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THE RIGHT ATTITUDE

By Jose Alejandrino President Duterte has the right attitude. In a democracy, you listen to the voice of the majority. You ignore a ...

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Is it possible for Filipinos to improve the quality of their thinking?

Filipinos really do seem to be missing a chip in their brains. The extent to which they are conditioned to think only what they aretold to think is astounding. It is such that when they actually do attempt to challenge authority, they do so from a weak position of argumentation.
Indeed, the EDSA “people power” revolution, it seems, is what set the precedent for three decades spent getting comfy with arguing from a weak position. The EDSA “revolution” was a triumph of popular sentiment that conditioned Filipinos to rely on what is popular to determine what is “right”. This, plus the fact that the Catholic Church played a lead role in anointing the “victors” of this “revolution” (and got a Catholic “shrine” built on prime real estate for their trouble) pretty much imprisoned the Philippine National “Debate” in a perpetual state of argumentum ad verecundiam, also known as Appeal to Authority.
Somebody I look up to said so, therefore it is true.
The close cousin of this fallacy is argumentum ad populum. People who fall for this fallacy claim that something is true just because it is the popular position “many” people take. This is the sort of thinking that lends vast power to celebrities and is the active ingredient in their ability to command millions of dollars in product endorsement fees. In fact, it is on this pillar that the entire advertising industry is built, and even democracy itself.
Indeed, the irony that flies above the pointed heads of the multitude of Fake News Crybabies that now infest social media chatter is that it is this very predisposition to believe things on the back of these two fallacious thinking processes that is behind the spread of “fake news” itself. An example is how many Filipinos continue to refer to a list of “fake news” sites issued by the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP). They even challenge people to “disprove” the list even if there is no basis for such an exercise considering that these “bishops” don’t see themselves or anything they say as subject to moderndebate.
Debate is only possible when two parties agree to uphold similar rules of logic. People who merely believe are, by their very nature, not open to intelligent discourse for the simple reason that belief is a subjective state of mind which cannot be reduced to component parts that can be evaluated critically using a coherent and systematic process of arriving at sound conclusions.
Thus, it is hardly surprising that nothing ever gets resolved in the Philippines — because the intellectual tools required to support an intelligent public “debate” are completely missing in Philippine society at a collective level. For one thing, Filipinos may be able to speak English as a second language but they are nowhere near fully grasping the intellectual depth of the language. It does not help that their native languages and dialects are far inferior as far as being able to support truly intelligent discussion.
Perhaps this is what is behind the baffling observation that despite all the technology accessible to Filipinos today, no discernible uplift in the quality of the “debate” can be observed. Indeed, if we are to believe the shrill laments of the Fake News Crybabies, the quality of the debate had even regressed. It seems that technology had merely amplified flawed Filipino thinking rather than “cure” it.
An even more disturbing possibility is that there is no cure to the chronic intellectual bankruptcy of the Philippines. If track records are a good measure, this is actually a plausible scenario. Look no further than the whole debate around the future of public transport. Filipinos cannot seem to think the issues through beyond the inconsequential questions around the future of jeepneys, Uber, and Grab in the country. All the energy so far expended in “debating” these amount to no more than a monumental quibble that totally misses the more important point of a proper mass transit infrastructure that is designed to serve all Filipinos without prejudice.
Another example is the slogan “Never Again” which has come to be associated with cliques of “activists” who remain fixated on sustaining a climate of fear for anything to do with “Martial Law”. They are quick to imagine what the Philippines should never again be. But asked what they envision the Philippines can be, and you will likely get no more than the sound of heads being scratched. It is an epic failure of imagination at a national scale.
Ultimately, it seems to come down to how Filipinos are raised and educated. Indeed, one of the creepier things that recently came to light was how Filipino school books have been peppered with the partisan propaganda of parties that happen to be in power at the time of print. Because Filipinos are taught what to think and not how to think, they go through life with minds tragically framed by a small square outside of which they are conditioned to fear to tread.
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