It has always been said that Filipinos just need discipline for society to improve. With discipline, there will be no more traffic, no more trash all over the rivers and streets, no more corruption, and so on. Yet this seems to be such a simplistic way of looking at things, and if we think about it, most people who say this are not disciplined themselves for they also break traffic rules or throw trash anywhere.
I think discipline can be had if either we have strictly implemented rules with real punishment, or else we have self-control. I am not sure what people have in mind when they think of the “discipline solution” but looking at the two ways we can have discipline, the first will require someone who has the balls (testicles or ovaries) to put into place strict rules about what can and cannot be done regardless of social status, of friendship, of wealth, and so on. Such a discussion will likely lead to Filipinos lamenting about the unlikelihood of this happening given the corruption in society and so on. This is a difficult problem which I think can be solved by someone who is cunning enough to win the votes of the Masang Pilipino and then manipulate the workings of politics to improve laws, give the appropriate punishments, and so on while maintaining power and influence so dependent on popular vote and personal relationships. Hopefully there will come a time when we can have someone who is able to do this.
On the other hand we can look into self-discipline which many Filipinos also think is lacking in their fellow citizens. Again, it is easy to say that this is what our society needs and to demand it from others, but we also have to consider that stressful situations will result in a lack of discipline because people will generally consider their needs first.
Case in point: LRT line 1
If people only have discipline, there would be no pushing in the LRT. Passengers who need to get out of the crowded trains would not be pushed back by people who are trying to get in the crowded trains. Yet if we think about it, people will push to get in because they have to. People have to be aggressive because they will never be on time if they patiently stand waiting to get in. Some might give the smart-ass reply that they should use other means of transportation but anyone who uses public transportation will know that the LRT is currently the best means of transportation for most people because it is the cheapest and fastest and has airconditioning. This will influence people’s choices.
The situation of public transportation here in Manila is stressful given that it is very unpredictable. Yet people will still have their own schedules to meet. They will still have their own needs to meet and if they are given the option of being disciplined but late, or not disciplined but not late, they will likely choose the former.
How do we cope?
Filipinos generally react in 3 ways: a) they joke about it, b) they get angry and rant, but do nothing else, c) they get angry and rant but they try to think of ways to solve the problem.
I am most interested in those who react in the 3rd way. Many of those who have good ideas get frustrated because nothing really happens. They will probably have no idea how to get things done. Ideas presented to government officials get lost and forgotten. They either have no influence or no social connections to get things done. Many intellectuals thus end up feeling frustrated at their impotence.
Yet, for those who do have social connections and/or the influence to have their ideas implemented, hopefully they find a way for their improvements to be actualized. Improving society seems to require more than just discipline. In this rather messy system of masa democracy, it ought to take someone with very very very big balls to crush the current culture. Meanwhile, those who are not yet very powerful must take flight under someone else’s wing.