The Great Filipino Divide
The Philippines is composed of regional societies with various customs, language and tradition. These differences before was marked with chaos, as war erupted between Christian and the Muslim adherents in the Southern regions. This has happened as an influence of the three great colonization periods of the Spaniards, the Americans and the Japanese. This has continuously plagued the country until to this date. However, the ideological worldwide schism during the Cold War has also affected the nation with the Filipino leaders leaning towards democracy, in contrast to the unpopular leftist philosophies of socialism and the extreme left communism. Various contrasting difference creating tensions and friction between conflicting social clusters has never eased since then.
However, not one of these differences in my opinion has caused the greatest division of the Filipino nation. It is neither caused by language, religion nor ideologies. These are considered either obsolete in the current time, or no longer pressing as they were so influential previously. Language differences have resulted to misunderstandings among cultural groups, especially on the context of how conversations are built upon. However, the Filipino nation has learned to adapt with these contrasting linguistic differences. The same way has occurred with religion and ideologies. Although there is still an ongoing military conflict on the Southern Philippines and certain poor rural areas, these battles are characterized better as economic and criminal, rather than rooted deeply on faith and beliefs.
Today, the great Filipino divide is between the economic oligarchs, the emerging middle class, and the marginalized poor. The economic oligarchs, who were for long time protected by the 1987 Philippine constitution, continue to push their agenda into the government so they rule and manipulate policies that could enrich them further. This special topmost group of the economic caste has either been catapulted to this exclusive group by chance, or inheritance, or extreme perseverance. They are not considered entirely as villains because their interests have also been equated to the interests of the Filipino nation. By saying this, it is true that the government protects their rights most compared to the lower social classes, but this statement could also mean that Filipino oligarchs due to their desire of self-preservation would do everything in their power to protect themselves from economic intrusion of larger foreign corporations owned by richer and more influential oligarchs. Hence, the existence of the elite class would be continued as long they attain an equilibrium on the interplay of external and internal factors affecting the Filipino nation.
On the other hand, the genuine strength of the country lies on the empowerment of the emerging middle class. In the recent decades, the number belonging to this social cluster has increased due to better access to education and the surge of brain-drain in the country, primarily pushing educated, skilled or plainly willing Filipinos to work abroad. The time required for one to be upgraded from poor to the middle class is irrelevant. It seems automatic as soon as one is capable of sending money home to their immediate family regardless of how much. This means when an individual does so, he or she could survive with the remaining unsent money and the remittance he or she made will be used as capital for their significant others. Capital, therefore separates the middle class and the poor. The latter may perpetually unable to find means to get capital. Some would force themselves to break the cycle of poverty through education to work out themselves their way to this most-coveted capital.
In the Philippines , however, there is no such thing as real economic middle class power. The power remains with the elites, since the elites feel threatened that increasing middle class would eventually lead to competition, compromising their profits. Although this concept of the elite may not be entirely true, but it is more convenient for them to keep the middle class from growing rather than focus on improving the products the elites are selling to the consumer-middle class. For the elites, the middle class could coexist with them in sort of obedient paternal relationship. The elite, being the father would guide what they do and act as the dominant force as the middle class follows blindly and would opt not make change of the status quo. Because when the middle class aspires for an improved status quo, in one way or another the elites’ influence has been diminished. Hence, the elites are until today playing well in the economic chess between them and the middle social class, especially in the Philippines.
The marginalized poor is often the most neglected and the most vulnerable. Neglect of the poor does not necessarily only by the government, but also by the elites and even the middle class. The government sees the poor as a economic burden and an opportunity to enrich the elite and some members of the government. They could not complain, but of course the poor gets a budget allocation for social services, which prone to be stolen through corruption. The elites may use the poor as sacrificial lambs in the name of development, because for businesses to grow exponentially resources in the society need to be redistributed, not towards the poor but for the satisfaction of the economic elites.
Interestingly, even the bulk of the middle class directly and indirectly oppress the poor. Suddenly after making a better life, the middle class is prone to dementia on where they come from. They tend to forget and intentionally do so. They could never be blamed by this since psychologically speaking, it could be an effective way of coping from a stressful situation. However, due to this dementia phenomenon, the middle class because of the thought of self-preservation would focus more on themselves, rather than helping the marginalized poor. This has become advantageous for the elites, because the moment the middle class helps the poor, the middle class are creating consumers for themselves. This will lead to an opportunity to grow for the middle class, but this is missed because of the middle class themselves. Hence, the poor remains poor, the middle class remains consumers for the elites, while elites become richer and influential in the long run.
Now, how could this social division be addressed? I am more supportive for a stronger and more helpful middle class approach, rather than an elite-initiated or poor-initiated strategy. Should the middle class aid the poor through creating profitable businesses themselves, rather than merely becoming employees of the elite; both the middle class and the poor would benefit. The poor will be inspired to push themselves to be part of the middle class, rather than continue to live in neglect of the possibility of economic augmentation. Though the middle class, the elite will be forced to adapt, not by keeping the middle class low, but by finding new markets for themselves. As long as the elite sees the middle class as threat or a potential competitor, the social division would cut deeper. There is enough room for all thinking and creative individuals. The miopic mentality that resources are scarce and that everyone should make strategies to coexist to outdo another is counterproductive. There is no chance the Philippines would be a better nation, without a socially-aware, hardworking, creative and compassionate middle class.
PS: Since you were able to read this blogpost, you are at least one of those belonging to the middle class. Do your share.