Has the quality of Filipino thinking progressed?

We’re coming to the end of the first quarter of the 21st Century and the question remains as easy to answer as ever. The biggest red flag (literally) is the continued significant presence of communists in Philippine politics and in the terrorism they sustain in the countryside. Why do these elements continue to figure prominently in the Opposition and why do less radical “liberals” continue to be in bed with them during elections? The mystery persists…

This brings us to the continued use of the “Martial Law Years” as a pillar of the Opposition narrative. The Philippines’ political discourse remains trapped in a bipolar conflict involving two key cohorts. On one end are the more forward-looking visionaries who appreciate that the future fortunes of Philippine society lie in modern thinking. On the other end are those whose minds remain imprisoned in old narratives on victimhood under the hands of perceived “imperialists”. To the latter, Filipinos remain poor because of such externalities. The solutions all lie in changing the influence of these externalities on society and not in any inherent ability within said society to get on top of the issues that hinder said progress.

A recent example of this sort of primitive thinking is on exhibit today. After suffering a catastrophic defeat in the 2022 national elections, the foremost “thought leaders” of the Philippine Opposition choose to blame “disinformation” and other “sinister forces” for their loss. There seems to be no evidence of any collective effort on their part to look inward to examine their collective character and ask:

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Why did the majority of Filipinos vote against us?

A clue to this ignorance lies in the state of education in the Philippines and, to some extent, the way the average Filipino is raised. A lack of a healthy regard for habitual systematic testing of one’s ideas against reality is prevalent in how Filipinos conduct themselves. At its simplest, it seems they are unable to distinguish between (1) actually knowing so and (2) merely being told so. Could it be that, despite its members being literate, Filipino society still essentially remains stuck in an oral tradition?

This is actually possible considering that it can be observed across the board that Filipinos’ pre-colonial character stubbornly persists in a world that has embraced the required disciplines and precision essential to thriving in a modern technological world. So, despite timekeeping technology accurate to split seconds, Filipinos still live by their mammaya-maya regard for planning. Clear evidence of this is how their train systems run on a best-effort basis rather than to a fixed predictable schedule. And then there is the preferred manner with which Filipinos acquire information. Rather than read and evaluate the validity of what they read, they would rather defer to the word of people with credentials often failing to realise that the purest form of credentialism — absolute monarchies — thrived for centuries precisely on the back of that archaic ethic. Thus it is hardly surprising that a perverse oral tradition that accounts for the longevity of obsolete political narratives characterises election campaigns in the Philippines. Filipinos, quite simply, can’t read and would rather learn from what they are told by people with the “right” credentials.

On the surface Philippine society looks “modern”. The country’s large cities sport gleaming skyscrapers. Filipinos practice “democracy”. A “woke” culture that apes Western coastal liberals thrives in affluent enclaves. Yet, underneath all that, the society remains profoundly primitive. Manual labour is still preferred over capital to get things done (i.e. the proverbial hauling water in buckets rather than building pipes). Public transport, though motorised, is a bottom-up chaos rather than a top-down engineered system. Feudalism and cults of personality underpin democratic practice — famously evident in the general meaninglessness of most political parties.

Perhaps this is the reason why no amount of “democracy” makes Philippine society fairer, no amount of literacy makes Filipinos more intelligent, and no amount of technology makes their economy more productive. It’s all just for show. The bigger potential that all that modern stuff makes available for the picking is lost on Filipinos’ collective short-sightedness and lack of imagination. How then can Filipinos become collectively smarter if they see modern things as mere cosmetic ornamentation? This basic challenge persists.

5 Replies to “Has the quality of Filipino thinking progressed?”

  1. Sadly, it has gone from bad to worse. In addition to being trapped in that ‘imperialist’ mode of thinking that makes us subservient, as well as on the way we stick to that colonial mentality (whereas what the West instills among us is correct), blame this also on Filipinos over-reliance towards the escapist, trashy forms of entertainment that Filipinos have been fed–most especially by main stream media outfits. These forms of entertainment do not contribute to enriching mindsets or imparting values; they want people to be ‘happy’ and put on those facades as a form of escaping the harsh realities of life that they face. In turn, this generates a sort of ‘false positivism’ as well as a distorted sense on how to cope up with life’s changing realities. It also epitomizes why Filipinos also lack that sense of profoundness and discernment in deciding between what is right and what is wrong. On another angle, these escapist trash also make Filipinos unable to conduct discourses as well as open their mindsets on the finer things in life, be it art and culture, history/geography/geopolitics, changing tech and business trends, or more precisely, the rise of emerging markets in Asia, among several others. Instead of exploring other forms of alternatives to enrich their mindsets, they stick to the tried-and-tested, the formulaic–without realizing the consequences they generate to their modes of thinking, or shall I say, perceiving issues. In short, instead of promoting the gracious Filipino, what you have is a graceless one that reeks of intellectual poverty. Its high time that this kind of thinking must be reformed so that we can elevate ourselves up to the levels of our more productive, more profound, more intelligent and more gracious Asian neighbours.

    1. Railing against Pinoy entertainment being dumb is another hilarious GRP pet issue.

      Entertainment, Filipino or not, is not meant to “enrich mindsets” or “impart values”, that’s what education is for.

  2. There are more people there whose thinking didn’t progress than those whose thinking progressed. Just look at the people they vote. Look at the senate, they elected a senator who dropped out from college, his supporters applaud his huge arrogance and wrongdoings, including his rude and disrespectful behavior. What’s worst is they insult those who criticize him, including calling his critics arrogant while in reality, calling out his rude, disrespectful and arrogant attitude is righteous. In most senate hearings he joins, he often interrupts resource persons while they’re still speaking and he doesn’t let them finish talking and if that’s not bad enough, he insults people while in the senate, and he often defamed other gov’t agencies. Why do people want a gov’t official like that? The bigger problem is there are senators who are mimicking his style. They say that at least he’s helping people. How does he help, give them few amount of money? Their standard on voting for someone is he should give money to people? They don’t even think if giving money to people is a senator’s job or not, and as we all know, many people still prefer having political dynasties and many people vote for reelectionists who did little to nothing to help the country, yet they still wonder why is Philippines still a third world country and they still complain about corruption, many of them never learn. Btw, most of that senator’s supporters don’t know how to have proper discussions or debates which is proven when someone criticizes him, they quickly resort to ad hominem. I brought up that senator because he had many votes, more than even former president Duterte’s votes when he ran for president.

  3. Modern thinking really means accepting you’re part of the problem and you’re part of the solution.

    Seeking exemptions and excuses is an escapist’s entitlement. It is a very primitive way of thinking especially of those who habitually comments and make other people look bad so as they can appear good. Isn’t that simply narcissism?

    They think that’s what it means to be a progressive thinker, but, really, it’s not! It entails more than that.

    How do you rally – to inspire and to unite – so many people with disparate ideas?

    To make people come together, it has to start with a belief, a shared one and an acceptance of a collective identity.

    (It’s funny there are those who castigates us but are themselves confused of their own outside westward disposition.)

    To make people move, they have to be driven and committed to a collective cause which centers on an idea instead of a person or a leader… like an ideology for Filipinos.

    (Think of ideology to revolutionaries who carry on in spite of the death of a leader.)

    And that will have to be something acceptable to the greater majority. If that will be granted the rest will follow.

    How much time will it take? We don’t know for sure.

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