Democracy is seemingly fundamentally incompatible with Filipino culture

Filipinos show deference towards their politicians, mostly towards the Aquinos in particular. While this may be probably a result of being under a strongman for quite some time, there may be something more underneath it all.

At a fundamental level, Filipinos are afraid of speaking out for fear of sticking out. It has been drilled into their society since time immemorial: the need to fit in, the silly notion of pakikisama, the forced fit to a group consensus. Filipinos are so easy to sway into groupthink; all it takes is a silly catchphrase, a catchy song or jingle, or an emotional tug.

On the other hand, Filipinos are so afraid to question their authority figures intelligently, as if to do so means nakakahiya. The key word is intelligently; what I’ve observed that certain Filipinos do is that they answer back. There is a way to question authority while maintaining proper decorum, but all too often Filipinos put “respect” and their notion of “entitled respect” first and foremost. Filipinos also seem to think that their participation ends once their vote has been cast. It takes hard work to keep elected officials in check. This hard work requires a lot of willpower and drive to see things through; the lack of it seems consistent with an attitude that is typically Filipino: ningas-cogon.

Another thing I wanted to pointed out is that a democracy, in practice, enables all voices to be heard, even opposing ones. Filipino society, on the other hand, shuts out voices that its members don’t agree with. Collectively, Filipinos lack the emotional intelligence to properly deal with opposition and criticism, and they also lack the ability to separate the person from the argument. This despite their being one of the most emotional people in the world.

Where am I going with this?

Once again, this tells us that the political character derives from the cultural character of a people. And boy, does the cultural character of the Filipinos suffer tragic flaws. Tragic enough that they render the concept of democracy seemingly fundamentally incompatible with their society.


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