I see President Aquino has joined the chorus of praise for Filipino crew members who helped rescue passengers from a sinking cruise ship. Several hundred crew members were Filipino and, unlike the captain of the boat, they apparently did not abandon ship and leave the 4,000 passengers to their own misery. They stayed on the job and helped people off the boat.
Famed blogger BenignO, I am confident, would not consider the seamen heroes. Their job is to protect and serve passengers, and that is what they did.
And I wonder of the good and the bad of attaching nationality to the brave work done by the seamen.
- Should I, if I were Filipino, feel pride in what Filipinos did, to work hard to get passengers off a sinking ship?
- Should I, if I were Italian, feel embarrassment for what the Italian captain did when he, in cowardly fashion, abandoned ship?
- Should I, as an American, conclude that all Italians are cowards on the basis of what this one guy did?
- Should I, as an American, conclude that all Filipinos, including the President, are brave and heroic on the basis of what a good many Filipino sailors did?
For what reason would the answer to any of the questions be "yes"?
What does nationality have to do with it at all?
The crew members worked hard and displayed great strength of character to stay in danger in order to help others out of danger. They deserve to be honored.
But not as Filipinos.
They deserve to be honored as individuals who mastered the weaknesses of our humanity, who displayed the discipline and sacrifice needed to put others above their own safety.
To claim some of the credit for what they did is needy and needless, and distracts from the real honor that ought to be bestowed on the seamen. It also insults the brave seamen from other countries who are not being waved about as flags of pride for their countrymen. This tragedy should not be leveraged as a competition between nations to say who is most heroic.
Let the crew members feel the pride, individually, for what they did, individually.
For each seaman who stood firm, I say "Nice going, dude! Thanks for representing our human potential better than that chicken-shit captain. Have a drink on me!"
My thanks to AJ for the perspective on this, and for the explanation of "associative pride".