Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Our Colonial Mentality,Damaged Culture and Their Roots

“The HISTORY of an oppressed people is hidden in the lies and the agreed myth of its conquerors.” - Meridel Le Sueur, American writer, 1900-1996

What luck for rulers that men do not think" - Adolf Hitler

WHAT WE FILIPINOS SHOULD KNOW: (Note: Bold and/or underlined words are HTML links. Click on them to see the linked posting/article. Forwarding the postings to relatives and friends, especially in the homeland, is greatly appreciated).

Then and now, an American -who has replaced more subtly, efficiently and effectively the Spaniard- seems to reside in the mind of each Filipino in each generation since the US conquest and occupation of the Philippines. Consequently, the Filipino has been conditioned to -knowingly or unknowingly- think and analyze economic and political issues in our homeland from the American point of view.

To change this way of thinking, the American in his mind need to be removed to arouse Filipinism in his heart and mind in matters of national interests; for Filipinism to take over when dealing with the American government/transnational corporations (for that matter: any other foreign country, people or entity.)

The primary task for Filipinos is to raise their nationalistic consciousness, either through self or formal/informal education, beginning with a recognition and appreciation of their colonial mentality and exerting a conscious effort to discard it. It is only with Filipino nationalism, a nationalistic consciousness in his mind and heart will the Filipino be able to fight, deal and work with utmost determination for his own betterment and those of his children and grandchildren.

Below is an excellent article, quite dated but still extremely relevant, written in 1984 by Leticia Constantino (wife of the great Filipino nationalist of recent history - the late Prof. Renato Constantino). In the Foreword to her book from which I extracted the article, Mrs. Constantino wrote that while her husband's tasks were to analyze Philippine Education Today and other impediments to realizing Filipino Nationalism, her task was to answer the question "What Is To Be Done?"

NOTE: All her thoughts before journalist James Fallows visited and wrote his popular piece about our "damaged culture," i.e. absence of Filipino nationalism, in 1987. Fallows must have read this essay by Mrs. Constantino. Again, we Filipinos due to our colonial mentality would tend to appreciate and pay attention to what foreigners, i.e. mostly Americans like Fallows, say. In contrast, we Filipinos would tend to ignore, belittle and argue vehemently against what our own nationalist intellectuals already knew and understood, said or wrote about (in certain issues our Americanized minds, consciously or unconsciously, make us more American than Americans -repeatedly demonstrating to the world our mendicant/servile attitude).

(Source: Issues Without Tears - A Layman's Manual of Current Issues, Volume 1, 1984)

Neocolonialism - The dominance of strong nations over weak nations, not by direct political control (as in traditional colonialism), but by economic and cultural influence.

“The true Filipino is a decolonized Filipino.” – Prof. Renato Constantino (1919-1999)



We often hear Filipinos complain that as a nation we are afflicted with a colonial mentality. By this they usually mean that we are excessively subservient to foreigners and unduly impressed by foreign goods. But an even more harmful aspect of colonial mentality and one that is less recognized is our failure to pinpoint our real national interests apart and distinct from those of our foreign colonizers. Despite 35 years of independence, this trait has not been eradicated.

Colonial mentality has deep roots in our history: first, in the level of social and economic development we attained before colonization; second, in the nature of Spanish colonization; third, in the impact of American rule; fourth, in the way we obtained our independence and fifth, in the neo-colonial policies of the United States up to the present time.

  1. Unlike India, Indonesia, Vietnam and Cambodia, we did not confront our Spanish conquerors as a people with a highly developed culture and social structure. Our forebears lived in small, scattered communities based on kinship ties and relied mainly on primitive agriculture which provided barely enough for their needs. We were not a nation since these communities were separate, autonomous barangays. Trade among barangays and with the people from neighboring countries was occasional and by barter. Religion was likewise primitive with no organized body of beliefs or priestly hierarchy. All these made physical conquest and cultural domination quite easy for the Spanish colonizers.

    Unlike the Cambodians with their Angkor Vat and the Indonesians with their Borobudur, we had no monuments which could remind our people of an ancient glory. When nations with advanced social structures and a firmly established culture are colonized, their past achievements constitute the source of their separate identity which enables the conquered to confront their colonizers with dignity and sometimes even a feeling of superiority. They do not easily lose their sense of racial worth.

    Unfortunately for us, we were colonized before our own society could develop sufficiently. Having but few cultural defenses against our conquerors, we soon accepted their superiority and began to acquire what we now call a colonial mentality.

  2. Other Western powers initially instituted a system of indirect rule in their Asian colonies by exploiting the people through their chiefs, leaving native social and cultural institutions largely intact. In the Philippines however, our two colonizers consolidated their rule by working on the native consciousness, thus effecting great changes in Filipino values and customs.

    The Spaniards forcibly resettled the scattered barangays into larger communities where the people could more easily be Christianized and where every aspect of their lives, their customs and ideas could be scrutinized and shaped in the desired colonial mode. In most communities, the Spanish friars represented both the power of the cross and the power of the sword. As pillars of the colonial establishment, most priests sought to develop in their flock the virtues of obedience, humility and resignation. Spanish superiority was maintained and the
    "indio" was kept in his inferior position by denying him education (there was no system of national education until 1863). The people were trained to follow and were discouraged from thinking for themselves. A thirst for knowledge was considered a dangerous and subversive trait which often brought actual misfortune or the threat of hell. The "indio" acquired the habit of allowing his economic and social superiors to do the thinking for him, and this attitude persists among us today, seriously undermining any movement for greater democracy. Under the Spaniards, inferiority complex evolved into a national trait of Filipinos.

  3. Ironically enough, by satisfying the Filipinos' desire for education and self-government, the American colonizers developed a new, and is some ways, a more pernicious form of colonial mentality. For while the Spanish arrogance and bread anger and rebellion, American education transformed the United States in the eyes of the Filipinos from an aggressor who had robbed them of their independence to a generous benefactor.

    The school system began Americanizing the Filipino consciousness by misrepresenting US expansionism and US economic policies as American altruism toward the Filipinos; by denying young Filipinos of any knowledge of Filipino resistance to American occupation and the atrocities committed the American military; by filling young minds with stories that glorify the American way of life, American heroes and American institutions.

    Americanization was greatly facilitated by the imposition of English as the sole medium of instruction. This made possible the use of American textbooks. Education taught the Filipino youth to regard American culture as superior to their own and American society as the best model for Philippine society. Of course, our Americanization has been profitable to the Americans because it kept on producing new generations of avid consumers of American goods. All these were ingredients of a new type of colonial mentality.

  4. Our so-called tutelage in self-government at the end of which we received our independence from our "generous teacher and guardian" is partly responsible for our persistent failure to recognize that our real national interests are distinct from and, more often than not, contrary to those of the United States. American colonial policy gave the Filipinos their first experience in self-government in the legislative field. Since executive power remained in the hands of the American governor-general and real, overall power resided in Washington, Filipino leaders learned the art of adapting to American economic requirements while catering to their Filipino constituents' desire for independence.

    Periodic elections focused public attention on "politics", a superficial democratic exercise during which most politicians pledged to secure "immediate, absolute, complete independence" without explaining that the economic dependence of the Philippines on the US market would such independence an empty one. The Philippine elite, landowners who grew rich on agricultural exports to the US, largely controlled Philippine politics, so most politicians in fact supported this economic dependence. Politicians therefore concentrated on the issue of political independence and the people received little enlightenment on economic issues except from radical labor and peasant groups in the 1930s. The Filipino dream of independence remained limited to political sovereignty.

    The fact that we obtained independence as a "grant" and not as a result of a victorious, anti-colonial revolution has obscured the real contradictions between our interests and those of the US [we had no such blinders toward either Spain or Japan; we recognized the conflict of interests between them and us.]

  5. But all the foregoing is part of the past. The Philippine republic is now 35 years old. Why have we not outgrown our colonial mentality? Of course, we now have an appreciation of our national identity, a feeling of cultural nationalism. We have discovered ethnic culture and take pride in local art and music. In fact, US global policies can tolerate and even encourage such expressions of a separate identity especially when they can be used to mask continuing economic domination.

    Economic control
    is now exercised in more subtle forms - through transnational corporations (TNCs) whose requirements are incorporated in Philippine laws and policies, through various forms of aid from countries like the US and Japan which help to shape economic priorities and consumption patterns in ways favorable to the aid givers, through TNC advertising and Western mass media which create new needs and tastes and mold our view of world events and, above all, through loans from our World Bank and other international institutions (IMF, ADB,etc) which require as a prior condition our acceptance of a national development program which ensures continued satellization of our economy.

    Theoretically, the laws and policies we adopt to attract TNCs, whether we accept aid or not, whether we borrow from the World Bank or not, are decisions freely arrived at by our own government. Rarely do we learn of the pressures exerted, the demands made, the strings attached by these foreign entities. Instead, our leaders deepen our misconception of the role and power of these external forces by presenting foreign-designed programs that will further reinforce our dependence as examples of self-reliance and independence.

    We must examine carefully from a nationalist perspective all aid offered, all loans granted, all programs suggested by foreign governments and institutions. Only then can we begin to rid ourselves of our unfortunate inability to see the contradiction between our interests and theirs, a feeling which is today the most serious aspect of our colonial mentality.

    The Phillipines makes a decent representative example of the US' first official exercise in colonial imperialism and formal empire [*], also referred to as "civilizational imperialism" - a project we're presently repeating. "Lest this seem to be the bellicose pipe dream of some dyspeptic desk soldier, let us remember that the military deal of our country has never been defensive warfare. Since the Revolution, only the United Kingdom has beaten our record for square miles of territory acquired by military conquest. Our exploits against the American Indian, against the Filipinos, the Mexicans, and against Spain are on a par with the campaigns of Genghis Khan, the Japanese in Manchuria and the African attack of Mussolini. No country has ever declared war on us before we first obliged them with that gesture. Our whole history shows we have never fought a defensive war. And at the rate our armed forces are being implemented at present, the odds are against our fighting one in the near future." - -- Major Gen. Smedley D. Butler, America's Armed Forces: 'In Time of Peace', 1935. 1898-1914: The Phillipines.

See also an older posting with more hyperlinks:

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