Friday, March 2, 2012

The Filipino Soul: Missing the Delta Drive

This blog will get to the heart of things. Of why Filipinos and Americans differ, culturally. I am not being a rude outsider because I am not describing a facet of Philippine cultural being. I am describing what is NOT THERE. I am describing a nothing. Air. A non-existence. Nobody is responsible for it. No one need take offense. It simply is not there.

First, let's define our terms. The Humpty Dumpty New World Dictionary defines "soul" as "that core part of the human entity that is beyond the reach of conscious thought".

What the hell does that mean, really?

Or the Philippines', for that matter

We tend to picture souls as those wispy, ghost-like creatures that emerge from their shell, the body, as they did at the end of "Raiders of the Lost Ark", floating skyward, or to hell, to rest forever in the great resting place of choice. Up or down. Where "choice" is the outcome of the weighing of our deeds on earth, good and bad, the tugging of God and Satan over our millions of decisions on earth.

Well, I think that picture is a little contrived by movie-land and the churches and we all end up going to the same place after we die. I suspect it is into nothing, but I have no idea. Wait long enough and you can find out for yourself. It is irrelevant to our soul. Here. On earth. While we are alive.

Here we are the sum of all our choices, what we learn, what we feel.

The conscious brain is like a sieve. The unconscious brain is like a filter. Combined, they observe our surroundings through the five senses and pick and choose what is appealing and not appealing, tending to direct the body toward that which is appealing. Most of the time we are aware of what it is doing; sometimes we are not. It is hidden to us.

The brain selects what is important and not important. And it selects what to recall and what to forget. Some brains seem lazier than others and allow information to leak out. It takes too much energy to store it where it can be found again. Others collect information like Grandpa Bubba collects stamps. Obsessively.

The brain works hard. But it is a filter to the soul. It is not the soul.

The soul, you see, is the residue of our values and our fears, our guilt and our happiness, our sorrow and our hope. It is what is left when you scrape all the shit away, the fakery that goes into living and trying to impress other people.  When you get down to the core.

Indeed, there are differences, one person to another, one culture to another. Some individuals are prone to good, some to evil. Some cultures are prone to belligerence, some to peace. Some individuals and cultures are prone to giving, others are prone to taking. Well, in fact, most are prone to taking, for that is what survival means. Hanging on to stuff, and life, better than the next guy. Or the next nation.

That, my friends, is the key.

As we evolve, some individuals and nations come across a recognition that, in order to be more secure as a community, we have to give as individuals. This tendency of the individual to sacrifice for the good of the community gets internalized through years of education and reflection and acts. It becomes a part of our soul. We gain the most, individually, if we give to the community. We know it, and live it.

But this does not happen in the Philippines. Or has not happened yet. Or only has developed part way. Perhaps it is the separateness of the place that has held back this drive toward individual giving for the collective good. Too many islands. Too many dialects. Too many years as subjects of arrogant, racist colonizers, brutal warlords, or other powerful people. Taking is essential for survival if it is the only way.

Poverty and ignorance play a role. The college educated intellects running around in Manila can see the abuse of the seas as fishermen scrape the coast bare of fish, and the abuse of the mountains as loggers scrape the hillsides bare of trees, and the abuse of public trust as government workers grab all they can from the peoples' wallet. But they can't get rid of the ignorance that promotes these behaviors. Because ignorance is a nothing. It is not tangible. It is the absence of knowledge, the absence of understanding what is good for the community. It is a lack of problem-solving as a part of the psyche, a lack of the unconscious desire to be disciplined and creative and organized and productive.

When schools teach things instead of values, enlightenment never arises. Or when kids are not in school, and parents are unschooled, there is no way to get rid of the vacuity that ignorance represents.

Delta is the Greek alphabet character that looks like a triangle. In mathematics and science it symbolizes the difference between state A and state B.

  • Many Filipinos lack the delta drive, the innate, unconscious dissatisfaction with the current state of affairs that drives one evermore toward change and growth and, yes, riches. Without cheating or using other people to their disadvantage.

America has a hyper-speed  delta drive because it is populated by immigrant explorers who were determined to carve out a better life than they had in the place they left. Direction, determination, ambition. America and Americans are stuffed full with those traits.

Americans left oppressive nations to be able to worship as they chose, and write the laws by which they lived. They understood that their neighbors also wanted to be respected for their choices; compassion and courtesy became a part of daily life.

The Philippine national soul, if you add up the individual souls of the poor struggling masses, is fundamentally absent the motivation to grow, and it lacks the knowledge of how "my individual acts" are hurting the community. And by hurting the community, hurting the individuals within it.

Introspection is a major industry in the U.S. People examine every trend or decision and communicate it to others. Bad, selfish behavior is "outted" for what it is: damage to the community. Information is everywhere, and people read. Ethics is big in the US. And organizations like the Civil Liberties Union or Consumers Union act to defend citizens when the government fails to do so.

In the Philippines, a weak delta drive forces thoughts and acts toward individualistic behavior. It is a strange self-absorption, to an outsider. Taking, not giving. Rude treatment of others. A fuzzy definition of right and wrong that leads people to cheat for their advantage.

The weak delta drive is never revealed or recognized within the Philippines because people listen to the excuses and, indeed, buy in to them.

  • "I have to cut down logs illegally to survive."

  • "I have to use a small-scale fishing net to get what is there so my family can eat."

  • "I have to supplement my income with under-the-table payments because my salary is so low."

Well, yes. That is true. So let's throw up our hands and rape the seas and the land and the people. What does that get you?

The Philippines.

The land of rationalizations and happiness with the way things are.

The Philippine government, the place where national soul caretaking ought to reside, is itself locked into a kind of ignorance. An abject inability to see what to do, or to know how to do it. Whether this lack of a national delta drive is intentional (greedy people liking their place of power) or unintentional (not knowing any different) is a mystery to me. Either way, it is not good.

The main difference between the Filipino soul and the American soul as what is not there, in the Filipino national soul, and way too many individual souls. The knowledge and drive to find a richer, giving way forward. 

The delta drive.


  1. Hey Joe,

    Awesome post, as usual. What doesn't make sense to me though is we pride ourselves a CATHOLIC nation. The only one in Asia, in fact. We got sects and cults up the wazoo here, meaning people are extremely religious and possibly spiritual. And yet... uh... we happen to be as morally bankrupt as any secular nation. WTF?

    By the way, my relative congratulated you in coining the term 'associative pride'.

    Also, any opinions on the blatantly racist Filipino FHM cover? -patrioticflip

  2. PF, thank you. I picked up the associative pride definition from another astute observer of the Philippines, here in the comment section. It just makes so much sense. The thing about the moral disconnect is that the Catholic Church will claim NO responsibility for conditions in the Philippines. Zero. What brilliant escape artists these priests are.

    I have not seen the cover. I think the racism here tends to be weird, favoring whites, and otherwise fairly benign. It is rather like the Chinese call us Red Haired Devils, and the Japanese sneer inwardly at the crude whities. It will go away with cross-breeding and better education.

    1. Related to racism, I find ourselves racist to everyone.
      To most of us, whites are like the office boss, we do our best to impress them but talk crap behind their back.

      Blacks are ugly because, well, of their skin color.

      Japanese are "sakang" or bow-legged and are judged often as evil (WWII reasons)

      Chinese range from frugal to just plain cheap (though quite true)

      Koreans are rude and evil (though they are heartthrobs to our teens/teens at heart)

      Indians and Arabs are classified under a single group, smelly.

      And of course, Filipinos are inferior to everyone else but Africans (Yeah, there's something about the dark skin that Filipino's hate)

    2. They claim the Church's power is weakening, but ever since the RH Bill brouhaha, I kind of doubt it. The Church screwed us up pretty bad. I'm starting to agree with Carlin and Doug Stanhope on this one.

      Now to be fair, having been around parts of Europe and Asia, Chinese tend to have a fairly racist bent against Africans. In Paris, for instance. A local Chinese friend wouldn't let me go to Montmarte because "it's very dangerous place" filled with 'unsavory characters'. Websites like (A peak into China's gross corruption and problems) reveal some unflattering commentary about other races.

      I also picked up a news report in South Korea, when a Kenyan entered a supermarket and EVERY CUSTOMER LEFT or stared uncomfortably long. Children were CRYING and mothers were shielding them away from her. The Kenya, obviously, was distraught.

      I'm also aware of the culture shock many westerners feel when they work in Japan.

      Filipinos AREN'T any better DESPITE our "Catholic heritage" and "friendly and hospitable" marketing tripe. I've seen horrifying incidents in airports. I've seen RACIST SKITS on TV. Entire generations of children are taught that Indians are "evil" and "will take your money".

      The "actress" that did the FHM cover doesn't claim to understand the fuss over "blackface". I'm pretty sure nobody on the streets even knows what the Civil Rights movement was or cares about knowing it. (despite free access through the internet)

      Isn't it strange that all the actor/models we look up to or idolize are products of cross-breeding?

      Oh well, rant over. I'm going to start worshiping Gaia now.


    3. AJ, Yes, we do struggle to live up to the ideal of not being racist. I enjoy the James Clavell books Shogun and Tai-Pan in part because they present the racism in non-judgmental terms. It is just the way people are, to condemn those who are different. The Chinese, the Japanese, the British, the Portuguese . . . all had their racist views of those who looked and behaved differently. It is an exceptional person who can rise above the need to condemn difference, but, rather, appreciate it. It is something to strive for.

    4. PF, rants are good, aren't they? I enjoyed yours!

    5. @Joe: Just to clarify, I meant that as a Filipino.
      There's always a reason to discriminate against anyone, maybe part of the culture of putting down others to bring yourself up.

      There're positive stereotypes though, for example, those who are Chinese or part Chinese are said to be good in Math. I actually find that true, since the schools with the best Math programs are Chinese schools.

      And another thing about Chinese stereotypes here, is that they always think about monetary value when buying stuff. This is partly true for some, since parents taught us to have something like a pros/cons list before doing anything related to money. We just got used to having that list on the top of our head that we use it even in the smallest purchases (except food though :D)

  3. Related to lack of the drive to improve our lives, I think the part of the culture causes this.

    Some insults related to having a delta drive:

    "Ambisyoso/Ambisyosa" - Ambitious (Yes, that's an insult)
    "Reklamador" - Whiny but this will be used even if the one who complains is correct
    "Maarte" - Touchy/A drama queen similar to Reklamador, one can be branded as such, even if correct (such as when you order a burger without onions and they still put a slice in).

    Those are just the ones from the top of my head. I think there are more. Bottom line, wanting things to be better, be done better, or more effective is not a good trait. A good trait is to be contented of your current situation, no matter how bad it is, and believe that God does things for a reason.

    1. Oh yeah, another thing, Filipinos tend to be naturally communist.

      An extreme version of displaying empathy perhaps?
      You have to be at the same level as everyone, and they make you feel guilty if you do something to increase your status (and forget to share the rewards).

      Maybe that natural tendency makes us all lazy, why work when everyone else is going to mooch off of you. Once everyone starts thinking that way, nothing happens and nothing gets done.

    2. Then again, one can actually CHOOSE not to mind what the other say about what you do. As long as you're grounded on ethics and morals, I don't think you're bound to hurt anyone.

      What you said also reeks of insecurity. Do we have to get everyone's nod? I certainly hope not.

      Why are Pinoys naturally lazy? Too little reward for hard work tends to kill industriousness. I think that's covered in economics.

    3. @Brianitus:
      That's right. I've actually made that decision once I got out of college a few years ago and have never been happier.

  4. Weak delta drive? You mean, this country tends to talk about its problems like there's no tomorrow. That's just the catch. It's all talk.

    Anyway, values schmalues. Isn't it just because people here are naturally lazy or scared shitless when it comes to solving problems. Too many people wait for someone to do something for them. In Pinoy terms, TAMAD at DUWAG.

    Good morning, Joe.

  5. AJ
    I agree with you: the Filipinos tend to be naturally communist. Suze Orman was in Manila giving lectures to Filipinos about how to handle money. I was thinking that in a society where better earners have to "share" their blessings, they have little choice but support the extended family. It turns them to slaves. The money will never be enough. They have to support sisters brothers nieces nephews than other family members and the list goes on and on and on according to the emergency ranking. It is not a value to keep it for themselves for a home or for the future or just for rainy days. They would be called heartless, selfish and would anger the family and even loose face if they would cut back on the support. It would go against their own moral values also. Strange form of communism.

    1. My wife is called "selfish" by her friends, her family, the neighbors, and everyone else who has asked for money and been declined. She is put in that thankless position because I decided I had to draw a line as to whom I was willing to support. For without that line, I would end up supporting the entire Philippines, and would have nothing in savings for my family.

      The Filipino notion that "your money is mine because you have some" is bizarre to those of us who earned what we have. I always wonder, "why is my money yours?"

      I give generously to those who earn it in some way. But not to those who feel they have an inherent claim to my money.

  6. You are able to draw the line but they are not! Many of them also feel that it is OK to steal from you as it is just another form of "sharing your blessings" with them. A form of communism again. Suze Orman wasted her time there.

    1. Ah, sharing my blessings. Yes, let's all move to the commune and share everything. Forget the concepts of self-responsibility entirely, or being productive.


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