Among the triumphalist hogwash we’ve long been attacking is the idea that we are a special people. That kind of mentality is often embraced under the assumption that it is necessary for love of country. That is wrong, and “feeling special” actually does us more harm than good. It is one of those placebos that make us focus on something for its own sake and make us forget tackling problems head-on. It all seems based on a lot of old-fashioned and erroneous beliefs Filipinos have about themselves, which I deconstruct and de-mythify below.
1. Believing that talent or “being special” is in the blood – I busted that myth in an earlier article. Talent is quick self-learning plus practice. In terms of nations, Filipinos have no more special talents than others, because if you observe other countries’ talent shows, they are just as talented. In sports, we may have talent, but beating others is a matter of skill, training and grit – and luck (as demonstrated when our basketball teams get trashed by giants). I also see talent as more a personal thing, not based on your ancestry or group affiliation – unless that group offers you the chance to have grueling training.
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The talent-in-blood belief is likely an offshoot of the old ideas about setting people apart in terms of rulers and followers. The “rulers” try to justify their ruling by conjuring rationales about why they are superior to their followers; among these rationales is talent. However, a rationale is not always the truth. It is often baloney that people package in the guise of “truth” as the basis they use to force other people under their will. Thinking of oneself as superior is not only arrogance; it is in fact one of the causes of exploitation and racism. Remaining under this archaic mindset has kept Filipinos backward.
Filipinos should reorient their beliefs about talent to being a product of nurture than nature, because that is what modern research has been saying. But let’s not forget one important thing: if you’re “talented” but just sit on your ass doing nothing, you don’t deserve to be recognized or given anything. Talent is proven only by actual results – so get off your butt and make them.
2. We are not a specially oppressed people. Colonization may have left some bad effects and was exploitative, but it also did some good. We were given science and technology, which helped improve food, health and educational systems, to name a few areas. As our bloggers have said before, colonizers helped develop our country and propel it into the modern age. Other colonized societies like Singapore and Hong Kong stopped blaming their “oppressors” and instead developed themselves without raising any “I’m oppressed” or “I need aid” whining.
The idea of colonizers owing us because they “oppressed” us is just an attempt at mooching through moral blackmail. The idea of being “oppressed” is questionable, and it is likely to be more truthful that Filipinos oppress each other more than foreigners do (My Family’s Slave, hello!). Also being “oppressed” doesn’t give us license to mooch on the colonizers. That is exploitation in itself.
And about slavery… other countries may have had slavery, but we’re no better. Not only with My Family’s slave; slavery continues in how badly employers treat employees, how our culture of having house help has made us soft and in how indigenous people are treated. I have also heard that some actual slavery still occurs in the provinces. We would be special in violating human rights with how our traditional culture works.
Filipinos seem to hold the harmful belief that when they feel like they lack something, or it was taken from them, they have the right to take it from others. They may also believe that they have a right to make others sacrifice or suffer for them. These are what toxic people do.
Filipinos, or anybody for that matter, do not deserve comfortable lives for nothing. We deserve no special favors or any special treatment. The world owes Filipinos nothing. Filipinos owe it to themselves to bring themselves out of their predicament.
3. We have no moral ascendancy above other cultures. Our priests may claim we have close-knit families as an advantage, but that is also abused by mooching. In OFWism, lazy family members just depend on the “blessings” of their OFW benefactors. That sure puts a dent in our “close-knitness.” Filipinos are not the only ones to have loving families. Good family values exist in other cultures, and it’s more a function of individual cases than being attributed to the culture. In fact, the dark side of Filipino family values is authoritarianism, with parents who want their children to be their servants and ATMs, and will even hurt and abuse their children to “discipline” them.
Bayanihan, pakisama and whatever “special Filipino” traits you can name do exist in other countries too, though by other names. For example, the recent eruption of Kilauea saw Hawaiians help each other and give food and supplies in their own version of “Bayanihan.” Even resilience is not exclusive to Filipinos. In a sense, those traits are actually humanity-wide adaptive features for survival. They are not confined to any one people, and people practicing them aren’t special. They just do what human beings should do.
The Arrogance of “Specialness”
Claiming to be a special people is an act of arrogance. We are not indispensable. Since other cultures can have the same qualities we do, we are not unique. To claim to be indispensible is a strong overestimation of oneself, and indicates a bloated ego. And a bloated ego can actually be an indication of insecurity.
People will say, you are a traitor if you don’t support this, we should be proud! But some readers have pointed out that being arrogant is different from being proud. Being genuinely proud does not need boasting to others or imposing oneself on others. Being proud is best not said, and is better expressed in action (saying: actions speak louder than words). As I have written before, you can be happy with yourself without validation from others about being “great.”
We are not special. In truth, no one is any more special than the other. Any claim of any nation, culture or society to be better than others is arrogant and disastrous. It is the opposite of what many nations and cultures have declared acceptance of, such as human rights and peaceful cooperation – a declaration we agreed to be part of.
In the modern age, we are supposed to embrace a universal acceptance of equality and egalitarianism that fosters respect for all people. Filipino culture however is stuck in the medieval-colonial age mindset that if someone is special, they should rule over others. Filipinos hope to find themselves as these special rulers over others, but reality often comes in to bite them back and bring them down to earth. Overcoming this delusion is an important step in turning around the fate of this country, as without it, we will always be trapped in a Matrix of our own making.
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.