Friday, February 17, 2012

Part 2 – The Sad State of Filipino Morality

Pakikisama – Conformity without Conscience

A Filipino politician’s success rests on how well he sidles up to his superiors. Obviously, some are willing to lick P-noy’s boots to be in his good graces, thus securing favors. Whether this regime’s subterfuges on the impeachment trial are hard truth, the same can’t be said for any willing lackey’s motives. In other words, they’re willing to show they’re easy to get along with His Excellency.

For it is hard truth in Filipino social life that conformity and suave interpersonal relations are necessities for gaining impeccable social standing and advancement: be it in the workplace, in family dynamics… or in politics.

In “History of the Filipino People”, the late Prof. Teodoro Agoncillo couldn’t clearly define it but implied that conformity and good interpersonal relations constitute the Filipino sociological trait known as “pakikisama”. It’s the very trait that lent the Filipino his adaptability in societies other than his own and to be liked by those around him.

Pakikisama is conformity, in a sense that one’s consciousness must be in line with the beliefs, morals or social values (mga nakagisnang paniniwala) of the majority.

Pakikisama is also good interpersonal relations, in a sense that one must foster friendships or camaraderie with that same majority.

Whether one would debate that the above are really one and the same, one aspect makes each distinct. In the Filipino context, “pakikisama” entails little or no room for compromise because of conformity (unlike in interpersonal relations, where compromise is a necessity). In the Philippines, when one conforms never can he deviate from the norms otherwise he risks censure (thus leading to Filipino society’s conservativeness). Filipinos maintain a shame-based consciousness much like the mainland Chinese. For the Filipino then, not only must he go along well with those around him but his morals and norms must also be similar to theirs. And this is where lies the heart of pakikisama’s downside. Of course, to conform and to get along well with others is good – but, what if the greater part of Filipino society puts too much premium on vanity and corruption? (especially, when the upper classes are involved.) Its uncomfortable duality has many times caused both moral and social dilemmas to every Filipino (which are legion).

Unless one is at the top, lesser geldings have no choice but to endure a majority with questionable ethics. The sad part is, most end up getting indoctrinated by that majority thereby perpetuating the same questionable ethics. In the workplace, this is a common occurrence – notably, in ITO-BPO companies, like call centers.

It is common practice among superiors (team leaders, operations managers, etc.) to manipulate job performance stats. With such companies, numbers merely measure the worth of an employee. With the lack of any genuine objective measure for performance, the software or paper criteria determining job competency can be easily cheated (one should be aware that they have IT departments). It’s no wonder many incompetents get easily promoted in those companies. For that same reason, new hires and underlings shamelessly cozy up to those chiefs to manipulate their stats also. Eventually, those same people take the top company posts and perpetuate their predecessor’s practices – all thanks to “pakikisama”.

The honest ones, though, fare badly.

The very ones who strive hard to work on their merit and steer clear of corrupt company practices are the ones cited by their superiors having “poor performance” or “unsatisfactory work behavior/attitude”. Most of them get framed up with bogus company violations then fired. The “taint” of honesty they carry forces them to face a future of employment uncertainties.*

That example is played out many times over in other workplaces – in bank, government or private, in government agency offices, and the like – for either the same aforementioned purpose or otherwise. The common factor in all of them is securing of favors – a utilization of what Prof. Renato Constantino refers to as the principle of “pseudo-camaraderie for private ends”.

Prof. Agoncillo cites that “pakikisama” are wielded by those desirous of vanity and advancement at the expense of good morals. The result of which (to quote him): the beautiful Filipino trait of pakikisama has, therefore, been denuded of its nobility by the political imperatives and by the perverted sense of values that have dominated the character of many Filipinos.

From the previous example, it can be inferred that “pakikisama” can become a vehicle to spread unethical practices and unpleasant social values.

Since “pakikisama” entails conformity, whenever a dominant personality –with questionable ethics – comes to rule over a group, it is sure that underlings will be swayed by his influence.

And so it is within families.

Is it not that children learn the vestiges and nuances of their society through their parents?

And why is it that succeeding generations of Filipinos become worse? Is history or nurture to blame?

Whatever the cause, parents past and present have unfortunately caused to trickle errant beliefs and values upon succeeding generations. Hence, it can be fair to say that the present Filipino’s moral degradation can be blamed on the tenacious desire of most parents to exhort their children to have thinking patterns based on theirs – masked under the pretense of parental wisdom and concern. More often than not, parents carry the same indoctrination from their own parents and from ancestors before – thus perpetuating the cycle.

Such upbringing stifles the vital capacity of free will – an essential for any enlightened and democratic society – making younger generations easy prey to corrupt social influences.

And with a Filipino society burdened by Chinese influences such as individualism and acquisitiveness, lack of discipline and obedience, would one wonder why Filipinos find it hard to get ahead?

The Filipinos drive for financial freedom is understandable – a huge number of the population is tired of the material deprivation they live out. It is with that same drive though (coupled with an influentially backward upbringing) that causes them to go out of control. And never can we doubt a Filipino parent’s well-meaning intentions – the only root concern is their tendency to tenaciously cling onto their beliefs and indoctrinate without compromise. Besides, is it not true that the old find it hard to change their thinking? Their methods of upbringing stifle the inner capacity of the youth to critically question how applicable the values of the older generation are to the present. This is what leads to the stifling of free will – the capacity to decide on choices that have been well-sought out of information and well-thought of to choose.

It can be said then that the Filipino can be compared to an animal – the lemming. Like them, they don’t mind mimicking their fellows, even when it means all of them falling off into moral suicide.

*It has come to my knowledge that all ITO-BPO companies have recently formed an association. One of its functions is to screen blacklisted employees from one company and denying him employment into another company affiliated with the association.

* Prof. Teodoro A. Agoncillo, “The History of the Filipino People” – 5th edition, R.P. Garcia
Publishing Co.
* Prof. Renato C. Constantino, “Dissent and Counter-Consciousness” – Malaya Books, Inc.

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