I avoid writing about social problems in the Philippines like it’s the plague. Many people are already doing it. It is not conducive to a healthy mindset. You will get pulled down into arguments you’d rather not be pulled into. It’s frustrating. But it’s like a black hole in its pull. You’ll get sucked into it time and time again. I can’t remember how many times I’ve had this mindset of not writing about social problems in the Philippines, but end up writing about it anyway. It’s a pathology. It’s a disease of the mind.
Part of the problem why I keep returning to it is that I live here. I breathe the air in this country. I walk its soil. I dry my clothes here. I wash my teeth and bathe using its water. If we get all deterministic about it, I could say that I do not own this country, this country owns me. So there’s your rationalization. Another reason is that there are really stupid people out there spouting their nonsense. You can’t let them keep doing that. You have to answer, call them out on their bullshit. Yes, it’s frustrating. Yes, in the long run, in the context of the universe, it’s pointless. But in your lifetime, it’s really not. It somehow has meaning somewhat. This is a grudging admission of mine. In your fight against the universe, side with the universe. Kafka wrote that.
It’s not that I have the answer. I just want to add to the discussion. Offer new perspectives. Add spice to the whole bland debate. Rattle some nerves. Maybe even offend some people. Anything to get a jiggle inside peoples’ heads. To set their mindgears turning. However slow that gear might turn. An academic concept I picked up that is useful is ‘problematization.’ Instead of simplifying issues, one must complicate it, pick at it, follow its logical trajectory. You do this to see its shape. To get an overall general picture. One must not be a determinist. Life is complicated. Though Thoreau said ‘Simplify, simplify,’ we must counter when debating social and political and other difficult issues – ‘Complicate, complicate.’
For example, I could bring into the discussion regarding overpopulation and the reproductive health law, something called ‘antinatalism.’ This has never before been discussed with regards to these issues. But it has very important implications. It cuts through the heart of the problem in the Philippines regarding poverty and all ills caused by poverty – people. Antinatalism, as the wikipedia article states, ‘assigns a negative value towards birth.’ The problem with the world is people. This comes from a somewhat pessimistic mindset. The thinking goes – suffering and poverty and all ugly things exist in the world. If you bring an innocent creature in this world, there is a very very high chance of it having to endure suffering. If you bring a person in this world, at the very least that person would suffer from ills it can recover, at the worst the person could face something terrible and heartbreaking. To bring forth children anyway, after seeing all the ugly things in this world is not only selfish and ignorant, it is also immoral. There are currently two movements espousing thsi view. One is the Voluntary Human Extinction Movement or VHEMT (pronounced ‘vehement’), and the other, though not as extreme, is the childfree movement. VHEMT wants for people to not reproduce and ultimately disappear from the face of the planet. This is a deeper philosophical position than the childfree movement, and is connected to the deep ecology and radical environmentalist movement. The childfree movement is more of a lifestyle thing. Proponents dislike children because they see children as unnecessary, even a hindrance in living a fulfilling life. Their term for those people who do not question the status quo of having children is ‘breeders.’ (Learned of this when reading about the the band The Breeders)
To apply this idea to the Philippine setting then, it would be something like this. The problem with the Philippines is that no one really questions this reproductive / natalist (contrast with ‘anti-natalist’) mindset. There is a social, religious, cultural bias towards having huge families, however economically unsound this may be. This conditioning is partly maintained by the Catholic Church, by the other Judeo-Christian religions in the country, and (I think this is the more important factor), the low level of education of child-bearing age couples regarding the simple basics of human reproduction, and of education really in general. Numerous economic and social studies have already been written regarding the correlation between the educational attainment of the woman and of the tendency of having children the family cannot support. The more educated and affluent a woman is, the lesser is her desire towards having a large family. In the Philippines, a pregnant woman has an entire system of social support it can rely on. A single professional woman does not have that much enticement towards keeping her status as a pregnant woman does. There is no church teaching the value of having a sound and fulfilling career, there is no movement supporting a childfree lifestyle. A single professional woman with no desire to have any children is an aberration. It just does not happen in the Philippines.
So really if we want to be a rich country, we simply quit reproducing so much. We educate child-bearing-age youth about the dangers posed to their economic future of having children so early. We raise people who think in terms of decades and centuries, not in terms of weeks and months and days. But most importantly, we raise children who question and think. We raise them to question the natalist bias in the Philippines, the bias against single professional women who don’t want any children, against childfree couples.