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Our Rotten Culture

Until lately, I’ve tried to convince myself that this country is still worth fighting for, that the supreme sacrifice of our noble heroes from GOMBURZA to Ninoy were not in vain; that pride for my race and people is a badge I would continue to wear. Yet, as I’ve come to terms with the realities that continue to hound and slap me on the face in a day to day basis since my inception into the world of local politics and demagoguery; that after experiencing and witnessing countless, recurring and palpable incompetent, idiotic, indifferent, fraudulent and deceptive practices of every conceivable bureaucratic nonsense in almost every branch, department, agency and political unit of our government, there is very little room for me to doubt that this country is ROTTEN and DESPICABLE!

I am certain many of my bleeding heart compatriots and the ultra-nationalists, jingoist types will denounce me for expressing such a cruel, unpatriotic and sweeping statement; that Pinoy Pride-bashing—which I doubt if it still has something left to bash—is the last thing we need to recover from the recent shame and condemnation from the international community as a result of last Monday’s hostage fiasco. It’s really comically absurd to hear Filipinos furiously react to racist slurs and criticisms from foreigners particularly from personalities like Adam Carolla, Claire Danes, Jay Leno, Alec Baldwin, Jimmy Kimmel to name a few, and the TV show Desperate Housewives where Teri Hatcher blurted a line about Filipino nurses, as well as the not so distant incident in Hong Kong where a sign was reportedly placed not allowing dogs and Filipinos vis-à-vis in some building or place—where it instantly became mass hysteria to demand for redress and apology while we fail to take note of our own racial insensitive jokes and insults about other people with darker skin color like Africans or Blacks and our very own Aetas by calling them all sorts of nasty pejoratives. This is not to mention how we paint racial stereotypes about other races like Indians, Chinese and Japanese—calling them ‘beho’, ‘bombay’, ‘singkit’ and ‘sakang’. What about our pejorative collective labeling of ‘igorot’ the indigenous people of the cordilleras? What about our discriminatory attitude toward gays, people with physical defects, deformities and disabilities, the ugly, the short, the fat, etc.—often the butt of jokes? Such is our penchant for double standard hypocrisy. We are sensitive to racial slurs against us by other races yet we are desensitized by our own against others. We demand for diplomatic and public redress for every grievance we hold against any foreign nation, state or entity yet we do nothing to improve ourselves.

I have therefore come to the conclusion that we are not inferior because of our skin color, we are inferior because of our culture. I am attacking this inferior culture of hypocrisy, unabashed arrogance for excuse or ‘palusot’; of cosmetic reparation instead of concrete solutions; of putting up rosy and gaudy facades to hide the glaring dystopia; of religious fatalism and passivity instead of educated rational and scientific approach to problems…

The incompetence and stupidity that we continue to witness from time to time from our government officials and personnel (this encompasses the executive, congress, judiciary, military, police and local governments) has cultural roots. It is us—the people—the possessors of knowledge, ideas, and practices—who put them there in the first place are solely to blame for every shame, criticism, condemnation, insult, racial slur and bigotry that we receive from other nations and peoples around the world. It is our own undoing. We can’t blame the people of Hong Kong for venting their ire to the whole Filipino nation for our government’s incompetence in addressing hostage situations that often involve foreigners. (I hope people can still remember what happened to the botched military rescue operation of kidnapped American missionary couple Gracia and Martin Burnham from the Abu Sayyaf where Martin was killed by friendly fire from soldiers of the Philippine army.) Perhaps, we would feel and do the same if our own citizens were taken hostages and killed too in China due to the incompetence of their police and government. Mind you, it was no ‘isolated incident’ as our officials so desperately would like to pass it off. How many more ‘isolated incidents’ of hostage rescue fiascos, bus accidents, sinking ships, kidnappings, massacres and murder of journalists, etc., do we have to count in order for our geniuses in the government to acknowledge their incompetence and stupidity? How many million more Filipinos have to leave and immigrate to foreign countries to become slaves only later to come home abused and murdered in order for the government to act and put up a sensible economic system that would create and generate jobs in this country? We can’t blame other countries for treating us the way they do—a nation of servants and whores—because our very own government is selling and pimping us for the dollars we earn to feed its burgeoning useless and corrupt bureaucracy!

We were led to believe in a delusion that we were a great nation and a chosen people of God, the so-called new Jerusalem—fed by the antiquated, revisionist educational system and the theocratic irrational machinations and mysticisms of the Catholic Church together in cahoots with the other organized Christian denominations that stunted our people’s minds. We became desensitize and dogmatically blind to our own defects and inferiorities. Morally and intellectually stagnated, complacent of our colonial and pluralistic cultural heritage, we refused to submit ourselves to the onslaught of political, social and cultural paradigm shifts that shook the world for decades, to focus on ourselves and improve our culture. As a result, our educational system has degenerated, mass-producing a half-baked educated populace that could not rise to the demands of a highly-sophisticated global economy and community—the same populace that feed and unwittingly perpetuate incompetent, corrupt and stupid politicians in the government. And now the domino has fallen.

The incident is now a wake up call to our nation that we need to improve our ways of thinking and attitudes. It is a glaring amplification of the condition of our culture—a backward, retarded, dysfunctional and inferior one. Notwithstanding the notable accomplishments of countless individual Filipinos in their respective fields and expertise throughout the world and within, our country has remained poor, staggering and left behind in a growing economically competitive and developing Asian region. We’ve been through almost every kind of political upheaval, revolutions, coups, rebellion, wars and insurgency yet our political system has remained stagnant, feudal, oligarchic, rent-seeking, booty-driven and predatory. A nation so obsessed with freedom yet it spits on freedom.

Where would you find a nation who proudly proclaims itself to the world as a bastion of democracy in Asia yet when the constitutional democratic process of transfer of power through electoral suffrage had arrived, a significant number of the electorate would sell their conscience and political right for a measly sum or favor either out of fear or for outright need? For the past 24 years, we have only managed to march on streets as a mob to oust one klepto-dictator only to replace it with a bungling plunderer and an avaricious, hubris-driven, power-grabbing midget who shamelessly manipulated and rigged an election. Ironically, the forces that our people sought to destroy and drive away decades ago are now back and restored to their seats of power—perhaps, just waiting and conspiring for the perfect moment for them to grab and seize to fully restore themselves to their former glory and political power. How distorted could be our sense of history?

Like most government institutions, the institution that was mandated to implement and oversee this democratic process (COMELEC) is itself spurious. It has never been the people’s ally but rather a complicit tool and co-conspirator to the designs of the power-obsessed oligarchs, plunderers and scrupulous criminals that walk from our corridors of power down to the grassroots colonies of the disenfranchised clueless ignorant village folks. I am privy to almost every sinister secret election fraud committed since I grew up and was raised in a politically active environment. Yet, it seemed every crime was committed with impunity and buried under the rubbles of apathy and indifference. We allowed this to happen. We committed mistakes, regretted them, only later to commit them again with appalling disconnect to the errors and horrors of the past. Despite of these experiences and knowledge, we allowed these things to become ingrained in our psyche to become what we call culture. We failed to discard the bad ones and retain the good ones and instead did the opposite.

If Rizal were alive today, he would be horrified to witness the country he yearned and fought for ruined by its failure to grasp his teachings and ideology—drowning in a cultural quagmire. Whether we can lift ourselves up from this bog of moral bankruptcy or not, a significant damage has already been done to our image and status as a nation. It would take generations more, if ever, granting our people and culture would improve to cast off ourselves of the stigma that mars us as a nation and as a people. It’s high time that this nation should stop supplicating the air it exhales and polishing the tiled floors and wooden pews of the church with their knees through pointless praying and instead start working, learning and educating itself.

DISCLAIMER: The opinions in this post do not necessarily represent the position of the Filipino Freethinkers.