Test of Morality: Filipino Values

There are many who consider morality as subjective. What is moral to one may not be moral to the other. Due to its subjective nature, morality has been a source of conflict as the majority in a certain society indirectly dictates what the rest of the population should follow. This results morality becoming a primitive source of laws, ethics and tradition. Although these terms are not the same, morality is well-associated with them.

The challenge of morality is to describe what is moral in a particular society. This description has been product of various sociocultural influences, which include the role of family, value on autonomy and ofcourse religion. In most societies, some aspects are stronger than the other. This variation causes sometimes misunderstandings among individuals with contrasting moral values. Furthermore, the complexity of describing what is moral eases with the use of core values. This core values somehow encompass what a certain social group honors and believes for.

Usually these core values revolve around paternalism, conservatism, autonomy, equality and power. Within the Filipino culture, paternalism is very strong, which somehow results to excessive and blind obedience to superiors and authority. This however emphasis the role of men in steering the family and society as a whole. Women are considered support for men, while anything lesser of a manly image is considered weak and unworthy of respect and honor. People are given the right to decide, but should be within the limits of norms and tradition. Everyone are equal but individuals must take the responsibility to protect themselves against discrimination through power, education and wealth. The richer one is, the better it is to gain access to the so-called egalitarian social principles. Furthermore, religious sects emphasize sacrifice as means to eternal salvation. This has contributed to Filipino resiliency even in the midst of calamities and hardships. However, this has also limited understanding and even respect to individuals with liberal and non-church, non-biblical teachings.

Living in Norway for over two years, with the help of friends and experience, I learned that the Norwegian core values greatly puts weight on autonomy and equality. Gaining power and wealth is not prohibited, but it has a social responsibility attached to it to make the vulnerable and poor sectors more empowered. This is done through taxes and laws ensuring everyone gets the opportunity and that there is no need to gain power just to get respect. The value of self-determination is perhaps the strongest Norwegian value. Although one belongs to a family, no one could ever decide for another, unless with consent on how one lives their respective lives. Due to this, women could decide like men, weakening paternalism and conservation. Religion seems to be a personal choice, rather than an integral part of customs and tradition.

It is not the objective of this blogpost to compare societies in relation with morality. Who am I to judge? I can just perhaps enumerate core values that could give glimpse of the morals of a given social group, but it would be impossible to capture the entirety. Because of this challenge, it is also difficult to evaluate what is moral, or more moral. However, instead of focusing on describing and comparing the correctness of certain moral values, what is easier is to see moral values or morality on what it can do to a particular society. It would less complicated to answer whether morals have functioned well in a specific social group or not, based on criteria.

Morals must facilitate order.

Morals are used to know what is socially and culturally appropriate or not. Die to this unique function, somehow morals are tested on the degree it facilitates order on a society. It would be safe perhaps to argue that a chaotic society is significantly due to a malfunctioning, vague moral values, regardless of culture, religion and geopolitical influences. Say for example, the Singaporean nation. The state is small but people are somehow geared to value work. Religion, paternalism is evident. The nation does not see any difference as long as one works. I could say, there is order in Singapore. Thus, their moral values are clear and well-functioning as evidenced by an orderly society.

In comparison with the Philippines, work ethics seems to be commendable also like Singaporeans. Religion and paternalism is also evident, but what seems to be wrong? I can see little or no order in the society. Chaos reigns. One can do what one wants as long as one has the means to do it. The family is even strong, but the level of national cooperation is weak and almost non-existent. What seems to be incorrect? Is it the Filipino people itself, or the malfunctioning vague moral values?

Morals must be consistent and universal.

In the Philippines, all children are taught of family and Filipino values. They also learn at home, but somewhere when Filipinos grow up the need to disobey rules seems to be increasing. It seems it is a prestige for one to decide rules for others to follow, regardless of whether these values are consistent with the prevailing general moral values of the society. It seems everyone seems to know what the values are, but using case-to-case basis, what applies to be moral in one situation may not apply to another when personal benefit or advantage is compromised.

In Japan, all children are inculcated with these Family and Japanese values. They also learn from home, but what is wrong in one situation is entirely incorrect in another. A mistake is a mistake no matter how one could interpret and rationalize it. It is not about who committed a mistake, rather what the mistake is all about. There are no case-to-case basis, generally in all social classes, the same morals apply and are respected.

Now, what seems to be incorrect in the Philippines? Is it because we associate morals with personalities and persons, rather than understanding them by heart? Does it mean as long as one portrays a good image, what he did or does is tolerable morally as respect of his or her good image or reputation? If morals are designed this way in the Philippines, technically are morals present really in the Filipino society?

Morals should lead people to change positively.

Scandinavian countries are well-knowned to high prevalence of atheism and agnosticism. Most of these countries have state-sponsored religion, but attendees in religious gatherings are dwindling in number recently. Religion has become a choice, not an obligation. Social issues are not judged according to religious beliefs or biblical teachings. It is based on the common good. What serves best to the most number of people seems to be the most reasonable to pursue. However, although the citizens of these countries are non-believers as we put it, they are considered to have the highest quality of life. They live longer, better and perhaps more satisfied.

In contrast in the Philippines where individuals are taught to go to church at least once a week. Some are obligated to read and study the bible through regular religious gatherings. All positive values are explained in church, school and at home. Explicitly, everyone discuss issues in the light of these values. However, the quality of life in the Philippines is less than the Scandinavian countries. It seems normal and usual to steal what is not theirs, contrary to religious doctrines. A mistake becomes right as long as most people agree with it and does it. Social division and dissatisfaction is significant. Where is the expected positive change in the Filipino nation brought about by its moral values? It seems non-existent. People do not care what others are experiencing, as long as one gains for themselves. It must not also be a question of poverty, because the rich Filipino individuals also do not manifest this positive change. People are stressed leading to shorter live span and less quality of life.

Now, what is the point? I am not criticizing the Philippines, my beloved home country. This is not about the Filipino nation, rather about our moral values. We, Filipinos keep on saying on thing should not be done because it is contrary to what is moral and right. Honestly, I do not see the sense of imposing moral values to anyone in a nation plagued by chaos and selfishness. Such results are not reflective to what people seems to consider their moral values. Thus, before saying one is immoral, one must first determine which moral values is one talking about and evaluate whether they are functioning in the society or not.

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