The Strength Within

Stick with me if you can. This one’s a ride. Ideas grow where you plant them and propagate in an organized random way.

Doing this blogging bit is a little like stuffing a plant into the fine red Philippine soil. You plant one idea and before you know it, you’ve got another plant poking up over there. And one over here, too.

Things propagate easily here, whether they be babies or banana trees. I once asked my agriculturally endowed sister what the definition of a “weed” is.
She said “a rose in the cornfield is a weed”.
Well, we have weeds and we have roses here, and they all grow like gangbusters. I had to take out all the ferns because the spores were flying through the air like so many invisible locusts attacking the Kansas cornfields, producing hives on my wife and incessant coughing from me and junior.
I’ve come to the conclusion recently that Filipinos are not very introspective in a proactive way. They are introspective in a negative way.
It’s that matter of face again, or thin skin. And cultural values shaped by those political Catholics in their doctrinal house of cards who would suggest psychiatry is a sin. Just turn to Jesus. Or Mary. Or God.
Anywhere but knowledge.
I like President Aquino because he is an inward guy. Reflective. Thoughtful. He allows humility to rise up in a genuine way, rather than arrogance. His arrogance is actually determination, an insistence on staying the course, no matter the criticisms that surround him.
And boy do Filipinos do criticisms well. It is all a part of the interpersonal win/lose battles taking place in any interpersonal interaction.  People here do naturally what shrinks try desperately to get people to stop doing.
Judging themselves based on how others respond.
“No no no Jose”, says the shrink.  “Others respond differently because they walk in their own environmental and emotional bubbles. They are not in your bubble. They have reasons for reacting as they do. Legitimate reasons. Respect them and their bubbles. Popping them just gets messy.”
But here, there seems to be a need to pop bubbles, to dominate. To win the argument. To cut down the opponent. To triumph. To demand that he walk in the same bubble.
Which of course is fruitless and fills the nation with acrimony and envy and bullets.
That’s why President Aquino is an exception. He can walk away from a needless argument. He walks more like Jesus than the political priests of the CBCP for sure.
I’m guessing the Philippines is the orphan kid who was whacked upside the head too many times from his overbearing colonial parent. Filipinos took to heart the shouting and insults and demands and started figuring they don’t measure up.

So, like the 8th kid among 12, one tends to over-reach to try prove one is worth something.

I’m thinking that President Aquino is injecting a healthy dose of self-esteem among Filipinos and THAT more than jailing President Arroyo will be his lasting legacy.
I praised President Aquino in a Rappler discussion thread and another commenter called me a “yellow general”.
So there you go. Give the Filipino a choice of building his nation or tearing it down, way too many will choose tearing it down. Because then THEY can feel good that they won the argument by demolishing someone. 
Just like that colonial papa did to them and their self-esteem.
Living the cycle. Just like in a family.
Brutality begets brutality. Kindness begets kindness. Ignorance begets ignorance.
Except for those few who find a way out.
I rather think those who find a way out do naturally, without psychiatric intervention, that which is healthy.
They grant others the right to be themselves. They accept responsibility for their own choices. They recognize the value of knowledge and the fruitlessness of superstition. They see the importance of trust and the damage of betrayal. They know the community is important: the family, the neighborhood, the city, the province, the nation, the earth. The community is the platform for safety and health and convenience, if it is done right. From looking at the importance of community, they learn to give of themselves to others.
No where in that paragraph is there a need to prove oneself a winner, or to tear someone else down to avoid being a loser.
The look within can occur without thought, I  think.
Rather like prayer. I believe you can get right with God in a wordless burst of emotive energy.
Those who do think about it can certainly help this healthy progression.
That’s the press and the bloggers and the politicians and the leaders. You notice I distinguish between a politician and a leader. Their drivers differ.
All that these opinion makers need to do is come to the honest, unspoken, soul-felt realization that the Philippines is rich with resources and potential and is a place to cherish, not condemn. It will recast their whole approach to information and leadership.
Enough digging and throwing of dirt. Up with planting and building and respecting others. Enough of the winning and losing, as if life were games rather than serious business. Up with laughter and humility and honor and the values that lift, rather than crush.
Philippine resources are the people of good will and honorable intent, intelligent people with love and generosity in their hearts, land that grows green and abundant,  seas that reflect eternity and everlasting hope in the endless patterns and poundings.
I tell, you folks, if you would just look within, yourself, privately, and forget what everyone else is shouting, you’ll find a very simple truth.
It’s good to be Filipino.

23 Responses to “The Strength Within”
  1. Attila says:

    "Just like that colonial papa did to them and their self-esteem."They are still the victim of their former colonial masters of hundreds of yrs ago? You mean the one that ended with the Americans 100 yrs ago? This kind of thinking is so foreign to me! Honestly I think that it is just bullshit. I just shake my head every time I hear this kind of logic. My country was colonized by 3 superpowers (Turks, Habsbourg, Soviet Union) of their time. I never ever heard anyone anywhere blaming them for our way of thinking. Ridiculous! Hahahahaha!

  2. Attila says:

    Are you dealing with children or adults? You like babysitting them don't you?

  3. I believe in reflective teaching rather than screaming. It is also a Filipino trait to break every interpersonal argument down into black and white, win lose. I tread the shades of gray. My point in making that "colonial papa" statement is to encourage readers NOT to let colonialism affect how they think today.

  4. Anonymous says:

    Rizal: "Why liberty? Why independence?""Our ills we owe to ourselves alone, so let us blame no one. If Spain should see that we were less complaisant with tyranny and more disposed to struggle and suffer for our rights, Spain would be the first to grant us liberty, because when the fruit of the womb reaches maturity woe unto the mother who would stifle it! So, while the Filipino people has not sufficient energy to proclaim, with head erect and bosom bared, its rights to social life, and to guarantee it with its sacrifices, with its own blood; while we see our countrymen in private life ashamed within themselves, hear the voice of conscience roar in rebellion and protest, yet in public life keep silence or even echo the words of him who abuses them in order to mock the abused; while we see them wrap themselves up in their egotism and with a forced smile praise the most iniquitous actions, begging with their eyes a portion of the booty–why grant them liberty? With Spain or without Spain they would always be the same, and perhaps worse! Why independence, if the slaves of today will be the tyrants of tomorrow? And that they will be such is not to be doubted, for he who submits to tyranny loves it.” ~Dr. José Rizal, (El Filibusterismo, 1891)More than a century after Rizal's death, colonial control and oppression have passed away merely to be replaced a more lamentable and less forgivable form of tyranny — that commited by Filipinos against their own people. Many of those living in the country's huts, villages, and slums are still struggling to break the bonds of mass misery perpetuated by the indifference, selfishness and greed of the rich and powerful. Confucious said; "One who is by nature daring and is suffering from poverty will not long be lawful. Indeed any man, save those that truly good, if their sufferings are truly great, will be likely to rebel." The rich and powerful must realize that they will not immune to the tragic consequences that may result from the desperate and rageful acts that may be commited by those whose tolerance for suffering and injustice had been exceeded. President John F. Kennedy said in his inauguration speech, "If a free society cannot help the many who are poor, it cannot save the few who are rich."

  5. Yes, and Senator Enrile has the gross insensitivity to pass free millions out to the Senators for Christmas, and those senators lap it up like dogs gifted a surprise piece of pork. And the people sprinkle some more salt on their rice . . .

  6. JosephIvo says:

    I understand Atilla but I disagree strongly. Hungary was indeed occupied by the Turks (150 years), Hapsburg (200years, but as an independent kingdom, partly as equals), Soviet Union (40 years) The Turks had a very clearly defined and proud identity all the time, partly because of the geography (the Carpathian basin) but mainly because of their common “exotic” language. You can’t compare with the occupation of “kind brown savages” by “superior white” Spaniards and later Americans. The Philippines lack a clear identity too, geographically dispersed, many languages, considerable population of original peoples, Muslims, Chinese. People tend to copy the ruling class. There were very little cultural differences in the ruling classes of Hungary and Austria. Communism is a separate issue,the 40 years of communism still influencing current attitudes. In the Philippines this was very different. The culture of rulers today is very much defined by the colonisers.I agree not to use history as an excuse, but use it to understand what drives the present.

  7. Edgar Lores says:

    1. Reflection, introspection and meditation are all acts of mental cognition.1.1 Introspection and meditation are inward-looking while reflection is not necessarily so.1.2 Introspection is self-examination and meditation may be too, but meditation is broader. Introspection is random while meditation, in its proper sense, is a regular daily practice of concentration.2. I am introspective and reflective but not meditative. We know the President is reflective, but I do not know whether he is introspective or meditative.3. I would like to be meditative, but sitting down, doing nothing and counting the breath is too hard.4. Opinion may be the product of cognition (reflection, introspection or meditation) but too often it is the product of conditioning. We – Filipinos and non-Filipinos – are all opinionated. And I daresay most of our opinions are the products of conditioning – from parents, peers, the church, our patrons, news and social media.5. The shape of our opinions often takes the form of discrimination. Usually we discriminate against something. On the odd occasion we discriminate for something. But it is easier to bury Caesar than to praise him.6. We should occasionally pause and reflect that opinions are just the products of the mind. They may be lies. They may be illusions. They may not conform to reality.7. But because our minds are fettered by the chains of ignorance, of prejudice and of delusion, contra opinions become important to rattle the chains and, perchance, to break them. Our perception is our reality, and to change the reality we need to change the perception.8. Too often I hit the Submit button before I should. Instead of creating order I add to the chaos. May the laws of conservation be not too harsh and preserve us. And may we find the strength within.

  8. Ella Tovara says:

    Thank you very much for this article. You got it. You are the outsider looking in that is why you are so objective. Unfortunately in the Philippines, you seldom hear the argument – It is a matter of principle. Most of the right and wrong depends on the circumtances sorrounding everything. Everything is gray. No black or white.

  9. Ah, you forgot about the fourth dimension of mental cognition, called "skotch, straight". That is a worthy alternative to meditation, as sex is to reflection. Introspection is the only pure form of self discovery.Your point 6 is so very very true. Most of us go about believing we command 100% of all knowledge, and act accordingly, when our grasp is infintessimal. I'm learning in this blogging business to reflect that "I could be wrong about this". It is a new experience. Refreshing at times. Embarrassing at times.Keeping it centered . . .

  10. The outsider perspective is an advantage sometimes, and a disadvantage at others when I view things through blinders of American culture. I rely upon readers to put me back in line when I deserve such redirection.

  11. JosephIvo says:

    We and They. Everybody has a similar amount of feelings “this is us, there are they” (I believe in the laws of conservation).The we’s and they’s depend on the context. In the Philippines most of these feelings are in the “family” and then the “bubble” they live in, all-inclusive. The “we Filipinos” energy is only fed when Pacquiao wins or when they are abroad. But as more energy goes into “they”, Filipinos love to talk about neighbours, the other bubbles… .(Voting is feeling if the candidate could be considered as a “we” member.) In the US the “we Americans” is fed by many people in many circumstances. In top, the company you work at, political parties, the religion you belong to, your football, baseball, basketball team, all are important. In the Philippines very few work for a company with a fixed contract, no real political parties, all are catholic, only little “virtual” but very comprehensive bubbles to identify with.A strong civil society is a requisite for nation building. A common enemy might help (but OFW work everywhere, so the Philippines has to be careful, couldn’t even condemn Kaddafi last year). The world of a poor farmer or a squatter is small, few “they”s” they can use to identify their “we” (luckily there is TV those days). Because the small “we’s” there are small “they’s”. As one is not used to point at big “they’s”, his pointing at them might be perceived as whining.(Beware populists, they are experts in creating new, easy to identify “they’s”)

  12. Very sharp observations. It is always perplexing to me that Filipino pride runs so deeply (Pacquiao pride, and offenses taken for this or that) and yet the sense of nationhood is, as you point out, so overwhelmed by self and the local bubble (family, clan, church, city). Mayors are almost warlords. Not members of a vibrant nation. It's like the slogan "from many, one" does not really get glued together wholly.That's why President Aquino is important. He seems to represent a national conscience and I hope the binding continues to build and grow strong.

  13. Your point that right and wrong can depend on circumstances is so true. To expect, say President Aquino to operate 100% perfectly or 100% the way we want, or say he is doing a "bad job", is patently unrealistic.

  14. Edgar Lores says:

    1. Cognition, which is perception, reasoning and learning, is either derivative or intuitional. In either case, one has to proceed step by step from the particular to the universal or vice-versa.2. “Skotch, straight” is purely intuitional, a direct form of knowing, akin to the experience of epiphany or gestalt. It takes many forms, usually in convivial settings hopefully with settings of exotic tapas.3. It results in altered states of consciousness. It may be the shortest and most delightful route to universals, but in most cases the gold uncovered proves to be dross and the true gold is irretrievably lost once the “skotch” evaporates!

  15. Interesting, scotch has the same effect. ahahahaha (oops)

  16. andrew lim says:

    Joe,In case you havent re-read it, Prof Mendoza had a favorable response to our comments on his article in Rappler, "Dissecting the RH bill vote". Great minds think alike! har har har

  17. Ah, I'll go check it out, thanks. And, yes we do!

  18. Anonymous says:

    So does weed but without the hangover – MB

  19. Attila says:

    "You can’t compare with the occupation of “kind brown savages” by “superior white” Spaniards and later Americans"We had the same thing going on here also. We were not brown but we were infidels called the Káfir Dogs. We were called and treated as the "infidel dogs". Our people were taken as slaves and children were taken from homes to raise as Janichars. We were in their way of converting Europe in to Muslim. We were treated as second class citizens but we dont blame them now for anything a you do with your colonial masters. the difference is that you are looking for excuses and you are dishonest.

  20. J says:

    Hi, Joe. I'd like to share this video I found on YouTube:! 😉

  21. Very moving, J. Those were horrible times. Only 70 years ago. The Japanese were heartless animals, the Americans brutal thugs, the Filipinos caught in the middle. I wonder what would have happened had the US adopted the Navy plan and bypassed the Philippines to go directly to Japan. Would the slaughter of men in Manila not have occurred, or would it have been worse? I have a hard time absorbing all that, so I go write articles about Binay.Thanks for the link.

  22. J says:

    MacArthur would have none of that. It was important for him to fulfill his pledge to return.By the way, the Moro question may have a role in the Philippine rescue of those Jews during the Holocaust.

  23. A fascinating article. I think perhaps all Quezons are cerebral. Some ideas work, some maybe don't. I do find interesting the point in the video that the Philippines insisted that Jews not be a financial burden. This would of course tend to limit immigration to an upper class. So Quezon wanted "the right kind of Jew". Still, signing the UN document creating Israel was a very big deal, for sure.

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