Writing on Air

Writing on Air by Jim Paredes

What child is this?

Posted on May 13, 2007 by jimparedes

May 13, 2007
Jim Paredes

Carl Jung, the eminent writer on the subconscious, says that every person harbors within himself certain ‘archetypes’—or primal characters that have existed throughout the history of mankind and we have all inherited. And he claims that all these archetypes of the past are embedded in mankind’s collective memory.

As examples, we carry within us the archetype of a ‘prostitute’ (which takes over us every time we decide what we will do for money), and the ‘saboteur’ (the one who warns us of our own recklessness). There are also the ‘hero’,’ teacher’, ‘child’, and others that dwell in us. There are millions of archetypes, actually, and each one of us is a jumble of characters waiting in line to express ourselves though our personalities and actions. And in time, they will.

This theory supposedly explains why we change, and what makes us suddenly behave in a contradictory manner, or the opposite of how we know ourselves. This is a really fascinating concept which other writers have explored in depth. Among them is Caroline Myss who wrote about this in her book ‘Sacred Contracts’.

The concept is intriguing as it is for experts to write voluminous books and articles about it. Allow me not only to throw in my two cents worth but to bring the idea a step further, at the risk of being reckless and superficial.

One of the things that intrigues me is this: Is it possible that, like individuals, countries, nations, races and peoples are also subject to archetypal influences and thus carry and act out the patterns attributable to certain archetypes at different times in their history? In other words, if nations were people, what would they be?

It is easy to imagine that Germany’s archetype is the strict disciplinarian obsessed with order. Take a look at its BMWs, Beethoven, Wagner, etc. During WWII, for example, wasn’t Germany acting this out in a perversely obsessive-compulsive manner? Wasn’t this evident in the way the Nazis wanted to rid the world of ‘imperfection’ (Jews) and establish the perfect Aryan race? Hitler had the death machine humming efficiently, just like the trains which were running on time. There was definitely ‘law and order’ and great efficiency.

Let’s look at America. What archetype is it acting out? Take a look at its politics and movies. Hollywood and the political establishments’ projection of America is often that of an aggressive, young and vibrant teenager with a lot of spunk, recklessness, chutzpah — a know-it-all with no distant past to learn from and temper itself. America is the source of rock and roll, the atom bomb and the Vietnam and Iraq fiascos. It can be both charming and destructive, and ‘vandalizing’ (like a teenager) of other cultures as well.

Japan. Didn’t Japan during WWII come on as the steely, disciplined warrior-samurai archetype complete with hara-kiri and kamikaze in its repertoire of heroic expressions?

I know I am speaking loosely and in very broad strokes. But you must admit it’s an exciting subject for speculation.

What archetypes dominate or rule the Philippines today? What can we observe from the way we behave as a people?

Don’t we tend to excuse our foibles and say that we are still a young country to explain why we are in the mess we are in? From all indications, we seem to be ruled by the ‘child’ archetype who refuses to look at things in an adult manner. Consider the following:

– We love to party—fiestas, salo-salo, barkada, ‘gimmick’, the longest Christmas holidays in the world, etc. We have A LOT of holidays in this country.

– We have very short memories. We are not great fans of history and we never seem to learn from it. We elect the same mistakes over and over again.

– We have an even shorter attention span. We do not hear of our government looking 20 years ahead. Even when other nations plan for the next 50 to 100 years, we don’t seem to go beyond the ‘5-year plan’. We like things ad hoc. Bahala na si Batman.

– We go merrily along seemingly unconcerned about our serious problems. In every survey the past few years, we always see ourselves as ‘the happiest people in Asia’ despite the hole we are sinking in.

– Our favorite religious icon is the Santo Nino — the depiction of Jesus as a child. We like a lovable, cute God—a representation not unlike ‘Hello Kitty’ or Barbie that we like to dress up. Our God of choice is a combination of a cute child star (with curly locks and white skin) and the Promil baby — intelligent and, at a young age, could preach at the temple.

– We love entertainment, Little Miss Philippines, telenovelas about young love, fantaseryes, etc. that are mostly about the young.

If all of the above are true, what kind of child is the Filipino? Is it the archetypal force that characterizes us as ‘the golden child’, the ‘meek and quiet child’ or the ‘spoiled brat’? Are there other archetypes to choose from?

Consider the following:

– A lot of Filipino children grow up these days with only one parent because many of their dads or moms are working outside the country. In one college class I spoke to a few years ago, 47% of the entire class had only one parent at home.

Could we then be the ‘orphan child’?

What about the ‘abused child’?

– We seem to project on our mass media, children in ‘adult’ roles or situations. Our telenovelas like to depict children who cry a lot because they are saddled with the problems of the family and the world. In singing contests, it is not unusual to hear kids sing ‘My Way’, or ‘The Greatest Performance Of My Life’ or ‘She Bangs’. And there is the phenomenon of very young kids gyrating like the Sex Bomb dancers and the like projecting an overt sexuality fit only for adults!

Our politicians know only too well how child-like we are. They therefore give us entertainment in place of governance. And as if to exploit the ‘orphan’ in us, they like to project themselves as ‘Ama ng bayan’ (Erap and Marcos), Ina ng bayan (Imelda) and other parent figures.

My own interpretation in archetypal terms of Erap’s fall from grace and GMA’s ascension to power goes something like this:

Nagwala si tatay. Napasama sa masamang barkada at bisyo kaya si Ate ang naatasan mag-alaga sa atin.

Why not Nanay? She can’t. She’s in the Middle East, or London, or America making money as an OFW.

Writers have described life in the Philippines as ‘magic realism’, the same way Gabriel Garcia Marquez’ sees life in Latin America. The child in us lives in a mythic, magical world where we expect a handsome prince to save us at the last minute, or that things will get better with the wave of a magic wand, without any need for us to change.

I have news for us: Things will not change, not until the party wears out and a more responsible archetype takes over who will want to clean up the mess we’ve made.

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  1. DaveLock says:

    That’s a very interesting concept Jim, & it really has me thinking. Hmmmm.

    If I were to apply that concept to my opinion of Australia, I would say we are like a newly graduated profesional – one who is very naive & lacks the worldly confidence & answers, yet has enough “presence” to be able to be an occasional fringe dweller of what I call “the big boys club”.

    But back to the Philippines (my favourite subject haha), I do agree that things could be much, much better for so many people there. But I’ve always believed that you can’t help people who don’t have the desire to help themselves. It pains me when I see so many families with at least one member working overseas or far away from home, wasting the advantage that situation brings by not doing anything worthwhile with that extra income. Too many times I’ve seen the family’s lifestyle simply grow into the bigger income by allowing the money to be spent on things they could really do without (new cell phones, load, fancy clothes, fast food). Then when the displaced member’s contract term ends, they return to see very little reward for their hard work. Instead the family should have had the collective discipline to plan it so that the money was building something up that will be sustainable long after the contract term ends.

    And in too many Filipino barangays I’ve seen the Pinays almost working themselves into the ground, whilst the Pinoys are sitting around taking life far too easy.

    I often say to my many Filipino friends that unfortunately most of the problems the Filipino people face, they bring upon themselves by the everyday choices they make.

    But the flipside to this is that the Philippines has many things to its advantage which are just waiting in the background to drive the country forward once the time is right, such as:
    – Filipinos are naturally very talented, very skillful people.
    – Filipinos are truly wonderful, likeable people, & are very easy to get along with.
    – Filipinos are quite easy to train into different professions.
    – The Philippines has the energy of youth on its side – something that is harming countries like Australia & Japan, who’s populations are aging too quickly.
    – There are hundreds of thousands of highly skilled, highly trained Filipinos working overseas who would love to come home if the situation was right for them to do so. That’s like having an Olympic gold medal squad waiting to step in & play for your team.
    – For all its weaknesses & inefficiencies, the system of democracy in the Philippines is fiercly & vocally defended. Many other nations can’t boast that.
    – The rule of law is quite strong in the Philippines, also something that many other nations can’t boast. The enforcement of those laws could improve a lot though.

    For example if you were to compare the Philippines’ situation & potential to many African nations, Pacific Island nations & some South American nations, then I think you’d have to agree that although the Philippines has some significant problems, at least the Philippines has the potential once it does get its collective “act together” to really move forward. I think this is reflected in the strengthening currency too. Very few other countries in this world today have so much untapped potential.

    So Jim, how can we get the message across to the Filipino people & start changing their archetype?

    PS – I’m sorry Jim if this viewpoint is too indepth or sounds too harsh, but please believe me that I write it with a deep passion & respect for the Filipino people, & a strong desire to help them. 🙂

  2. Genevieve Mendoza says:

    Hi Mr. Paredes! I has taken me a long time to write to you. From the very beginning, with your first column at the Philippine Star, you’ve nailed a fan here. Your writing resonates so much with my thougths and even remotely with some situations past or present. My reticence stemmed not only from inability to find the proper time to really sit down, organize thoughts and type but largely due to timidity. It took me a while to get over the celebrity/fan thing. And as I read on and on each Sunday, that gap narrowed until lately my perspective of you have changed to an equal, who has been given a rare opportunity to impart his views, opinions and thougths to enrich the life of others. In that level, now I can reach out to you. It also helped that I became an active member of a forum here. We chat, offer support and opinions, debate, bash each other and on the next thread, get along swimmingly with each other again. That gave me some confidence.

    So sorry that I missed your concert here in Mississauga, Ontario. To think we only live in Toronto, just a few minutes away. My husband is also a big fan of your group. As for me, I am beginning to enjoy you more as the writer. In fact, as I go over your column each Saturday night here (online form), I would often read it out loud, wax some eloquence too, along with your new discourse so that my hubby now thinks I found a new guru, he,he! But keep it up! Your songs, I love them. As an actor (MMK)? Keep your day job! Just kidding. Personally, I connect more with you, through your writing as I will continue to await them and from time to time, visit your website/blogs.

    Thank you so much for sharing your soul! God bless!

  3. Genevieve Mendoza says:

    Couldn’t help make a comment there about the original post after seeing davelock’s comments.

    I cannot count how many times this same concept have entered my mind, discussed it with other like minded individuals, only to come up with that same frustration, that ultimately, change has to begin with attitude, values and maturity should find a way to root in each Pinoy’s consciousness.

    There was a thread in a forum once to which I am a member about the book and DVD “The Secret.” Heard about it? Law of Attraction concept that is finding a resurgence. Original poster was bashed when she said how it helped them improved their financial situation etc. and the disillusioned people there warned about the dangers of it promoting laziness…as you can just wish and visualize your fortunes. I came in tried to help out and made a comment how it should be required reading in Third World Countries, notably in the Phil. (didn’t reveal this though for my identity is a secret) as the prevailing attitude and mentality could use some upliftment, sort of a positive propaganda (if there is such thing). Naturally, they started bashing on me as well (most of them are white, middle-class people) who profess to know what the Third World countries need though they have not walked the walk. Then everybody started putting in their 2 cents worth.
    Others think it must begin with the government. But who is the government?

    I agree with the premise that most problems the Filipino people face, they bring upon themselves. You’ll find same concept in the “The Secret” book, which is why I brought that up in the first place. And we have so many misplaced priorities that we neglect our advantages. A Korean acquaintance even noted how they their country have so little natural resources compared to the Philippines, but look where they are now while we are sinking deeper and deeper. Instead of the government tapping into these resources, they tapped on the wrong source: manpower. not for our own country but for the benefit of others. And what’s the difference between the present administration and a pimp? Nothing!

    How to change the nation’s archetype? Start with young! They are after all the future.

  4. von says:

    Hi Jim,

    I agree that Filipinos need to change, and the first change they should make is to understand the forces that are keeping the country in such a mess. I was just reading Lichauco today and here’s part of his analysis.

    “How does one explain such state of affairs?

    The answer, at bottom, is that since the time American imperialism snatched the nation’s independence from Bonifacio’s revolution, this country has remained the virtual colony of international powers. Independence in 1946 actually didn’t hand over and transfer national sovereignty to the Filipinos. That sovereignty has essentially remained with the US and the international agencies which the US government controls and directs, the most prominent of which are the IMF, the World Bank and the WTO.

    And the American purpose? That purpose was enunciated in an official document of the US State Department, known as The Dodds Report and approved by the Truman administration in 1946.

    The objective of The Dodds Report? To prevent the Philippines from industrializing and to preserve it essentially as a raw material economy.

    Evidence of what Recto described as “America’s anti-industrialization policy for the Philippines” has been amply documented. It was documented by the late Dr. Salvador Araneta who revealed and exposed the existence of The Dodds Report in a book he wrote while in self-exile in Canada. It was documented by Claro M. Recto in a historic speech he delivered at the Columbian Association in the late 1950s. It was exposed by the strongman Marcos in the late 1970s when he accused his own technocrats and the IMF-WB Group of undermining his industrialization program. It was exposed by former DTI Secretary Jose Concepcion in 1989. It was so alleged and confirmed by deposed President Joseph Estrada immediately upon his election in an interview with Asiaweek.

    And how did the US government manage to suppress the industrialization of the economy? Primarily by ensuring that this country remained under the leadership of a political class which Washington could control. That too was US official policy and embodied in a State Department document known as PPS/23.”

    Sorry for the long quote.

    In this case, should the Filipino concentrate on changing him/herself to the exclusion of his environment? Or should he understand his environment and then come up with a course of action? Am interested to hear your viewpoint on this. Thanks.

  5. Gregory says:

    Hi Jim – discovered your site just now. Loved reading your recent entries.

    I tried checking your Archives but it seems the link isn’t working. Just wanted to give you the heads up on it.

    I hope I could check your Archive section soon.

  6. JT of Dural says:

    Hi all,

    I think blaming other countries for the plight of our country is becoming old. I think we as a people should stop playing “victim” and take charge of our destiny.

    It’s not that hard really. Reform starts at the household, to wit:

    – Stop having too many children. What were our forebears thinking when they decided to have a dozen children? It suits an agricultural setting where lots of hands are needed to till the land but even then that many children is unsustainable for several generations. Today more than two children is one children too many.

    – Take charge of our finances. I believe that what is important is not how much one earns but how much one saves. We should stop spending like Americans because we don’t earn like Americans. Mabuti na lang Ilocano kami ni Tito Jim kaya kuripot kami. 🙂

    – Let’s choose the right leaders. Let’s stop voting for popular people but instead for people with the right policies and agenda.

    And, Anne of VA, if you care to know, I’m an EQUAL OPPORTUNITY ADMIRER of women. From jailbait to MILFs, from Black to white, I admire them all! 🙂

    JT of Dural

  7. Von says:

    Wow JT, you solved the problems of the Philippines in 3 simple steps. ABC, 123!

  8. benign0 says:

    Hmmmm, can it be true that you are actually starting to sound like me? 😀

    My thesis has always been that there is some sort of cultural determinism underlying the ability of entire societies to either prosper or fail.

    As you said: “Things will not change, not until the party wears out and a more responsible archetype takes over who will want to clean up the mess we’ve made“.

    That archetype needs to
    change — from a fun-and-games adolescent into a serious and focused adult that exhibits foresight.

    I’ve been accused for the last several years of generalising about Pinoys. Yet it is true that at some point, one needs to generalise. As you youself recognised this risk in saying that: “I know I am speaking loosely and in very broad strokes. But you must admit it’s an exciting subject for speculation.

    We need to simplify a problem before we tackle it. And we can’t get away from generalising.

    Nice start! 😀

  9. benign0 says:

    The child in us lives in a mythic, magical world where we expect a handsome prince to save us at the last minute, or that things will get better with the wave of a magic wand, without any need for us to change

    I wrote an article about this four years ago with the title “National “Heroes”: When will we get over them?”

    In there I wrote that: “Our prospects for prosperity, however, lie within ourselves — not in a messianic bunch of leaders and exceptional few who are yet to come and not in the altruism of the more fortunate. What we need is the courage and open-mindedness to understand clearly what we need to do to re-tool our culture, mindsets and thought processes, and approach to doing things so that a nation-building machine that is truly able to compete could emerge out of the collective and quiet achievement of the majority.”

    The reason we continue to be disappointed in our leaders is because we rely on them too much.

    Let’s change these medieval beliefs in salvation through heroic deeds and focus more on the more mundane aspects of nation-building.

    (also quoted from that article)

    Hero-worship: yet another Pinoy archetypical trait we need to change. 😉

  10. benign0 says:

    Sorry, the link to the actual article “National Heroes…” was actually supposed to point here.

  11. Regina says:

    Dear Jim:

    First and foremost, congratulations for a job well done last Saturday, May 12, 2007 at Royce Hall UCLA. My husband and I had a wonderful time. Class act kanga! My cheeks were hurting from laughing at Nanette’s antics. After umh-years, I finally saw your show. We were somewhat disappointed kasi “kabilugan and buwan” and “pumapatak and ulan” was not included in the medley you did. But overall maganda ang show…Maramin salamat sa inyong tatlo plus the two ladies…

    Regarding this particular article, sa akin, tao is tao regardless of where you’re from, race, etc., We all suffer the same weaknesses. Others will probably deny and they always do, their shortcomings unless pointed out blatantly then they get all riled up!

    Ang sufferings ng tao sa Pinas is deep rooted. It’s the so-called “Ako muna, bago ikaw” system. Dalawa lang naman and klase ng pinas: Yung meron at wala. Although mas marami ang kahirapan, sinasaturate na lang ng TV shows, entertainment to cover the hardship ng ibang tao. I used to watch “Wowowee” until one segment where they show a lady who looks so worn out with life along with her child and you could tell it was a set-up. She started doing the “bayong” picking and dealing and won the house and lot! The lady did not even show any emotion that she was truly happy in winning that house. Her face was still drawn and confuse. It was premeditated. I lost faith in that show after that incident.

    My point is, hindi tinatalakay and problema sa atin, instead we shove it under the carpet and ignore it exist. Our government will not change no matter who sits in that position. Again, “Ako muna, bago ikaw” system and that’s sad…

    Filipinos are hard working people. We can exist anywhere in this cold waning earth. It’s unfortunate, we have to travel elsewhere to earn a living…

    Thanks Jim for your contribution to mankind.

  12. Vayie says:

    I know this is not very appropriate for me to ask since the topic is not at all related to my question.

    Is there a chance you have any idea on where I could get a clear copy of Mike de Leon’s classic KAKABAKABAKABA? That’s one of the best Filipino film for me…ever!


  13. jedianalyst says:

    Hi Jim,

    I really like reading your blog. I find your posts thought-provoking and inspiring at the same time. I hope na sana there’s more people who think like you among our leaders.

    I think that our nation’s archetype would be a talented high school freshman orphan who is studying with some help from a well-off (and arrogant) Tito from abroad. A Tita is her local guardian but she uses most of the money meant for his schooling expenses for herself. She also verbally and physically abuses him. He is aware of things that happen around him but he does not act decisively because he feels powerless as an individual. He usually goes with the flow. He tries to sugarcoat this feeling of powerlessness with humor, partying and “having fun”. One big desire is to escape from his current environment when he is capable of doing so. He is still finding out slowly during his education that he possesses power. He has the potential to use this power for either good or evil later. Sadly, it is much easier for him to do evil than good in his environment.

  14. Anonymous says:

    Glad to have met another Filipino interested in Jungian concepts and such. I wonder if it might be a good idea to take the concept of archetypes just a tad further and challenge the Filipino (both the individual and collective) to consider taking on the hero archetype and his mythical hero’s journey. How many of our people would recognize themselves as a potential hero in their own life story? And if they do, would they find the courage to take the proverbial hero’s journey and emerge at the end with a dragon slain and ready to return to his community transformed? Even those of us who left the country,taken on that challenge and think ourselves as heroes should ask if we are indeed heroes. Are we truly transformed and transformed enough to transcend the strong pull of one’s past? I don’t know and there are times when I thnk otherwise.
    I live in the Southern United States and I have often wondered what would have happened to the Philippines if we had something of the civil rights movement or the Truth and Reconciliation movement in South Africa where an open dialogue about the pain that the Filipinos endured under 350 years of Spanish rule, some 40+ years of American rule, Japanese rule and such, could have been openly discussed, felt and expunged. I personally think that lot of healing needs to happen and that begins with true acknoledgment of the pain caused by colonial rule. Not a blaming, but an acknowledgement. We have a very strong victim mentality and interestingly enough, human nature is such that the feelings of victimization begin to dissipate onlywhen the victim feels that their experience has been honored, listened to, respected. The succession of colonial rule and the subsequent grant of “democracy” to a country that did not have a national catharsis has held us back and all our behaviors that are rather counterproductive are an attempt to deal with the legacy of pain.
    What would it take for the country to move forward? A new national narrative must be proposed, a new story of who the Filipino is and what he/she aspire to be. Perhaps we should require a reading of Joseph Campbell’s Book – The Power of Myth for the answer is there – know that you are a hero and then find the courage to take your hero’s journey. We know what that story line is like. All you have to do is to watch “Star Wars”.
    Perhaps it is time that celebrities like you, Mr. Paredes, challenge the media in the Philippines (which is what most of the Filipinos use as the model for the social norms and values – go figure!) to write a new story, a new narrative that challenges us to grow up and take our place in the theatre of life not as children but as adults capable of making responsible and empowered decisions.
    I am far away from my country now but I have a Filipino community in my midst. I have decided it is time for me to engage my community and challenge it to see and be part of a different tomorrow. It will take one Filipino, one community at a time, and it will definitely take all of us.

  15. Ronilo says:

    Magandang Araw! Bakit daw po pareho tayo ng pananaw, pero naiisip ko rin, bilang kontinente, pag pinalaki pa, bilang planeta, di ko na isasama ang uniberso.

  16. Poppycock says:

    i think we have the orphan archetype, with a heavy peter pan influence and dionysian predilection.

    sounds like a recipe for disaster. or a few more hundred years of getting our acts together.

  17. hugespankee says:

    hi jim, im reading your article while im in the hospital outside the Philippines and it gives me a real intangible power inside, i think Filipino’s have this mindset of loving the situation of being belittled, bullied and beated like in soap operas initially and then fanatically believed that somebody will rescue us and teach us how to fight!!

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