Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Musing on Maslow

Two weeks ago, over a tasty dinner of garlic prawn and asparagus spears, I listened to my Singaporean friend talk about her dissatisfaction with Singaporean society. She didn’t have any qualms about leaving Singapore and planting her roots elsewhere. Her main gripe was that government policies, in the hope of creating an almost-perfect society, have, on the downside, stemmed innovation and creativity—producing instead a nation of employees. “That wily old man,” as she calls the Senior Minister Lee Kuan Yew, “didn’t even show a hint of regret when he was accused of being too much of a dictator!”

The problem was, I had the hardest time sympathizing with her. As a Filipino living in Manila and having to endure, day in and day out, the obvious traces of corruption and poverty everywhere—from potholed streets to nursery-aged kids weaving in between moving cars, selling sampaguita leis—I was hard pressed to complain about Singapore society. Especially as I walked home from her place that night at 11:30 in the evening—nay—I didn’t just walk home—I sauntered home in the well-lit sidewalk in the heart of Singapore. Sauntering home is not an option in Manila—either you’ll get hit by a car (since there are hardly any sidewalks for you to walk on) or you’ll attract some unsavory types trying to “earn their keep.”

So as I sauntered home, I took advantage of the safe environment I was in, and stopped to listen to the stillness once in a while broken by the swishing sound of a passing car—chances of it to be either a BMW or a Jaguar are high. I also stopped to take a couple of photos—wondering if I had steady hands to take photos of the night scene (I don’t!). I also realized that I could actually sit on one of the bus stop benches and enjoy the cool evening breeze—without being eaten alive by mosquitoes (I guess they know to keep away from humans--or else they’d be fined!)

Our conversation played in my head again and I realized it’s all about what Abe Maslow said. Once your basic needs are met (food, shelter, security) you turn your attention to higher needs (emotional, spiritual, intellectual). The thing is, we Filipinos are barely getting our basic needs met—so how are we to look beyond that?

Half of me wish I had my Singaporean friend’s problems—but then again, would I be any happier?


Lazarus said...

I think I have to see and experience Singapore myself. I'll see if I can land a job there.

There's too much freedom and leniency here, but not enough to meet the basic needs.

kathy said...

Some of the poorest people I've met are also the most religious persons I've ever known. So I guess there are also those whose basic needs are not really met but could still focus on their spirituality. Sometimes it seems to me that they resort to this in order to survive the daily onslaught of physical suffering. But then again, it could also be a chicken-and-egg question (regarding povery and religion). Oops, but maybe that's too much to add over your musings. :)

snglguy said...

Maybe your Singaporean friend should live in Manila for a while to see the difference. Heck, even my relatives on my Mom's side, who are Malaysian and Singaporean 'hua kiaos' btw, had a hard time adjusting here when they visited us.

vernaloo said...

ahhh Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs..saang level na nga ako? lemme evaluate hehehehe

Anyway that's why my motto in life is "never compare yourself to others" kasi dalawang bagay lang naman yan...it's either you'll feel bad or you'll feel good. Hmm actually di ko yan motto..naisip ko lang hrhrhrhr :) Pero totoo.

Those people living in 1st or 2nd world countries..they complain about things that appear absurd to us living in 3rd world countries..kung alam lang nila...hayy life parang buhay =)

Wil said...

I haven't sauntered in a while myself. I oughta try it sometime. :-D

but seriously, I can understand your view and your friend's view, also. On the one hand, your friend seems to think that Singapore is turning into a dictatorship. if that's the price of safer streets, then i don't know if it's worth it. i guess she's just afraid that their democracy and all the freedoms that go along with it might disappear if the president continues to behave like a dictator.

Gypsy said...

Lazarus, you wont feel lonely there--promise! Dami pinoy na aundun!

Kathy, you have a point there--naisip ko rin yon. It is a chicken and egg thing...

Snglguy, the good thing about living here I guess is that we have better "survival" skills--Hehe.

Verns, totoo ka. Never compare kasi each situation is unique. Hmm...mahirap lang talaga mag-relate sa Singaporean friend ko. :)

Wil, you can't really stop people from self-expression (especially in a country where the highest in the hiearchy of needs are the ones that finally need meeting), so am not surprised that there is a fledgling opposition in Singapore (at least thats what I heard). How they fare will be another matter...

annamanila said...

I can understand your inability to relate with your Singaporean friend. Two different worlds, you live in two diff worlds.

At this stage of our development, I 'd say I'd worship at the altar of a Lee Kuan Yew ... where is the fil version of LKY .... thought that we had that in FM ... oooh.

annamanila said...

There was a time I was convinced what our poor precious country needs is an LKY. I thought when martial law was declared FM would be it. But well, every knows what happened.

Mon said...

I really need to go back to see for myself the condition our fellow Filipinos are in. It's been a while for me and I can't help but to think of the Philippines the same way as I did when I was kid in the 80's.

I've heard of stories from the news and fellow Filipinos arriving here for the first time but somehow I'm in disbelief and dismiss 'em all as palala lang.

Will you be any happier? Often I ask myself the same question. Am I happy with my life away from my own country? I have no answer, only the feeling that something is missing in my life. Something I've missed and can never get back.

What would the Philippines be if it's not what it is now? and where would you be if none of this had happened? Would you be the same person? Have the same wants and needs?

Our motherland, the mother who teaches her children the lesson of life however painful it might be. At that time we hated what had happened only to learn later on that those are to be the most precious moments worth remembering.

Toe said...

I know what your friends mean. The government controls them so much... even when it comes to dating and raising a family. As a result, they end up quite stiff and uncreative. I think that for all our problems, we have to appreciate the fact that Filipinos are very creative, resilient, and resourceful.