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Thursday, July 28, 2011

Dr. José Rizal II on Filipino family values: a source of dysfunction

From my observations, the question is more about the “hot (southern) versus cold (northern)” countries. The warmer countries of Southern Europe have developed cultures that are comparatively more complacent than the cultures from Northern Europe, while those from the North tend to be more focused on solving problems rather than just letting things be.

The Catholic versus Protestant issue is slightly derived from the hot-versus-cold (or South-versus-North) issue because the complacency of the warmer countries of Southern Europe made them stick with their traditional faith (Catholicism), while the Northern countries which are colder ended up seeing “kinks” and little problems with the traditional Catholic dogma (they were Catholics too, originally) and that caused them to question these and find a solution to these kinks and little problems. The solution? Secession from the Papacy and the creation of their own churches.

In other words, the religion aspect is just a manifestation of the North-versus-South and cold-versus-hot divide. Northern Europe isn’t more economically dynamic than Southern Europe because they’re Protestant and that Southern Europe is Catholic. It’s more because Northern Europe’s cold has created a culture that forces people to think, analyze, and plan in advance (to combat the problems of a harsh winter) while Southern Europe’s warmer climate has created a culture that allows people to survive with less thinking and analysis. Essentially, complacency is not harshly punished with death, so complacency can become more common.

This complacency is also what makes people “stick with tradition” even if tradition doesn’t seem to make sense. The Protestants of Northern Europe are essentially people who broke with tradition and created a newer one because they felt that the older tradition didn’t make sense.

Ergo, it’s not so much “Protestant versus Catholic”, and instead, it’s more likely to be “Colder North versus Warmer South.”

Not exactly “Guns, Germs, and Steele.” Jared Diamond was very careful to elaborate in his book (and other essays floating around in the internet and other journals) that he didn’t have that much of a North-South (Cold versus Warm) dichotomy, but instead, his idea centered around the “Eurasian East-West Axis Advantage” and the fact that it was this area that had a huge variety of flora and fauna that proved advantageous to the civilizations that developed in that area.

It is, on the other hand, Montesquieu who makes the North-South/Cold-Warm dichotomy in analyzing societies.

Montesquieu does NOT, however, condemn warm countries to mediocrity. His ideas, in his masterpiece “L’esprit des lois” (The Spirit of the Laws), state that while it is easier for Cultures from Cold Climates have a tendency to build successful societies under a liberal and/or democratic framework, Cultures from Warm Climates can be as successful, but they need to make use of a despotic/authoritarian framework.

This makes sense.

In Cold Climates, people are FORCED BY THE COLD to be self-disciplined, punctual, analytical, long term-planning oriented and self-regulating because without such self-discipline, people cannot easily survive the winters in cold climates where there is an obvious need for stored food, saved/stored resources, shelter/heating, clothing, etc. Lack of self-discipline and all the other types of behavior that lead towards success lead to failure, and thus, end up in death or extinction.

In Warm Climates, people can afford to be a bit more complacent and happy-go-lucky. As such, people tend to be more “puede na yan” and tolerant of irresponsibility and tardiness.

However, the behavior needed for success remains the same. Success is always a result of punctuality, long-term planning, better analysis, better self-discipline, etc. So while the people from Cold Climate Cultures have the natural tendency to have the habits needed for success, people from Warm Climate Cultures don’t. On the other hand, those habits can be developed. But they can be developed through EXTERNAL IMPOSITION FROM AN OUTSIDE AUTHORITY.

In other words, if the Climate won’t force you to do the same things that are necessary for success, then the Government should do so.

In short, the Governments of people from Warm Climates need to be “despotic and authoritarian” in coercing its citizens to behave in “successful ways.”

This is why Singapore (a successful nation from the Tropics) continues to need its “draconian-like” laws and its somewhat “top-down” management approach.

While LKY, his son LHL and the PAP do not always talk about the “Hot-Cold dynamics” (well, Lee Kuan Yew talks about it extensively in his memoirs), the Singapore-pattern is extremely consistent with Baron de Montesquieu’s observations. Likewise, Malaysia has similar ideas (borrowed largely from Singapore as well as Mahathir bin Mohamad’s ideas) in how Malaysia tries to achieve success.

The key idea is that the Philippines needs to get its act together by focusing on ensuring that those behavioral “basics of how to achieve success” are instilled in the Filipino People. Competence, Self-Discipline, Economic Focus, Continuous Improvement, not resting on one’s laurels, etc are necessary.

Sadly, most of the Filipino People continue to prove to the entire world that they would rather be monkeys and proto-humans than successful and civilized Homo sapiens sapiens.

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Miriam, I’d say that in the case of Malaysia, Mahathir’s policy wasn’t so much “discriminating against the Chinese” as it was “making space for Malays/Bumiputras to have the opportunity to work alongside the more hardworking Chinese.”

For sure, the system in Malaysia entailed affirmative action in favor of the “indigenous” Bumiputras, but Mahathir’s vision for this wasn’t meant to “put down the Chinese to raise up the indigenous.” It was borne out of the fact that the Chinese population in Malaysia is huge enough to be able to rely on itself. As such, it is big enough for a Chinese entrepreneur to hire only Chinese workers/staff members. One of Mahathir’s contentions was that the Malays/Bumiputras needed to have direct exposure to how the more economically-successful Chinese worked and did things. But unless there would be opportunities for mingling in the work environment, the Bumiputras would not have direct exposure to the work ethic of the Chinese. That’s why the affirmative action scheme was put in place: Companies needed to hire a mandatory percentage of bumiputras , and the end result would be that eventually, bumiputras would be able to directly observe and imbibe the work ethic of the Chinese (and Indians).

In most other areas, Malaysia followed Singapore’s model: strict implementation of laws (albeit not as easy to control as Singapore), economic focus, etc.

In Truth, Marcos’ martial law wasn’t wrong by itself. The Philippines could have pulled itself together if Marcos actually saw it through and did the most important thing: delivered on the Economy.

Unfortunately, Marcos’ economic policies were flawed. He borrowed massive amounts of money which he pocketed, and some which he distributed to cronies for them to “develop the economy.” But he chose the wrong cronies: majority were incompetent and had no real intention of developing the economy. Many of them only put up façade companies that were there as fronts, but they didn’t make any money and didn’t have any real operations. By the time the loans were due, Marcos had nothing to pay and in the end, the repercussions of not paying manifested themselves in currency devaluation and economic collapse.

That was truly the one mistake of Marcos: having the wrong economic policies or implementing his economic policies wrongly by choosing the wrong cronies.

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Hung Hang, The air-conditioner is indeed one of the greatest inventions. Lee Kuan Yew himself praised the air-conditioner for its ability to counteract the “misfortune” of being in the tropics, and as such, his memoirs and other speeches actually reveal him to be very Montesquieuesque.

You need to read my exposition carefully, though. It seems you missed a lot of points: Temperature is a strong determinant for the kind of culture produced in a particular region, not a “strong determinant for a country’s progress.”

Montesquieu’s views made it extremely clear that he never condemned “hot countries to mediocrity” because he said that cultures from hot climates can still compete with the cultures from the cold climates if their governments are strict and disciplinarian and induce them to develop a strong work ethic (possibly through coercion).

Did you look at your examples? Singapore, Malaysia, and Vietnam… Are those countries as Free-wheeling and Liberal as the Philippines?

Obviously not!

They’re countries that have implemented Montesquieuesque ideas so that the relative complacency developed in tropical climates would be counteracted by disciplinarian governments that properly manage the people in a top-down fashion.

You should have also looked at the obvious cause-and-effect exposition I made on why most Protestant countries in Western Europe are in the North and why most Catholic countries in Western Europe are in the South. Religion, per se, is more of a correlated symptom that goes along with the climate of a country. A people’s character is often determined by the type of environment that people develops its culture in. People from colder areas that experience winter tend to become more serious, more planning-oriented, and more self-disciplined because those traits are necessary in order to survive winter, while People from warmer areas that don’t experience cold winters (or have no winters at all) tend to become more complacent as compared to the people from colder areas because the milder climate does not require them to plan as much. (In the tropics, you can find food anytime and anywhere, unlike in temperate zones where there’s nothing to find during winter)

The fact remains that culture develops over centuries, and the recent pervasiveness of airconditioning technology in the mid 1900′s is not enough to change the tropics-based cultural tendencies of Filipinos which have been around for millennia.

In the end, religion can have an influence, yes. But I also need to make it clear that most of our ideas about comparing Protestant and Catholic come from attempts in the past to correlate economic performance with culture, such as the work of Max Weber. The problem I see, however, was that no attempt was made to go even deeper and look at the fact that in Western Europe itself, this Protestant-versus-Catholic dichotomy also roughly coincided with the Cold North versus Warmer South dichotomy.

By looking at both, we do find that they are related. I posit that Protestant countries turned Protestant because they’re from the Northern part of Western Europe: their people saw problems with certain aspects of their older Catholic faith and decided to do something about it and rectify such problems according to their own interpretation. Catholic countries in Western Europe remained Catholic because they’re from the Southern part of Western Europe: their people probably saw some problems with certain aspects of Catholicism but STILL DID NOT do something about it and thus were more tolerant of the status quo (aka “complacent”).

In other words, the work ethic may still have been influenced more by the underlying effects of climate as Montesquieu clearly presented. Of course, there will be influences from religion as well. Some Protestant groups might have been more predisposed towards wealth accumulation than Catholics, for instance, due to certain teachings (prosperity gospel, for instance or ideas like “God favors the hardworking”) But notice again that where Protestantism first developed and became common in Western Europe was precisely in the colder Northern regions, while Catholicism remained strong in the relatively warmer South.

(We could argue that a Catholic Spaniard who converts to a Protestant sect that heavily emphasizes a prosperity gospel may end up becoming richer than a Catholic Spaniard who remains Catholic. But then again, maybe that first Spaniard who converts to the prosperity gospel Protestant sect already exhibits traits that make him more predisposed to success to begin with: he was willing to make a major change in his life by conversion. That “major change” idea is an indicator of a willingness to turn around one’s life. Then again, it’s still worth looking into the origins of the sect: Was it developed in the warmer South or in the colder North?)

As such, there is strong reason to review Montesquieu’s views on “hot-versus-cold.”

By the way, Confucianism is NOT a religion. It’s a philosophy.

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Miriam, I’m very happy to see your views here. We’ve read a lot of the same stuff, it seems. And yes, I have read Stanley Karnow’s “In Our Image.” (In case you haven’t read it, look for a copy of Dr. Mahathir’s “The Malay Dilemma.” It’s essentially Dr. M’s “Get Real, Malaysia” mega-essay.)

One of the best things I first gathered from it when I read it more than 15 years ago was the idea that it caused “confusion” for Pinoys that the predominantly Anglo-Saxon Protestant Americans tried to impose their Anglo-Saxon Protestant Ethic and Northern European-derived Democratic ideals on a predominantly Catholic and Hispanicized Malayo-Polynesian people.

The other key idea there too was that Karnow revealed that his personal friend Benigno S. Aquino, Jr aka “Ninoy” was actually a fan of Lee Kuan Yew and did not necessarily disagree with Marcos’ authoritarianism. Ninoy even said that if he was in Marcos’ place, he’d have probably done the same. The main complaint Ninoy had was what I mentioned earlier: That Marcos failed to deliver economic prosperity and material progress to Filipinos. Truth be told, people actually tend to tolerate authoritarianism if it delivers. Marcos failed to deliver (on what else? THE ECONOMY!), and that’s essentially what got him out.

You are right also in looking at the fact that many of those more progressive countries in Latin-America have elites that are largely European-stock and thus have the same (or similar) intellectual life that is open to ideas. The Filipino elite (oligarchs plus the unintellectual “intelligentsia”) is composed of people who would actually be middle class if they were in the First World. They don’t have the ability to really think in real rational terms. All they can do is follow other peoples’ ideas.

As for Vietnam, it has to be mentioned that Vietnam’s culture is essentially Chinese-derived. They were a Chinese vassal-state (with some political autonomy) for a little over a millennium. That very long time of being highly influenced and in contact with the Chinese made them develop a solidly “Chinese-derived” culture which the more recent and short-lived European colonial period could not erase. Contrast that with Filipinos who were essentially fragmented small primitive tribes not under a strong central authority that would build up a Civilization with stone-based architecture for the longest time, you can see why it was easy to replace the older culture with a newer “more superior” one.

With the French (and other Europeans) going into Vietnam, they had what was essentially a strong Chinese-derived or highly Sinicized identity that had the trappings of Civilization. That’s why it was much harder to “erase” the Vietnameseness of the Vietnamese. The gap between the level of civilization of the Vietnamese and that of the foreign colonizers wasn’t that “wide.”

Truth be told, it’s not so much the “originality” of the culture that is the issue. Vietnamese culture is essentially Chinese-based (even reaching Qing Dynasty influence), just as Korean and Japanese are Chinese-based (largely around the Han, all the way to the Tang, and pre-Ming dynasty influence) in terms of culture. Thais do not have an original culture at all. Instead, what we all refer to as “Thai Culture” is essentially Khmer (Cambodian) culture which the Thais (or the “Siamese” as they were earlier known) adopted for themselves in a similar way that the Romans adopted Greek culture.

Whatever it is, all these cultures stuck to what they defined as “their culture.” Nevermind that they were initially BORROWED (or perhaps imposed from outside) from foreigners, the Vietnamese, Thais, Koreans, and Japanese essentially identified with the cultures they made their own and by the time they came into contact with Westerners, they were well aware that who they were was defined by the culture and the cultural trappings and manifestations (clothing/costumes, art, music, architecture, etc) that they had made theirs. (The Japanese, during the Meiji Restoration, decided to REDEFINE THEMSELVES into Westerners who just happened to be of Asian racial ethnicity by adopting Western systems, clothing, architecture, technology, etc, turning them into Asia’s most modern nation and first non-white country to be invited into international diplomatic leagues such as the Treaty of Versailles and practically be treated as equals of the Whites.)

The Philippines is in a major rut because our elites are of low quality. (I really mean it when I say that they’d be Middle Class in the First World) That’s why they’re “oligarchs” (few who lead) instead of “aristocrats” (The powerful Best). Go to our universities, listen to the way most of our academics reason. Low quality. They even spend a lot of time making up lame excuses for why they were “justified”‘ in voting for an incompetent person into the Presidency. All the Philippine Intelligentsia seeks to become good at is pambobola and sophistry instead of finding the Truth.

Hyms, Yes, Montesquieu’s “L’esprit des lois” (The Spirit of the Laws) was very voluminous and “comprehensive.” He talked a lot about comparing societies versus others and cultures versus others. He also looked at the whole idea of “proportionate rewards and punishment.” He saw, for instance, that if all crimes were punishable by Death, then the crimes would become more and more heineous. If the penalty for hiway-robbery and murder was both Death, then hiway robbers would rather kill their victims, knowing that these victims could later identify them and get them convicted and killed. Since the penalty for murder is the same as robbery/theft: Death, then what’s the use of keeping the robbery victims alive? Montesquieu observed that this was how the laws worked in China: proportional punishment. Hiway robbers in Imperial China may have robbed travellers, but they never killed them, since killing them would have meant death, while merely robbing didn’t translate into Death.

It’s a really good read. Lots of insights. Of course, in light of today’s findings, the understanding of certain phenomena needs to be upgraded. But overall, it was very sound and logical. Lightyears ahead of the kind of thinking that modern day Pinoy so-called intellectuals are capable of. (Save for the real intellectuals who make antipinoy their home who – sooner or later – should be discovered for being the real intellectuals they are and dislodging those pretentious fools who populate Philippine universities and Pinoy newspaper columns.

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