Thursday, March 29, 2012

Filipino Hero Worship... The Biggest National Pitfall

In this country (the Phailipppines), anything can be a hero -- whether they show any intent or ability to be one.

Hero worship starts at an early age and sometimes persists through adulthood.  To some, heroes represent what they'd like to be and to others, heroes represent someone who'll save them from one situation or another.

I have nothing against heroes or hero worship at all.  If someone's hero or hero worship makes them a better person or helps them get through the day, then fine -- I am all for it.

However, there are instances when I am almost certain that Filipinos have gone way over-the-top with making heroes out of anything and anyone.

About two weeks ago, I spotted a picture of a dead dog and a snake.  The caption that came with it narrated a story that would melt the heart of most dog lovers:
But when Maria Victoria later emerged from the room, she was terrified to find the cobra poised about two feet away. Equally startled, the cobra expanded its hood and appeared to be spitting venom as it prepared to strike. 
"The snake was in front of us, maneuvering a deadly attack," says Maria Victoria. "I screamed out loud to ask for help." 
That's when from "out of nowhere", Chief dashed between the cobra and the two women, using himself as a shield against the cobra's attacks. Chief then seized the cobra by the neck and slammed it into the floor, killing it. 
But for Chief it was a Pyrrhic victory. In the struggle, he sustained a fatal bite to the jaw, and moments later he began gasping for breath and collapsed. 
The family sought the help of a veterinarian, but they were told that nothing could be done. According to the vet, the bite was too close to Chief's brain, and the venom had already spread. Maria Victoria called her husband Marlone who, stunned by the news, rushed home immediately.
At least two Facebook Friends posted the link to the story and one of them said in a status update that the dog Kuya or Chief was a hero just like the other dog hero Kabang.

After reading the word "hero", I spent the next few minutes trying to keep myself from commenting that animals that save people's lives cannot be regarded as heroes.

But before I explain why, it's best to look at a definition of 'hero' and here's one from Wikipedia:
Later, hero (male) and heroine (female) came to refer to characters who, in the face of danger and adversity or from a position of weakness, display courage and the will for self sacrifice—that is, heroism—for some greater good of all humanity.  
This definition originally referred to martial courage or excellence but extended to more general moral excellence.  
So, in this definition, the classical hero is:
1. Someone who faces a challenge or danger from a position of weakness or adversity.
2. Displays courage and willingness to sacrifice himself
3. Commits an act to achieve some greater good
Both dogs faced danger. Both dogs sacrificed themselves and saved lives.  But did both dogs do so willingly?  

They acted instinctively, not willingly.  In order to act willingly, you have to have will or the mental faculty by which one deliberately chooses or decides upon a course of action.

If, for example, the dogs knew they were going to die as a result of their action, would they still do it? I think the instinct for self-preservation would probably over ride all of their other instincts.

In the case of Pacquiao, he has risen from poverty to become one of the greatest Filipino boxing champions. There is no doubt that it takes courage to fight in a boxing ring and there is some measure of self-sacrifice involved, but is it for the greater good?  Perhaps only indirectly.

Perhaps he gives away some of his prize money directly or through charitable organizations.  Perhaps, also, in paying the correct amount in taxes, he is also helping people.  Perhaps, his victories inspire young men and women to excel in whatever area of expertise they chose to excel in.

But all that is an indirect effect of Manny's victory in the ring.  When Manny Pacquiao wins a fight, the prize money and the glory all belong to him and him alone.

In the case of President Benigno S. Aquino III, there is no doubt that he has a large following and those followers probably worship or idolize him or at least venerate what he represents.

Did he encumber adversity to get to his position now? Did he demonstrate courage or the willingness for self-sacrifice?  What acts has he done that has brought about greater good?

I am sure his followers will have no lack of answers to all three questions.  

As for me, I think the hardest thing he has done is to campaign for his position.  All the courage and self-sacrifice redounds to the political clout he now has.  As for acts that accomplish some greater good, I think that is basically something that is pre-programmed and executed almost reflexively by various government agencies.

Now, as for this girl wading against flood waters carrying a Philippine flag, I think Better Philippines can explain the circumstances better than I can:
base mismo sa interview sa batang yan at sa kuya niya. inutusan lang siya. bakit nagkaroon ng heroism angle. kasi ang ibang tao yun ang ikinabit na deskripsyon sa litratong iyan. eh nung ininterview na yung bata at kamaganak siempre medyo leading na ang mga tanong patungo sa heroism angle eh di natural lumabas na nga na hero herohan.
(Translation: Based on the interview with that kid and her older brother, the kid was merely instructed to fetch the flag. How did the picture get imbued with a heroism angle? Other people described it as heroic.  The relatives of the kid were interviewed and leading questions were used to get them to get them to support a heroism angle, so then the kid was called a hero.) 

Now, why does it seem that it is important for Filipinos to describe one person or another as a hero?

It is because, in reality, most Filipinos think of heroes not as models for emulation but rather as people who will save them from one set of circumstances or another.  Why? Because most Filipinos think of themselves as helpless victims and they need saving all the time.

Instead of aspiring to be Pacquiao, guess what most of Manny's relatives do?

I rest my case.

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