Thursday, July 17, 2008

The optimism deficiency

A few days ago I was talking about the Philippine media's fetish for cynicism and misery and despair, and Jon Limjap responded that focusing on the negative is part of the Filipino psyche, one of the factors that prevents us from progressing. That pretty much sums up what the blog entry originally intended to say. I had chopped off a big chunk when I realized it was just unfocused ranting.

I was reminded of this reality again when reading this snippet in the epilogue of Barack Obama's book, which sums up the theme of his 2004 speech:
The audacity of hope.

That was the best of the American spirit, I thought-- having the audacity to believe despite all evidence to the contrary that we could restore a sense of community to a nation torn by conflict; the gall to believe that despite personal setbacks, the loss of a job or an illness in the family or a childhood mired in poverty, we had some control-- and therefore responsibility-- over our own fate.

It was that audacity, I thought, that joined us as one people.
While the problems America faces have parallels with the problems of the Philippines, the attitude of the people, as Obama describes here, could hardly be more different. A sense of control and responsibility over our own fate, a belief in better days ahead... these are not Filipino characteristics. Dare I say, they are the opposite.

I wish I could say otherwise, but Filipinos are fatalistic, declining ambition and conceding that their destinies are predetermined. This, combined with a general pessimism in the face of prosperity, cynicism in the face of hope, and doubt and fear when confronted by challenge-- it's not a healthy combination.

In the fifty years or so that the Philippines was a colony of the United States, they may have given us their music, their movies, their language, their constitution, but they didn't instill in us their spirit.

Maybe we just need someone that can make us believe again.