Friday, May 13, 2005

Roots of our Colonial Mentality

Our "Colonial Mentality"

Then and now, an American 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 from the American point of view. To change this way of thinking, the American drilled into his mind need to be removed so as to arouse the Filipinism in his heart and mind in matters of national interests; for each Filipino to ultimately demonstrate and demand honest concern and action for the impoverished majority, especially when dealing with all foreigners, such as the American, Japanese, Chinese governments and their transnational corporations among many others.

The primary task for Filipinos is to raise their nationalistic consciousness, through self- education or by 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 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, those of his children and grandchildren; and consequently of his homeland.

Below is one of the many excellent articles written during the early 1980s by Leticia Constantino, wife of the great Filipino nationalist of recent history - the late Renato Constantino. A collection of these concise essays, in several slim volumes, to help understand important national issues and developments was published, as a teacher's aid to developing a nationalist education, under the title "Issues Without Tears", extremely useful to those who have no time nor patience to read books or scholarly treatises, as Mrs. Constantino explained. Hopefully the books are still available in Philippine bookstores. I highly recommend buying them.

"We shall be better and braver and less helpless if we think that we ought to enquire, than we should have been if we indulged in the idle fancy that there was no knowing and no use in seeking to know what we do not know..." - SOCRATES

"Upang maitindig natin ang bantayog ng ating lipunan, kailangang radikal nating baguhin hindi lamang ang ating mga institusyon kundi maging ang ating pag-iisip at pamumuhay. Kailangan ang rebolusyon, hindi lamang sa panlabas, kundi lalo na sa panloob!"--Apolinario Mabini La Revolucion Filipina (1898)

“Nations whose NATIONALISM is destroyed are subject to ruin.” - Colonel Muhammar Qaddafi, 1942-, Libyan Political and Military Leader

"The chief business of America is business" - President Calvin Coolidge, 1925

“Colonies do not cease to be colonies because they are independent” – Benjamin Disraeli, British Prime Minister (1804-1881)
from "Issues without Tears", 1984

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.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 enable 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. 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 treat 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.

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 texbooks. 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.

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 gve 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.]But all the foregoing are 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 identitiy, 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 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 instituions. 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.

“Nations whose NATIONALISM is destroyed are subject to ruin.” - Colonel Muhammar Qaddafi, 1942-, Libyan Political and Military Leader

“We shall be better and braver and less helpless if we think that we ought to enquire, than we should have been if we indulged in the idle fancy that there was no knowing and no use in seeking to know what we do not know..." – SOCRATES

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

"Upang maitindig natin ang bantayog ng ating lipunan, kailangang radikal nating baguhin hindi lamang ang ating mga institusyon kundi maging ang ating pag-iisip at pamumuhay. Kailangan ang rebolusyon, hindi lamang sa panlabas, kundi lalo na sa panloob!" --Apolinario Mabini La Revolucion Filipina (1898)


Anonymous said...

These words are so deep that if we are able to understand the real meaning we are sure to change the future. The history is surely not supposed to forget these legends ever.

Anonymous said...

Our colonial mentality has been the backbone of the successive moves for the people. The right story is inducted for the formation of the bright stories for the leaders.