Friday, March 23, 2012

Responsibility! . . .Huh, wha dat?

Some words are hard to grab onto with the human brain. Like "esoteric". The word is so fuzzy that it is like steam, impossible to hold onto.

I was a mathematics major in college. I went down that track because in high school I was good at  algebra, geometry and trigonometry and, yes, calculus. But about halfway through my junior year at Colorado State University, the math courses went deeply theoretical. Here's my very last mathematics course:

  • "Tensor Analysis with Applications to Mechanics of Continua"


You tell me what it means, because I never learned. I was in a classroom with 8 students from India who coexisted at some raised theoretical plane between here and Jupiter. Tensors have something to do with multi-dimensional vectors. A vector is like an arrow as I understand it. Like, forces on bridge beams follow these little arrows. I have no idea what a sixth dimensional arrow looks like, much less an nth dimensional arrow.  I have a three-dimensional brain.

The professor was high on compassion and gave me a "C" (average grade) for simply having the courage to show up with my blank face every day and stutter unintelligibly when he called on me. I think he knew I was going to teach young kids, not become a math theoretician. I later found out I was wrong, that high schoolers, too, think in strange dimensions. So I joined the army.

But I am off topic already.

One word that seems to be hard to grasp for Filipinos is "responsibility".

Like, it simply is not practiced anywhere here. People never apologize for anything because a screw-up is not their fault. Ever. The blame-mongering and excuse-mongering here is exquisite. Elegant. Refined. Masterful. The victim card is played more often than the Ace of Spades. The 115th dialect of the Philippines is the whine.

The top moral authority in the land, the Catholic Church, claims no responsibility for anything. Not poverty, not corruption, not upside down values. Nothing. Zero. Zip. Nil.

Philippine airlines are not allowed to add flights to the U.S. because of poor maintenance practices nationwide. Please tell me who is responsible.

It seems like no one is ever responsible for anything.

Considering how screwed up most things are, that is an amazing feat.

Everything is screwed up. No one is responsible.

Gadzooks, it is a nation of magicians.

Why, I wonder, you never hear a Filipino say:

  •  "I am responsible for what happens."

  • "The buck stops with me on this one." 

  • "I understand the risks and if it goes south, I'll accept blame."

I presume it has to do with saving or building face. In addition, the swapping of favors tends to bend the rules so that the standards for anything are soft and mushy. We see that in the Corona case. Proving that his SALN was done illegally is like trying to nail a block of Jello to the wall.

So in the Philippines, the individual is skilled at saving face and denying responsibility. And the social framework is soft and mushy, never allowing responsibility to be assigned to any one.

The only problem is that progressive development demands explicit assignment of responsibility and clear accountability for achievement. You assign a salesman a specific dollar sales target. You don't send him out and tell him to do his best.

When will some brave soul in the Philippines, an opinion maker  . . .  leader of the Church, Congressman or Cabinet Head  . . .  summon up the courage to step forward and say, "I am responsible for X"? 

When will citizens of the Philippines be mature enough to allow that person to make a mistake on one thing without declaring him a failure on all things?

When will Filipinos aspire toward, and reach, the dimension of self-confidence that requires no apology, not because they never make mistakes, but because making mistakes is what people who are working hard, on occasion, are expected to do?

It seems to me only "do nothings" are mistake free. Yes, yes. And Filipinos.


  1. Poor guy.

    Narrow-minded Filipinos are narrow-minded, I say.

    Also for your enjoyment, Joe:


  2. By the way, note that that 2nd video (Word of Lourd) has not gotten the same notoriety as "20 things I dislike about the Philippines", which was done by an expat.

    This 2nd vid was made by a Filipino (obviously) and done in that typical Filipino-joke about it but-do-nothing style. It's almost poverty-porn, I'll admit. We revel in our poverty. Unless a foreigner points it out. Then it's a goddamn TRAGEDY.

    By the way, awesome post.


    1. patrioticflip, glad you enjoyed it. And thanks for the links. Will mosey over there now.


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