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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.