Thursday, June 21, 2007

John Mangun: Why Does RP Trust America?

[Philippine Commentary is pleased to publish this essay from John Mangun on a recent international public opinion poll of public attitudes towards America and its aftermath in the local scene. Mr. Mangun writes Out-of-the-box for the Business Mirror in Manila.]

Why Does RP Trust America?
By John Mangun

The recent survey by the Chicago Council on Global Affairs and World Public Opinion dot org on national attitudes towards the United States again places the Philippines apart from conventional thinking. Our local Social Weather Stations conducted the survey on behalf of the aforementioned groups in the Philippines.

The most basic question asked in the survey was whether the United States could be trusted to act responsibly in the world, “a great deal,” “somewhat,” “not very much” or “not at all.”

Those nations who answered positively about the U.S., with the margin of statistical error included, included Australia, Israel, Poland, So. Korea, Ukraine, and the Philippines. An overwhelming 85% of Filipinos trusts America.

Although not noteworthy for the local newspapers, the results elicited some lively comments on television and on the internet. A sampling: “The picture of America's "goodness" increases with every check coming from our good FilAm OFWs”. “My takeaway from the survey is this: Filipinos' faith in America is like their faith in the Catholic Church. Unreasoning, uncritical, and unrequited.”

So it would seem from these types of comments that Filipinos are 1) mercenaries who only think about “The Money” and whose values are only financially driven or 2) are not smart or sophisticated enough to make a critical judgment.

My BusinessMirror colleague Dave Llorito came closest to my own perception of the results when he said, “There must be a way of overcoming this obsession (and higher economic growth is one huge step) but while we are still in this stage, we might as well enjoy the dollars and the Doc Martens.”

Underneath many of the comments posted on the internet was the elitist attitude sometimes so [pervasive in the Philippines. The idea is that the better educated are less inclined to view America positively while the less educated blindly fall into American subservience.

Statistically though, there was very little difference in the answers between the most and least educated.

Of those that never graduated from elementary school, 88% viewed America with trust. This compares with 83% of the respondents who were college graduates. Only 11% of the non-elementary had a negative perception with 16% of college graduates not trusting America to act responsibly.

The results comparing nation to nation are where the real enlightenment comes. One commentator wrote, “Many countries in the same survey that have lower approval ratings of the U.S. are not leftist. Also, some countries that are leftist (like China, which routinely violates democratic principles) have mixed results.” America fared most poorly in Argentina, France, Peru, and Russia. Therefore, it is apparent that political ideology has little bearing on the results.

However, economic ideology may be the factor that contributes to an individual’s perception of trust. Trust of course is a feeling that is difficult to define or qualify. However, it goes without saying that trust cannot be built without some sort of empathy, sympathy, or perhaps compatibility.

Economically speaking the United States is embodied in the idea of the “American Dream”. That “Dream” says that individual effort will be financially rewarded. That individual initiative and not government policy will ultimately determine a person’s wealth and success. Granted, this is the ideal but it is a clear concept from the alternative that the individual has little power and that the government ultimately controls a person’s future.

The list of nations viewing America positively is also where average individuals embrace this free market, free individual determination concept of wealth creation. Those on the ‘negative’ list are where reliance on government or the belief that economics is inevitably controlled by the government.

The average Filipino, I think, believes that he or she has the ability to control his or her own destiny. That Filipino knows that factors outside of his control limits his opportunities. There is great distrust of government because of inefficiency, ineffectiveness, and foolish financial policies. There is great distrust of the powerful, perceived as corrupt.

However, underneath it all is the conviction and confidence that given a break or given a chance, or simply not being held down by various external factors, they could succeed superbly by their own efforts. The government is not the path to wealth. That may be the “Filipino Dream”. And that dream may create an affinity with America far beyond balikbayan remittances, overseas employment, and American fast food.
Global Voices Online now has a post on the related matter of the medium of instruction language debate (post by Mong Palatino.)


DJB Rizalist said...

A warm welcome to Philippine Commentary, John!

The survey is certainly a wonder to some people and I notice Big Media doesn't really know how to handle it.

And Ricky Carandang is only partly right about "unrequited" since it IS a love-hate relationship, as Virginia Licuanan once called it in a masterful history of the Baguio Country Club.

But I think at bottom, it is the persistent belief that "in the end, America will do the right thing!"-- more alive I guess in Filipinos than even Americans (for you fail to mention how badly America did among Americans!)

DJB Rizalist said...

The virtue of CORRIGIBILITY, which perfects even the degrees of Liberty enjoyed by Americans, is probably her greatest virtue. May she never lose the powerful ability to evolve and to change, to correct historic injustices committed even by herself.

Ricky Carandang is strangely right that "Filipinos' faith in America is like their faith in the Catholic Church. Unreasoning, uncritical, and unrequited.”

For don't these last three words define the word, "FAITH"--even the part about "unrequited"?

blackshama said...

Well I suppose Filipinos still look with affection for America. This isn't a perverse idea since America's ideals as written in her constitution is really a source of affection.

There are many things America did right in the Philippines.

To equate these with Fil-Am and OFW contributions is to oversimplify this "love-hate" relationship.

What we Filipinos have to determine is whether this relationship has grown to a more mature level. Just like a couple who were once living together, we can't get America out of our life.

Of course as with all love-hate relationships, we can always throw the occasional cooking pot and dish at America.

DJB Rizalist said...

Love hate divorce: Yeah, that's not a bad analogy, but perhaps more accurate would be this: since the First Republic was defeated in the Philippine American War and the Infant Philippine Republic was taken from the cradle in a Spanish convent to a Hollywood suburb (say, East L.A.), the Philippines is more like an abandoned, adopted child who has nonetheless survived and is now making good for herself...indeed her children are Servants in the Big House...which they realize belongs to everyone as it was built by both human hands, and divine.

john marzan said...

...but isn't mong palatino a Lefty?

DJB Rizalist said...

Mong a lefty? So is Global Voices, didn't ya know?

Tiki said...

The writer argues that many countries that challenge the U.S. are not leftist (which means they support free market economics, like Russia and France), but later argues that many countries that don't support the U.S. don't believe in free market economics.

I still believe that my argument is more logical: the Philippines, like Israel, relies heavily on U.S. military and economic aid, and that explains the high rating. If we follow DJB's metaphor about parent and child, then Britain might have roughly the same approval rating as the U.S. (which I doubt, given British perceptions of Bush).

As for U.S. liberty and the need to correct historic injustices, let's see:

Finally, we should also consider the following:

DJB Rizalist said...

Well at least you don't deny that the survey results are true. You just think the reason it's true is that Filipinos and Israelis--the Jews of the Far and Middle East respectively--are basically mercenaries.