I suppose it would depend on what he said and how he said it. I could get angry or be impressed. Ha! Or be bored.
Here are some common reactions that I deal with as the outsider in the Philippines:
- Case A: "Why you ungrateful jerk, you are here living in our house and you have the audacity to criticize us!"
- Case B: "Wow, that is a fresh perspective, I hadn't thought of it from that angle."
- Case C: "Well, Joe, I think you may have missed that in the Philippines (explanation of what I got wrong) . . ."
- Case D: "You know the United States is pretty messed up, too, so you shouldn't rag on us."
Case A usually comes from older people with a lot of pride, with a lot of themselves invested in the Philippines. Case B usually comes from people who have spent time outside the Philippines or are extraordinarily open-minded. Case C usually comes from people who are not threatened by an American and recognize my experience is limited. And Case D usually come from irritated younger people who get the argument away from the subject being discussed and simultaneously deliver a smack upside my head.
My responses are something like:
- Case A: "I live in the Philippines permanently and the only difference between you and me is a piece of paper."
- Case B: "Thank you! Glad you appreciated it."
- Case C: "Ahh, thanks. I'll correct my observations to take that into account.."
- Case D: "Yes, there is a lot to criticize about the U.S. But my interest is building a progressive Philippines, where I live. The issue at hand is . . ."
This blog will lay to rest where I stand about the United States. Then we can put it aside. I am writing about the Philippines and that is that.
I love my old homeland. She treated me well. I was lucky to be given great parents who were not rich but had jobs (my Dad once worked three jobs at once), gave their kids everything including discipline, good brains and the drive to excel; I was blessed with a fine school system, lots of games at which I excelled thanks to my Mom's athleticism, and all the opportunity in the world.
My nation is well-principled. When she loses her way now and then she comes back straight and true, to the middle path, a testament to the earnest desires of the people for prosperity, freedom, health, fairness and kindness. Government is a process of tensions, forces, one playing against the other.
The social norms are shaped by strong arguments. One is being played out now regarding immigration from Mexico. The arguments are often carried out in the courtrooms which for the most part are impeccable places - quick, fair and intelligent - to judge right and wrong under established written and case law. So social norms change and are kept up-to-date with new knowledge. Laws and courts do a good job of protecting American residents, no matter their race, religion, gender or age.
Some Filipinos argue that the US is a warmonger or imperialist nation. She is neither. She is a confident and overbearing pursuer of her own interests and ideals and often is relied upon by other countries that need protection from outside forces. The "warmonger and imperialist" criticisms are levied by people who do not have to deal with America's risks or aspirations; they are in an armchair looking at the game from a camera that gives a very narrow view; they are not on the field, experiencing it fully.
I view America's international engagements as under control, highly principled and responsible under President Obama. It's a tricky business as the Philippines is learning regarding Scarborough Shoal and the Spratleys. U.S. international relations were horrifying under President Bush. So is terrorism.
American technical achievements are amazing. Many of the people pushing them are born outside of America, but American wealth and industrial drive gives them a place to thrive.
America is doing a poor job on three main fronts: (1) Fighting her own poverty and the disenfranchisement that it represents, (2) engaging in rabid over-consumption and commercialization with too little regard for impacts on global resources or climate, and (3) fostering an acrimonious political environment pushing power to the extremes and risking economic collapse or social chaos.
My angerometer occasionally runs high on all three matters, but it is not particularly relevant to the Philippine condition, so I don't belabor it here.
One of my favorite news publications is The Atlantic. The opinion columns are generally deeper and richer than in mainstream newspapers. James Fallows, who penned the famous article on the Philippines a few years back that brought the term "onion skin" to the forefront, writes for The Atlantic.
Well, last week, The Atlantic fired off another superb commentary, this time by Philip K. Howard, a lawyer, author and chair of Common Good.
The title of the article: "Reform Is Not Enough: The Federal Government Needs a Complete Makeover".
His opening lines set up the rest of the critique:
- "A deviant subculture is defined by sociologist Anthony Giddens as one "whose members have values which differ substantially from those of the majority in a society. . . . American government is a deviant subculture. "
So if you think Philippine Governance is flawed, YOU AIN'T SEEN NOTHING YET. It is calm and constructive compared to that pit of dysfunction, that deviant subculture, of American Government.
If you want to join in a highly articulate criticism of America, please read the article. It is a classic. I wholeheartedly share the views expressed by Mr. Howard.