My husband (born, raised and living in Germany) and I (born and raised in the Philippines, now living in Germany) have had variants of the same heated discussion several times: it would typically start with a short news piece on the radio, and then he’ll go and complain about what nincompoops they have in their government. An outraged me will then reply that if he thinks that this is what idiocy in governance looks like, then he’s ungrateful and has no idea what suffering under a dysfunctional state means (I mean, how could he not appreciate Mummy Merkel?!?). He’ll then respond that it’s not fair to expect him to just shut up whenever he’s unhappy with leadership. In fact, if there’s one thing he gained from all their WW2 history lessons, it’s that he shouldn’t hold back on criticizing the government, no matter how negligible others may think matters may be.
I haven’t felt the gravity of his reasoning, at least not until now. I’ve labelled him as a whiner, perhaps because I wanted him to see how he won the place-of-birth lottery, as compared to my fate where governance was mainly symbolic: a big circus, where you never really expect any output except maybe for scandals and entertainment. I wanted him to see that he was stressing out about nothing, that he has an amazing security net, in comparison to my place of birth, it was every man for himself.
But now, more than ever, I realize that he was right all along: I shouldn’t tell him to complain less; if anything, I should have complained MORE. Their culture of holding their leaders accountable, no matter how trivial you think the issue may be — maybe if Filipinos had that, maybe we wouldn’t be in the sorry mess we are now. A famous quote from Lee Kuan Yew points out that the Filipinos’ downfall was that we were too quick to forgive and move on, that we spared harsh punishment in the name of virtue, a habit of amnesia and leniency that generations to come will pay for dearly. I used to think that if I myself couldn’t do a better job, then I am in no place to complain. Now, perhaps, I should adopt his way of thinking and hold people to a higher standard, and to never underestimate what people are capable of delivering.