To Filipinos, rich people are “evil” and a life focused on the acquisition of money is a life to be ashamed of. And so there really is no reason to continue wondering why Filipinos remain an impoverished people today. The very idea of aspiring to be rich seems, to Filipinos, to be a thought to be purged from their minds.
Rather, Filipinos justify their poverty using the very Catholic idea that to be poor is to be “blessed” before the eyes of God. Indeed, if I were to choose one fake idea ingrained by the Roman Catholic Church in the mind of the Filipino that did the biggest damage to their psyche, it would be that one. Unfortunately for Filipinos, such wealth-destroying ideas continue to be peddled by their Roman Catholic Church. Filipinos are subject to a constant bombardment of poverty-blessedness drivel everywhere they tune their eardrums and plant their eyeballs — in the Catholic masses they troop to every Sunday, the telenovelas and Filipino films they are addicted to, and the victim-heroes their “activists” and politicians put up for worship.
The irony that seems to fly above the heads of Filipinos’ poverty-worshipping and wealth-demonising “activists” and politicians is that it is the highly-focused pursuit of capital accumulation (a.k.a. wealth creation) that enabled human civilisation to build the very devices and Web services that allow them to Tweet and Share their poverty porn. Contrary to popular belief, Silicon Valley’s titans are no latte-sipping liberals whose idea of “making a difference” in the world is sitting in a Starbucks café waxing poetic about “world peace” and sending relief goods to war refugees. Bill Gates wanted to dominate our desktop PCs with his software, Steve Jobs wanted to make computers that appeal to affluent artsy people, Zuck wanted to pickup chicks on the Internet, Jack Dorsey wanted to build a Facebook-killer people could use from their mobile phones, and Sergey Brin sought to organise humanity’s collective knowledge into a giant database.
In case I missed some kind of Catholic pastoral letter on the subject, I really can’t see what is so “evil” about what these five brilliant — and mega-rich — human beings did.
Indeed, as much as Filipinos would like to attribute everything that is wrong with their society to the “evil” devices of 16th-Century Imperial Spain, it was Spain’s pursuit of gold that brought their ships to the beaches of Cebu and the building of the city of Vigan (among other architectural wonders) that Filipinos now put up as the “pride” of “their” tourism industry. Perhaps, in some fairness to the Catholic Church, there is some evidence that the Spanish conquistadores found the natives of the islands in pretty much the same state as the way Filipinos are even today in 21st Century Philippines.
In his Inquirer column, Ambeth Ocampo writes how painfully-relevant the observations made by the Spaniards on the natives they found in the Philippines are to this day…
When I was a student, everything bad in our character was blamed on the colonial experience: on Spain, the United States and Japan. Reading Legazpi made me wonder if we had always been the way we are:“These people declare war among themselves at the slightest provocation, or with none whatever. All those who have not made a treaty of peace with them, or drawn blood with them, are considered as enemies. Privateering and robbery have a natural attraction for them. Whenever the occasion presents itself, they rob one another, even if they be neighbors or relatives; and when they see and meet one another in the open fields at nightfall, they rob and seize one another. Many times it happens that half of a community is at peace with half of a neighboring community, while the other halves are at war. They assault and seize one another; nor do they have any order or arrangement in anything. All their skill is employed in setting ambuscades and laying snares to seize and capture one another, and they always try to attack with safety and advantage to themselves.”
To some degree this revelation that Filipinos already possessed the Poor DNA before the “evil” Spaniards arrived absolves the Roman Catholic Church of some accountability for why Filipinos are imprisoned by impoverished thinking today. But armed with all this hindsight that guys like Ocampo are kind enough to share with us today, there really is no excusing the Catholic Church and its henchmen in the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) continuing to propagate its brain-damaging fake ideas today.
There is much to be done. As the old cliché goes, you gotta think rich to become rich. Filipinos need to purge their culture of memetic relics that contribute to impoverished thinking — that money and rich people are “evil”, that wealth is more a result of swerte (“luck”) than of hard work and clever ideas, that complex ideas articulated in English cause “nosebleed”, and, of course, the old Catholic notion that the poor are “blessed”. There is nothing “blessed” about being poor. Being poor sucks. As Mae West was said to have said: “I’ve been rich and I’ve been poor, and rich is better.” To be fair, Filipinos who, as a people, have never been rich probably wouldn’t get it. Yet.