Every now and then, I get asked the same questions I have answered so many times before. I understand that not everyone will see my responses so I have compiled the frequently asked questions with my corresponding answers for everyone’s convenience:
1. When you highlight what is wrong in Philippine society, aren’t you being negative?
No, it is not being negative. It is actually the opposite. Philippine society will not mature or progress if we only focus on our strengths as a people. Filipinos also need to identify their weaknesses so they can work on these.
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While some people find it uncomfortable to face our society’s flaws, we need to do it. Otherwise, we won’t be able to fix them or address them properly.
Filipinos cannot pretend that their society is perfect and they cannot run away from their problems. Their problems will always come back to bite them. They cannot keep ignoring for example, that the majority in Philippine society lack discipline. The Filipino people’s lack of discipline is quite evident in how they drive their vehicles and when they routinely break the rules particularly in the way they dispose of their garbage indiscriminately. The habit of littering shows lack of respect for the environment and their fellowmen. Lack of discipline leads to chaos and eventually, anarchy.
Therefore, highlighting what is wrong in Philippine society is being proactive in dealing with the problems head-on.
2. You are all talk but isn’t action better than talking?
Talking will lead to action – the right course of action. One shouldn’t do his or her job without first outlining what needs to be done. Builders do not just go out and dig a hole without first consulting a plan drawn up by architects and engineers. In fact, a lot of things in the Philippines like policies and infrastructure projects fail because they were not examined well enough to see if they could actually work.
In a lot of instances, experts were not consulted before a project was initiated. Likewise, due to patronage politics, the wrong man for the job (like a lawyer doing an engineer’s job) gets hired and so, consequently, quite often fails to deliver.
Things need to be thought through before action is mounted to avoid unnecessary waste of time and resources. More importantly, the right people need to be involved in the thinking process. Unfortunately, in the Philippines, those who get to “think things through” have no business being in that position. They were only put there because they have popular names or associated with those in power.
3. Why do you keep complaining and blaming the public servants?
Why not? If no one complains, the public servants will assume that they are doing a good job. Public servants are supposed to serve the public. They are not in their posts to be “admired” or showed deference to. It’s only in the Philippines where public servants are treated like celebrities. That’s because a lot of public servants are former celebrities or related to one. This is part of the reason why the Filipino public is beholden to their public servants. Another reason why the Filipino public in general is scared of complaining is because a lot of those in power have been known to use intimidation to scare anyone who complains.
In Philippine society, there is also a culture that can be described as “saving face”. The society is scared of being criticized for their failures. That’s why individuals who raise unpleasant issues get shamed by others and get labeled either tactless or rude. Never mind that raising concerns like abuse of power or disorderliness will benefit the rest of the public.
4. You have been criticizing the ills of Philippine society for years but how come there is no change in the way Filipinos behave?
A lot of Filipinos are in denial. They refuse to acknowledge that there is a problem. They are like alcoholics. It is very difficult to convince an alcoholic that he has a drinking problem. Besides, while the goal is to enlighten the majority, we cannot do it without the help of mainstream media. We can only reach people who have Internet access for obvious reasons. Our focus is in influencing the elite especially those who work in mainstream media. Once they start espousing our views, they will reach a wider audience. At the moment our message gets drowned out by the shallow programming and content of mainstream media.
5. Why can’t you write your articles in Tagalog so that the masses can understand them?
While it is good if more people can understand our message, it is actually a common misconception among Filipinos that the masses comprise only of Tagalog speakers. There are Filipinos from other regions who do not like the Tagalog language at all. This actually says a lot about the communication problem in the Philippines. It started when the late former President Manuel L. Quezon imposed Tagalog on the occupants of the entire archipelago including the non-Tagalog speakers. Not everyone was happy about it. He should have just stuck to imposing the use of either Spanish or English – both of which can be beneficial to country and individuals. But I digress…
It is hard to publish something that can be easily understood by the “common” Filipino because not all Filipinos speak and understand English and Tagalog fluently. I have to stick to the language I am comfortable with especially when expressing some complicated concepts I cannot express in Tagalog. Likewise, English is what the “elite” prefer to use. After all, the elite have the power to effect change in the Philippines. The members of the lower class only follow the elites’ lead.
The notion that the problem lies in the masses is not true because there are many people from the elite – those who have money and influence – who fail to live up to their responsibilities. They are the same people miseducating and misleading the masses. Therefore, the masses don’t constitute my primary target audience.
6. Why don’t you propose a solution to the Philippines’ problems instead of complaining?
The solution will present itself once we have identified the problem. Or as the saying goes, the first step to finding a solution is admitting we have a problem.
A solution to Filipinos’ lack of discipline, for example, is to enforce the rules. When rules are enforced, like imposing a penalty or jail time on offenders consistently, people will try to behave and eventually, the habit of following the rules will become second nature to Filipinos. This is precisely the reason why in mature societies, people behave even when law enforcement agencies are not around.
7. Why blame the voters for the performance of the public servants?
Public servants and politicians quite simply, form a reflection of the people. When public servants get away with incompetence, cheating and lying, it simply means the majority of Filipinos tolerate those kinds of behavior. They tolerate it because it has become part of their own lifestyle. They see nothing wrong with it or are resigned to the notion that they cannot do anything about it.
Incompetence means accepting that the public servants’ mediocre work “will do” or in the Filipino vernacular “pwede na yan”.
Filipinos have been cheated on and lied to for decades but they still vote for the same types of bozos every election. It simply means that the Filipino people have lost their moral compass and cannot tell right from wrong anymore. In a lot of cases during election period, some Filipinos can be bought and are therefore, also corrupt.
8. Why do you generalize? Not all Filipinos lack discipline.
Yes, not all Filipinos lack discipline but the majority does lack discipline. This is evident in the vast body of anecdotal evidence that supports these observations. The Philippines would have been a First World country by now if the majority did have discipline.
Generalize is not the same as making an assertion about all individuals. A generalization is a statement about the character or properties of a set or collective. But the statement does not necessarily hold true for all elements of that set or collective.
We need to generalize the problem because we need solutions that address the needs and issues of the general public.
When we can accept generalizations like “Filipinas are the most beautiful women in the world” we should also be prepared to accept less-savoury generalizations like “Filipinos lack discipline”. It’s only fair, right?
In life, things are not always what they seem.