Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Born to Fail

Here it is folks. Wrap your brain around it. The single fundamental line of reasoning as to why the Philippines is no longer the Pearl of the Orient, the Heart of Asia, the Pacific Center of Commerce, a Tourist Eden, the Garden of the Gods. Why it is a corrupt, polluted, underdeveloped, disharmonious place that lags other countries that started with the same underdeveloped footing.

The logic spewed unerringly from my Chinese made keyboard the other day as I was festering a different blog on America. My keyboard wrote:

If the Philippines struggles, I want to know what is the heritage that has produced the culture that allows the struggle to persist without solution. The answer is feudal thinking and abandonment of individual initiative to authority, where authority is extraordinarily self-serving. From that derives the need to raise one's self esteem by tearing down those who are successful. From that derives a whole nation that opposes success.

Filipinos have been under someone's thumb for so long  - a colonizer, an occupier, a dictator, a warlord, a rich land baron - that it is impossible for them, as essentially subservient people, to push forward under a strong sense of independent achievement. It is hard to be optimistic or take risks or be considerate of others when you feel you have nothing yourself and will be penalized if you step out or speak up. If someone nearby succeeds, it engenders feelings of envy and stirs up efforts to denigrate that person and bring him back down to a level field of ineffectual inertia.

America worships achievement. It's heroes are those who are successful. Steve Jobs. People praise them, seek to emulate them, not condemn then. From that emerges an entire nation driving to do better, to grow, to innovate, to compete, to win. To make profits and live well. The nation makes sure its citizens have a voice, through the media, through the courts, through right of expression.

The Philippines is the opposite. Success breeds jealousy. Opposition. Condemnation.

It pushes down.

Authority breeds closure and preservation of power. It shuts the doors to challenge and reserves the power to bring change (or, more accurately, to enforce the status quo) for a few powerful businessmen.

The courts do not let the people be heard. Fees block the poor. A backlog of cases allows evidence to go stand for years and go stale. Corruption lets the well-to-do buy justice. There is a reason Kris Aquino has no problem getting an annulment while common women, trapped in abusive relationships, are held in battered bondage.

Ambition is a dirty word. To aspire is to be seen as wanting to become one of those egotistical, oppressive jerks who have the power to lord it over the powerless. It is frowned upon. Carry a book and you will be called a "librarian" because it diminishes you. One of the most important qualities of a successful advanced society - reading - is condemned by those who are jealous of someone who likes knowledge.

Many parents would rather see their kids drop out of school than become more successful than they are. Their kids' success would confirm that they have lived their lives being less than they should have been.

That is brutal stuff, to think of oneself so poorly that the primary motivation is to prove that the OTHER GUY is the failure. Point out the flaws. Insult his upbringing. Ridicule his failings. Undermine his success if possible.

The dynamic is quite amazing, eh?

The drive to fail.

Perfected in the Philippines.

The way to correct this, of course, is to build success into the framework. See it, praise it, put it in the education system (to aspire rather than simply to be obedient), end favoritism in hiring and promoting that suppresses ambition. Open up more opportunities for people to grow and succeed. (Winning on Showtime is not succeeding, by the way.)

I fear that no one sees the problem. They are AFRAID to see it, afraid to SAY it, for admitting it would mean that all they have stood for is wrong-headed. And it would bring a great deal of criticism from the proud and the insecure.

It is easier to blame the colonizers (who left over 60 years ago), or the President who always seems to run things more poorly than the Jesus Christ he is expected to be. Or the weather. Or the oligarchs. Or the beast "corruption", which is nothing more than successful achievement in a society whose read-out of right and wrong is upside down.

 So how in God's grand delight is anyone going to inspire productive zeal hereabouts?

The whole social climate oppresses. It does not inspire.


  1. "Many parents would rather see their kids drop out of school than become more successful than they are. "

    where did you get this? how do you know this?

  2. GabbyD,

    Consider it a hypothesis based on observation that many parents seem to set their kids up to do poorly by giving them no encouragement, guidance or discipline at home. Parents perpetuate the belief that reading is unnecessary and easily assign kids to fishing or rice jobs to help with the parental obligation to provide for the family.

    Do you find my basic point in error, that the social forces at work in the Philippines suppress aspiration?

  3. GabbyD,

    This is another Pinoy trashing piece from Joe. But he contradicts himself by enjoying the good life in the Philippines. If he stayed in America, low class lang siya. Tapos ang lakas ng loob pa niyang manira. Hahaha!

  4. "Ambition is a dirty word" - Joe America

    Gosh, here is the phrase that is really true that escapes in every bloggers mind in the Philippines "Ambition is a dirty word".

    In tagalog or in Visayan dialect it's called "ambisyoso" or "ambisyosa". Your wife can explain this fully. "ambisyoso" or "ambisyosa" is a word of contemptious redicule.

    "Dah! Merisi. Ambisyosa man gud!!!" is the common phrase among Filipinos.

    Goot that you mention this. Never in my ten years in blogs and forums this phrase never been mentioned or I encountered until now !!!!! THIS NEVER BEEN MENTIONED IN ANY NEWSPAPER OR COLUMNISTS !!!!!!

    This should go viral !!!! This should be posted in every forum and blogs.

    "Ambition is a dirty word" among Filipinos.

  5. What drives Filipino to failure are the following:

    1. Ambition is not goot;
    2. Collecting debt is not goot;

    Religious roots

    3. It is easier for a poor Filipinos to pass thru the eye of the needle than a rich Filipino;
    4. Riches cannot be brought to heaven;
    5. Rich Filipinos have an obligation to help the unfortunate and poor, if they don't, they are bad and wished God lightning would strike them;


  6. 6. Filipinos tend to look up and DEPEND on wealthy or OFW or Stateside siblings;
    7. The church unwittingly contributes Filipinos to fail by making them overly dependent on God for all successes not on themselves.

  7. To be ambitious is looked at with scorn. My mother's house slave who quit and went into Sari-Sari store in their province with money saved and came back because her sari-sari store was not making goot because her customers, mostly relatives and neighbours, buy on credit and never pay down. If she collects, she is bad. Very common trait of Filipino, too. (Your wife can attest to this.) My mother told us, "ambisyosa man gud kaaju sija. Sayang ang capital"

    I have a niece whom I advanced money so her family can join her in San Francisco. I collected from her after 3 years. After she's gone to Florida to join her classmates reunion. Gone up and down the east coast. NOw she's not talking to me because I want my money back.

    And to think she works at UCSF-Neuro whatever department as a nurse.


  8. Filipinos don't like to take responsibility for themselves. They rather behave like the above commentator "proud pinoy" does. This "pride" issue reminds me of how Brillante Mendoza is viewed in the Philippines. His movies are winners of all major film festivals around the word. However he is not well known in his own country for the reason of so called "Pinoy Pride". He exposes the real Philippines and that hurts. Ouch!

  9. PP, there is no contradiction. I live here because I like the place. I blog because I think . . . and like the place. If I didn't care, I'd be on the beach.

    Mariano, we should team up to write a book of pithy quotes. You incancerate them and I'll coin cute zingers.

    Attila, yes. Missing is appreciation for the notion that critical thought is the root of any improvement.

  10. my question is more to, how do you know the parent's motivation, i.e. that the REASON they have the kids drop out is because they dont want their kids to be successful.

    so, how do you KNOW that that is their reason?

  11. GabbyD, I know the point of your question. Let us assume I am completely wrong. I'll go with that. But let's get back to the point of the article. Do you agree or disagree with my premise that social forces in the Philippines suppress achievement?

    Please describe the forest rather than a tree.

  12. i agree that there are "forces" that prevent achievement. its undeniable and obvious.

    the debate is WHAT KIND of forces these are, because the solution depends ENTIRELY on what kind of forces are at work, right?

    so u said the problem is that parents are ACTIVELY, KNOWINGLY UNDERMINING their kid's future.

    is this "force" true at all? evidence?

  13. These "forces" are the IMF and World Bank. They work as "economic hit men" who undermine countries across the world. But Filipinos are waking up to this cabal and soon, when the western economies implode, the Philippines shall rise as a new great power to be reckoned with.


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