Monday, November 19, 2012

Pinoy (Pride) Pity

A GUEST POST by Anonymous

My boyfriend and I booked a biking tour when we visited Bangkok 2 weeks ago. Our first rest stop was at a park, leading to the “slums” – shanties put up under the bridge. Our tour guide Cha (pronounced Djaaa~, if you please), was quick to say, “The people who live here are not poor. There are no people in Thailand.”

I’m not sure what the Dutch and Danes in our party thought, but I was waiting for a punch line.

Here’s what followed instead: “The people who live here [in the slums] are not poor. They choose to live here so they won’t have to pay for rent, which means, they can send more money back home to their families. When you are poor, it means you have no food, no work. But anyone can get a job in Thailand. They can work as taxi drivers, truck drivers – anything. You will not see Thai people begging on the street. The beggars you see around are probably from Cambodia.”

That’s just all sorts of wrong, isn’t it? I certainly don’t believe there are no poor people in Thailand (You may open a new tab to Google the numbers). Those people who live in the shanties probably wouldn’t if they didn’t “have to”. But the stigma of begging – that was something to think about.

I personally think begging is obscene. This has nothing to do with those who beg, but having to resort to begging, is something I would never wish upon anyone. There is no shame in being poor, but there is shame in having to beg, and shame that you live in a world where your fellow has to beg from you.

I pity those who have to resort to begging. Pity, but nothing else. I sympathize with people for whom life is a burden. I respect people who ask for help. I admire people who are determined to help themselves. But I only feel pity for people who beg.

A beggarly attitude, though, is downright offensive. If you’re looking forward to Christmas as a time to receive dole outs from your wealthier relatives, it means you probably can’t afford Christmas. But if you intend to make the rounds bringing home made dinuguan, you have something to say for yourself (please stop by our house too – I beg of you!).

Here’s Emile Gaboriau, describing, Pascal Ferailleur, a young man in his crime novel, The Count’s Millions. Pascal’s widowed mother was cheated out of the millions earned by his late father, leaving them destitute:

“With a tact unusual for his age [a 12-year-old Pascal], or indeed at any other, he bore his misfortunes simply and proudly without any of the servile humility or sullen envy which so often accompanies poverty.”

-- The Count’s Millions

Lack of pride in oneself leads one to beg—for money, food, a savior, a miracle…Pride, not arrogance, is good. Pride is not false bravado nor is it stubbornness. Pride is not incompatible with humility. Pride means you believe you have something of value, even though you live in a shanty under a bridge. Pride means living in a shanty under a bridge, rather than begging. Pride can be found in being a truck driver, taxi driver—anything—but not in being a beggar. A laborer can look his employer in the eye and demand his pay. A beggar must accept what he can get.

If Cha is speaking for Thailand, it looks to me they’re aiming for the right thing—70,000,000 people who have confidence in themselves, and not 70,000,000 people who need to be saved.

The Philippines’ and Thailand’s numbers aren’t so disparate, yet I get the impression that we are perversely proud of being “poor” and welcome pity. We are quick to paint ourselves as long-suffering victims and are ready with a list of people to blame. But we lose interest in ideas for a solution – especially if it means we have to wait in line like everybody else, or if the solution isn’t as dramatic and sweeping as a lottery win.

If I’ve got it wrong, and this attitude reflects the refusal to put in work (and not about despair / confidence at all), then I guess we’re getting what we want. And we are very good at pitying ourselves.

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