Wednesday, January 04, 2006

A Most Engaging Paradox

I am currently having difficulty typing right now. My arm had, until yesterday, been in a sling after being injured during a mugging I was involved in. The mugging itself (last December 29th, early evening) should have been humiliating, since I am a martial artist and I am used to taking care of myself. But, as they say, even Napoleon tasted defeat, and the best Olympic athletes do not always maintain their "gold streak"—so, I don't feel as bad as maybe I should. I am glad that the injury I sustained when I fell of the moving vehicle was as light as it is. I am, in fact, happy to still be alive and missing only my cellphone, while others less fortunate had arrived in the same ER that I was brought to either dead or permanently maimed.

But I must admit, I was severely disappointed that day. Not because of the muggers—that was their "job"—but by the passers-by. I had been used to assuming that Pinoys are, generally speaking, nice people that still possess the "bayanihan" spirit and will readily help any other Pinoy in need. When I hit the pavement face first at cruising speed, that was what I expected. When women and children started surrounding me, I expected them to help me. Instead, they proceeded to rob me. I was conscious but stunned, and now even more stunned when they took the bag of CDs I had (containing the wedding pictures of a friend and not pirated movies, as the perps obviously expected) and attempted to take my watch off. My brother, who jumped out of the speeding vehicle, put a stop to that, and they all melted away into the crowd, leaving me and my brother behind in the middle of the road. I am quite sure that the vast majority of Pinoys probably have more Bayanihan and Christmas spirit, but we met none of them there.

Thanks to the mugger's ingenuity, he tried to "PasaLoad" the money loaded in my cellphone to his cellphone; thanks to my ingenuity, anytime he tries to send SMS, my cellphone would automatically send it to my wife. He sent his cellphone number to my wife. And, so there I was, injured and in pain, but smug with the knowledge that once the police gets a hold of his cellphone number, they can track him down using SMART's Person Finder[1][2] or, if they are too low-tech, they can at least find a way to use it. I mean, after the glowing reports they show on TV, right?

My faith in Pinoy law enforcement was over-rated. When we went to report it to the police, they were bewildered over what they had to do. Even the mug-shots they showed me didn't help. They, at first, didn't understand how I got the mugger's cellphone number and, when they finally did a half-hour later, they didn't know what to do. Their best solution is to wait until they catch a mugger in the act and, if he's the same guy, then... then... even I don't know what they plan to do next. From overwhelming optimism that I would be able to get my cellphone back soon to knowing full well that, once again, crime is made to pay yet again because of the mediocrity of Pinoy law enforcement (I shouldn't be surprised, since Chavit Singson is still not in prison).

Why is this, then, a paradox? My wife and I have been discussing things. We both admit that government and law enforcement in Australia is so much better than here in the Philippines. We both admit that it is safer for people in Melbourne than in Metro Manila. And yet both of us are adamant about raising our children in the Philippines rather than in Australia. Why? Shouldn't a better, more civilized society be a better environment to raise children? Why is it that, after admitting that we (my wife and I) stand a better chance of thriving in Australia than here in the Philippines, would still regard the Philippines as the best place to raise a family (that is, as long as the financial aspects are dealth with). And, for the longest time, neither of us can think of an answer.

It was all so obvious, of course. A better society doesn't necessarily mean better people. Ærynn, who used to want to raise kids in Oz, now sees that kids raised there are not better people, and are only brought under control later as adults by a better government and law enforcement. When I discussed this with an American friend of mine, who himself thinks that raising kids in the Philippines is better than doing so back in the USA, we both admitted that for all their vaunted government and law enforcement, "Western" people are sissies. All one has to do is watch them in other cultures and see how they cope—very badly (with the rare exception of some missionaries, who are more at home with indeginous cultures anyway than with western culture). In the end, we realized that even if the Philippines is not as well governed and guarded, and is a state of virtual anarchy, it is that anarchy that allows more freedom to raise better as well as worse individuals.

Child discipline, for example, is better implemented (and better abused, I admit) here. Whereas in most "Western" societies, one is carefully monitored. This, of course, prevents a lot of abuses that are readily apparent in the Philippines; however it also handicaps otherwise good parents from raising their children better. Everybody is made equal.

This is, of course, over-simplifying things, since "Western" countries are not one monolithic bloc. America is different from Australia, after all. In America and Australia, there are sectors of society that does allow the best of Pinoy upbriging. Yet, generally, not so.

One other thing is the relative attitudes towards religion and faith. While in "Western" countries, religion and faith are seen as "options," religion and faith right here are (inspite of the double standard and the justifying use of the Roman Catholic confessional) essential. Raising our kids to be God-fearing individuals is just more convenient here in the Philippines than anywhere else. This, even though a lot of Pinoys have learned not to fear God because of they penance they can do anyway (the real secret behind why organized crime in the Philippines doesn't collapse on itself). Father confessors and the confessional are very important aspects of organized crime, after all. Yet all that is better than a society that denies the existence of God and prevents you from exercising your conscience. I don't look forward to having to explain to my kids that believing in God is not unscientific.

I have not yet explored the other reasons why we feel this way. Maybe Ærynn can give better insights from her point of view; after all, she's actually living in an Australian society. Please note, though, that this is just our intentions as it is now. We are still open to finding ways to raise our kids properly in Australia.

W hile surfing, I cam across a few sites that have helped shape and clarify my position. I am listing some (not all) of them down below. I will add to the list when I have the time.