Damaged culture

In 1987, James Fallows, an American journalist caused a furor when he wrote about Filipinos’ damaged culture. “If the problem in the Philippines does not lie in the people themselves or, it would seem, in their choice between capitalism and socialism, what is the problem? I think it is cultural.”

Fallows also noted that “people treat each other worse in the Philippines than in any other Asian country I have seen.” This observation comes to mind when the bullying controversy, which had the nation on uproar, recently broke out.

It began with the posting on social media of four short videos showing a junior high school student in one of the elite schools in the country bullying his schoolmates. The videos went viral and sparked national outrage. Reaction was so strong it made headlines on national broadsheets and is the subject of heated discussion among the known and the unknown.

Everyone it seems has his/her say on the issue, putting on national spotlight the problem of school bullying. But beyond the fire and fury the incident created, it holds a mirror upon the face of Filipinos and raised the question of a damaged culture once more.

Is bullying part of Pinoy damaged culture validating Fallows’ observation that “people treat each other worse in the Philippines?” The bully in the video certainly treated his schoolmates badly when he used his martial arts skills not to defend the helpless but to harm and hurt others.

But how Filipinos reacted to the bullying and their treatment of the bully reveals much about the people in this country. The wrath of the entire nation is literally upon the bully. He is no doubt the most famous junior high school student today and his mere public presence is an invitation to lynching.

The dominant voice, judging from the comments in the social media is bully the bully. Insults and threats had been heaped upon the bully from the physical to psychological. If words can kill, the bully would have died a thousand deaths. The eye for an eye, tooth for tooth mentality is in ascendant once again. Fighting fire with fire is a tempting response and in the heat of the moment, many would find this attractive. But is this the proper response to bullying?

Going beyond the controversy, the same distorted mindset in dealing with bullying is also the response of many in dealing with the serious social problems besieging the nation. This is the mentality of the fanatics now supporting the easy and convenient way to end social malaise – kill them all.

Bullying the bully, killing the suspected criminals, fanatics think bloodbath is the solution to crimes, illegal drugs, insurgency, rebellion, murder, rape, and similar social ills.

But one cannot fight evil with evil. Using evil to eliminate evil will not end evil but only perpetuates evil. When one uses evil to get rid of evil, one becomes the very evil one seeks to eradicate. One cannot stop bullying by becoming a bully.

The bullying controversy also stripped naked the hypocrisy of many Filipinos, especially the fanatics. While they rage against the junior high school bully, they play blind and ignore the biggest national bully at present, the one residing in Malacañang.

Du30, since assuming the presidency had been using his office to bully his perceived enemies. He curses, cusses and uses all forms of foul and dirty language to threaten, harass, shame and insult people he do not like. Du30 weaponized his office to persecute and silence his critics. The presidency is used as a bully pulpit by Du30 to intimidate dissent and destroy democratic institutions.

While the fanatics are quick to condemn the high school bully, they applaud their cult god whose actions are worst than the small fellow. Fallows noted Filipinos have “total devotion to those within the circle, total war on those outside.” Du30 is at the pinnacle of the circle of the fanatics, but the junior high school bully is the outsider, hence deserves lynching. Double standard or blind bias is an element of the damaged culture Fallows had pointed out.

Worst, fanatics are also ignoring another big bully in the neighborhood, China. The giant neighbor is using its geographic, economic, and political size to bully the Philippines. China stole strategic portions of Philippine territory and not a pip was heard from the fanatics.

What China is doing to the Philippine is far, far worse than what the junior high school bully did to his schoolmates. Where are the fire and brimstone against China from the fanatics? No condemnation because China is within the circle of the cult god?

There is certainly a huge dissonance between the reactions of Filipinos, especially the fanatics on the bullying of the junior high school and that of Du30 and China. Are they picking on the small fellow because it is only him whom they can take on? Is it because a bully is afraid of the bigger bullies, hence the silence?

The bullying incident is a wake-up call to Filipinos. It is an invitation for a deeper reflection on what is wrong with us as a people. Filipinos should take this as an opportunity to take a deeper look on themselves and examine the core values of the nation. To move forward a meaningful national transformation is a must.

Once again, it is time to revisit the critique of Fallows on the damaged culture of Filipinos. While many Filipinos feel insulted and infuriated by his observation, the varied and contradictory reactions to the bullying of the junior high school and that of Du30 and China indicate that Filipino culture needs some fixing.

Leave a Reply