This is a common argument against opinion pieces that point out confronting observations about the collective character of the Filipino nation. The reasoning can be re-worded as a question like this: When someone asserts, say, that Filipinos are slobs, is this an unfair statement? It isn’t if one recognises that this statement is a generalisation. The important point to make here is that making a generalisation about a set is different from making an assertion about all the elements of said set.
For example, Filipino men are generally about five and a half feet tall. But not all Filipino men are that tall. From the first statement, one can make the generalisation: Filipino men are short. But the statement All Filipino men are short cannot be considered to be true, of course.
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Another way to validate a generalisation is by looking at evidence that the generalisation holds true. Going back to the example of the generalisation that Filipinos are slobs, one will find that there is abundant evidence that this generalisation is a fair one. Just on the basis of the look and smell of the Philippines’ premiere metropolis, Metro Manila, one can easily stand by such a generalisation. Vast mounds of rubbish that are matched only by the equally prevalent swarms of flies that infest this city can be observed everywhere. Even more disturbing than the total absence of modern waste management in Metro Manila is the baffling lack of a community-level ethic of cleanliness and sanitation amongst Filipinos. This is evident, to cite one popular example, in the way Filipino men nonchalantly urinate in public whenever nature happens to call them to the task.
So, the observations are quite compelling and conclusive. Filipinos are slobs.
To give a bit of air time to those who beg to differ, we can grant this: Not all Filipinos are slobs, of course. To be fair, over a series of random encounters with individual Filipinos, perhaps one out of five individuals encountered will be a neat freak. This individual who represents that 20 percent of Filipinodom postulated earlier, would wrap her spent gum in the foil package it came with and throw it in a trash can instead of sticking it underneath her desk. She will not, under any circumstances, flush her sanitary pad down a public toilet. And she won’t be caught dead driving a car that runs on leaded fuel and spews black smoke at every imminent gear change.
And the rest of the 80 percent? Well, we can all see ample evidence of their handiwork everywhere in the Philippines. Going back to the earlier example, it is fair to say that for every one Filipino who disposes of her chewed out gum properly, four will likely stick theirs under a table. In short, even if not all Filipinos are slobs, the good things done by the outlying neat freaks in Philippine society are negated by the slobs four to one. And so the Philippines remains a dump despite the heroic efforts of that 20 percent.
Given those results all Filipinos may as well be slobs.
And that is why we generalise. Because generalising provides useful insight on the emergent properties of a collective.
benign0 is the Webmaster of GetRealPhilippines.com.