Filipino apathy in the face of slaughter
By Joe America
Some of my least popular blogs often provoke the most enlightening debates. This happened recently in response to some rock throwing, I, foreigner, did at Philippine leaders. I suspect it was an unpopular blog because people don’t care to have foreigners throwing rocks at domestic notables. But that is beside the point . . .
Participating in the conversation were five long-term members of the Society of Honor, our peculiar blogging anti-echo chamber of insights and intellectual challenge: (1) Karl Garcia, the Society’s resident Military Liaison Officer, Chief Tanod, and Librarian, son of a Philippine general, occasionally emulating Yogi Berra in speech and wit, observed that “the (dead) lion did not get the memo” (the memo that said PH leaders are something less than dogs and apes for leading a nation into weakness). Well, (2) Irineo B. R. Salazar, our resident Rebel in Exile and Historian(1), imprisoned during martial law, freed by journalist Raissa Robles’ lawyer father, escaped to Germany to become a tech wizard, chimed in with a humorous observation that provoked (3) American Filipina Juana Pilipinas, the Society’s resident organic gardener and dual patriot extraordinaire, to ask a very intriguing question. Here’s the repartee:
“Kaya pala itiniwag iyan na gorilla warfare.
Magsaysay and comrades, not Maharlika.”
“No offense, karl and Ireneo, just want to ask why we (most Filipinos) go into the smart a$$ mode when confronted with an analogy that we need to discern?”
You can link over to the entire conversation, but it was soon enjoined by (4) our erudite Texan-Filipino Sonny, the Society’s resident Word Smith and Historian(2) who goes all the way back to WW II with his enlightenments. Sonny observed, and Juana returned with a real-life example:
“Because the punnery edge must be maintained, JP? And resistance is futile for the male … maybe?🙂 Or the male mode of multitasking, I don’t know really.”
It is not just a gender thing, sonny. I did not realize that I have a morbid sense of humor until an incident. We docked at a pier and hit a piling and my 3 year old son fell overboard. I was terrified though he had a life vest on. Hubby immediately jumped to retrieve him and when I got him in my arms, I laughed and asked him if he saw little “fishies.” A lady on a boat near us gave me a stern look and said, “That is not funny. He could have drowned.” She was right. I should had been crying instead of laughing. I should had not been making light of the incident. That day, I realized that I have a learned default behavior (defense mechanism) when I am under stress or scared and it is not accepted socially where I was.
Juana had done it. She had recognized that Filipino ways of reacting under pressure are very different than Americans. And a vibrant blog discussion ensued because she was kind enough to share her discovery.
The issue as I would phrase it: There is a tendency for Filipinos to joke in response to pain, or assume a stoic front when faced with crisis, or fall into a gross apathy when thousands of Filipinos are being killed at their government’s encouragement. Others will protest, complain, or DO something. In the Philippines . . . people fall into a kind of obedient quiet, not rocking the boat.
From the Senate to the citizens, the noise from people not rocking the boat is deafening . . . and to we outsiders, a little weird.
The Society’s (5) resident Guru, retired Australian-Filipino engineer, Edgar Lores, who thrives by taking on the toughest issues and enumerating thorough and elegant parsings of problem and solution, joined the conversation. He offered a wonderful insight in response to Irineo’s observation:
“JP, I see two typical Filipino reactions that prevent more action and vocalizing…
1) huwag kang masyadong maarte diyan
2) huwag kang magpaimportante
in fact I see them at work in the political discussion on EJKs – those who protest are seen as not really caring, but just exaggerating their reactions and trying to look important.
Why there are these cultural stereotypes and attitudes, I have no idea, but there seems to be a premium placed by the culture on being outwardly unmoved.”
1. Bystander effect defined as “a social psychological phenomenon that refers to cases in which individuals do not offer any means of help to a victim when other people are present. The probability of help is inversely related to the number of bystanders.”
2. The fatalism of the Filipino.
I don’t think it’s the bystander effect. I am inclined to fatalism. The humor is, as you say, a defense mechanism to cover up for the powerlessness of fatalism.
Your reaction seems to be a cultural trait rather than a personal one. We — Irineo and I, not sure about Sonny — recognize it as being part of ourselves.
Our fatalism can be seen in the general reaction — which is more resignation and approval rather than resistance — to the killings.”
I don’t know about you, but I was rocked by a sudden clear realization that my wife laughs when I stub my toe on the furniture FOR A REASON. And Filipinos will protest an explicit offense like the sneak burial of President Marcos (as a SHOW?), but do NOTHING as thousands of their own country-mates are executed by police and vigilantes. Well, not nothing. They appeal to the UN or Legislature or that sacrificial Senator De Lima, or SOMEONE ELSE to do something about it.
And the vengeful attack on Senator De Lima perhaps illustrates at least a part of the reason “why”: the giant, oppressive ruling party’s gag that has suppressed Filipino expression for over 600 years. The powerful have ways to hurt those who get in the way . . . or who speak when they ought to remain compliant.
Which raises the point . . .
How will the killings ever be stopped?
How will they be stopped when Filipinos are content to wait for the President’s six year-term to pass, or the President to die, or someone else to step in to stop them?
The math is horrible if we look at the six-month trend and multiply it by the dozen semesters in a president’s term. The prospect of the death of 72,000 innocent Filipinos is not enough to get Filipinos worked up enough to do anything about it.
Now THAT is stoicism.
And the power that can kill so many without remorse is the power that can remain in office much longer than six years.
Perhaps we need to discuss why there seems to be so little compassion and so little shame that would ordinarily drive indignation. Even the Catholic Church, which was screeching at the top of its lungs about the RH bill, is deafeningly quiet. And legislators who have cited oaths to serve the Constitution, which was written to protect the people . . . and INC which rallied in the streets asking a President to resign over a minor legal incident, and the universities, and the police and AFP troops who also promised to serve, and and and . . . and millions of citizens who turned to the streets to welcome Pope Francis . . . but now are huddled at home sucking some kind of cultural/historical security thumb and muttering . . .
“Not my problem.”
Not yet . . .