In the recent elections, supporters from the sides of the Marcos and Aquino (Mar-Leni camp) camps traded barbs using one very typical argument: achievements. People defend Marcos saying, despite the father’s corruption and Martial Law abuse, he has achievements, such as infrastructure, 13th month, and more. The same is used by Aquino supporters, that despite DAP and Mamasapano, there are the acquisition of new equipment by the military, approving the drunk driving law, increased benefits for PWDs (persons with disabilities), and finishing some projects started by the Arroyo era. What supporters seem to be implying is that we should not jail the said presidents because of their positive achievements. The idea is that the achievements redeem the politician of the corruption that they do and thus they should not be jailed.
It is a no-brainer that any administration should have achievements and projects. They are not special things, but are required, things that the governments should produce without being told. They should never be excuses to stop holding politicians responsible, because even if they have achievements, they should be jailed once found guilty of corruption and abuses. Achievements do not redeem.
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The idea of using achievements as an excuse against holding politicians responsible is yet another manifestation of the Filipino tendency to cover up the negative with the positive. In other words, it’s sweeping the dirt under the rug, and telling the onlooker, “Look a lovely rug!”
This kind of attitude also manifested in how some Filipinos reacted to the 2010 Luneta Hostage Crisis. One disappointing reaction was when someone suggested that to draw attention away from the negativity, Filipinos must “speak positively” of their fellow countrymen. If anyone brought up anything negative, try to brush it aside and keep blabbing about positives. It was, “use the positive achievements of Filipinos to make the foreigners you’re talking to forget the Bus Hostage Crisis.” But that’s it: by diverting someone’s attention from negative to positive, you are trying to hide the negative. And that is dishonest, because you are hiding the truth! Speak positively if you will, but criticize if you must. Filipinos should be open to criticism and willing to admit negatives that must be corrected. And when you claim you have positive only and no negative traits, that is not only lying, but also claiming to be perfect.
Another bad reaction was to counter negative with another negative. Someone called up the incident in 2005 in where some members of a Filipino family vacationing in Tiananmen, China were knifed to death. That someone demanded that the Chinese government apologize for this past incident. They also implied that that the Philippine government should not apologize for the 2010 incident. But that means also supporting the eschewing of command responsibility! It’s like, “we did wrong, but you did wrong too, patas tayo.” But that itself is wrong. And it’s a reprehensible mentality. And besides, the Chinese government did assure help for the victims and punished the perpetrator. I’m pretty sure the Chinese government apologized to the victims. The Bus Hostage Crisis is a different thing; for one thing, it received massive media attention. Bringing up the 2005 incident again was digging a skeleton out of the closet, or beating a dead horse. Now the defensive Filipinos, probably feeling the sense of entitlement they usually have, sought a kind of “special consideration” and wanted no responsibility called on the government. They complain about politicians not taking responsibility for mistakes, but they refuse to take responsibility for their own wrongs.
The cases above about the 2010 Bus Hostage Crisis point to the problem of impunity. We wonder why politicians have impunity. But we ordinary Filipinos want it too! We seek “special consideration” because we are poor, and all that. And because of that, we are unwilling to face problems and solve them. Our appeal to others to focus on positive and hide the negative is part of this “special consideration.” But we don’t deserve it, because simply, it is dishonest and wrong.
I called this tendency to seek the nice and goody-goody stuff to cover up the ugly “pleasantry addiction.” It’s part of the attitude of escapism, wherein, instead of facing the problems to solve them, Filipinos would rather hide from them and hope that through “magic” the problems will fix themselves. Or let someone do their dirty work for them. This is why erring Filipinos ride on the successes of other Filipinos; they use it to hide their own faults. It’s the moocher mentality at work. People are easy to lull into inaction because of how the concept of “positive” was corrupted into willful ignorance and neglect. It’s so prevalent in daily Filipino life.
Filipinos need to change a lot of their habits and beliefs. Don’t we all in our personal lives anyway? But the “positive” mindset makes us believe we’re already perfect and we deny our mistakes and faults. We become arrogant and refuse to acknowledge correction. Pinoy pride actually works as a smokescreen to prevent discovery of faults and to block action to fix them. Hiding the negative with the positive means hiding the problems so that proper attention is not spent on them and they don’t get solved. It is a roadblock to progress and it helps keep corruption and other problems in place. Thus, it is time for Filipinos to stop seeking the “beautiful” and “positive” all the time and develop the proper attitude of acceptance. This means to accept that the negatives or ugly things will still exist and will never go away by just “focusing on the positive.” We must develop a sense of responsibility to fix the problems directly by themselves, and this needs accepting one’s own faults without saying “I’m blameless” or “I’m special.”
Niceties and pleasantries can never erase the bad things. Even if you’ve immersed yourself in the niceties and pleasantries, the bad things are still there. They do not go away by themselves because of magic. You have no choice but to accept their existence and face them. In this Filipinos should work up some real independence by facing problems square on and doing real work. Not expecting encantos or “good feelings” to do it for them.
But of course, there’s another important fact: what is really happening is a twisting of positive and negative. Basically, positive is passed off as negative and negative as positive. So when a Filipinos boasts that his nationality is superior to other people, that’s seen as positive. When another Filipinos says, no, we should be humble and acknowledge that the others are good too, it’s branded as negative and being a traitor. Either we correct our concepts of what are positive and negative, or we remain like the village idiot shouting that he’s smart. Also, we should stop being suck-ups to our leaders, and we must continue to criticize and call them out when they do wrong.
I believe, as my cohorts here do, that what Filipinos embrace as their culture is what actually pulls the country down. And those who seem to be anti-dictators, who may also believe themselves to be “heroes,” are the real dictators.