Whether it be Moros demanding the “right” to carve out big resource-rich chunks of Mindanao and call it their very own autonomous Sharia-governed Islamic paradise or actual squatters that are, well, squatting on property owned by law-abiding tax-paying people, the argument of choice fielded by apologists of these “oppressed” communities is that they are “victims”. Never mind that every Filipino, whether they be Moros or squatters live in a relatively free and democratic society — one where opportunities are open to everyone who can apply a bit of brain to the task of laying the foundations for their respective future fortunes.
What, for example, is preventing the average Filipino Muslim from profiting from the Philippines’ open and free market? The huge community of Muslim-Filipino traders and entrepeneurs who hawk their wares in Greenhills and Quiapo are evidence enough of how well-integrated into the Philippine economy our Muslim “brothers” are. Movement of goods and services between the Philippines’ largely Christian north and Muslim-dominated areas in Mindanao is largely unfettered — even to the point of being an underground economy. This is enough evidence that the most enterprising of Filipino-Muslims already benefit immensely from the Philippines’ laissez-faire open market.
Likewise, the Philippines’ vast squatter community cannot be considered to be an oppressed people. Nothing in Philippine law prevents them from seeking a prosperous and legal way of life. What keeps them mired in squatterdom? Perhaps it is because squatting is the easy option. Because some squatter clans have been squatters for generations, the very way of life of squatting is deeply-ingrained in the psyches of both ancestors and descendants. The psychological poverty trap that dooms many Filipinos to a way of thinking that is framed more by a wallowing in victimhood than a search for opportunities is a deep hole indeed.
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So, yeah, Squatter Mentality. One can say that it has become a prominent feature of Filipino culture. Bleeding heart Filipinos and the “activists” that pander to them are repelled by the idea that Filipino culture suffers from an acute Squatter Mentality infestation. It is like the way African Americans find profound offense in that-N-word-that-must-not-be-uttered. Every now and then, however, someone begs to differ. In the case of African Americans, Chris Rock takes up that role and, in his now-seminal words, delivers the same sort of challenge to his community…
Who’s more racist: black people or white people? Black people. You know why? Because black people hate black people, too. Everything white people don’t like about black people, black people don’t like about black people. … Every time black people want to have a good time, niggers mess it up. … Can’t keep a disco open more than three weeks. Grand opening? Grand closing. Can’t go to a movie the first week it opens. Why? Because niggers are shooting at the screen. … I know what all you black readers think. … “It isn’t us, it’s the media. The media has distorted our image to make us look bad.” … Please. … When I go to the money machine at night, I’m not looking over my shoulder for the media. I’m looking for niggers.
Seeing the N-word being thrown around so gleefully gives us the heeby-geebies, doesn’t it? But Rock, challenged by the interviewer in that piece to give a good reason why he finds the need to make liberal use of that “heavy-duty” word, issues pure gold:
It’s not that heavy-duty. The thing with “nigger” is just that white people are ticked-off because there’s something they can’t do. That’s all it is. “I’m white, I can do anything in the world. But I can’t say that word.” It’s the only thing in the whole world that the average white man cannot use at his discretion.
Recent “viral” issues have once again shown that Filipinos suffer the same condition Rock highlights about his own people. Filipinos hate everything that is Filipino. You can see it in the way that upwardly-mobile Filipinos spend their big bucks on a life-long effort to look more American (with apologies to the coño community who prefer a more Euro look). But the moment non-Filipinos step into the discussion to air their own personal views on the matter, Filipinos all of a sudden have their claws out launching into shrill tililing rampages all over the Net.
Even more interesting, some of these “non-Filipinos” who have become tight-lipped about their personal views about the Philippines’ world-renowned dysfunctions (lest they be targetted by riding-in-tandem assassins) are long-time residents of the islands and pillars of the economies of their respective local communities. Talk about wasted insight! Indeed, all that knowledge technology has made so widely-available is all but wasted on the ignorant.
We are seeing the dawn of an age where the idea that poor people are “victims” — in Filipinospeak, Squatter Mentality — has all but been worn to a ragged relic of Cold War thinking. Of course this by no means saying that poverty can simply be eliminated by calling out poor people for what they are. It just means that, perhaps, it is time to recognise that the infestation of squatters (both literal and figurative) in Philippine society — the way their parasitical numbers utterly dwarf the nmore self-reliant amongst us — is a statistical reflection of the nature of our society; that perhaps ours is still a society that is more primitive than we would like to believe.
Bottom line: finding the real root cause of poverty in the Philippines is not as simple as believing the victim card traditional “activists” would like us to play every time we decide to participate in that “noble” endeavour. The key to that quest may lie in our collective resolve to face the confronting notion of our society’s profound Squatter Mentality.
benign0 is the Webmaster of GetRealPhilippines.com.