I live in a poor sitio of a hillside barangay on an out-of-the-way island that is wholesome and clean and gorgeous.
Most of the men who live here are rice field workers or construction laborers. There are two or three masons and a carpenter of no real skill. The women take care of the kids and play bingo. Surprisingly, there are a good number of college students, maybe four or five. They work to go to school.
I like kids who understand that college is the way out, the way up, the way forward. But sometimes they aren't that inspired about the future. Ask their major and they apologize because they know it is likely to head nowhere. "Business administration." "HRM." The guys who believe they are on a working path are the marine students, the future sailors, pilots and pirate hostages.
I find it fascinating how much my neighbors hereabouts both know and don't know. Most of their knowledge comes from two sources: (1) the two channels of public television piped in via a bent antennas wired to a wobbly bamboo pole and smallish, well-used TV set, and (2) gossip. So they know about Chief Justice Corona and like their President. They hear about Lady Gaga and her Christian problem. They want Palmolive shampoo and whitening creams but settle for soapy water and the sun. They understand about the HR Bill but it means nothing to them. Their lives are what they are.
What they always have been.
There is an innocence to ignorance, where ignorance is not something to be condemned, for it is simply the current state of education for those who are cut off from broader pipelines of knowledge.
No one wakes up in the morning and exclaims: "I'm going to go out and stay ignorant today!"
It is an accidental fate, in the main. The roll of God's dice.
Their condition is just their condition. Just as yours is yours, and you cannot match Einstein or Jobs or Gates or Joe up the street who manages the grocery market. Where does he get his stocks anyway?
So I am ignorant as to that point.
There is a definite innocence to ignorance. It is why I reflect on how things were in the United States in the 1950's before JFK was shot. Oh, we had the tensions of the cold war with Russia and learned to "duck and cover" in the even atom bombs starting raining down on our burg. But we were incredibly ignorant and incredibly innocent. Computers did not exist. A robust internet was 30 years away. We were racist through and through and biased against women and did not know it. We were in awe of television.
JFK's assassination somehow ripped our innocence from our soul. There it was, on TV, surreal and horrible. Our President being murdered.
Electronics started shaping our world big time. Undermining our innocence, our ignorance.
We spent the discordant 60's and 70's in social upheaval, learning to love freely, smoke dope and hate wars. The tensions were thick and uncomfortable, innocence being pecked away one disillusionment at a time. Martin Luther King, Bobby Kennedy, Kent State, Selma, Richard Nixon. Viet Nam. We learned that we discriminated against a lot of people, blacks, browns, females, handicapped, other religions, fat folks . . . and we watched too much TV. We ate unhealthy things and raped the seas and lands in the name of rich living.
Computers and the internet and science came along just in the nick of time. A new hobby, a new age of discovery and awe, a new set of knowledge. For 20 years we rode that cruiser, and it was wonderful. I-pods and notebooks, memory and speed and new games. Kids once more. Innocent once more.
Now we Americans seem generally angry, cynical, no longer quite the happy campers we once were. We seem tired with the effort. Tired of the killings, theirs and ours. Tired of looking for jobs and being independent of spirit. Tired of all the grime fed to our faces on the news.
Our leaders have the values of a hyena, feeding off the carrion of deceit and manipulation. We're tired of them. We're tired of not being able to do anything about it. Not able to go back to a wholesome sense of what our country is about.
That's why I like living in the Philippines. It is like starting over. Knowing the promise ahead is big, alive, real. That we have not yet tapped into our potential.
The Philippines is rather like the U.S. in the 1950's.
Largely innocent and ignorant. Again, ignorant bears no condemnation. It just is.
Huge segments of Philippine population don't have access to the internet. They for sure don't read this blog, an obscure set of articles pounded out daily by some farm boy from Colorado, USA. Concepts that stretch the brain rather than Roman Catholic ones that nail the brain into a narrow, dark, superstitious coffin.
Filipinos are racist and don't know it. They discriminate against women, and most women of the Philippines don't understand how. They discriminate against other religions and think they are pious. They go to church but remain highly superstitious, worshipping this little impish devil or that. Most have never read 90 percent of the Bible. But they can preach its values to the well read.
The Philippines is awash in ignorance. As yet, there is no modern Thomas Jefferson to put the oligarchs in their rightful place, out of government but in charge of making money and growing wealth for the nation. Not just for themselves, but for their country. There is no Bill Gates to light a technology fire and put to death the overabundant paperwork required everywhere, to close all the holes in the economic sieve through which tax moneys escape, and to track the strange financial transactions of chief justices and scoundrels.
There is no awareness that if I fish the seas dry, I have nothing to eat in the future. Or if I take the little fish out, they never become big fish and 75% of the meat never gets to anyone's table.
The future is a condition that is never imagined.
That's why the president has no real plan, other than populist slogans.
Filipinos are largely reactive to the past and ignorant of the future. They use their words to paint pictures that are more imaginary than real.
Real is a blank slate of potential, a great deal of innocence.
How to connect the innocence to the potential. That is what Filipinos need to figure out.
Filipinos are ignorant of psychology, the study of the mental-emotional connection. They consider it a shame to admit, umm m m . . . maybe I don't need to be as angry as Senator Santiago or depressed with a lack of opportunity. Maybe if I understand my emotions, there is a chance I will be stronger, not weaker. Maybe I'll achieve more if I don't overlay my personal self esteem on everything.
That's a distortion, you know? When personal sensitivity warps objectivity, as if Filipinos were children, the center of the world. It is like corruption. It drains personal wealth.
But there is an awakening going on in the Philippines. I believe that. It is inspired by a good President, crystallized on the internet and in mass media, and takes the form of new institutions akin to those formed in the United States in the 1960's. Institutions promoting better values and advocating good social causes. Like the HR Bill, or higher minimum wage, or even anti-Gaga moral values. It is incited by active internet advocacy, which influences mass media and opinion leaders. Social media form the framework for new awareness. And less ignorance.
The 1960's was when America developed a conscience, built on a recognition that buying things and getting rich is as much in the heart as the wallet. America started doing a better job of taking care of Americans.
I'm looking forward to the next 20 years as the Filipino blank slate, the slate of excessive self involvement and innocence, gets filled with conscience and outreach, achievement, hope and opportunity.
As Filipinos do a better job of taking care of Filipinos.
It's like a flower coming to blossom.