Doomed from the start?


    NO, this is not about the flavor of the moment topic that most everyone on social media is talking about. Enough has been said about the first day hiccups and there’s no need to pile on. I think some of the criticisms are valid and some are exaggerated but I also think that how the issues have been handled show a lack of proper incident management preparations.

    As we used to say at the beverage company I used to work for: “Incidents are inevitable but crises are not.”

    Instead, what I want to write about is something (to me at least) more serious. It’s a matter that will persist long after the SEA Games cauldron has been switched off and the last delegate has arrived home. It’s what I think is of fundamental importance when it comes to Filipinos thinking of themselves in relation to each other and to the country. It’s at the heart of an oft-heard complaint: why don’t we Filipinos have a sense of nationhood?

    My answer is simple: it’s because we are family-oriented. We are so family-oriented that everything comes second to family. Everything, including even the Rule of Law when a mother will do everything to shield a child while exclaiming “hindi po magagawa ng anak ko ‘yan!” (meaning “my child can never do that!”) even when the child-offender is caught red handed.

    By the way, even if the “child” is already in his 30s, his mother remains as protective as ever.

    At the other extreme, there’s the well-connected parent who will pull any and every string available to help a child get out of trouble or get a leg up on others. Call the brods. Call the classmates. Call tito or tita. Cash in on old favors.

    Family first.

    But when we put family first at the expense of everything else, how can we expect to have a sense of nationhood?

    Think about it: when a child is born, he is born shorn of a sense of nationhood. What he wakes up to is a sense of family. Rich or poor it’s the family that becomes both his shield and his weapon. And as he grows up so does his “family” – the ninongs and ninangs to begin with and then the mentors and friends in a growing network of relationships. The family grows beyond the bloodline but it’s just a wider sense of family. It’s not yet – it’s never – the nation.

    And that’s where we are. As we see the system “fail” us, our sense of family is deepened.

    Who else do you rely on and who else do you trust? But as we do that we just accelerate the weakness or the failure of the system. And the cycle continues, spiraling downwards.

    Forget sense of nationhood. Every day we live, every move we make, every word we utter, it’s all in the name of the family.

    And when we can we make the system around us work for the family. Of course, the more powerful and influential are more successful in doing this. The poor fail – pushing them deeper into relying on their (powerless) families.

    Which leaves me with only one conclusion: Is our effort to promote a sense of nationhood bound to fail? Is nationhood doomed from the start?