Considerate. When was the last time you heard that word used to describe a Filipino? When it comes to the common courtesy of being considerate to the people around you, Filipinos will likely be the last thing on people’s minds. Why? Because the average Filipino quite simply does not care about anyone or anything outside of his property line, outside of his family tree, or even outside of his line of sight.
The foundation of an ethic of being considerate is common courtesy. But like common sense, common courtesy seems to be uncommon in Philippine society.You can see it in the way Filipino drivers interact with other motorists with whom they share scarce road space. Instead of mutual respect, we see mutual contempt. Often this results in a mass of drivers on a rampage to maneuver agressively for each opportunity to gain minor incremental advantages over the other over the course of their respective trips. The overall collective result on the road is an even tighter and more untenable gridlock.
Then there is the din of blaring karaoke parties at 2am in Philippine suburbia most nights. For a people renowned for being so “conscious”, Filipinos are pretty good at suspending any semblance of self-consciousness when behind the mike. You can hear them belt it out to the wee hours. It sometimes makes you wonder if you are the only one in the neighbourhood who needs to get up early the following day to make a living.
Let’s not forget the trash — steaming mounds of it in plain sight everywhere abuzz with flies or washed up on our shores after a storm subsides. But it’s the trash we don’t see that causes the most grief — its contribution to Filipinos’ miseries comes in the form of the floodwaters that bubble up from our clogged sewers and spill across our streets and into our doorsteps after even just a brief downpour.
Those three among many other small examples, are prevalent at the micro level of Filipinos’ daily lives. But the more nefarious form of this society-wide lack of consideration comes at the macro scale — in Philippine politics.
From the local township level up to the national level in the halls of Philippine Congress and the stately rooms of Malacanang one can see the same manner with which Filipinos regard their place in their society:
Family first, friends second.
Nothing wrong with that of course — except if you are a public servant and you apply this attitude in the manner with which you deliver public service while in office. So, indeed, if you are a public servant and you put family and friends first in the “service” of the Filipino people, then you are no better than the inconsiderate boors who inhabit the country’s streets, screech out “My Way” at 2am on a Tuesday night oblivious to everything and everyone around them, or toss their rubbish off their stilted shacks onto the estero below.
The idea that Filipinos would continue to elect characters who are singularly motivated by nothing else but a desire to keep their place in government all in the family becomes less baffling when we see it in light of the way ordinary Filipinos themselves remain inconsiderate to the greater community to which they belong.
Are Filipinos really a community? Or does historical consequence still remain the only reason that the “Philippines” continues its pained existence?
The answer to that question remains quite obvious even today. This is because no Filipino — not the ordinary voter nor any politician who pitches her value to them — can offer a compelling step upward from the burden of history and tradition that keeps Philippine society stuck in its fragmented tribalism. To become a considerate people as a general rule and leave behind the backward selective way we apply ourselves to one another today should be a goal mounted at a national level. It is only when Filipinos become a considerate people can they begin the journey towards becoming a true unified nation with a bright future ahead of it.
benign0 is the Webmaster of GetRealPhilippines.com.