Superman mentality | Inquirer Opinion
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Superman mentality

/ 12:58 AM August 14, 2014

Isn’t it only fair and sensible that we, his “boss,” deliver our own State of the Nation Address, too?

But drop the idea of walking on a red carpet in a yellow or peach outfit. We do not need those fireworks. What we need is honesty. To silently recite to ourselves what we have done in the past year to become better individuals, if not for our country, then at least for ourselves.

I think P-Noy should not have used the term “boss” to describe us. It must have already given some of us the impression that, as boss, we can sit around all day, breathe down someone’s neck, and throw chairs everywhere when we don’t see magic happening before us. A letter to the editor published in The New York Times on Nov. 29, 1905, argues that the word “boss,” derived from the Dutch “baas,” was used in New York City to refer to “the master workman” or “overseer.” It was applied to many trades: boss carpenter, boss shipbuilder, or simply boss of the job. If we consider this notion, then we are not just boss to one person, but to someone or something bigger than he: ourselves or our destiny. It’s not a terrible thing to become our own boss, a self-assured and responsible boss, who would turn imaginings into realities, humbly accept and then conquer our own demons and misanthropes, and treat change as a two-way street.


After reading through insights on and analyses of the Sona by those who share P-Noy’s plight and those who refute it, I noticed that everybody’s about him and his Sona. All kinds of ideas are sailing everywhere, but we forget to examine the movement of our ideas and where these might take us.


I remembered the book “Meaning and History: The Rizal Lectures” by historian Ambeth Ocampo. In one of his lectures, he said we make Rizal in our own image and likeness. The national hero’s journey has always been deemed impeccably grand and upright. And this prevailing faith in the story reflects our never-ending search for a national identity.

I can’t help thinking that we are always—consciously or unconsciously—looking for a Superman in a president. (Or maybe in every person we meet, in the technology we use, or in ourselves, which is why we easily get frustrated and look for someone to blame our frustration on).


And those who vie for that position take advantage of that mentality by talking about eliminating poverty, planting justice in the country, and saving it from whatever crisis it is experiencing at the time.

That’s both scary and promising.

Scary, because within that circus, change is performing like a one-man show. We want change, but not the workings and the waiting that it requires. We want something radical, but the process has to be convenient, like something for the mouth but not for the soul.

Promising, because the people who run are reminded that we are a bossy boss. We want to taste the luscious promises right away, so don’t you dare deceive us. We are spectators who do not just go home when something demythologizes our much-anticipated spectacle. We ask for the return of tickets we paid for. The world has known since 1986 that we talk. A lot.

We march. We burn art. We impeach presidents.

But without our knowing, both faces of this Superman mentality might fail to save us. When we act without understanding, when we become a cloud of contradictions, when we dislike motherhood statements but grumble about statistics that, we say, do not tame our troubled stomachs, when we complain about the heavy traffic but complain more when roads are being repaired, when we blame the government about the floods and lack of solid disaster preparedness programs but refuse to segregate our trash, when we criticize a President for explaining his side on the Supreme Court’s ruling on the Disbursement Acceleration Program but want him to explicate on freedom of information and other legal issues in his Sona, when we want only our own truth when the truth, according to writer Flannery O’Connor, does not change according to our ability to stomach it.

I’m not saying we should only talk about the sunshine when there is obviously a storm.

In fact, I am not for a Sona that discusses only positive accomplishments. I want a Sona with two parts equally discussed: the accomplishments and the problems we still have to resolve.

But sometimes, we need something more than that, and it is outside the Batasan.

The ideal Sona is the people. Those who take time to listen first, who verify the facts before they criticize, who attack issues and not people, who offer concrete suggestions and not pa-witty yet empty remarks that garner 1,000 “likes” on social media. I admire Filipinos who can criticize the President when he is wrong, and commend—or even help—him when he does a good job.

That ideal Sona outside the Batasan is real democracy in full swing. Not the kind where the meeting of fire and water is the revered validation. Just the one where people are free to voice their predicament (and people who literally pick up their garbage after holding a program that yells for change.)

Albay Gov. Joey Salceda’s disaster preparedness program is proof that the downfall or progress of a country with 7,107 islands and a population of more than 100 million should not be blamed on or credited to a single president. (It’s common sense, too: Who knows a city or province by heart but the local leaders who promised their constituents development during the campaign?)

For a president to admit that he does not have all the solutions, that this is just transitory, that this is just the beginning—and beginnings are always the hardest—that is rare and commendable. Only a fool would say he can change the country in six years, and only another fool would believe it.

US President Barack Obama said it all in 2012: “I won’t pretend the path I’m offering is quick or easy. I never have. You didn’t elect me to tell you what you wanted to hear. You elected me to tell you the truth. And the truth is, it will take more than a few years for us to solve challenges that have built up over decades.”

Call me a pro or an anti. Call me balimbing, call me weak, even a Filipino without an identity. I may not be perfect, but I won’t let my imperfections stop me from being a Filipino who has the courage to stand up for what is right and the courage, in the words of Winston Churchill, “to sit down and listen.” I will stick to principles, not to pride, not to names.

And if the process to achieve change is going to hurt, so be it.

A prosperous country is not a country with cinematic daydreams, but a country where people can also wear capes and lead the kind of change that is more meaningful than everything that was stated in the Sona. One that goes beyond being heard at the Batasan. One that starts where more of us fail to arrive.

In ourselves.

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Len Cristobal, 27, is a freelance writer/editor and a contributor to The Huffington Post (Books Section).

TAGS: ambeth ocampo, Joey Salceda, Sona, Sona 2014, State of the Nation Address

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