This is not a new topic here. I'm just going to try cutting it a different way to get some clarity on it. I'm going to be rudely blunt because tippy toeing gets us nowhere.
TO: Juan dela Cruz, the Juan with a high school degree and a couple of years of college under the belt before going off to Uncle Manuelo's vulcanizing shop to fix tires:
Good day, Juan. Here's a little story.
This is the American way
A man sees that his American wife is going to go out for a ride on her motorcycle. He leaves his computer desk and goes downstairs to open the garage and haul her heavy bike out so she can start it easily. His wife, recognizing his kindness, says "Thank you, smoochie poo!"
He smiles back, "Happy to, my sweet!"
"Oh, loverboy, I forgot the key to the outside gate? Can you get it for me?"
"Happy to, love of my life."
This is the Filipino way
A man sees that his Filipina wife is going to go out for a ride on her motorcycle. He leaves his computer desk and goes downstairs to open the garage and haul her heavy bike out so she can start it easily. His wife, recognizing his groveling servitude and her greater power, scowls at him and says nothing.
"Get the keys to the outside gate," she commands, sensing his weakness at having come downstairs.
Pregnant pause as two cultures collide . . .
"Get a life" he mutters and stomps back up to his computer.
Perhaps you think I jest, eh, Jose? That this difference in attitude is a petty little snit?
I assure you, the difference is real and profound. I state the trivial simply to show how pervasive this "win/loss power struggle" is in normal Filipino behavior.
Most Filipinos are self-centric. Period. Full stop. End of statement. They engage in win/lose power struggles in just about every interpersonal interaction from throwing off minor ridicule about people's looks and clothes to going volcanic in big arguments that end up with guns blazing and bodies bleeding. Indeed, last week a body was dumped on a country road about a half-mile from here. It is the second murder bringing police to our small and peaceful hillside sitio this past year.
The Philippines is a brutal and murderous land. It is not a coincidence that it is also a self-centric land.
American behavioral norms are generally "community centric". That's what the Golden Rule means. Do unto others as you would have them to do unto you. So there is a much more evolved sense of compassion, courtesy and "give" in American discourse and behavior. Sometimes it is fake. Most of the time it is sincere.
Way too many Filipinos are engaged in dysfunctional games and unbridled attempts to preserve face: denial of responsibility, excuse-making, blaming, ridicule of others to reduce their standing. The difference in behavior is tangible, palpable. One is giving. The other game-playing.
Now, Jose, it is completely fair for you to say "Joe, that is our culture here. Every place has a different culture. It is the outsider's obligation to adapt to us, not our obligation to change to suit your foreign needs."
Yes, yes, I agree. Indeed, that is the richness I find in living here, the challenge of adapting to behaviors that are not common and are often downright entertaining (watching 50 vehicles from tricycles to dump trucks trying to get through a crowded intersection at the same time, whilst the traffic guy chews the fat with his buddy over there in the shade).
But if I, as a foreigner, am supposed to accept things as they are, why do Filipinos complain so much about how ineffective government is at providing jobs, or health care, or how poor the people are and how often they seem to get killed by flash floods or sunken ferries.?
Why can Filipinos yap but I cannot?
I ask, being very blunt here, Jose. Is it because you don't lose face when YOU yap? Indeed, you GAIN it by criticizing others. But you lose face when I yap because I am pointing out flaws in the Filipino community, and you are a member of that community?
Well, if you lose face, there must be something meaningful to my yapping, something true about the words. Something to hide from. Why would you get worked up if there were no truth to the yap? You'd simply laugh at my alien stupidity.
Well, the fact is most Asian cultures are very much involved in saving face and building face. Look at China's face-saving posturing on their silly nine-dash map that claims an entire ocean as theirs. It defies any kind of logic and forces them into the role of international strutting bully. Or look at the Japanese, still committing honorable suicide if they lose too much face. Love those knives up the gut.
But this notion of "face" is itself false, if you think about it. It is a lie. It is a pretense. And if enough people are dealing in "face" instead of objective, transparent, explicit information, you get the surreal kind of dysfunctional, schizoid, psychopathic (Ampatuan) place called the Philippines. People are living their perceptions and their angers instead of the kind of explicit truth that opens problems up to solution.
The FACT is that life is a flawed undertaking, full of risk and human failing and chaos. Why engage in a fantasy that our decisions or the way we do things must be perfect, or we are somehow lesser beings? Why leap to the conclusion that if we make a mistake, we are flawed as people?
The first thing any good psycho-therapist does is to make sure the client is content with who he or she is. If you are content, you don't get into face issues. You deal forthrightly, giving other people the space they need to be themselves. You don't impose your neediness on them. You don't judge yourself based on what other people do or say.
"Face" is an emotional needy space. It is actually empowering OTHERS to rule your life.
Ahhh, I'll go beyond that. The notion of preserving face is horseshit. Succumbing to it covers up the benefit that honest information and candor would bring to a discussion. Trying to preserve face is wallowing in pity and pride and hiding out. You might as well be gay and stuck forever in the closet, only you are hiding from yourself. Face is running and hiding. It is useless.
So, Jose, while you and so many of your countrymates are working hard to take care of your faces, you are not caring about all the people who are getting sick, killed and hurt through neglect and sloppy practices. You are not caring that bright, capable young people do not having the chance for a career job, right here in the Philippines. You are not caring about women trapped in abusive marriages because their marriage contract has no escape clause. You are not caring about your country . . .
Maybe, Jose, my amigo, if y'all forgot about your face and focused on problem-solving and helping the grand community of Filipinos, called the Philippines, this place would be less dysfunctional, eh?
That's it. My time's up.
Gotta go help my sweet wife get her heavy motorcycle out of the garage.
Adios, amigo. Go with God.
ps, your face looks fine to me.