Higher Ground

I think it’s time for me and some of us expats to be a little reflective. I know I’m taken by some locals to be being critical. Well of course, up to a point I am but I like to think it’s not criticism for criticisms’ sake. I challenge mindsets and general everyday madness that are holding people back. If giving no quarter when in traffic makes the problem worse, I say so. I don’t feel any wrong in that or other such examples of everyday criticisms. Likewise, if people here vote for people with obvious self-agendas, am I wrong to suggest that they should perhaps consider not voting them. Unfortunately, I don’t have suggestions as to where their votes should best go, not too many choices or alternatives around. I don’t do anything other than state the obvious but I have no plan to call for revolutions nor put down a people who are misled from every side.

But as I ask Filipinos to have a think about things, it’s only right to question ourselves and our own attitudes too as outsiders. In some ways, it could be said that I come from a country where things are done better than here. Perhaps as foreigners, we’re a little too happy to point that out, but we need to remember that not all is as perfect as we like to think it was in our own countries for whatever reasons. Perhaps we should put the brake on a little when we think of Filipinos as being more stupid than what they actually are. Most Filipinos are far from stupid. It’s always too easy to say them when in reality, it’s usually just some.

There is no getting away from many of the wrongs here that come from the top and consequently work their way down to the bottom of society. If there is corruption at the top, it’s obvious it will be in every walk of life here; from the lowest paid government worker to senators. We may come from places that don’t have the same degree of problems, but we don’t come from any kind of utopia either. The point of this blog is to look at things and ask what we can learn from each other but we outsiders, also need to check ourselves sometimes too.

It may seem like insanity to us but to people here, it’s normal because it’s just everyday life and they haven’t seen things done in other ways. Filipinos will surely be thinking more as to why we can’t adapt instead of telling them constantly that they are doing everything wrong which is something we have to admit; many of us do. It is a valid argument to say that the way this country functions is difficult to understand. Many of the criticisms are valid but let’s not forget we haven’t flown in from heaven either.

It strikes me very often just how much many of us tend to forget that our own countries have problems too. Some seem to idealize their home country when away from it to the extent that I wonder why they ever left it.

With some expats, they show no will to learn Filipino ways and want to spend the whole day telling them how it should be done. I do want to emphasize that I know this isn’t everyone, but I have experienced it all too often, and in some matters, I’ve been guilty of some of it, too.

Eat BulagaFrom where we’re looking at it, it does sometimes appear that in many ways, Filipinos are not helping themselves. They elect monsters as heroes, lap up unsavoury pointless celebrity nonsense, happily clap along to infantile TV, and it’s easy to see why sometimes, we can get a little sneering.

The BuzzI sneered with the best of them over many things. I didn’t stop until I realized, this is all they know. What would I be like if I was raised knowing only what I was told? I would believe in monsters, enjoy the lives of others (celebrities), as an escape from my own life possibly. I would clap along happily with some lunchtime TV programme monstrosities without questioning the ethics. I would never have known a brighter place; I would have little idea that I’m being insulted.

The real villains are not those that don’t know any better and take what they get. The bad ones are the ones that feed them the scraps of fish, deceive them with false information and have no wish or intention to uplift people, educate them or to elevate them into anything other than a voter and a consumer. As ignorant as they are seems to suit the entertainment industry, media in general and especially the ruling classes.

As you spend time here, you will pick up on these issues and quickly work out who the real villains are and why they do it. It would appear that there is a dumbing down of a people by the group mentioned above for their own benefits.

Oprah with guest, Tom CruiseSo okay, we suddenly feel all superior and believe it all beneath us whilst forgetting that we have our fair share of awful, patronizing style over substance TV, too. Our media is not impartial either and feeds us misinformation constantly.

Big Brother UKWe sneer at their outdated versions of realty TV and mock the pointless exercise of making non entities famous for no other reason other than they wanted to be famous. One big thing we forget when we’re sneering is that we invented the garbage called reality TV in the first place, and Hollywood invented the celebrity as we know it today. It seems to me that we have short memories when we are here and seem to think we came over from paradise and everything here is beneath us.

Despite their failings (which are not too dissimilar to ours) we think it’s okay to call them stupid and wonder why we get people angry for what we like to call being honest. Simple fact is no people like to be called stupid and nor would we.

There may be many truths in our criticisms, but we are not as above it as we like to think. We have our own negative mindsets. Some of us possess levels of aggression you wouldn’t see here. I have seen some moronic disgusting and damned right childish behaviour in my own country more often than I have seen here.

We may not like the moronic way TV companies regard their viewers but have we forgotten the game shows and stupid soaps we got back home. The only difference being is that our moronic bull crap comes with a higher budget.

Nobody here in the Philippines guides, sets examples, and the media doesn’t give a damn so the people are fed fish, so they eat fish; that’s all that’s on the menu, so let’s eat fish. We, for our part, have had a lifetime of more choices regarding on what to watch, what to read but many still love the moronic, even given wider choices, so really, lets ease off and consider our own cultures, too. We come from a moronisized (a word I invented) society, just as much as here; we just forget that when we’re here.

Barmy ArmyTo sum it up and to put things in context, I will use a British example to make my point. In my country, I’ve seen people who will spend a lot of money to watch a cricket match (nothing wrong there), spend the day consuming alcohol to help make the day more fun, and then they proceed to spend half the time bouncing up and down in groups of other men, constantly chanting “barmy army” (barmy English slang for insane) over and over again till they are tired, then they go home after the day’s cricket convinced they have had a good time. Maybe they did enjoy it for whatever reason, but is it any less stupid than the things we criticise.

This is just one example; there are many others. I found it tiring back home with everyone talking tough, and even getting together with friends for football fights and deliberately causing a ruckus on a Friday night for the hell of it. I don’t see that kind of stupidity from many Filipinos so I’m asking is our world really as idyllic as we claim sometimes? We may come from richer countries, we may have better infrastructure but I don’t recall my own countrymen being models of perfect behavior very much at all. We didn’t come from the higher ground we like to think we have.

To push the point further, nearly everyone I have met here in the capital has at least some understanding of English no matter what standard of education they have received. Not only that they speak in a dialect from whatever province they come from as well as the national language of Filipino and have added English on top in varying degrees. I don’t know many Americans, British, Australians, Japanese or anyone else for that matter that can boast that ability, yet we love to say the word stupid. Who’s stupid? Well probably all of us and what Filipinos lack in some attributes, they make up for in others so it’s all relative.

This is what they know. Just remember, it’s not so much what you say, as the way that you say it. We may come from a more disciplined asylum, but it’s still an asylum.





Filed under Culture, Impressions, Manila, Philippines

4 responses to “Higher Ground

  1. You are turning into a Filipino James the excuse I hear time and time again is here people argue that other countries are just as bad as if that justifies what goes on here and makes it right the “This is how it is in the Philippines” use it all the time.
    Yes we have problems at home to, but at least we have free schooling a free medical service and do not have thousands of naked children living in the gutters of our cities.
    We have to direct our focus on where we ;live we are more educated than the people here who have been brain washed by the Vatican mafia and endless useless Governments, if we do not point out things could be better the people will never know that Life COULD indeed be better.


    • Not discounting any of that Pete. Its relative and just a reminder that some of the bad things are mostly down to bad versions of what western culture introduced. Not making excuses, not really at all, just a minor leveller as were all a bit stupid but we forget. This is Filipino version, we forget our own. The post is not really related to the poverty situation and I understand all that though.


  2. I am amazed by the elections here. Campaigning seems to amount to who can play music the loudest, no one seem to tell people what their policies will be if they get elected. The whole thing seems crazy to me. But when I spoke to Filipinos, it turns out they feel the same way. None of them knew of one reason they should vote for someone, so they just voted for the person they knew a bit about. So it is not the average Filipino at fault it is down to the people that are running not telling the people what they will do if they get elected.


    • I went out for dinner in my bit of Valenzuela. The local candidate was holding a meeting. Even though he doesn’t know me he gave a hearty wave and smile as he left. He would get my vote :). Yes Allan I got well sick of PSY too. If your only fed fish , you only know the taste of fish. I sense too everyone tired of it and next election I believe that politicians have become aware that the electorate are thinking. Rumour is this coming election 2016, they are gonna try something new, policies. 🙂


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