and which thay have carried over wholesale into their civic lives (or lack of it).
Whatever the cause of this national condition, it is a profound challenge that could thwart any efforts to lay a stable foundation for sustained prosperity over the long term.
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That’s quite a disturbing thought. If Filipinos already monumentally struggle to be true citizens of the Philippines, then they are far removed from a level of nationalism that sets apart true modern nations from primitive ones: ethical citizenship.
Being an ethical citizen goes beyond paying taxes, following traffic rules, and not pissing on public walls and sidewalks (stuff Filipinos already fail at). Being an ethical citizen means being an active participant in nation building. What does it mean to be an active participant in nation building? Let me count the ways…
(1) Apply yourself intelligently to the political process.
At the moment, Filipinos are mere spectators. Worse, they behave like a dumb herd of sheep — easily prodded from one goal to another depending on the popular agenda. This is ironic considering the idea that power in a “democracy” lies “in the people” had been drummed into their pointed heads for decades since the Philippines was granted independence by the United States in 1946.
The current landscape of the political “debate”, however, paints a bleak picture. Political parties in the Philippines today don’t stand for any sort of philosophy or ideology. They are mere election winning machines. The top opinion-shapers amongst the Philippines’ “intelligentsia” consistently fail to step up to the challenge of elevating the level of discourse, preferring instead to be a part of the low-brow gossip mongering on a who’s-who of characters in the various media circuses that entertain the masses.
Filipinos need to take away politicians’ power to routinely insult their meagre intelligences by learning how to apply a more critical mind to the truly important issues at stake in their politics. When that will happen is anybody’s guess. At the moment, there no sense in holding one’s breath here.
(2) Be mindful of public spaces.
At the moment, public space is being claimed by for-profit private enterprise. Much of what makes life miserable in Metro Manila, the Philippines’ premiere megalopolis is due to the appalling neglect public facilities have suffered in the hands of Filipino management. What passes off as “public space” in the Philippines is now associated with shopping malls where visitors are bombarded with seductive messages to spend and consume.
As truly public spaces in the Philippines disappear, so too will an ethic of civic duty to one another. It is only in truly public space that a culture of sharing and courtesy can flourish. The shameful behaviour of Filipino motorists on the country’s roads is a testament to the steep slide into degeneracy of that culture. In its place will fester a sub-culture of bad manners, irresponsibility, and even violence. Already, Filipinos are renowned for inconsiderate anti-social behaviour such as littering, talking loudly, fiddling with their phones while walking, and spitting and urinating on streets. They see no problem with consistently shoddy workmanship delivered by their public servants and their contractors in the development and maintenance of public facilities. And, most disturbing of all, crime is on a rampage — often perpetrated by those to which law enforcement was entrusted: the Philippines’ ill-paid police officers.
(3) Uphold an ethic of self-reliance and self-sufficiency.
The Philippines will never be a great nation and Filipinos will never be a respectable lot unless initiative to succeed comes from within. Quite the opposite is in effect today. Remittances sent by the Philippines’ enormous army of Overseas Foreign Workers (OFWs) prop up the national economy. Add to that the way Filipinos, as part of tradition, stare to the heavens with gaping mouths waiting for foreign investment to rescue them from their chronic unemployment.
There is nothing more pathetic than a substance addict. And Filipinos are addicted to resources that they have very little control over. Because Filipinos lack sufficient domestic capability to develop the needed technologies, industrial might, and technical knowledge to sustain their enormous population, they are forever imprisoned in a cycle of dependence on foreign stimuli and are hopelessly vulnerable to external forces.
Until Filipinos (a) learn to develop the means to live and (2) live within those means, they will remain amongst the world’s most impoverished people, in ALL aspects; social, financial, and intellectual.
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Indeed, a truly swtiched-on people will focus their energies on being intelligent, mindful, and independent. That’s not rocket science. Any parent already knows that — at least those who are raising their kids right. Perhaps that is where the problem lies. Are Filipino parents raising their kids to be ethical citizens? Sadly, the answer to that question remains debatable.
benign0 is the Webmaster of GetRealPhilippines.com.