Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Culture can be changed

Egyptians determined that they needed more freedom of speech and less thuggery in their culture. They decided their government was in the way. Egypt has a sizable middle class, well-educated with many youth plugged into computer social networks. The bloodless (not entirely, but for the most part) Facebook overthrow of government now stands as an example of a new way to wage change. Guns were not needed. The military did not squelch dissent because its own ranks are populated by well-read, well educated young officers who subscribe to the ideal of free expression.

The Philippines has a more open democracy than did Egypt under Mubarak, although the remnants of favoritism, corruption and imperious thinking still occupy Philippine government offices. Imperious means the falsehood of supposedly superior thinking, not imperialistic land grabbing. Although I suppose there is some domestic land-grabbing imperialism in the mix, too.

The main shortcomings I see in Filipino culture are not overt or societal, like lack of free speech, but “within the Filipino”, mainly: (a) lack of compassion or courtesy toward fellow Filipinos, and (b) failure to think conceptually and act productively.

These shortcomings again and again get in the way of progress and lead to favoritism, pollution, corruption, poor service, dilapidated infrastructure and buildings, sinking ferries and crashing airplanes, homes on flood-prone mudbanks, lousy health care, and other failings.

If I were Filipino, I would . . .

1) Always carry a book and do a lot of worthwhile reading. Carrying a book suggests to others that reading is a good thing. It is important that kids pick up on this; cockfights and internet gaming and showtime television are not good cultural models. Worthwhile reading is something other than glamour magazines or comics or romance stories. Reading should lead to richer thinking, not drain or dull the brain. Reading is the foundation of knowledge and all things good.

2) Think relentlessly about the Golden Rule and practice it daily. “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” I’d practice doing little kindnesses for others until it became a way of life. I’d cede right of way to another vehicle or pedestrian, put plastic into the dump instead of the fire, and think of what I can give to others without them asking, rather than angling for more for myself. With courtesy comes generosity and kindness. Corruption and stupidity cannot thrive in a kind environment.

3) Learn to think conceptually by attaching a “why” to every instruction or request I give to others, and every instruction or request given to me. Once you start to contemplate “why” you are doing things, productive acts push unconstructive acts aside. Eventually even government workers will understand they are serving citizens, not the other way around. Being punctual and trustworthy will become important. Making excuses and casting blame will become irrelevant.

4) I’d pass these guidelines to others to help actively build awareness of how to change Philippine culture.

I would do my personal part to:

• Make the Philippines a visibly intelligent society.
• Make the Philippines a visibly kind, clean and orderly society.
• Make the Philippines a productive, responsible society.