I have been trying to understand the differences between western and Filipino cultures. I have stepped back a pace from outright criticism of Filipino ways and means, for it seems to me presumptuous to think that all cultures should emulate the American culture that frames my perspectives.
It is clear that Filipino Ego is the bottom line determinant of so many behaviors here. Whereas the Golden Rule – “do unto others as you would have them do unto you” – drives the courtesy and consideration most westerners grant to others, it is a rule that simply is not prominent in the Philippines.
Filipinos everywhere are motivated by, driven by, personal advantage.
Take the routine lawbreaking that occurs here every day. Skirting the law for personal gain is not condemned. Indeed, people brag about what they get away with. They gain face by cheating and lose face only if caught. The Filipino Ego defines right and wrong not as society’s right and wrong, but as right and wrong in terms of personal power or advantage. The law is society’s definition and it is irrelevant if personal advantage can be gained by ignoring it or circumventing it.
This sentence bears repeating: “The Filipino Ego defines right and wrong not as society’s right and wrong, but as right and wrong in terms of personal power or advantage.”
Therein resides the foundation of broad scale corruption, of over-fishing, of chopping down forests illegally, of lack of courtesy on the roads, of tossing trash in the neighbor’s yard or blasting karaoke into their ears until dawn. Therein lies the stark difference between a community-oriented western culture and a self-engaged Filipino culture.
Right and wrong exist in the Philippines in terms of self-advantage, not in terms of what helps others, what brings about an orderly society, what brings about a productive society.
So what is an outsider to do? Forget about the golden rule and wield all the power his wealth permits? Trample on others? Honk them out of the way on the roads? Treat workers with little mercy, paying them a pittance and working them like dogs? Disregard his neighbors in all things: noise, smoke, pissing in plain view?
It is hard to go there. It really is.
They get turned upside down here, inside out – not in terms of American culture, but in terms of what is good for most Filipinos. Given that government largely sets the tone . . . after all, government officials represent the leadership . . . it is easy to flay them with contempt. So I will . . .
The notion of public good in the Philippines is fantasy, it is bull shit, vended by leaders with little capacity to put themselves into the shoes of those who have less power. When the dominant driving force is “what’s in it for me?”, you can hardly expect actions to occur that are for the good of the community.
Filipinos admire heroes, yet the country’s leaders behave exactly the opposite of how a real hero would behave. What is the opposite of a national hero? You figure out the correct description, for I don’t wish to be that rude.
All I know is that, if I succumb to the culture here, I don’t ever have to put myself out for anybody who has less power than me. I can just emulate the leaders hereabouts. Me first. Everyone else . . . I’ll deal with you when I’m ready . . .
As for those with more power . . . I hide relentlessly . . . duck, dodge, ignore, play victim, offer up every excuse in the arsenal . . .
Just like a real Filipino.