Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Filipino Dead Heads

It was a year or two ago, or maybe 25, when I was first introduced to the Myers-Briggs methodology of evaluating an individual's personality. It was used by Human Resources staff to ascertain if a job applicant's personal characteristics were suited to a particular job. For example, if the job were "sales" and the personality were "introvert", the match would not be good.

The technique was also used by lovers to examine what one's partner brought to the table.

The Myers-Briggs methodology is a simple test, not too  many questions, and a delineation of results into four different personality types, signified by eight pairs of polar-opposite letters. So, for occultist friends, I could say I am a "Gemini" and they would know I am an airhead who cannot be bound by anyone to anything for long, and like to perform and communicate. For my more cerebral friends, like those with  advanced college degrees, I could say I am an "INFJ", and they would know I am an airhead who cannot be bound by anyone to anything for long, and like to perform and communicate.

The four letters mean I am an Introvert. An iNtuitive kind of guy, rather touchy-Feely and therefore able to scribe poetry, and Judging, which means I can pen an opinionated blog from time to time . . . or every time. The trade name of these four letters is "The Author" . . . go figure  . . .

Stick with me . . . we'll get to the relevance of Myers-Briggs to the Philippines soon.

The fascinating aspect of Myers-Briggs is that the method does not ascribe "good" or "bad" to any characteristic. For in any particular circumstance, a trait can be either an advantage or disadvantage, but never "bad" per se.

Take the quality of "Introvert". I recall the ads a great many years ago where some muscle-bound guy is kicking sand in the face of a skinny 90 pound weakling wearing thick-rimmed glasses. The skinny guy is the classic icon of introvert, hiding behind sand dunes, afraid to express himself, a real wimp in the girl department.

Myers-Brigs says, "no, no, no!"

Being an introvert only signifies how a person gets his "energy". An introvert is enriched by quiet settings and exhausted in public forums. An extrovert draws energy by interacting with others and is exhausted by the boring limits of quietude. It is not a condemnation, either way. It is just the way we are.

Okay, on to the point. Filipinos.

I think if Myers-Briggs were to do an evaluation of Filipinos, a new category would have to be introduced that measured how one engages with others, not as introvert or extrovert, but whether one "concedes to others" or "likes to impose one's will on others". Maybe the fifth pair of letters could be C or W, for "concessionary" or "willful". A great many Filipinos would be tagged "W", bearing in mind that, although the tag may sound judgmental, in Philippine society as it is accepted today, it is not. It is the way of interacting smoothly in a culture that feeds on dominance.

The key question is whether or not it should continue to be accepted uncritically.

It is my statistically unfounded yet well-honed opinion that a great many Filipinos do not draw energy from being kind. They draw it from exercising power whenever the opportunity arises. Take the incidental example of the ATM. A Filipino will wait subserviently in line as others (in power) dawdle along doing their transactions. Then, when they get to the machine, they take the opportunity likewise to pull a power play. In their turn, they take endless time mulling over what to do, punch up a "balance inquiry" receipt and stare at it for a while.  They scratch, frown and refer to crumpled note paper extracted from this pocket or that. Then they slowly punch in their PIN and commands. Then do it all over again, at their leisure.

He (or she) gains no enjoyment at conducting a fast transaction for the benefit of the cripples, mothers with babies, and old folks waiting in line under the hot tropical sun. He (or she) gains enjoyment by being, in the briefest of moments, in  power. The ATM becomes a wholly inefficient exercise, when its whole purpose was to make banking more efficient. Productivity snuffed in favor of personal advantage.

That power-based way of behaving then rolls through society in just about every other arena where people sort out into the powerful and the powerless, for specific transactions. The government office, the National Highway (where a person can park in the middle and claim the space), the sales desk (where little autocrats believe they are doing you a favor by selling you something),  and just about everywhere else. The guy who blasts loud noise, tosses trash, allows his dog to kill motorcyclists, dynamites national resources to get fish, jams his hand into the public cookie jar, or drives as if the road belongs to him, alone.

The pleasure is found in exercising power, not in taking care of others.

I am schooled in the western tradition, which is out of step in the Philippines. I arrive on time and find no one is there. I stop for pedestrians in the crosswalk and the guy in the big-ass truck behind me lays on the horn or swings around, nearly squashing the confused pedestrian.

So I admit I am out of step.

I draw energy from conceding to the benefit of others. In the Philippines, I would be looked at as one of those 90 pound weaklings, a really sappy Joe.

It seems to me that many Filipinos cannot relate to the enjoyment available to them by being kind, by conceding to the benefit of others .  They simply, inside, don't draw off any energy from being kind. The Golden Rule is emotionally incomprehensible to them.

They certainly don't make the connection that when people work primarily for themselves, the rest of the community is disadvantaged. It is a barrier to efficiency, to productivity, to the formation of markets that recognize need and try to serve it. Rather than steal from it.

The question, I suppose, is this power-based approach working for Filipinos? Does it remain acceptable? It begs the question, how do you ever become a wholesome, non-corrupt,  productive society if most people get no joy from being considerate of others?

For sure, Philippine standards of healthy inter-personal relations do not meet western and more modern Asian standards.  Filipinos sit hang-dog on the bench as more productive societies pass them by because every time they step to the plate, they whiff their tried and true three strikes against more thoughtful, more productive ways:

  1. Strike one. Way too many Filipinos  do not get good feelings by doing kind acts for others. They get good feelings by leveraging power. While this benefits them as individuals, it undermines productivity that benefits the whole of society.

  1. Strike two. These Filipinos are unaware that there is a different model of behavior; they have an empty spot - a dead head - where the joys of the Golden Rule ought to reside. They draw their energy from power. They know no other way.

  1. Strike three. These Filipinos will not engage in the introspection that is necessary to understand the empty zone that inhabits the place where they could, if they wanted, find pleasure in being considerate of others.  Philippine society condemns such introspection. Rather, it prefers the Teflon-like deflection of wisdom and constructive counsel with excuses and blames.

Myself, I mosey along as an INFJC and shake my head at the rampant thoughtlessness hereabouts that oppresses and suppresses an otherwise vibrant lifestyle, trashes an absolutely gorgeous landscape, misses opportunities to create markets by satisfying the needs of others, and views other-oriented kindness as a failing.


  1. Generalisations can gloss over the exceptions. There are many people in the Philippines working for the betterment of their community. Nor do examples of poor behaviour prove the rule. Nevertheless I have to relate an astonishing example of inconsiderate behaviour I witnessed recently, made all the more extraordinary in that it happened in church. A couple was reserving seats for their friends and family who had not arrived yet. They continued to hold the seats until some 15 minutes into the service even though other parishioners had nowhere to sit. Arriving late for church: strike one. Keeping others standing even though they had arrived in time for the service: strike two. Trashing the golden rule (treat other the way you would like them to treat you): strike three. But doing it in church?

  2. Greg, yes, there are many thoughtful Filipinos. I wrote the article to keep pushing in that direction. Your church example is too typical, I fear.

  3. Joe, it can be easy to go defensive and pile expletives to your blog entry - but that would not add to the counterpoint I hope to bring out.

    True - there is such a notorious thing as Filipino time. As a Filipino, I find this frustrating... it simply smacks of lack of another's time. But if you want to be a generalist about it, are all Americans always on time? Fact is, there's only one race I find very efficient with time, and that's the Germans.

    With regard to the Golden Rule - it's a great rule to have, but it's been updated. Instead of doing to others what you expect done to you - why not do to others what they expect you to do to them. This IS the Golden rule of Service Providers. Oh yeah, Filipinos seem to be leading the growth in this kind of sector too. After all, the country is known for its hospitality and caring nature - why else does the world have such high demands for house helps and nurses?

    Regarding the way Filipinos treat others and each other, there is a traditional trait called 'pakikisama' which means being neighborly - talk to some old folks and you'll get the idea that this has been ingrained in them by their parents, the community, the tribe. What changed this to reflect the indifference and 'looking our for me, myself ans mine' mentality? Well let's see... Reality TV? Lebron James? If I were to generalize it - we could label these as Western influences.

    What am I driving at? For every tit you share regarding a Filipino airhead, I could just as easily conjure up an American counterpart.

    I respect your opinion, of course - though find it a tad too... well, Judgmental. But then again, that is you. By the way, I'm an INFP, a Red Cross Volunteer, and advocate of Green Peace and a Filipino. I may not represent the multitude of your viewpoint, and share your frustrations to some power plays.

    I guess, I am more tolerant than you in finding faults - attributable to my P side of the Myers-Briggs. I perceive first before judging. I know that fiscalizers are needed in any society... but we do need more teachers, trainers, coaches to help any society. Should you feel that you want to do more than just criticize, let me know. I can hook you up with some volunteer organizations.

  4. Just to correct any possible misconceptions, I like your blog Joe and find it intriguing. I was just after a little balance. After all, you know how the power of prose can be. I could not just let this entry present one side without a counterpoint.

  5. Butch,

    Take a little trip in the US to get Joe's perspective. Cars will stop when you cross the street. It's common for somebody you don't know, to just say "Hi how are you" with a smile, when your walking in a public park. If you have a 5:00 dental appointment, it actually means you have a 5:00 dental appointment. I know I know, there's a-holes and scumbags everywhere, but the keyword here is the common experience. Let's be honest here, the things that Joe come across are not isolated incidents scumbaggery, but a common Philippine experience.

  6. Butch, thanks for the view. Anon has made the main point I was driving at, but you are also correct, there are plenty of deficiencies in America, too. Look at the debate in Congress, and you see the drift of American politics into extremes and name-calling, a lock-up caused by the inability to give (concede) as well as receive. But my subject matter is the Philippines, where I reside, not the US. I do make tangible contributions in the local area where I reside. Running my keyboard deepens my reflections and helps me understand this very different culture.

  7. Joe,

    I think that you have been hanging out with the wrong kind of Filipinos. Why don't you spend time with our Church members. We are all about spreading the love and truth of our Lord, Jesus Christ. You find nothing but kindness and consideration amongst us.

    God Bless.

  8. Oh yes, the ever present proselytizing.. That is until hypocrisy and duplicity starts kicking in. Good if you can live with what you preach, but generally useless for the base airhead that lives with you across every nook, corner and alley of this generally uncritical country. Leave theism aside and let's just get down to pragmatics. That's where the point of contention really is. 400 plus years of believing and supposedly "living" the dogma of the RCC of the predominant demographic citizens of this country hasn't done us much good, didn't it? Why waste time making someone believe in a doctrine he doesn't really give a damn in the first place, when you can skewer his/her character right on the spot on what is wrong and what is right? He'd/She'd probably have the shock of his/her life without you having to appeal to some higher morality. Way much easier, yeah? And it will drive home the point. Guaranteed.

  9. Raywollesen,

    I am saddened by your hostility. Hate and anger fills your heart because you have distanced yourself from God. As such, you are easily influenced by Lucifer and his minions. But there is hope. All you need to do is open your heart and accept Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior.

    I will pray for you.

    God Bless.

  10. I am opening my mind to the teachings of Buddha, by the way. Now that is a choice I made as Buddhism the philosophy and not as a religion (technically Buddhism cannot be viewed as a religion in the Western sense per se, since Buddhism does not acknowledge any deity). I am born Catholic and raised in a Catholic environment, being a graduate of an all-boys' high school, but even then I've started to become disenchanted at the apparent "flaws" of the RCC dogma. Please don't take the pointedness of my comments as hostility. What I'm going for is something that can breach through the "katigasan ng ulo at salang diskarte" that emanates from most Juan Dela Cruzes out there. Again, no need for you to appeal to a higher morality. Kindness can be exuded even by those who do not believe in God. In no way that a certain group of people who belong to a certain sect can claim monopoly over kindness or morality, thereby giving them license to impose their beliefs to another. Having said that, I reject your last comment outright. But I do tolerate your views, good Pastor. The beautiful thing about Buddhism is its tolerance towards other beliefs. And I do subscribe more to pragmatism in conducting my every day business here in this earth, rather than to some profound notion of justice in the afterlife that involves an entity/entities representing (A) good, and (B) evil. Keep up your good work Pastor. For in no way I will hinder you at all. And please do not take that as sarcasm, for I meant it wholeheartedly. Real-world applications are what I'm after with what Joe has said here in his article. That's all.

  11. sorri for changing the topic. but it seems that B0 has seen it fit to erase my comments. whats up with that? i tried to ask him what his problem what, but he ignored me.

    is this the man whose ideas u like?

  12. GabbyD,

    Benign0 erasing comments? LOL. Isn't that their complaint against Filipino Voices and Pro Pinoy?

    So it seems that his true colors are showing. Kahit matagal na siya sa ibang bansa, Pinoy pa rin talaga siya!

  13. GabbyD, I have always said it is a blogger's right to decide what goes onto his site, much like a newspaper editor. This is what earned me so much scorn at AP. The former AP people, and even AP itself, have changed their perspective on this, and now moderate comments. I think you and Benigno quibble a lot, and it tends to dominate some threads. My guess is he wants something else.

  14. yes its his right. i said as much in my last comment there.

    but the REASONS are important too. i dont know why it dominates. i ask simple questions, but he wastes time insulting me and ignoring the questions.

    so, do u agree that i quibble? (meaningless arguments)? so when b0 contradicts his own arguments, and make broad generalizations, and makes fun of commenters writing --these are quibbles?

  15. GabbyD, you ask a lot of questions that impose the labor of solving disagreements upon your opponent, rather than driving toward a conclusion yourself. Half the time I don't quite know your point; half the time you make excellent arguments. Same for Benigno. Generalizations are just ideas. I like them myself. Making fun of someone is not cool and reflects his frustration, I think.

  16. if u dont know what my point is, just ask. has something happened on the internet that makes that uncool? i ask people what their point is all the time.

    which leads to your first comment... its the burden of the guy who put his position out to make it clear. he was the one who put his opinions out in the first place.

    the questions i ask are extremely simple, and should be easy to answer. alas, no one answers it, people just reply with insults. weird! people dont do that in 1) real life, 2) polite company... suddenly all that is derailed on the internet! weird...

    and yes, making fun of someone's spelling (and ignoring the actual comment) is never cool.

    there are only 2 things that are important to me. 1) the truth, 2) not bullying

  17. I think both people have a responsibility to put what they are thinking on the table. Sometimes questions are a mask for an opinion, almost rhetorical. It is better to put a statement out. Sometimes a question is just a question, and that is fine. I've been on the receiving end of some of your questions and I ask myself, "what really is the point here? Where is it going? Why are you making me take all the risk (burden) by citing facts or views while you ride easy, asking questions."

    It is no big deal though. Fire away.

  18. hey, if u wanna ask ME a question, go ahead. if u dont know the point, just ask.

    now, about risk -- whats that about? what is wrong re speaking one's opinion. there is no risk there no? u can always say: i change my mind!

    i dont get that risk part.

    for me, opinions are just opinions. if u have info that makes u change ur mind, heck -- change your mind!

    i change my mind given new info all the time. isnt this what regular folk do? this isnt a test.

  19. Risk of being misunderstood or of making a wrong-headed statement on the spur of the moment.

    You asked me about Benigno, and I gave you my best shot, and now, several iterations later, we are dealing with risk and the thread threatens to be unending. I find it tiresome. (My opinion.)

    Benigno got similarly tired I suspect.

  20. "You asked me about Benigno, and I gave you my best shot, and now, several iterations later, we are dealing with risk and the thread threatens to be unending."

    oh, i'm sorry. isnt this a conversation. if u get tired of the conversation, then dont reply. again, isnt this the normal thing to do (as opposed to, say banning someone?).

  21. This post has been hijacked. The thread of comments wandered away from the topic several days ago. It has become tiresome and detracts from what was an interesting article.

    Joe, I think it's time you began moderating comments.

  22. Hi, Joe. Entertaining post. I think people who treat building elevators as a personal means of conveyance, or who act as if they own the elevator, can also be a good example. How many times have elevator doors closed shut in your face just as you were about to get in?

    Anyway, I'm sort of confused with your Strike One point. If one is after the "good feelings" whenever performing acts of kindness, wouldn't that be "fake"? If yes, then it's also a way of displaying power over a person while getting back something "positive" in return. I hope I made sense. If I confused you, just forget about it.

  23. brianitus,

    Glad you enjoyed the article. The good feelings come from giving someone else power, or maybe relief. They aren't fake, as I imagine it. But I suppose they certainly COULD be if done for self-gratification. Hmmmmm, I hadn't thought about that. Like a preacher over-preaching . . . Mostly, though, I think kind acts are not done enough.