Empathy in the Philippines

tacloban airport gma

When need exists and people steal the money that would care for the need, that is a lack of empathy. [Tacloban Airport after Yolanda; source GMA News]

Empathy (noun) the intellectual identification with or vicarious experiencing of the feelings, thoughts, or attitudes of another.

Empathy exists in the Philippines. When a grandmother decides to turn state’s evidence because she does not want a stigma of shame attached to her grandkids, you know she has a heart for those grandkids.

Empathy does not exist in the Philippines. When Senators and a rich society lady decide to steal hundreds of millions of taxpayer pesos that could go to building an economy that generates jobs for the poor, or provide direct relief for storm victims, you know that they are not at all able to connect with people who have important needs.

Either that, or they are simply nasty bastards.

I know there are some readers who will say, “Look, Joe, America has the same problems. What kind of empathy do all the guys who shoot up schools have?”

And I will say, yes, that is true. But if we look at the two nations as a whole, and look at at  compassion versus self-serving calculation, we will find differences.

My dear late college professor, Dr. Ed Borgers, a genius who looked a lot like a truck driver, explained during one lecture that all actions have three components:

  • Direction
  • Weight
  • Intensity

The direction is the same for both the US and Philippines. Both populations have members who lack empathy and millions who are good of heart and considerate.

The weight, however, differs. There are more cheaters in the Philippines. Cheating is the action that occupies that part of the whole that does not have empathy and it sometimes seems that nearly all Filipinos do it . . . boldly. Those who cheat seem even to take a form of pride in beating others. They either don’t see or feel the harm, or they excuse it, or they relish it.

The intensity also differs. Americans are passionate do-gooders. Many, many Filipinos seem to lack that passion. They are passionately laid back, turning a blind eye, a deaf ear, a short-circuited mind, toward unsafe roads and vehicles and poor sanitation and crooks and people being rude to other people. They’ll elect young Binays to positions of power, and Marcoses, and Estradas . . . KNOWING their parentage is plunder. If they CARE, it is hard to see it.

Well, to some extent, because this is a nation of favor and power, they are simply doing what they have been taught ever since they found out in elementary school that a teacher accepted 100 pesos for raising Jose’s grade to passing. They have also been taught that you don’t mess with authority in the Philippines. You don’t make waves. You don’t rock the boat. If you care, you might get in big trouble.

Cheating derives from people in need finding untoward ways to satisfy those needs.

  • Poor cheaters need to eat.
  • Rich cheaters need to show off to themselves and others.

When these needs get so intense, when every one is doing it, then people plaster over the troubles of others with rationalizations or simple blind disregard.

Empathy is suppressed, minimized . . . even erased.

That seems to be the rushing river that Human Rights officials and people of good heart swim against in the Philippines.

Too few people hereabouts seem able to extend themselves into the shoes of others, and to discipline and restrain their own acts.

Well, the solutions seem fairly obvious.

  • For the poor, give them opportunity to have a job and fulfill their own needs rather than steal from others.
  • For the rich, jail them. Jail a lot of them.

As is being done now. In slow motion.

And the middle class, that small but growing group of intelligent people of reasonable means? Let them speak out and provide a new set of values that the poor can aspire toward, and the rich can fear.

I’ll be writing about that in a blog on Friday.

You know, Filipinos can adapt well. Millions do when they go overseas and subscribe to the values of the culture that employs them.

But they have to have something to adapt TO. A way to get rid of the needs that box them into socially damaging kinds of acts.

For me, I think the Philippine government is working in the right direction by increasing the weight of investment to provide for the poor and by prosecuting the cheating rich.

I’d only suggest that more effort be placed on intensity, developing a passion for creating jobs and opportunity for those without “big name” family connections. Passing laws that mandate careers over favoritism in big business and government employee arenas. Establishing a deeper manufacturing base by being obsessive about it. For instance, by building small warships here rather than buying large warships from abroad. Or by recognizing that a cooperative form of agribusiness commerce is non-competitive and sluggish at creating opportunity.

By being much, much quicker to investigate, prosecute and jail the rich who have no empathy for their fellow Filipinos and steal from them. Make it very clear with swift acts of justice that it is NOT socially acceptable to dip into the taxpayer’s money. Stop letting them off the hook with weak prosecution, cushy jail cells and the slip-slide of time.

Hammer the neediness out of the Philippines, from the bottom of the class rung to the top, and empathy will come to rule interpersonal, business and governmental activities.

That is the imperative of government, of the middle-class, and of all peoples of confidence, character and compassion.

66 Responses to “Empathy in the Philippines”
  1. Mariano Renato Pacifico says:

    When a grandmother decides to turn state’s evidence because she was found out she got commission and delivery fee of stolen money and does not want a stigma of shame attached to her grandkids, you know she has a heart for those grandkids.

    As a grandmother she should know she should not receive a commission from stolen money and be an accessory to it, caught or not, and does not want a stigma of shame attached to her grand kids.

    As a grandmother she should run to the authorities about the luggageful of stolen money, wire herself up for evidence, have the authorities drop a GPS device, go to all the ruse tracked by agents with Nikon bazookas.

    She became courageous after the fact. She was courageous, too, of knowing it was stolen money. Now she was found out. She needs to do the most courageous act. Turn state witness. To save her children and grandkids from eternal branding and forever damnation.

    • Joe America says:

      I go back to culture again. The system is set up to protect the crooks. Namely, bank secrecy laws prohibit the investigation into bank accounts and transactions. Changing that law ought to be right on the front burner with FOI if the Philippines is serious about going honorable. That it is not tends to reflect that the crooks who need protection still need protection. When the old cadre is flushed out, the law will perhaps be changed by the young and honest. I hope so. It is not really Secretary De Lima’s fault that her hands are tied. I would only criticize her for not DEMANDING loudly and frequently a change in bank secrecy laws.

      • Geng says:

        Empathy is the true nature of humans who are aware that they exist not for themselves alone. Everybody understands that but those politicians are just content and happy that they keep getting richer because they always think that change must initially come from those who voted for them and who will always vote for them even if they keep on stealing more.
        The system to protect those thieves was set in place a long time ago. So now is the time for us to raise our voices to DEMAND loudly and frequently for that change in bank secrecy laws.

        • Joe America says:

          Yes indeed. I think they take their positions for granted and start to admire themselves too much. Voters just MUST make better decisions, looking at the nation as a collective of decent people who need to be properly cared for. And we must make sure that high integrity candidates get onto the voting lists.

  2. Mariano Renato Pacifico says:

    In the moment of judicial turmoil, deLima is a bad example of how justice is meted out so is the Supreme Court. deLima is “honest” considering but she is planting the seeds that Filipinos can be incarcerated by Q&A of witnesses that wanted to extricate themselves from the crime they were in on in the first place bearing Affidavits despite COA has had audit report of TRC couple of years back that warned Cunanan of NGO. That was not the issue. That is not the issue. It was never presented in the Senate because they prefer the easy way Q&A in public because the election is fast approaching. They needed media mileage and the Philippine media happily complied.

    Gone is “Where is the proof?” “Show me the numbers!”. All they have is round numbers. They even estimated Ruby got 5% round about 8-10 Mil when the total scammed money is 10.0 Bil. The numbers alone give rise to the brains these Senators and Philippine Media have.

    The Filipino people now has learned that crime pays. And the way out is turn state evidence. A sign of the case has no leg to stand on. But this is the Philippines. We do not have American-style justice.

    For the Philippines to give example to the people that Themis is blind is give the adjudication to Americans and do it here in the Philippines. If they allowed the Chinese to send in their army of CSIs in violation of Philippines sovereignty and telling Benigno that they have the rights of first refusal of the findings is totally blatant transparent meddling of Philippine investigation. If Benigno allowed that he can allow the Americans in, too.

    Lesson learned, how the Americans and Chinese do it and Filipinos should do it this way, too.

    • Joe America says:

      Yes, you are absolutely correct. The difficulty is that the Philippines in high circles operates on a peculiar wave-length of favors received and granted. The reason so many professionals (?) were engaged in the theft reflects the bankruptcy of social norms, not so much the wrong behavior of individuals. They were mainly just thrilled to be among the power peddlers, I would guess. Conscience was set aside. I don’t condone her behavior. I seek to explain how attorneys and top leaders could be so brazen. Acceptability becomes the reason. She at least came clean when the wind changed. She saw right.

    • Why are you always referring to the President as Benigno… you are always rude

      • That comment is for Mariano Renato Pacifico

      • Joe America says:

        I’ll respond so that you don’t get into a battle, which is easy to do with Mariano if you are not aware that he is a “stylist” who writes at a level of humor and word-work for effect, rather like an intellectual rabble-rouser of the blogging stage perhaps. My suggestion is not to take his words literally, but stylistically, read between the lines, over, around . . . sort out the meanings and issues from the words – or even ignore him if he gets your goat. This is one of the few blogging platforms that welcomes his expression because, past the rub, he is quite perceptive and meaningful. And occasionally poetic or even brilliant. Don’t try to restyle him. It won’t work. 🙂

  3. “Cheating derives from people in need finding untoward ways to satisfy those needs.

    Poor cheaters need to eat.”

    This is so true. I recently went to our province to a visit our elderly relatives. In one of our lively discussions on current events, I mentioned that for our country to do away with corrupt politicians (namely Binay, Enrile, Estrada and Revilla), people should never sell their votes. The shocking and sad response is – most do so because they need the money… the good candidates, in their opinion, will never remember them once elected. The few kilos of rice and canned goods / instant noodles are what they need NOW and not promises LATER. I reasoned then that, after your 500 pesos and the rice, etc are consumed, what now, those politicians’ giveaways came from the public funds, they will always cheat to recover the giveaways….. I try to help them, but alas, couldn’t do so regularly, I had to prioritize the elderly ones who can no longer work and provide for themselves.

    • Joe America says:

      When the choice is not eating versus voting the right way, and the right way seems not to change anything, then it is easy to vote the wrong way. Or if the candidates all seem alike . . .

      • Sometimes I think about how the US government addresses the poor and the jobless by way of welfare checks, how they support the single parents in educating their children by means of school discounts, then compare how the Philippines try to do the same by way of conditional cash transfers then get criticized saying that’s not the right way, it’s encouraging laziness and mendicancy, why not promote independence and self reliance… I almost weep in frustration… the government needs to bridge now the needs of people below the poverty line, and at the same time create a positive environment in order to create jobs for people to be self reliant and independent… but people tend to criticize and thwart every move being made…. how do go from here?

        • Joe America says:

          Yes. I think the conditional cash transfers are a good, quick patch-over program when it is exceedingly difficult to build any real OPPORTUNITY into what is offered. Like jobs. But I know the President is working on that and is not satisfied with progress to date.

  4. edgar lores says:

    Sorry, here is another lengthy soliloquy.

    1. Direction. Weight. Intensity.

    2. I would like to add two more components to action: Motivation and Effect.

    3. Motivation is the reason for action. I would say it is the primary component.
    3.1. Motivation determines direction, whether it is toward self or toward others.
    3.2. It may not affect weight and intensity. However, motivation has its own weight and intensity.

    4. I think motivation is dependent on how we see the world.
    4.1. There are two extremes. At one extreme is seeing the world as a dog-eat-dog world. The other extreme is seeing the world as an imperfect, but perfectible, paradise.

    5. In a dog-eat-dog world, which I regard as the predominant perspective in the Philippines, it is difficult to uncover selfish motivation because it is hidden behind altruistic subterfuge.
    5.1. Parents ostensibly have children for the joy they afford, but actually see their children as possessions and assets, as extra hands for work and insurance for their old age.
    5.2. Politicians ostensibly run to “serve” but, when elected, serve mostly themselves and partly their constituents. Just enough to keep them quiet.
    5.3. Priests ostensibly see themselves as rescuers and helpers of the poor, but use their charitable good works to justify their attempt to control people’s minds and actions.
    5.4. God ostensibly loves his children, but demands that His children worship and adore Him.
    5.5. In all of these roles, Others are seen as subordinates to be taken advantage of and to aggrandize self.

    6. In the opposing view, that of an imperfect-but-perfectible paradise, the motivation is a balance between self and others, but more toward others.
    6.1. Children are seen as blessings that parents temporarily enjoy but must eventually relinquish. They are not possessions but independent spirits who must live their own lives.
    6.2. Constituents are seen as fellow countrymen, and that the purpose of public service is the public’s material comfort and welfare.
    6.3. Believers are seen as sharers of the same faith, and that the purpose of religion is the believer’s spiritual comfort and well-being.
    6.4. God is seen as the whole of a mysterious and wondrous universe, and that the children and all there is, not the Creator, are the reasons for its being.
    6.5. In this view, we see Others as fellow travelers on a common journey to make this world a better place. We treat the world with a view to sustainability and we treat others as we must treat ourselves, with respect and kindness.

    7. As to Effect, an action must be seen to have consequences and that the originator of an action is responsible for those consequences.
    7.1. We know that the best of intentions do not result in the best of consequences.
    7.2. If we must judge at all, we must judge primarily by motivation.
    7.3. The purity of motivation can be measured by the balance of its direction, whether it is primarily for the benefit of self or of others.
    7.4. The degree of purity will remove, to that extent, the taint from any unhappy result.

    8. There is one last aspect, or component, of action that intrigues me: the nature of action as a function of the bio-organism.
    8.1. We do not cast moral judgment on a lion when he stalks, captures and eats a prey. We say that is the nature of the lion.
    8.2. Why then do we cast moral judgment on fellow humans who act in accordance with their uncommon sexual nature and who do cause any harm to themselves and to their partners?
    8.3. The difference, the moralists claim, is that human actions are volitional. They further argue that its nurture, not nature. The issue is far from settled, but we know that nature offers many variations in sexuality, human or otherwise. And does not open-mindedness demand that we must not judge when there is reasonable doubt?
    8.4. Again, if our paradigms of understanding do not fit reality, then we should refine our paradigms and not reality.

    • edgar lores says:

      Correction 8.2. “…who cause no harm to themselves and to their partners?”

    • Joe America says:

      The juxtaposition of the 5’s versus the 6’s is downright beautiful. Me versus us. The nurturing of kids for THEIR own self-defined promise, versus defining them for a lifetime (by yanking them from school and putting them in the cane fields). Rather gets to me.

      The crooks at the top must look at themselves as lions, and morality does not come into the picture. I prefer to think there is a greater quality to life if we develop and abide by certain disciplines of good community behavior.

    • Joseph-Ivo says:

      I didn’t like the lion analogy. People are typical “social” animals. Working together, we can outsmart all animals and outperform them. We found out that specialization was the way to improve productivity, it required cooperation, You cut stones, I chase the mammoth. People better adapted to work together had an advantage in getting there genes passed to the next generation. It got wired quite strongly into our brains.( Some primitive tribes in the Amazone basis, where there was food abundance, thrived on violence as headhunting.) Most of us belong to the more social tribes, our specialization and cooperation got very developed. But even in these very developed tribes old genes keep popping up, headhunting persists.

      A similar story could be told for the nutrients on brain development and its effects on behavior, eating raw red meat versus cooked vegetables. And most importantly the bulk of “software” that runs on our brains is “educated”. The software also influences the growth in certain areas of our brain just as physical exercise shapes parts of our body. For most of us working together, empathy, pleasing each other is behavior that activates our pleasure centers. “Sadism” as positive stimulus is the exception.

      (This needs a few hundreds of pages to add the necessary details. See “The Anatomy of Violence” by Adrian Raine)

      • edgar lores says:

        The analogy is centered around natural behavior versus “unnatural” behavior and, as all analogies go, is imperfect.

        The difference between man and animals is that animal behavior is mostly pre-programmed or pre-wired. It consists of instincts and it is rare that behavior is modified or improved by “thought”. There is no denying that some animals, individually and collectively, do exhibit creative and manipulative intelligence of a high order.

        I think that we agree that man, on the other hand, is mostly unprogrammed. He is mostly hardware, and the “operating software system” he is born with largely controls autonomous systems of the bio-organism. But a man’s actions, how he interacts and behaves, are less determined by instinct than by experience. It is true that a great part of the experience is indirect, transmitted vicariously by parents, peers, and culture. But I think the true learning experiences are direct, occurring externally as well as internally, and man, behaviorally speaking, can “program” himself.

        [The persistence of headhunting may not be genetic (hardware) but caused by racial memory (part of the unconscious operating system).]

        In raising the analogy, my question to put it in a nutshell is: Is homosexuality natural or unnatural? Is it genetic (hardware) or non-genetic (software)? And if software, is it part of the operating system, third-party software or self-programmed software? All puns are unintentional. 😉

        • Joseph-Ivo says:

          If you are 1.60m, obese, lazy and shy you still can play basketball. Is it good for you? Certainly. Will you improve? Most likely. Will you persevere? Unlikely. Will you ever play in the NBA? Certainly not if compared with an athletic guy of 2.05m, energetic and assertive. The same applies for a murderer, there are genetic attributes, environmental ones and psychological traits that make it easy or difficult to kill. Same for homosexuals, an almost must, a like or an aversion, it depends on a mix of factors, Social behavior too is partly predestined, partly environmental and partly educational. With a perfect combination you can compete with Mother Theresa, with a bad combination you end up as Napoles.

          Free will, yes but the effort required to behave decently is not equal for everybody. Look at the traffic, very few dare to start a counter flow, many will follow, most stay in the proper lanes. Our understanding of the brain is growing fast, prediction of behavior around the corner. No more body scanners in the airports to detect explosions but brain scanners to detect terrorist thoughts.

  5. Joseph-Ivo says:

    Brains are wired differently and brains store different information. There is variation in genes, variation in nutrition, variation in education, variation in experiences. What nature tries to optimize is (happy) survival. So most brains are wired with good social, ethical skills. But there are outliers, people trying to take unfair advantage of others, in every society.

    If not restrained, those “cheaters” will always win. Cheating or asocial behavior can take different forms. Rent seeking and tax evasion are the most popular one, but the use of brute force, stealing, plain smuggling and all other types of corruption are common too.

    To keep less “ethical” people in check we need good regulations and a strong state able to implement them. My belief is that the main difference between the US and the Philippines is the strength of the state. Secondary is the way the brains are wired.

    To strengthen the state you need a few “enlighten” politicians and a “powerful” middle class to recognize and elect/support them. It is all about good politics and only about good politics. Good meaning politics that keep rent seeking in check and politics that enable the state to use it “force” to stop “criminal” behavior.

    It is a more difficult to rewire the brains and it will require an in-depth approach. I do not believe in eugenics, so what is left is nutrition and education. Too much stunting in the Philippines, insufficient food for pregnant women, babies and toddlers (RH bill is extremely important). Promote more food variety, less dependence on refined white rice. Education is the obvious way. To change parents is not so easy, but role models and “telenovelas” can have a big influence. Good teachers are essential, good teachers require good schools and a good salaries. A decent education budget is crucial (politics again), the challenge for the Philippines to close the gap with its competitors is daunting.

    Change will only come from changed politics. A strong state is needed to “free” the emphatic powers of Filipinos by keeping the asocial ones in check.

    PS: I’m afraid that the unbridled rent seeking in the US and the growing inequality is reducing the American empathy fast.

    • Joe America says:

      I’d go for a well-funded marketing program myself. Put Jimenez in charge. The goal is to rewire, not brains, but the substance that comes out of them, to heighten awareness of how we thrive or suffer depending on how well we each take care of the whole of us. For a nation with as much national pride as the Philippines, there seems to be incredibly little comprehension that the state is us, not “me” and not “them”, and that diversity is cause for celebration, not condemnation. Maybe a follow-up blog can deal with how the message might read. Basically, if we don’t do a better job of taking care of others, we punish ourselves. And our kids. The punishment is clear if we cast the needs of those hurt by Yolanda against the callous greed of those who ripped off millions. Yolanda victims are angry at Aquino? Man, direct it at the three Senators and those two women resting in cushy “jails”.

  6. “Yolanda victims are angry at Aquino? Man, direct it at the three Senators and those two women resting in cushy “jails”.”

    … a very apt observation. No wonder, our President reacted the way he did… I think he should not be that accommodating to ambushed interviews to avoid expressing knee jerk reactions, a diplomatic one can be related later….I empathize with the way he feels, frustrated as I am with unthinking fellowmen

    • Joe America says:

      I agree. What horrid disrespect of the President to presume he will meet with anyone on demand.

      • Geng says:

        Don’t you think there are organizers to those who demanded an audience from the President? We see how people opposed to him will do everything to discredit his every move to bring us a functioning good government? Why were they able to travel from Tacloban to Manila if nobody financed their travel?

        • Joe America says:

          You know, that is a very good point. Somebody organized that trek. Who’s the money man? And why we are on that point, did we ever learn who was the money man behind the Sultan’s escapade a while back? Hmmm, our investigative journalists are napping? Or maybe I’m not reading so thoroughly.

  7. cha says:

    While I may have some sympathy for the children and grandchildren of the likes of Revilla and Estrada, who are supposedly in emotional turmoil and suffering from the taunts and ridicule directed at their families (a claim made by the senators themselves), I choose not to empathize with them at all. I refuse to accept the burden of responsibility for their emotional distress. That burden belongs solely to the senators themselves.

    I am all for a more empathetic Filipino society but may I also wish getting a conscience along with that?

    The great misfortune of the Filipino people is that in embracing Catholicism, it has been sold the mistaken notion that religiosity can substitute for actually leading a moral and upright life.

    The lady who steals bathtubs full of money from government funds and then spends part of it on her devotionals to the Black Nazarene is able to convince herself (and the priests she houses and feeds) that she is indeed a dutiful daughter of God.

    Lawmakers who have allegedly ordered the torture and killing of many innocent civilians during Martial Law are hailed as pro-life and paraded by the church hierarchy as ardent supporters of its stance against contraception and the RH law.

    A retail tycoon often accused of unfair labor practices is honored by an archbishop and gifted with the latter’s pectoral cross (the one that they would wear around their necks) for his service to the church.

    Is it any wonder that so many of those accused of wrongdoing in the Philippines are also walking around with bibles and other religious icons in their hands? That they also happen to be the most generous supporters and donors of the Catholic church will probably be considered scandalous in other cultures. In the Philippines,however, it simply is what it is.

    The Church needs to do some serious examination of conscience. Or at the very least, follow JoeAm’s suggestion and try and see things from the perspective of their critics and disillusioned followers.

    • Joe America says:

      One wonders if God likes being made to play the Fool cor crooks. I agree, the Church seems often to lack a conscience, and it spills over to the congregation. I recall Binay, Estrada and Enrile praying with Governor Garcia during the elections, after she had been tossed from office. Talk about an abuse of God’s good name . . .

      • cha says:

        There’s a line from the movie Blood Diamond that has stayed with me for a long time now :

        ” Sometimes I wonder… will God ever forgive us for what we’ve done to each other? Then I look around and I realize… God left this place a long time ago.”

        • Joe America says:

          🙂 🙂 🙂 I need to do stars but can’t type them. Or maybe they should be sad faces.

        • Paul Lazo says:

          Cha, God never abandons man, man abandons God. Please do not confuse the Church for being God. Historically, the Christian Church has probably killed the most people in the name of God. While there never has been a comparative study as to how many deaths have been caused by the major religions, it would not surprise me one bit if Christianity came out as the clear winner. I’m a Catholic and I cannot say I am proud of how our Church sometimes reacts; but I understand that religion is about forgiveness not justice.

          “Sometimes I wonder…will man ever forgive his fellow man for what we’ve done to each other? Then I look around and I realize…man left God a long time ago” The parable of the prodigal son sums it up nicely. Which also believe sums up the story of mankind in general.

          • cha says:

            Thank you, Paul. I, too was born and raised a Catholic. (Still am.) And I understand and agree with the point that God does not abandon man; that it is the other way around. But I certainly do not “confuse the Church for being God”. That was in fact the point I was trying to make in my comment, that many filipino Catholics have the mistaken notion that being part of the church, actively involving themselves in its service, along with observing the traditions, taking part in all the rituals and ceremonies, and deferring to the authority of the Church hierarchy are what constitute a life that is pleasing to God. Far from it, I say.

            The source of the quoted line (… God left this place a long time ago.) is a movie about the horrors of the civil war and the complicity of those engaged in the diamond trade in Sierra Leone, West Africa. The thing about lines, in the movies or in literarure, is that they’re there as part of a context, often a tool in understanding the character of both protagonists and antagonists in the story or as a way of foreshadowing or explaining events that are about to unfold or have already occurred in the story. The really good writers often phrase the lines for literary effect, not to be taken in a literal sense.

            It’s the same thing with JoeAm’s writing in this blog, and the comments we bring to the discussion. They are all part of a context and come with whatever intentions the writer has for articulating them in the way he does. I do think we all who come here, generally recognise the good intentions of each other in putting forward our ideas and opinions in this blog. That we are able to gain further clarity, hone our ideas, even get new ones through the exchanges we become participants or spectators to, is an absolute bonus. “If you have an apple and I have an apple and we exchange these apples then you and I will still each have one apple. But if you have an idea and I have an idea and we exchange these ideas, then each of us will have two ideas.”- George Bernard Shaw

            • Paul Lazo says:

              Thank you Cha! And forgive me if you feel that I have crossed a line about the differences between Church and God. Yes, I did watch the movie, and yes I do also understand that it was for “effect” What I am seeing though is that few understood it as literary effect, but more so as “literal” effect. I see so many posts in FB, saying “God Love’s me,” “God is Good” “Dear Lord grant me Grace and Wisdom.” In reality these should read “Do I love God?,” “Are you Good?” “Dear Lord, grant me the strength to see and share the grace and wisdom you have given me.”

              Your discourse about how we embrace Catholicism is right on the money, I posted something in (https://joeam.com/2014/02/15/haiyan-by-philippe-lopez/) which aligns perfectly with what you are saying (in short I said that while we are Religious we are not spiritual). What I would like you to look at is the concept of forgiveness. Despite such evil deeds, can we forgive our current leadership (forgiveness I understand as letting go of anger not necessarily forgetting – this was excellently displayed by Pope John Paul II when he forgave the person who attempted to assassinate him, but the person had to complete his sentence ) something that Catholicism demands. Forgiveness was also what Ghandi preached and more recently what Mandela preached, I also believe that if he were given a chance Ninoy would have preached the same thing.

              As for Mr Shaw, you are right and take it on step further and we actually have 4 apples: the one you have and see, the way I see the one you have and see, the one I have and see and the way you see the one I have and see. So this blog can go in many directions and I thank you for letting me know that you feel I have seem an apple too many 🙂

              • cha says:

                Lol. You know what they say, an apple a day keeps the toxins away. 🙂

                Now about forgiveness, there’s a tricky one. Maybe you can write an article to start a discussion on this especially as it relates to the wrongdoings of the likes of the Marcoses, the Enriles, Ruby Tuazon et. al. What will it mean to forgive them? How should we forgive them? Can there be forgiveness without repentance?

                I saw a lot of commentary in social media during and in the lead up to the EDSA commemoration and I get the sense that many people out there have the wrong idea about forgiveness. I’d be really interested to read your thoughts on this.

                Have a good day, Paul.

              • Joe America says:

                Ah, yes, Paul, do write us an article. Your ideas enrich the discussion a lot.

              • sonny says:

                Thank you all. I like that we many times preach to the choir, if only to remind ourselves the where or what or how or why of our solidarity. These relate I feel to what is, was being said and should be shared. Thus:

                ecclesiology: the Church is a field hospital that is filled with the wounded who must be healed… —paraphrasing Pope Francis.

                theology: a Triune God so n love with his creation who must constantly be “parsed” by his people

                morality: understood as objectively always righteous but ever constantly pastoral

  8. Dee says:

    Lack of empathy could be a sign of mental illness. Antisocial and narcissistic personality disorder are two mental health problems where the afflicted could display self-serving behaviors without guilt or remorse.

    I do not know if it still prevalent but there used to be a stigma attached to mental illness in the Philippines. Families would rather ignore or hide a member with mental health issues than seek professional help. I do not think this has changed judging from how Enrile tried to ridicule Santiago by exposing that she had mental health problems in the past.

    What is the present state of mental health awareness in the Philippines?

    • Joe America says:

      I think it is pretty much the same. The upside is that we have Dr. Holmes on Rappler dispensing with a popularized form of public counseling that too often deals with sex and not often enough with issues of mental illness. But there is no psychiatric therapy industry here, and going to a shrink would be considered subject for ridicule rather than respected. It would be a reason for shame rather than happiness about learning about “how I work, emotionally”.

      • Dee says:

        There is no shame in going to the doctor if you are biologically sick so there should be no stigma attached to going to a psychiatrist if you are psychologically or emotionally sick. It also took a while for the US to accept that mental health issues are no different than medical issues.

        In the old Philippines I know, there is that belief that most illnesses are punishments from God. Therefore, to admit that you are sick is tantamount to admitting that you are a sinner. A lot of metaphysical mumbo-jumbo.

        The upside to that is, none of the plundering senators and society ladies could use the insanity plead.

        • Dee says:

          *insanity plea or plead insanity.

        • Joe America says:

          Ah, the mumbo jumbo that we allow to rule over good sense . . . I think healthy people would benefit from sessions with shrinks, myself. To learn more about why they are healthy and to share the good news. It is all education to me. We study the outer world like crazy. We should spend some time understanding the inner world. Understanding “us”.

  9. Pat Shoulders says:

    Hoping this will not be posted in the comment section. I just want to let you know that I thoroughly enjoy your blog. It is insightful, funny, a little risque (comments from Mariano) and “intellectually” written. Mariano has made me laugh so many times. I would never dare comment publicly although I agree, sometimes disagree with your opinion. You all are too intelligent for me and so are your commenters. I’d be so intimidated. Anyway, just to let you know I enjoy your blog. You should write a book.

    Pat Shoulders

    • Joe America says:

      Good of you to visit, Pat, and I’m glad you enjoy the blog and appreciate Mariano’s peculiar talent. You definitely have the tools to participate here, and you already have your foot in the water, so please do “pop off” on subjects that strike your fancy. In other words, dive right in. I think you’ll get a lot out of it.

  10. Joseph-Ivo says:

    Is it empathy or empathy for whom? Didn’t Napoles have a lot of empathy for her mother’s urge to do well, for her daughter’s urge to party well? The poor parents cheating, don’t they have empathy with their suffering kids? Personally I refuse the slightest feeling of empathy with the stealing senators, with the tainted Marcos family, with the cheating traffic enforcer.

    Is “empathy” actionable? Can you teach empathy? Can a national empathy drive lead to better politics? Is empathy a root cause that needs addressing, or are their deeper drivers at the source of political evil that needs to be exposed?

    E.g.: What caused the EDSA revolution to fail? The masses revolting but not achieving the slightest improvement in their fate, still dirty poor as before, more than 10 million driven out of the country. Wasn’t EDSA just a coup by a coup expert and pragmatic Marcos loyalist using the masses? What makes Filipinos always choose for the wrong leaders? Lack of empathy?

    (Don’t see sunshine today…)

    • Joe America says:

      Yes, well, having empathy and agreeing with the actions that flowed from it are two different things. I can empathize with anyone’s desire to be rich and have homes around the world and a private jet, but I believe those things should be earned by creating wealth for others, not stealing from them.

      That is a very pertinent question about Edsa. What changed, really?

      Read Chit Navarro’s explanation of the enduring shackles that bind Filipinos on Raissa’s blog. Very clear. Here’s the link to his comment:


    • @Joseph-Ivo, On a personal level, I disagree. I belong to the poorest of the poor 28 years ago (EDSA days).. Life is what we make it (I forgot whose quote is that, Wordsworth?) Thru sheer determination and extreme focus, and with the help of God, I’d like to believe that I now belong to the middle class trying to help out ( financially and on advisory level), my relatives and kasambahays to uplift their respective lives. I have lots of cousins, classmates with the same story, and believe you me, we have literally crawled out from rags to middle class…without using political padrinos or help from the government. We’re with those who believe in (Kennedy’s?) ask not what your country can do for you, but ask what you can do for your country. Until lately, I belong to the silent majority (although I did join the tagumpay ng bayan rally in Luneta, months before the EDSA people power) who faithfully pay the right taxes.

      • andrew lim says:

        Mabuhay ka, Mary Grace. Sana dumami pa ang kagaya mo.

      • Joseph-Ivo says:

        Yes, very admirable and I agree that criticism is easy from the comfort of my room. But you tend to see what you know, one recognizes his proper name in cacophony of sounds. Look at the statistics instead, they tell a different story.

        Most of the upward movement is fueled by OFW’s and I have seen their extreme self-sacrifice, admirable but hardly to call it the success of a revolution.

        • Yes, their sacrifice is heart rending, I’m so blessed that I need not be one of the diaspora in order to crawl out from rags (poorest of the poor) to middle class (the ultimate dream to be rich is depending on God’s will)…. Most of them never got to see their young children grow into responsible adults, or see their loved ones during their sick days , on to their burials.. some are even victims of broken homes, betrayed by spouses, victims by their employers, the list of the sacrifices go on and on….Success of a revolution is hard to come by, it takes a lot of work and commitment by the citizenry to vote right and most of all by the elected ones to think of the country before enriching themselves. It’s a collective failure / success, I think…

  11. edgar lores says:

    1. An aspect of empathy that has not been touched is the existence of empaths.
    1.1. Courtesy of Google: noun 1. (chiefly in science fiction) a person with the paranormal ability to perceive the mental or emotional state of another individual.

    2. Empaths have the ability to empathize to the nth degree, beyond the use of the 5 or 6 senses. If that it is so, the ability is a blessing and a curse. Blessing if one is in the room with the Dalai Lama, Seinfield and multiple-orgasmic women; curse if Napoles, Sotto and Miriam are present.
    2.1. Empaths can “read” people like an open book. They can tell whether you are pure of spirit like moi or a bullshitter like Tanda. An empath would not have to read his memoirs.

    3. Empaths can not only empathize with people, they can also empathize with animals.
    3.1. I wouldn’t mind being a horse whisperer. They are magnificent animals, although some are nags.
    3.2. I cannot imagine being a snail whisperer or a vampire whisperer. The first would get stuck without slime, and the second slime would simply suck.

    4. Couples with long successful marriages are mutual empaths. One spouse, the wife, does not have to say a word and the other spouse, the husband, immediately understands – and falls on his knees begging for mercy. Silently begging. Hehe.
    4.1. Frankly, I would be terrified of such a possibility.

  12. Paul Lazo says:

    Little confused with this one. While I do agree that the direction, weight and intensity thought, I do not think it should be used comparatively. In the the US, dishonesty – cheating is common place as well. All you have to do is look at the 2007-2008 financial disaster and figure out how many responsible souls are in prison or even have been indicted for a crisis that cost almost a trillion dollars and I say dollars not paysos (as they would say in a Steven Segal movie). While I cannot agree more to the fact that the Philippines is far from being a model of honesty – if I were compare it to the US, the Philippines would seem to to be on the way up, while the US is on the way the down. You may recall a cartoon about how a bill is sponsored in congress (US). It says that a citizen can write and request it to be sponsored. Today, how many bills follow this path or are bills drafted by lobbying groups? You may recall that there were US observers here in the Philippines to observe the election of GMA. They promptly reported that there was clear evidence that she cheated. Lo and behold, Bush was suspected of cheating the following election the US had. I hope they are not copying us :), As for empathy, help me understand how a the US a country that technically is overfed and wastes too much food, creates shows that glorify over eating while 1/3 of the world,s population starves?

    • Joe America says:

      Excellent rebuttal, Paul. It is the weight area we refer to that is different, what share of the population is inclined to cheat a fellow citizen. Will taxi drivers take a long route in the US to run up the fair? Yes. But it is my impression that the percentage of people who will take that route is much higher in the Philippines. Contractors who steal, LTO officials who do favors for money, and things that you very rarely find in the US. But I admit, it is just based on personal observation, not a survey. And for sure you are unlikely to find 3 US senators who have so blatantly ripped off the government tax money in such brazen, huge fashion.

      The second argument, that the US “cheats” by polluting and wasting food and consuming global resources is a very good one. That I agree with, and to the extent that the voting public does not demand more accountability is a sign of poor values by individual citizens. The cycle is that people want more, the state delivers, but plunders the globe to succeed. But these kinds of plunderers are just doing better what every upstanding Filipino also wants, a good job, and nice things. It seems to me that a well-off Filipino is very often an over-weight Filipino, too. So no difference in motivation, and it is not blatantly illegal. It is also the technology that goes along with the greed that is likely to be the solution to the problems created by an entire world eating itself. And heating itself overmuch.

      Do you really see the US and the Philippines as the same in the arena of “cheating” for self interest? You’ve been to the US?

      • Joe America says:

        I would add that GW Bush in no way cheated like Arroyo did. There is a difference between campaigning and using lawyers in open court versus conniving to stuff ballot boxes in dark back rooms. That’s a good example of the difference in “intensity”.

      • Paul Lazo says:

        No, I have never been to the US, unless you count 1 month in the 1980/1981 as a validating 🙂 and no I don’t think the US will ever reach the current level of the Filipinos Admittedly the impressions I get are based on how I saw the US in the 70’s (classroom lectures – yes 4 years of American history, 2 years American Lit and 2 years or was it three of American Civics, 99% American Teachers – the 1% was an Italian Gentleman who taught …well, Italian and 85% American classmates who, for lack of better term are rednecks – please don’t misconstrue this as an insult, my high schools buddies are fabulous and loving people – they are the children of the folks who developed the oil fields in Saudi Arabia and Nigeria) and how I see the US today as I see the anger of my American Classmates in Facebook about their government.

        Either way, maybe a better response would be to ask you if you feel that since the seventies, in the US Gov’t, has the level of greed, corruption and cheating increased or decreased since the 70’s? The same question can be asked of my impressions about greed and corruption in the 70’s here in the Philippine. While I cannot deny that it appears to have increased, it appears to have increased at a lower rate versus how much it has increased in the US.

        Which brings me back to my original thought about weight, direction and intensity. While it is a valid point, is it a good model to use as a comparison? It’s like the bell curve when you have employee evaluations. The bell curve measures your performance against other employees not your performance against set standards.

        As for GW Bush, I believe that there are strong sentiments that he and his good ‘ol boys got rich during his presidency including involvement in the ENRON collapse 🙂

        • Joe America says:

          I agree GW Bush was a bit of a liar, and a bit of an incompetent, but not a greedy thief. 🙂 I don’t know if the US tendency has been toward more greed and corruption or not. In the “old days” when industrial America was being established, the industrial bosses played every game they could to make money. The thing about the US is that the drive to make money pushes companies (and the people who run them – men, mostly) to the very edge of legality to squeeze out an advantage and a dime. The laws chase right behind pulling them into line.

          That does not seem to occur in the Philippines, where laws are used more to push authority down than to keep those with authority between the lines of good behavior. That’s why the bank secrecy laws remain, even though their main value is protecting crooks. NOT respect for individual privacy.

          I believe strongly that performance should be measured against set targets that are a stretch, but reasonable, and if the current crop of employees can’t be trained up to succeed, fire them and get employees who can do the job. Success should not be relative to the capabilities of the existing staff, but absolute to the need to repay investors well.

        • Jake says:

          I’d have to agree with Paul here as someone living in the US for five years now. The US is not necessarily “more empathetic” and “less of a cheater” than the Philippines. Both countries have different “cheating systems and styles”. Yes, there is so much waste of food in the US despite the obesity, growing poverty. Could have been better if they were served to the homeless, food banks or be allowed to be taken home by employees.

          If I may add, I do get stories from a friend of mine who works in a hospital. She’ve seen a lot of small “cheating”. What was food meant for EVERYONE was taken home by a few people, sneakily.

          • sonny says:

            I think the US vs PH empathy comparison is an illustrative and insightful one. The cheating paradigm is both similar and different: the demography, the process, the amounts involved.
            *the demography: 310 million vs 110 million, imagine the dfferences in permutations and combinations of cheating
            *the process: the probabilities where cheating can and will occur is more about petty vs grand malfeasance; institutions vs random combos in either country
            *the amounts: we can try the math on trillions of pesos & dollars.

  13. Jake says:

    I think it still boils down to system efficiency. TBH, I don’t feel less cheated in the US.

    I still feel very cheated, as a taxpayer, that those who are willing to work less are given incentives by the government. While I think there is nothing wrong with social welfare, How many Americans obtain it, to me, is cheating the other taxpayers working their arses off. And if you look at those people paying through food stamps/EBT, they are sporting an expensive phone with likely an expensive phone plan. Cart full of UNHEALTHY processed food. So, not only do I as a taxpayer pay for their unhealthy food, I pay for their medicare as well. To me that CHEATING a well-intended system.

    I think cheating is more sophisticated in America than in the Philippines. Hence, more subtle.

    I think the Philippines needs to actively pursue efficiency to really manage things, decrease cheating. People cheat because they know they can get away with it.

    • Joe America says:

      Efficiency at justice, for sure would help. It is true there is a lot of soft cheating in the U.S., but if you look at following the rules of the road, clearly Americans stick within the lines better. There is a much greater respect for laws in the U.S. But, yes, there are a lot of cheats.

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