Indolence of the Filipinos

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Following Rizal’s method, we might however shift our focus from the symptoms to the social context. Why do Filipinos not follow rules? Why do they not fall in line and wait for their turn? Why do they turn to influential persons or patrons to obtain access to public services and institutions? There are two basic reasons, I believe. The first is ignorance, and the second is distrust of the system.

Many Filipinos do not follow the rules because they don’t know them, or if they do, they don’t know how they are supposed to work. It’s easy to say ignorance excuses no one, but shouldn’t the first duty of government be to explain the laws to its citizens, their logic and justification? In the absence of such learning, people will improvise or stick to habit.

But the more important reason for lack of discipline is distrust of the system. It is the belief that following the rules gets you nowhere. If you fall in line, you may wait forever; others will find a way to get ahead of everyone. The idea is to devise your own trick, or to find a fixer you can pay or a powerful person whose influence you can tap in order to quickly get what you want. The assumption is that the system doesn’t work, and is not meant to work.

Looking at our social reality today, one finds that this way of thinking is not too far off the mark. Our system of rules does provide discretionary powers to some people -- powers essential to a social order based on large gaps in wealth and privilege, and on layers of dependence and patronage. In such a system, corruption is only the other face of patronage, a vital ingredient in the highly unequal society we have.

This kind of society is becoming obsolete in the modern world. To prolong its life, pre-modern elites who run government are resorting to authoritarianism, while the citizens who cannot stand living in it are fleeing. But, because we too are evolving as a society, there is hope. Education and migration are releasing many Filipinos from...
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