Saturday, November 12, 2011

Grinding Axes

It struck me the other day that most people in the world are busy grinding axes. I came to this point a while back when manuelbuencamino said in a comment to my blog that ". . . you roll with punches as good as you can deliver them." It caused me to reflect on how most people, in an argument, get distracted by emotional motives rather than defend the argument at hand. That is, their personal esteem becomes the issue rather than the issue being the issue. 

"MB" has also observed that I am "overly sensitive" regarding some subjects. If someone knocks America, for instance, I want to respond and knock back. The merits of the criticism don't enter my mind. Instead a lifetime of allegiance, military service, voting, and good life take over my side of the argument. I have to defend the effort I have given America all my life. It becomes personal. Not objective.

Filipinos are no different. They will defend their country, warts and all. We outsiders, in particular, have no standing in offering up a critical view. After all, our home country - in my case, the US - certainly has its share of warts. Most of them inhabit Fox News and look like Rush Lindbaugh.

But I digress . . .

Indeed, that may be why there is no social protest movement in the Philippines. Oh, there have been political protest movements. But not widespread social protests like the marches for racial equality in the US during the 1960's.

Issues in the Philippines are different. There are no protests FOR the right to a career, unimpeded by roadblocks thrown up by those who hire unqualified relatives and favorites for the choice jobs. Not protests FOR rights of women to claim support from deadbeat dads, those lowlifes who, in the pleasure of the moment, father children then abandon them quicker than it takes to say "when's the next bus to Davao".

It is a passive, subservient society.

But I digress . . .

Read blog commentaries carefully and you can start to identify when the issue is not the issue, and the win/lose of the battle for self esteem is. Saving face. Almost everyone does it. Usually it is not a conscious, rational thing. Sometimes it is.  For example, if you are a lobbyist or an attorney or a politician or a marketing guy, the rational merits of the argument may be irrelevant. Winning is what is important. So you purposefully manipulate the argument to win.

You know the expression, "He has an axe to grind"? It means someone is bitter about something and seeks retribution. In my definition, the motivation may not be bitterness, but the method is anything but impartial. Anything but objective.

Here are some of my favorite axe grinders:

  • Bloggers like those found residing at Anti-Pinoy and Get Real Post, where the main theme is running down the Philippines and Filipinos. Now, I catch myself doing that from time to time, but, of course, for me it is not axe grinding, it is "postulating" . . . Because I am never convinced that what I say has any truth or meaning to it whatsoever.  For the life of me, I can't understand what guys like BongV and Benigno are trying to achieve. But they do do smug well.

  • Axe grinders are too busy to build anything. Their tool is mainly for tearing down.

  • Politicians are professional axe grinders. It is what they do to win elections and stay in office. They rank higher than attorneys as professional axe grinders because they pretend they are not grinding axes.

  • Some attorneys grind axes to sharpen the law and right wrongs. They are good grinders.

  • Filipinos grind axes as a cultural norm, for the axe is used to tear others down, thereby raising oneself up. Psychologically speaking, this is a nation with a grand inferiority psychosis and more axes per square meter than your average nation.

  • Some people with inferiority psychoses are inferior; others have not figured out their true strengths and therefore obsess over their perceived  failings. They live with ghosts.

  • Extremist Muslims grind God's axe, bringing it down on the necks of non-believers. They believe good people who are not of Muslim faith deserve to be killed. They kill other Muslims, too, because one man's Axe of God is better than another's.

  • Moderate Muslims fail to grind back at their violent kinsmen and thus contribute to the fury of flailing axe heads thumping innocents everywhere.

  • Catholics stopped grinding axes when they got back from the crusades and were informed by their fleeing flock that murder in the name of God is just that . . . murder. Now Catholics use whips and forgiveness. And guilt out the gazoo.

  • Businessmen grind axes to make money. Their job is to compete; trampling on competitors is of a wholesome capitalistic spirit.

  • Money is the elixir of happiness. No matter what Sancho Panza says about it.

  • I'm FOR corporate greed. It is the engine that powers the greater economic good.

  • Priests are lawyers of a different cloth, axe grinders advocating God's laws rather than secular laws. They don't always play straight because their laws are crooked.

  • Prayer is too often the way robed wizards cast spells upon the flock, and too often an e-mail from the flock to God that says, "uh, hey, Big Dude, how about a hand here?"

  • Psychopaths wield axes. Real time. Like Lizzie Borden and her 40 whacks. Or Charles Manson or Adolph Hitler or Jack the Ripper or (alledgedly) those Ampatuan thugs.

  • Other paths are better.

So that's about it. I'm confident I've left out a few worthy grinders. Let me know if you have a favorite.

And with all that said, the best we can do is strive. Strive to be above board, strive to exorcise the inferiority from our psychosis, and strive to be honorable and honest.

Unless of course we are politicians, attorneys, peddlers or business men. Or army dudes. Or priests. Or anti-pinoy scribes. Then its all right to trick, cheat, and lie . . . connive, manipulate, and deceive . . . intimidate, insult, and slander . . . perfectly okay. Fine. Hunky dory.


  1. dude. u blew my mind.

  2. I find it funny when Pinoys start quoting the Philippine constitution to prove that they have the same "ideas" and "values" that makes America the Most Powerful Nation in History.

    What they don't get is that a lot of Americans really take the US Constitution to heart (which is why you will find Jewish lawyers defending the free speech of neo-Nazis) whereas in the Philippines laws are merely window dressing attempts to hide the rotten culture that really operates. You cannot fake results which, in my strong opinion, is the fruit of your chosen ideology and adherence to it.

  3. Expat, yes, two of the values that are not nurtured the same in the Philippines are aspiration (ambition) and responsibility. They are not cited in the Declaration of Independence or the Constitution. So what is on paper is not always what matters.

  4. I also believe in the inferiority complex you mentioned. In a way, BongV is right about Filipinos having a slave mentality.

    Maybe, Filipinos are convinced that their current state is the best they'll ever achieve. What happened to the extra push to rise to the top? I don't think it's an inferiority complex anymore. I think it's just depression.

    I do not think that it's a lack of ambition. It's more of a lack of an enabling mechanism to get that passion burning. I believe that if a person really sets out to better himself, he will find happiness (just as long as he doesn't set impossible goals).

    Maybe the next president should be a psychiatrist or someone like Tony Robbins.

  5. brianitus, interesting. "Lack of enabling mechanism to get that passion burning." I need to reflect on that. It seems to hit the nail right on the noggin.

  6. Hi, Joe. Thanks for seeing my point.

    It's like throwing a rope down to a person who's trapped in a well. Problem is, the rope only reaches halfway down.


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