The city of Baltimore is world-famous for its crab houses, not to be mistaken for pubic lice or “crabs,” a common form of STD. Freshly-steamed blue crabs have been very much a part of Baltimore tradition.
But in the Philippines, the kind of crustacean that is the most well known is the two-legged variety that lives on land – Filipinos with a crab mentality.
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Only a few weeks before the coming May 13 elections, putative topnotcher of the senatorial candidates and re-electionist Senator Loren Legarda was accused of not disclosing her condo apartment in New York’s tony Park Avenue in her SALN (Statement of Assets and Liabilities Networth). The accusation triggered off potential comparisons with former Supreme Court Chief Justice Renato Corona whose downfall from the highest court in the land was caused by inaccuracies in SALN reporting. Senator Legarda must have felt the tremors from the ground up there in the stratosphere where she has been coasting along as the top senatorial candidate since day one.
Senator Legarda was charged at the Office of the Ombudsman with five counts each of graft and non-declaration of a property in the United States in her statement of assets, liabilities and net worth from 2007 to 2012 as required by law.
Crab mentality arises from a situation where crabs in a bucket find it difficult to escape because the other crabs grab at each other and prevent the other from escaping. The analogy is extended to human behaviour where some members of a group pull down any member who has achieved success over the others, out of envy, jealousy or competitive feelings.
While popularly ascribed to Filipinos, this particular mentality is not endemic to Filipinos. It’s a universal individual and social dynamic, ubiquitous in almost every other culture. Among Germans, for instance, there is an attitude called schadenfreude which means taking pleasure in the misfortune of others and can be understood as an outgrowth of envy or jealousy.
When Utah Congressman Jason Chaffetz was asked if Republican candidate for president Mitt Romney should release more of his tax returns during the last US elections, he categorically answered no, implying that those who wanted to see them were just jealous of Romney’s wealth and success. “He’s the kind of guy I want to be president. He actually knows how to turn the economy around,” Chaffetz added.
So this crab mentality of pulling down someone because of his or her advantages is a common thing. Most people are naturally insecure or unsatisfied with where they are in life, so they take the opportunity to try to hold down others. We see neighbours defaming neighbours, reporters inventing stories about celebrities, businessmen cutting corners to beat their competitors, and professionals dislodging fellow professionals, which are all common varieties of crab mentality.
In politics, crab mentality is intuitively germane in the dynamics of rivalry or competition. Politicians by nature attack their opponents for their failure to deliver their electoral promises of honesty, good government, jobs growth or better social programs, or simply for the purpose of putting them down in the eyes of the electorate. They pull down others who don’t follow their line. It is because of this incessant tug of war and mudslinging between politicians that there is a perceived general failure in government.
It’s rather disingenuous, however, to hear allegations from the opposition party that crab mentality is driving a member or some members of the administration’s roster candidates (Team PNoy) to prevent Senator Legarda from finishing on top of the senatorial contest. “Somebody wants to be number one ahead of her. Is that the kind of people you want to be elected in the Senate?” asked senatorial candidate Richard Gordon of the United Nationalist Alliance (UNA).
“It is saddening that Loren’s fellow Liberal Party candidate is the one initiating the black propaganda against her. Behind the ‘daang matuwid’ (straight path) is a mix of personalities who put ambitions over principles,” UNA secretary general and campaign manager Toby Tiangco noted.
Talking about ethical principles is something very strange to hear from politicians. They better check the reflection on their personal mirrors first before they open their mouths for they could also be sorely lacking in ethical scruples.
Yet, it is more refreshing to listen to Nancy Binay’s candour when she expressed disapproval of what Senator Legarda’s fellow candidate in Team PNoy was doing to pull her down. “We are helping each other to improve our chances. In the last three months of campaigning together, we are becoming closer to each other and we are already like sisters and brothers and one family. Our relationship as friends and as UNA candidates is becoming more strong as the elections near,” Nancy Binay said.
Very comforting and honest words from a candidate who seems not to know why she’s running for senator in the first place. But this is closer to reality, to the kind of remarks expected from contestants in the American Idol singing contest – praising the closeness and camaraderie they have developed among them, and the expression of collective angst that one of them could be thrown out because one of them is secretly pulling another down. Doesn’t Ms. Binay sound like a contestant in the American Idol show?
Instead of crying crab mentality, spare the blameless crabs of their complicity. If a candidate has a spotless record as a politician, what then is she afraid of attacks against her? Don’t blame it to our cultural predilection to pull down those who are ahead. Tell the truth and it shall make you free.
Ms. Binay and Mr. Gordon are both running for senators on account of their parents’ political legacy. At least Mr. Gordon has proven himself in the past. In the case of Ms. Binay, it’s all about name recognition. All she carries is her father’s name. She’s as empty as a vacuum, who is willing to engage in a debate with the other candidates, but only after the election is over.
Both Ms. Binay and Mr. Gordon are scions of famous political families, just like Bam Aquino, Jun and Mitos Magsaysay, Jack Enrile, Allan Cayetano, Sonny Angara, Tingting Cojuangco, JV Ejercito, Cynthia Villar, Juan Miguel Zubiri, Koko Pimentel, Jamby Madrigal and others who could all trace their political fortune to their ancestors and are all banking on the magical appeal of their names. Even Senator Legarda hails from a political family, her husband was former governor of Batangas and member of a political clan.
If we want to involve the crabs in this election, then let’s emulate them: we might as well pull down all these candidates and elect instead people on their true merits and political principles they stand on. There are a handful of aspirants among the 33 senatorial candidates who are not from known political families and are running on political platforms worthy of the people’s support. Teddy Casiño stands tall among these candidates for his unwavering crusade for nationalism, democracy, and the rights and welfare of the people at all times. But the major political parties, including the media, are portraying Casiño as a leftist because of his advocacy of the rights of workers, farmers, and the poor and oppressed. As if electing one candidate from the left will shake the entire Congress and bring the government down. At least, in electing Casiño, there would be one member of the senate who represents a new perspective, a fresh point of view instead of the usual exchange of senseless political tirades and one-upmanship that have typically characterized Congress.
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But because of crab mentality again, this time by those on the conservative right fearing of a Teddy Casiño-led uprising of workers and peasants, they’re going to shoot down Casiño’s candidacy. They will keep portraying Casiño as the leftist arsonist, who will burn Congress to the ground if elected. If necessary, they will push politics back to the Hobbesian state of nature where political envy and jealousy are the primary passions of the day.
Forever under the spell of crab mentality, Congress has become a big bucket of crabs, each member trying to outdo the other while some members keep pulling down the others. It’s a brutal race to the top, and victory always belongs to the one whose political genealogy is rooted to a powerful family dynasty. Just look at our past and present leaders, Estrada, Arroyo and Aquino – all family dynasties, and their minions are still growing.
Let’s rally all the crabs in the country to put these family dynasties down for good. At least, this way we can make use of the crab mentality we are known worldwide in dismantling a significant obstacle to the democratization of the political process. Like the popular crabs of our culture, we will claw them back and stop them from reaching the pinnacle of political power.