Some of us Get Real Post writers are often criticised about the way we generalise Filipinos. Indeed, to be fair, there are hundreds of articles here that explore from every angle and at every level of depth, the country’s renowned collective criminality, its petty anti-intellectual political discourse, the routine mediocrity of Filipinos’ undertakings, and the lack of imagination and originality that characterise Philippine arts.
It is quite understandable, then, that some Filipinos take exception to these generalisations. Huwag niyo naman nilalahat. Don’t make it look like all Filipinos are crooks, stupid, unmotivated, or suffer from bad taste, those who beg to differ say. All true, of course. Certainly, not all Filipinos fit the archetype painted by the generalisations any more than the notions that all Japanese are industrious or that all Germans are engineering geniuses, or that all French or Italian people are fashionable.
It is true that some Filipinos are honest and law abiding, apply an intelligent mind to solving problems and making sense of the world, aspire to excellence and greatness, and exhibit inspired groundbreaking artistry. The question is, where are these exceptional Filipinos? Why are they not more representative of Philippine society as a whole? Why is it that it is the most dysfunctional elements of our society that come to symbolise the character of our nation?
The best start to a journey towards answering these hard questions is to regard the problem of rampant crime in Philippine society. As a democracy, there is a system in place that provides hard measures around what traits are most valued by ordinary people — elections. Filipino politicians are all elected to office by popular vote. As such, one only needs to look at a good cross section of the sorts of characters that make up their Executive and Legislative branches to get a good feel of the Filipino character. The numbers say it all. The exact degree to which criminality is represented in the Philippines’ elected public offices is measurable.
Suffice to say, enough has been observed and written about the character of Filipino politicians in power to make this straightforward conclusion:
In the Philippines, dishonesty wins.
We need look no further beyond Congress, which has been described as the biggest crime syndicate in the country, than the first-class way with which the Philippines’ prison system pampers the worst of Filipino criminals. Or the way even the most unfortunate of their lot, victims of terrible calamities, are stolen blind by the very people entrusted to help them.
Small surprise that small and exceedingly rare acts of honesty performed by Filipinos often make big headline news. To be honest in the Philippines is to be off character.
What happened to all the honest Filipinos, then? Where are they? Why did they simply stand back and allow dishonesty to march up and claim the top spot in the Philippines’ food chain?
Well, apart from honest Filipinos being vastly outnumbered, perhaps it is also because being honest takes a lot of hard work and a lot of brains. To be able to explain the fundamental principles that are the foundation of an honest and just society takes a lot of skill and patience. For example, whenever there are elections, take (1) the approach traditionally taken to spinning a politician into a winnable candidate and compare it with (2) the ideal way, that of pitching that candidate’s ideas and the way he organises these into a coherent platform.
Which of the two is harder?
Nature always follows a crooked path. Natural waterways like rivers and streams, for example, are never straight as they curve in and out of natural landscapes. On the other hand, man-made engineered waterways like canals, aqueducts, and pipes follow logical patterns often made up of straight stretches.
The fortunes of Filipinos behave much the same way as water flowing through a natural landscape. If we continue to allow Filipinos’ natural traditional character to dictate how these fortunes flow, these will follow a crooked path. Only when we find a way to engineer and build the right social structures to modify the Filipino character to allow for straighter paths to be built, will the possibility of a brighter future be within our country’s reach.
Honest Filipinos should lead the way to build the foundation for that hoped-for brighter future, not the crooked people the majority routinely choose to govern them. Law-abiding Filipinos need to be better-represented not just in government but in the broader challenge of shaping the world’s perception of our society’s collective character.
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