Fire in the Belly: "Filipinos for Filipinos"

Let us assume that most Filipinos accept that people in power have advantages. The powerful can appoint sons, daughters, wives and nephews to important government jobs, whether qualified or not. They can squeeze out a little cash from awards to favored contractors for the building of roads and bridges. Their position gets them cars, staff, expense accounts and nice travel arrangements. They live the good life.
The powerful can do this because they are “winners” in Philippine society, even if their values by Christian standards are pretty oily, or even downright disgusting. In the Philippines, power is respected, no matter how it is used. Even the Ampatuans are respected in some places.
So Senator Enrile can stage a coup and get elected to the Senate. Imelda Marcos can be the husband of a failed dictator and gain election to Congress. Manny Pacquiao can be a superb boxer and thereby qualify for a seat in the House; one he seldom sits in.
They are the “winners”. They have power and they have a following, a loud one. People EXPECT those in power to use their position for gain. It is what anyone would do if they had the chance.
Well, that is one way to run a country, and it is not for this transplant to say his nation does any better. After all, politicians in the U.S. are for the most part undiplomatic, narrow-principled manipulators with little real regard for the public well-being. Somehow they get re-elected.
But I have this naïve idea that there is a more rewarding way to run a country.
It goes back to Jeffersonian principles of rights and responsibilities. Not just rights. And certainly not rights only for the powerful.
What do civic responsibilities entail? That is, what should you and I be doing to contribute to the development of a strong community of fellow islanders, our nation.
In the United States, we have some basic obligations to take care of: pay taxes, obey laws, respect authority (while maintaining rights of free speech), serve in the military or other ways. Some times sacrifice of oneself for the good of others is requested, but the desire and need for that is diminishing (the military uses drones instead of soldiers). Vote. And to vote, we should be reasonably well informed on important issues.
That’s the minimum. Anything we do beyond that is fine, too, and would put us into the category of an “activist”. Attending rallies and marches, organizing rallies, making dollar contributions, volunteering to work on candidate campaigns, getting involved in issues-based organizations, NRA, NAACP, NOW and the like. Running for office. A lot of people get involved.
I think the minimum responsibilities also apply in the Philippines. But there is a lesser motivation, lesser opportunity here to go beyond that to become an “activist”. For one thing, when one becomes an activist in the Philippines, one creates enemies. This has something to do with loss of face for whomever one is active against. For many people, the personal affront of someone coming at them with criticism is too much to bear. Ampatuan is the extreme example of that. Rampant violence during campaigns illustrates the problem.
For another thing, too many people simply don’t care very much.
So activism in the Philippines is not so widespread.
Okay then, what’s a Filipino citizen to do, really, if he sees his country falling short? And he CARES?
I know there are high-moral people in the Philippines. Lots of them. They swim upriver, though. They  shake their heads at the gullibility of their fellow Filipinos who elect people with such deficient character to important positions. They see the abuses but can’t do much about it. They have no power.
I wonder. Is that true?
Thinking here. Pause for thinking . . .
They have no power. Hmmmmm . . .
Right thinking people, silent because they have no power . . .
In the age of the internet? Hmmmm . . .
Perhaps the REAL situation is they have simply not figured out how to organize. Or they have the MENTAL CONCEPT of what it takes to wield civic power, but not the FIRE IN THE BELLY to step outside themselves and actually DO something.
Or perhaps they are afraid of the consequences. Consequences they cannot anticipate. And which experience suggests may be angry.
Do you consider yourself to be a regular person? A small person, really, of no particular stature in the Philippines? A powerless person?
What if there were two of you working together, would you have a little more power?
What if five?
What if 500?
What if 2 million?
Do you think you might get a newspaper editor to look up?
Do you think you might get a candidate interested in your support?
Do you think you might be powerful enough to influence a bill?
The U.S. is rich with institutions that gather the power of many “little” people and unify them into one big force. NOW (women). NAACP (blacks). Tea Party (conservative Christians). NRA (gun owners). AARP (seniors). And many more. Most have a band of attorneys fighting for their cause in the courts. And publicity specialists to articulate their positions. And fund-raising experts.
What does the Philippines have? An occasional protest by this group or that, generally a march down Roxas. Somehow throwing their cause in the face of the United States gives it added meaning. Like a couple of weeks ago when several hundred leftists were blocked by riot police from going to Roxas to protest the poor treatment of farmers and the presence of the US in the Philippines, as if the two were somehow connected. Nothing like a good shout at the US regarding the plight of farmers in the Philippines.
The newspapers, always interested in a sensationalist angle, put small-time, loud, controversial protests such as this on the front page. As if half the nation were behind the rabble-rousers.
Half the nation is taking their nap, sorry. The other half is out working.
I personally think the lack of “power to the little people” comes from a lack of “fire in the belly”. A lack of passion. An inability to get past lethargy or apathy or fear or whatever this drag is that makes Filipinos far and wide complacent, subsistent, or downright subservient.
Those who see, stand back. Those who understand, turn away.
The accumulation of power by the common Filipino merely lacks organization. It lacks someone with the courage and ability to organize.
I’d do it but it is not my job.
I’d find two smart, aggressive people to join me and we’d put together a cause and an organization.
Mine would be aimed at getting a Fair Employment Law passed to end nepotistic hiring and to energize careers. And it would be aimed at getting a divorce law passed to end the ridiculous human bondage of women to abusive, useless men. And it would be aimed at privatizing education.
The name would be something like “Filipinos for Filipinos”.
But, as I said, that is not my job . . .
I’ve got the fire in the belly, but no platform to stand on . . .
What are you standing on?
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _
Look for JoeAm’s blockbuster article “Principles for Organizing Insurrection”, coming soon to a blog site near you  . . .
5 Responses to “Fire in the Belly: "Filipinos for Filipinos"”
  1. Anonymous says:

    From: Island jim-e (aka: the cricket)Civic responsibilities need to be taught(just as history, economics, business subjects)in functional educational schools, colleges,universities and technical institutions–thebasic obligations citizens rights are based onregardless of self-interest needs. Let me be very clear, I have no problems with the rich families if…IF they taketime, energy, effort and help with communityand nation building! Many nations have beenbuilt with the taxes from goal orriented, organized good government pratices! Many morenations have benefited by the few-rich-other-centered good works of the rich (a goodexample is how the public has benefited fromthe good works of a few rich folks that haslayed the ground work for the free public library system in the USA).I wish I were "filty rich" and was privledgedenough to become "a founding father" of a nation! Very few people in the world have ever bothered to read USA "Articles of Confederationof the USA"…or understand what motivated thissimple document! I recommend it become mandatory reading for everyone in the world before they are allowed the privledge of voting!The rich folk who spent their time, energy and treasure to "walk the talk" were: 13 merchants, 7 land developers, 7 banker-speculators, 14 slave/plantation owners, 2 rich mega farm owners, 3 risk takers (maybe pirates or hedgecompany owners in todays definition),2 scientists/publishers, one college president, 2 physicans and 8 public office holders (maybe tax collectors for the british at that time)….Most wealthy, most were distillers, wine andbeer producers of some degree!The USA Declaration of Independence was based on these "Articles" with a lot of "internet of the time input by letter, by newspress of concerned rich-smart-dedicated-committed individuals who were prepared to die for the"cause"! People were not as connected andable to communicate as they are today….butthey got the job done!Nationalistic passion fed by the good worksof the "distillers" of our world can still"get the job done" if they are willing toroll up their collective sleves (or pant legs)and jump in to the "presspot" and get theirfeet blue from squeezing the juice from the berries-grapes-fruit! The watchdogs of our community, society,culture and community have have operated undermany "colors"….at one time the world revolvedaround the witch doctors, rich folks, churchand following the french revolution the worldlearned a "better way" to make progress. The seeds and of liberty, freedom, responsibility, civic obligations have been fed by the bloodof heros, patriots and marters….!All it takes is a willingness to mobilize,energize, and communicate in basic easyunderstandable way around a set of goalsthat are worth the committment to achieve!I trust that whoever is choosen or is"drafted" (rich or poor) is qualifed to become another historic "godfather of our rainbow islands!If not now, when, if not us, who, if nothere, where? I hope it is still not tolate to run the "talent search" for ourisland salvationChirp, chirp, chirp!(Disclaimer-the fire-in-my-belly wentto what is left of my brain…sooosorry to be "windy", but then againkites and aircraaft need the wind to riseabove this earthly domain!)

  2. This is not a chat site, it is a blog site, and windy, insightful comments such as your'n are welcome, indeed. It adds to the root, the article, with elegant green leaves.I agree that the commitment to achieve will appear when the motivation is strong enough. It does not today appear strong enough, although there is bubbling around here somewhere. . .

  3. Anonymous says:

    Joe,"Fire in the belly" accurately describes what most Filipinos are. They have seen and observed mediocrity since their childhood, so why should they care? A strong childhood and personality development starts at home and school to stoke a fire in the belly. The school, either private or public has to do their civic duty to guide and lead these children. Are they pro-active? Not sure, but this is what I observed and seen this morning in a small Private school in my town during the Flag ceremony.1. Improper handling of the flag during preparation of the flag ceremony. Unfurled the flag and rest it on his shoulder. I told the kid not to do that and help them out.2. The teacher leading the singing of the national anthem has no fire in the belly.4. The principal doesnt attend the flag ceremony where she is needed most to show authority figure.Immediately after the flag cermony I seek the principal to discuss the situation to help make it look right. She hasnt came in yet to lead her flock. huhuhu… I shall try again to meet with her.I think this a good flatform to stand on. Do something although it is not my job. Yeah, Joe I want to train them proper flag handling and a little attitude adjustment. Its Jack

  4. Acceptance of mediocrity. Not caring. I need to explore what child psychologists say developmentally occurs when you are, say, the fourth child born in a family. Or number 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, or 10. And then overlay on that a dysfunctional family where the father is gone, and some other guy is in mama's bed now.What does that do to the old fire in the belly. Clearly, the kid you observed has little sense of patriotism or shame. Schools are failing, for sure.

  5. chohalili says:

    I have fire in the belly..count me in Mr. Joe…I will look forward on your blockbuster article.

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