Against the Hope, Optimism and Idealism of the Filipinos

Filipinos don’t like to hear the truth and this is one reason why they are stuck in the La-La land of hope. While they will accept certain facts like the Philippines is not exactly a wealthy country and pollution and poverty are problems, they have difficulty accepting slap-to-the-face truths. This, I think, leads to many Filipinos’ inability to find the best solution to their problems.

Take for instance when people find it difficult to accept that English, not Filipino (language), has become the language of the learned. Commenters have interpretted this view as elitist, that Filipino is not just the language you use to speak to the maid.

But if we look at most of the intellectual (and pseudo-intellectual) blogs written by Filipinos, they are in English. Most educated people read more English books than Filipino, and I doubt that if they read a Filipino work (not Tag-lish please!) they will be able to easily follow it. Classes in the best schools are taught in English (or at least they are supposed to be), debate contests are done in English and people who want to sound smart speak English.

Why are we offended by this truth? I think it’s similar to an obese person being offended by someone saying that s/he should start exercising and eat less calories. Maybe if someone from the streets just started mentioning this to all fat people without warning, that would be offensive; but if it was a doctor who mentioned it, or a concerned friend, and the the fat person takes offense s/he’s probably another one living in La-La land.

Is this the way to think?

I know the following are true:

Filipino is the language of my driver and maid and not of educated people …

I’m morbidly obese ..

I have very bad body odor …

But please let’s not mention it out loud or I will be mad at you.

If we keep hiding the truth from ourselves, then nothing is ever going to happen to improve the problem. And I say it’s a problem because people were offended enough by a newspaper column which could have just ended up as a bird cage liner or another link in the web.

Another instance of this trait is when Filipinos talk about idealism and hope like it’s going to solve our country’s problems. Consider an article written by a medicine student and why he has decided to work for three years in the Philippines after graduation despite the low pay, difficulties, etc.

Commenters applauded him for his nationalism and said that if more young Filipinos were like him our country will improve; but I think only fresh graduates and rich people can afford this sort of idealism. Pretty soon, when the practical side of life strikes, we have to let go of some of our idealism to survive. The health problems in this country will not be solved by making idealistic young doctors work in the country for three years. That’s just a band-aid over a major wound or a cup of hot chocolate to sooth the soul after a heartbreak. But there’s still more real work that needs to be done if we want lasting results.

Just to be clear, I have nothing personal against the author of this article and I don’t have anything against serving in the Philippines after graduation or with idealism per se. What I am against is the common idea that such traits will lead to major improvements in the country which is an opinion most people will easily accept. It’s like saying we can get rich by saving a percentage of our salaries every month. While there is value to doing that, we will never be rich that way.

Yet to criticize such hopeful and optimistic views will lead to ad hominem arguments that I am not nationalistic, that I don’t care, that I am cynical, etc. Again Filipinos don’t want to hear the bad side of things. They only want to hear that if we cheer loud enough and hope enough and pray enough, we will win.

But those things are not never really enough.



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