Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Crime Against Honor


Now here is a perversion of justice filed by Senator Ramon Bong Revilla, Jr.

Let us say I think this act is a perversion of justice, and I file a legal complaint against Senator Revilla. We go to court and have complex arguments about free speech and legal rights and the honor of public officials, but I lose the case.

Senator Revilla then files a case against me, for his honor has been shamed by being so challenged, and I lose. The law says I can be imprisoned and pay a fine not less than P 50,000.

The law silences any criticism of public officials.

What we have here is a perfect example of the Filipino Ego at its onion skin worst, where any complaint is seen as a threat to honor. Does Senator Revilla not see that it is this same tenderness of skin that drove the Ampatuans to, allegedly, commit a horrendous crime?

My recommendation to the good senator is to "man up". Public office holders should operate under a magnifying glass. It is one of the precious checks and balances of a democratic system. One person's insult is another person's cause, and he ought not to try to suppress the advocates who see things differently than him.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

The Ego and I

I have come to realize that the Filipino Ego is differently evolved than the American ego. Both archetypes of self engagement tend toward hard-headed and pushy, but the expressions and motivations are different. The American ego is fundamentally confidence run amok. The Filipino Ego is more inward. It underpins the widespread trade of favors that is a stark social dysfunction, like racism. And many Filipinos, like southern American whites of the 1800's, are blind to the pains and damages caused by their self-dealings.

Filipino Ego requires a capital “E” because, like Catholic with a cap, it is a specific social structure that warrants its own profound definition.

In my blog writings, I have postulated that much of the dysfunction that occurs in the Philippines has at its core, Ego. The profound Filipino tendency toward self-involvement leads to corruption (who cares who who might be penalized by grabbing the pesos?), pollution (trash tossed onto the highway is out of mind as soon as it leaves the hand), poor preparation (planning for disasters is too much trouble and uses money that is better disposed of into my pocket), unjust justice (justice by personal or political favor), coups (my idea of government is better than yours), political murders (the nerve of you challenging my right to power), and incompetence (why hire someone with skills when a cousin or classmate will serve ME better).

The Egos who engage in the trade of favors are not at all compassionate toward those who bear the brunt of their unfairness: those who honorably pay their taxes which get funneled into private pockets, those who wait in line for their license at the LTO while a spiff-payer moves to the front, those who work hard in college and on the job and see their career opportunities cut off by someone's incapable cousin or classmate, or those killed by a ferry or typhoon or political murder or mud slide or stray dog on the National Highway because some official swapped away protection of citizen lives for a fatter wallet. The trade of favors is as pernicious as racism, that bugaboo of late American history.

Those hurt are Filipinos, not that the Egos recognize this. The corrupt and callous Filipinos believe they are as patriotic as the next guy cheering when a boxing legend enters the ring. Yet too many Filipinos are elected because they feel they are above the people; they are not elected because they want to serve the people. It is a very weird slant on patriotism. Given a weighing between take or give, the scale inevitably slides to take.

I have observed the practices of my wife, an Ego into her self, actually, but quite a sweet one. And I have observed the practices of my son who demonstrated an oversized Ego at the age of two, dismissing anyone and anything that interfered with his desires. The question arose, is this little self-consumed Ego hereditary or learned? Is it passed from parent to child in the genes, or is it developed by experience and education?

I clambered onto the internet to research something for a change . . .

Bingo. All knowledge is just a Google strike away.

Let me try to distill reams of over-the-top intelligence from PhD's offering up language thick enough to blind a bat. I'll present a layman's interpretation of one discussion* about ego and see if it fits with what you observe in the Philippines.

First, two definitions are important:

Self: the biological attributes that determine one's unique psychology; in other words, the individuality that is defined by genetic composition. The self does not change much during our lifetime.

Ego: our perception of our personal identity; in other words, that which we understand about ourself. It changes depending on our experiences and knowledge.

The self is to ego what a parent is to a child. At birth, a child is totally attached to his mother, seeing and feeling no distinction between himself and his mother. Similarly, at birth, the ego is submerged totally within the genetically determined self.

With time and experience, the child and the ego start to pull away. Both are shaped by experience and knowledge. And so the ego moves toward a state of independence, no longer bound by genetic chains of the self. In this growth, a higher self can emerge. This higher self is very aware of its individuality and surroundings and how it engages them. It is man at his most aware . . . aware of both his own capabilities and emotions and the vagaries of his environment, and able to navigate that environment as a mature adult.

And as a global collective, we participate in a migration toward a stronger and higher thinking man.

Cool. But what does that mean? How do I apply this to our current state of affairs?

On the scale of ego-independence, modern countries have moved ahead of the Philippines which, as a collective, remains bound to mama. Self awareness is weak in the Philippines and people have little idea how to organize for success. North Korea is a baby, Iran a petulant pre-teen, Myanmar a juvenile delinquent.

As a world community, if we grow enlightened fast enough, we might be able to rid the planet of wars and diseases and our current tendency to birth the planet into a dusty desert. It is a race, run in hyper slow motion, this battle between self awareness and the limits of our earth's resources. Also – sadly amusing - one watches the American political scene with its deceits, distortions and focus on elections rather than public good and grits the teeth; it is the opposite of higher self in action.

But if you think Americans are slow on the higher-self uptake, consider the Philippines.

Whereas millions of Americans see change and self-awareness as important, buying self-help books by the trainload and spending millions for psycho-therapy, the Philippines persists in a very different and narrow niche regarding comprehension of self. You seldom see self-help books carried about by Filipinos,or any books for that matter, and it is considered shameful to visit a shrink. Enlightenment is forever blocked by shame, by self involvement, by lack of effort and by a relentless search for someone else to blame.

It seems to me it is futile to debate fighting corruption or re-writing the constitution or doing much of anything until the real shame of the Philippines is acknowledged and dispensed with: Ego that has not separated far enough from self to keep pace with the evolution of more progressive nations. The immature Ego – working for self instead of community - spawns the trade of favors which, like racism, is hurtful and destructive to the well-being of the Philippines.

When people look at expanding their self awareness with pride, and when those who trade in favors are looked upon as despicably as an American white uttering the word “nigger”, the Philippines will have risen far on the scale of human enlightenment.


*adapted from the concepts presented at: Interpretations of the academic treatment are unproven and are solely extensions of Joe America's suppositional mind.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

That Which Is Beautiful, That Which Is Sacred

I write of cross-cultural experiences because it is what I live. I was formed and framed by Western values but am now immersed in Filipino values. It is impossible to ignore the clashing when it occurs.

By way of perspective and history, I am an explorer, an accidental one, I suppose. During my lengthening life, I have endured numerous passages, from farm boy to jock to army dude to marijuana sucking war protestor to ambitious and successful business executive to Bible student to womanizer and world traveler and, today, to sedate retired man and responsible father and husband. The intellectual spice through all of this was books, for they allowed me to immerse myself in explorations of other lands and lives. Books teased me into going out into the world to find its many treats and, yes, travails.

One of my favorite books is Shogun, by James Clavell. I admire Japanese disciplines, the finding of beauty in rocks and bamboo and waterfalls, the elegance of simple living, the submission of the individual to the group, the sometimes opposing duality of public and private utterance, and the presentation and flavors of exotic foods. I worked for a Japanese owned bank for 13 years, engaging with the principal officers daily. From that I learned the danger of too much risk aversion and the power of hard work, as well as respectful behavior and blow-out drinking.

Having seen a lot, I am disinclined to follow in the footsteps of various peddlers and preachers of how to live. I consider what others do but aspire to define my own principles, choices and acts. Using religion as an example, I retain a spiritual frame of heart when visiting any church of any faith, and I pick up the Bible often to learn the lessons contained in that spiritually endowed but man-made expression of history and how to live. But I set aside as irrelevant or even destructive the banding together of people into organized churches, and I resist submission to the dictates of their restrictive doctrines. I view churches as overwhelmingly blind and flawed institutions, where leaders allow their rote beliefs to inhibit their creative wisdom. That is why the Catholic Church in the Philippines is unable to adapt its doctrine to the melting planet. It comes up with excuses to justify doctrine rather than adjust doctrine to facts . . . as if changing doctrine would somehow mean God does not exist. They think God is like cement. I think He is fluid.

But enough of that particular digression.

Like the Japanese, I enjoy rock gardens. I find them spiritual. So on the property where my family is building its home in the Philippines, I found a broad area of karabao grass that dips into a little furrow that carries rain runoff through the property. An imaginative real estate agent would describe it as a “seasonal stream”. When it is the season of rain, the water streams through the little grassy valley. I placed large rocks here and there in this valley and planted a few plants amongst the rocks. The plants would be considered weeds in any other setting. Here they make a garden.

Now the arranging of the rocks is itself spiritual. I looked at the garden from different directions and moved the rocks about until they formed a harmony. I can't explain how this harmony is found. It is in the balance of the rocks and the plants and the totality of their surroundings.

For sure, my wife and her family and friends don't find harmony there. They think I am nuts. They look at the rocks as rocks strewn about the yard. What kind of beauty is there in a bunch of big rocks in the grass, and why put weeds there? Lunatic American.

This blindness to spiritual harmony seems also to apply to those who worship in the Catholic faith. Members of the flock attend church not to profess anything positive, but as just one more way of appeasing some superstition bugaboo. The Catholic faithful take my wife and me to task for failing to slaughter a pig or chicken and drain the blood into the foundation of our new house. They ask us if we will do the blessing of the house when construction is done. I think, but don't say (in the best Japanese two-faced convention), “why?” It is just cement and iron, and the fates will do whatever they will do. No amount of water tossed on the cement with good intent will hold the devil at bay, for Satan is in the hearts of man, not the heart of God.

Good is also found in the hearts of man, but it is harder to find in Filipino society, where people take care of themselves first and others rarely. Charity is not a natural tendency of Filipinos.

I have no idea how a country so steeped in religion can be so lacking in gentle sensitivity toward the earth and others. Their country is among the most beautiful in the world, and the most trashed. Of the two main religions, one is defensive, not spiritually uplifting. The other is murderous. People steal thousands of pesos with one hand and put 20 pesos in the collection sack with the other. Gardens in the Philippines are obedient, practical lines of plants, not wholesome, spiritual, unfettered places where God relaxes. And God is just a tool, an amulet to wear about the neck to ward off evil spirits.

I rather think I will spend a lot of time on the banks of my seasonal stream, looking at the peaceful harmony of rocks and re-centering my soul when it gets abused by the less-than spiritual, less than gracious, practices hereabouts.