Groupthink for the sake of “stability”? That might work if you are a Germany or Japan — or even a China or South Korea. But this is the Philippines. Filipinos got groupthink all wrong. Whereas the other successful collectivist societies groupthought their way to scientific, technical, and economic achievement, the Philippines degenerated into a sad orgy of obsessive mutual assurance that their delusions of greatness reflected reality.
Thus, people who insist that agreeing to get on a partisan bandwagon for the sake of creating some sort of perception that Philippine society is “stable” and that its politics is one that fosters “unity” are nuts. Investors don’t kiss just because the lipstick is glossy red (or classily matte-finished). They take a peek under the hood before they buy dinner for two. Only fools fall for the come on of loud empty promises and primary-coloured one-coat paint jobs. Those are the types who raise the bonnet too late to discover the reconditioned diesel engine clanking away underneath leaking buckets of oil.
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The trouble with the Philippines is its fatal embrace of civilised history’s worst sort of thinking — unearned pride bought with false achievement. This is a society suffering from a virtually-intractable condition. Despite the latest social media technology at their disposal, Filipinos have failed to mount enough intelligent challenge against that thinking. Worse, the cancer of celebrity culture had hijacked the minds of even the most educated members of Philippine society. It does not help that Filipinos routinely confuse showbiz creds with thinking chops. Most baffling of all, they also confuse education creds with wisdom creds.
This describes the dangerous situation Filipinos find themselves in. An abject inability to produce original thought and innovative ideas leads to a habitual latching on to comfy symbols and notions. Indeed, the idea that elections are always about “good versus evil”, for example, has stuck in the minds of Filipinos since the early 1980s so much so that this false dichotomy has become entrenched as the core of Philippine society’s bipolar mental condition. When the national political “debate” has degenerated to this stone-age level of reasoning, there is no room to enrich the political discourse any further — which is why empty administrations devoid of clear vision and direction routinely follow Philippine presidential elections nowadays.
In that empty culture, people who beg us to simply get along with one another just as emptily cry out.
Groupthink surrounding a fatal kernel of infantile reasoning has doomed the Philippines even as groupthink around a rich core of innovative reasoning has turned other societies into high-achieving collectives. On that bit of historical insight, Filipinos once saw democracy and the freedom to “debate” as their salvation — a means to break the monopoly of centuries-old inbred ideas that infest their society. Alas, rather than come out enlightened by a flood of new notions, Filipinos merely came out even more confused. Open debate, free inquiry, secularism, critical thinking, even gay marriage are notions that routinely paralyse Filipino minds today. No surprise there considering that this same paralysis has all but created the perverted form of democracy Filipinos practice today.
In the same way, simply opening up an economy that failed to prosper on the back of domestic industry will only further crush its industrial spirit, so too will giving “freedom” to a society that failed to prosper under the more traditional authoritarianism that’s been tested over millenia. The cultural cores of Japan, South Korea, and Western Europe were shaped by many centuries of absolute rule before they became the “open” societies that they are today. They succeeded under one system then transformed into another to continue that track record of success.
The Philippines, on the other hand, embraced “freedom” and “democracy” jumping off a Zero track record of greatness forged under more traditional pre-democratic approaches to governance that are no longer politically-correct today. Much the same way, it embraced economic “globalisation” after failing to develop a robust and indigenous capability to create and grow domestic capital. Both cases are cases in point of the results of the classic folly of building a house on a sand dune. Freedom without discipline and an abundance of options without imagination are poor foundations for a productive adulthood — which is why the Philippines, despite being an independent country since 1946, remains the same stunted adolescent society toddling along wailing about its victimhood while the adults towering above it discuss the nuances of their technological future. It is because Filipinos lack both essential ingredients — discipline and imagination.
When you cannot apply a bit of restraint in the face of desire and habitually fail to conceptualise a better future despite your wretched state, you end up leading a life of repeatedly entering into commitments you are inherently incapable of honouring. In short, the Philippines is a vast embodiment of the classic poverty equation. Filipinos need to abandon that comfy equation and start adopting the still mysterious wealth equation that transformed other societies into the great ones Filipinos can only longingly look to with pained admiration.
benign0 is the Webmaster of GetRealPhilippines.com.