Waving the White Flag of Subservience on Independence Day

It struck me today that the Philippines is not a bold nation in the sense that it flies majestically high on grand ideals. Oh, yes, I know Filipinos are bold, but more inclined toward a reckless kind of bold, like staging coups or shooting people or marching in the street.  It is the kind of boldness from the back end of a gun, or from a crowd of backers, not the kind of deep-rooted spirit that “this is my country, and I will sacrifice to make it great.”
And they are bold enough to offer inane ideas, like the loss by Pacquiao to American Boxer Bradley reflects American racism and proves that America is trying to take over the Philippines. They say this with straight faces and no small amount of anger. If the loss proves anything, it is that Congressman Colonel Pacquiao is getting worn down and lacks his old killer instinct, and two referees wore glasses that did not help their vision much.
Well, the U.S. has its lunatics, too, some being in Congress now or former governors of Alaska, so we can excuse such people as being the statistically weird quota allotted to every nation.
But why, I wonder, is the Philippines so whipped by its own attitudes?
Freedom does not mean free, oddly enough. It entails the discipline to follow laws, and requires a certain giving, a certain responsibility, to care for the community. Our freedoms end when others are potentially harmed. Patriotism means having the kind of discipline to WANT to obey the laws, and not harm others. That is the kind of discipline that you don’t find in the Philippines amongst the broad population. Exceptions, always there are, as my friend Yoda would say.
But Filipinos generally don’t connect patriotism with the spirit of obedience to laws that protect everyone. The proof is in the vast number of laws that are ignored.
Let me circle some wagons here, then come back once we have our cowboys lined up.
I was observing as my wife sternly molded another maid to her liking, making her subservient and task oriented. My wife has to be rather hard-nosed because she is young and other women are not easily inclined to look at her as anything but “ate”, an irritating sister, or upstart kid.  I told her if she could find some aging cream so she would look older, she would have a better time of it.
There is a reason Filipino workers largely have no enthusiasm for their jobs. There is no mystery why our maids don’t last, or why the Philippines has a huge work force that migrates from one unrewarding job to another.
Look at the hang-dog look you get at government offices. People chained to a job, no upside promotional opportunities, no salary increases or bonuses for excellent work, no praise, lots of criticism.
Yes, poverty plays its part. There is not enough “wealth” out there for workers to aspire toward. So they just do their daily drudge and go to church to pray for help. Then they leave the church and head for the lottery window.
A couple of months ago, I wrote a blog about Filipinos missing the “Delta Drive”, where the Delta Drive is the internal motivation to grow, to improve, to change. Missing is the knowledge and the internal fire to find a richer, giving way forward.  And employers take advantage of that submissiveness. Employers are autocratic. It would be very much out of order for an employee here to approach the boss and say, “Excuse me, Mr. Bossman, may we sit down and discuss what I need to do to grow and contribute more around here?”
“Shut up, kid, and get back to work.”
The authoritarian model of behavior persists in the family, in the schools, and in places of employment. Power is the name of the game in the Philippines, and those who have it push it. Parents command, they do not counsel. Schools dictate, they do not encourage innovation, independence and aspiration. Employers use their help like a borrowed tool. If it breaks down, you toss it and get another. The notion of investing in workers as a RESOURCE is missing here.
I tried the American way here, the motivational way, and it was a complete bust. If you are kind to workers, they think you are weak. If you knowingly pay an above-market day wage, or a bonus, the worker gloats about how he is sticking it to the American. He works no harder, no better. If anything, he believes he can slack off because the American is a wimp. He doesn’t internalize a bonus as a reward, as money earned for doing good work. Subservience creates some odd rationalizations.
During my 32 years of being a boss in the States, I never sought to dominate, to rule, to issue demanding tasks and whip people to produce. I always sought to motivate workers, to lead them to opportunities for personal and professional growth, to inspire commitment to a good job. It’s what I was taught in classes and seminars on management. And it worked.
But these methods don’t work here. People only understand power. Workers long ago waved the white flag of subservience and now they march dutifully along with eyes glazed over and a backpack full of rationalizations.
Aspiration, if you think it through, is a giving style of work. You dedicate yourself to giving the employer what he needs. He needs hard, smart work and a harmonious work environment. Smart means thinking of the company’s well-being. Thinking from the customer’s perspective. Looking sharp, thinking sharp, being productive.
There is a shortage of such dedicated giving in the Philippines. And, frankly, subservience is not very productive.
If you take the sum of the individual shortages in giving, it rolls up to a national “patriotism” that is fundamentally weak. You can’t have patriotism without kindness, without sacrifice, without individuals giving to the community, without one person inspiring another to new heights. And working hard to get there himself.
Hang-dog at work, hang-dog patriotism.
Patriotism, bottom line, is sacrifice. It is not the glory of being rich or stomping on some other nation. It is not apathy or subservience. It is not cheering or marching lock step.
I laugh at the uber-patriots who condemned Martin Nevera for singing the national anthem as a ballad instead of march. As if patriotism were found in being non-creative and marching lock-step.
Patriotism is the notion that I, as a citizen, have both rights and responsibilities, and, “man, do I get high on the responsibility of making my nation great!”
Or take one’s job, “man, do I get high by earning my way up the career ladder!”
No, no. You don’t find that personal kind of commitment, that sacrifice, that generous giving, that infectious enthusiasm, broadly spread throughout the Philippines.
You have the cheering of stars and the taking of glory from what others achieve. This is a pride founded on need, rather than gift.
Well, perhaps what the Philippines “needs” is a great orator as leader, because there aren’t enough shrinks in the world to get the needed job done. The nation needs an inspirational man, like Winston Churchill or JFK , who can stand before a microphone and tell Filipinos how much the nation needs their contribution to making the Philippines whole. How much the nation needs their energy and sacrifice and good deeds.
Such a man could slow the over-birthing with one speech. He could get the trash off the beaches by painting a clear picture of how Filipinos are shooting themselves in the wallet with every piece of plastic they toss to the wind. He could get people to pay their taxes by asking, in the name of the Philippines, for honorable contribution to build a better nation. He could go to war and have young men and women avidly seeking to join the fight.
He could establish a whole new set of values. Obedience to laws. For the nation. Courtesy. For the nation. Hard work. For the nation.
Filipinos need a leader they can cheer. And who can cheer them back. Excite them by painting a vision of a nation pulling together. Not apart.
Yes, yes. We cheer Mr. Aquino, some of us. But he, too, is of the self-serving model. Witness all the back-patting, the glow with which he surrounds himself. The favors traded. Meanwhile, the nation persists in its bad, self-involved habits.
Filipinos need a leader who can inspire them to use their power to build a better nation, to make the sum of each individual’s personal glory, founded on sacrifice and good values, a way of life.
I suggest those who intend to run for President in 2016 bone up on their speaking skills. And go get some psychological counseling. And, if they win, they ought to make a commitment to energizing the nation, to building a truly bold and genuine GIVING patriotism among Filipinos far and wide. Then the nation will be independent.
16 Responses to “Waving the White Flag of Subservience on Independence Day”
  1. Anonymous says:

    Joe, I wonder how come you see our ills clearly? You will make a great motivator.Yes, we need one to motivate us like Churchill and JFK had done. Unfortunately, there is none in the picture at the moment. In my mind, I will challenge DepEd to develop a curriculum how to mold a future President. They could start teaching these young kids that patriotism means it is everyone's duty to hold, defend, and protect the constitution. If USA could mold a very young mind not to talk to stranger or smoking is bad it might work in the Philippines too.Its Jack

  2. Indeed, education should be key, but educators seem to fall into the authoritarian mood themselves, squelching rather than lighting fires. I suspect many teachers are exhausted. I can't imagine 45 kids in a classroom. New models of instruction need to be considered, internet based. I wrote about this at length a few months ago.

  3. Anonymous says:

    i'd also suggest that those who run in 2016 read these through this blog. to you and me it seems a little obvious, what this country needs. but to some (or most) Filipinos, it's not as clear. it's intriguing stuff.i like how you nuanced your way through the aspiration/patriotism parts, and yes, looking around there isn't really a lot to be motivated about, but what they don't see is the potential that this country holds. i suppose it all begins in the home and in the schools.Andy (Yb-Anderson)

  4. Anonymous says:

    underdeveloped resources spread way too thin. a common occurrence here. what i also see as weird here is that there is a certain intimidation factor in the classrooms. if you raise your hand and your answer is wrong, you won't hear the end of it. curiosity and stepping outside of your comfort zone are basically criticized here, which is a shame because, how else are you supposed to expand your mind?Andy

  5. Andy, kindly go into politics.

  6. Ha, "nuanced". I have two main writing styles. Soft shoeing and bludgeoning. People seem to listen better if I dance, for some reason. Glad you appreciated the article.

  7. Anonymous says:

    Squelching huh? Lighting fires hmmm. Not only exhausted, they are too busy attending meetings and going to fiestas. Did you know that schools are closed when there is a fiesta around the Barangays? One of the reason why I dont like fiestas and I also know you wrote about it and I need to read that piece you wrote on education since it is my favorite subject.How nice you got Abe Lincoln and he really looks like you. We all look alike heh..

  8. Here's the last article in a series. It links you to the others. http://thesocietyofhonor.blogspot.com/2011/09/big-secret.htmlThe photo I use is of my great grandfather. He was court martialed for failing to report for duty when drafted by the Union. He wanted to farm and build a church. He did his six months, then served with distinction, losing an eye and two horses (he was calvary) in the process. My wife won't let me grow my hair or beard long. She is boss.

  9. brianitus says:

    In summary, Filipinos should get involved in developing the country. Leaders are there to inspire action and not boss people around. Involvement breeds true patriotism.A cultural change is what we need. It does not need to happen overnight in all places. One thing at one time. It starts in one's backyard. There's too much focus on national problems with local problems going unattended. And people wonder why their daily problems don't get solved. Too much worrying about other inconsequential things. Filipinos need leaders, not A leader. From local governance all the way to the national level. Filipinos need leaders. It's stupid to elect an ideal leader on a national level only to get suckerpunched by those at the local level. The quality of local leadership only reflects the level of involvement of the citizens of this country.

  10. Anonymous says:

    From: Island jim-e (aka-The cricket)The essay was well stated…I agree we need more"Boy-Girl-Explorer type scouts"….! Question: What good is leadership when it keeps usfrom making progress, constructive positve action?If we define freedom to mean the opportunity to changethen I can make the observation that little of thisfreedom exisits! We are cinical of so-called republicsor democratic institutions who claim "freedom" but infact inslave the population–no better than any dictatorship or so-called communist political basedgovernment! 'What good are our so-called leaders when they inisiton putting up photo-face-picture bannersand signs the size of jumbo-jets and let the peopledie due to "egooooooooooooooooooooooooooomania"?Question: What ever came of the "UP With People" singing group/tour? Maybe we can see real constructivepositive change in our lifetime if we revived and supported such organizations for a world-class, people based revision of our world society!Oh, for some more "UP With People" grass rootsmotivation! Maybe more healthy music would leadto our salvation! Freedom is not FREE…!

  11. I agree completely. And a part of the education program ought to be to get Filipinos to understand that leadership requires skills earned in places other than the boxing ring.

  12. Up with people. Great need in the Philippines . . . but more effective than "People Power" by having involvement and self-accountability. Maybe we can get Coca Cola to lead the program . . . They do songs well.

  13. Anonymous says:

    Thanks for the link.I am a military man too, and I salute your grandfather for defending our freedom. You are not alone Joe, got to respect the boss, eh? Its Jack

  14. Anonymous says:

    Whatever it takes to get us out of the hole, I will support. Coke, Is it?Let us all get involved and be accountable. What we could do is teach our children good moral character and that would be a good start. Its Jack

  15. Anonymous says:

    Right on Cricket!"Freedom is not free." It is too costly paid by many heroes whom they have forgotten. "Freedom and enslavement of the population," is abundant in the Philippines in term of economic injustice.The minimum wager makes about P400+ per day in Manila while top level government employees make millions. I am getting a headache computing it.I dont call that Freedom, you call it enslavement and you are probaly right. Its Jack

  16. Anonymous says:

    Same here. There's a big difference between a leader and a superhero. Change is a process, not a quick fix like what those trolls at GRP are shouting.

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