Nationalistic fervor, and why even that is not enough

It was quite a week: there were three simultaneous booksales occurring, and I had a field week just choosing and purchasing books. More books were added to the sale in our local bookstore chain; there was a rummage sale in our library; and finally, there was also a sale hosted by our university’s literature society. I had taken advantage of the local bookstore sale the most: recent literary-award shortlisters, like Martin Amis and Colm Toibin, had their novels sold at 90 to 95% discounts. The same can be said about a new Penguin Classics version of Jose Rizal‘s Noli me Tangere (Touch Me Not) and Maxine Hong Kingston‘s Fifth Book of Peace. On one hand, I’m glad and grateful of the cultural Philistinism pervading our society, because it allows me steals like these; but on the other hand, it also makes me bitter: the novels I had bought are the novels that should be highly regarded for their quality of writing and thought, and not novel series like Twilight. It’s their loss, anyway, but I’m still bitter about it.

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That was a highlight of the previous week, but that wasn’t the only highlight: I had two exams the previous week. Despite my desire to update I have had to focus on my exams as every proper student does. (I will start with Code Geass R2 today because we don’t have classes for the next few days.)

That’s that for my life updates.

I wrote this article because there were some people who called to my attention my admiration of foreign cultures. They have noted that I appreciated foreign cultures more than my own. Now, I personally believe I’m not that xenophilic, but I would agree that it is quite obvious I’m more fond of William Faulkner than I am of any Filipino writer. It is also quite obvious that I appreciate Japanese culture more than I do Filipino culture. This is not to say I hate my own culture; on the contrary, I love and cherish my being a Filipino, but I just appreciate other cultures more.

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Why?

Perhaps people may conclude that I’ve some sort of prejudice against Filipino writers, or Filipino culture. This is not the case, just to reiterate. While it is true that I don’t regard most of the Filipino writers highly (the exceptions would include my professor and Jose Rizal), I still respect them. Most of them, however, pale in comparison to the great American, British, or even Japanese writers. There is a reason why Martin Amis is more known than Leoncio Deriada, and this is not only because Martin Amis has more exposure. I don’t conclude simply out of flatus vocis: I have sampled in the recent past many Filipino writers and their works and they simply could not compare with the works of my most admired authors. It is true that Deriada writes well: his work is admirable. His work, however, (to ground it in comparisons more understandable) is akin to Virginia Woolf’s without the creativity, only the ennui. How can I be proud of something when there is nothing to be proud of?

The same can be said regarding the Olympics. I root for other countries because despite the number of people in the Philippines (90 million and counting) they could not even filter and train athletes that could compete. Uzbekistan has less than one-third of our population and have only started entering the Olympics in 1996, but they have already won 2 gold medals. Our country is just pathetic, despite my love for it.

I could echo Obama’s calls for change, but we ourselves are mired in corruption, and our society is not getting better. Could you blame me for looking to other more admirable societies? I am looking at them simply because I want our country to strive to be as good, if not better than them. If we only strived to be the best in our country, we wouldn’t go anywhere. This is why people like Faulkner and Joyce got their renown: they wanted to be the best, period. I think we need more of that thinking.

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6 Responses to “Nationalistic fervor, and why even that is not enough”

  1. astrobunny Says:

    I feel the same way you do, mike. Being a proud Malaysian made me cringe in embarrassment in front of my New Zealand friends when the Olympic contingent of the various countries marched out to the front of the Grand Stand. 22 million people from Malaysia produced 8 competitors to the Olympics. In glaring contrast, 4 million people in a cold isolated nowhere could produce 185 participants. Somehow when people tell me I feel the grass is greener on the other side, I think this is one of many cases where I would rather graze across the river.

  2. RyanA Says:

    I can identify, but I’m American and our “culture” really is diversified and blended from many; so it’s hard to find it unless one is from 1-2 sole ethnic backgrounds (I’m from about 7). Still some things are just AMERICAN, and often times I don’t get it, and look another direction.

    One thing I cannot stand is ignorance, though I’m quite passive to it, I pity the closed and disconnected souls blinded by it. No one country or ethnicity is above or below, but individuals within those groups can represent extremely well and top the world’s best. Their influence rubs off on those around them, but in the information age, ideas can spread anywhere, and it breaks the barrier of culture.

    It’s rare that a single group provides someone who tops all others (though it happens), but in terms of thinking, perspectives, and ideas, the world, our 6 billion brothers and sisters, have yet to approach a number of individuals who stand greatly alone in time; Einstein represents this them well.

    All we can hope for is truly inspired individuals, because that is genius.

  3. NovaJinx Says:

    I understand how you feel mike, very well indeed. During my 2nd at the university I started feeling disgusted and kind of let-down by Finland and our culture. This was probably because I started hanging around on international IRC-channels and growing influence of anime – I finally got some view of my own on the Rest of the World.

    I really felt Finland was insignificant, uninteresting and absolutely boring place; I wanted to get out and preferable stay out for good. For this purpose I applied for student exchange in the US. After spending a full academic year surrounded by foreigners, in a different culture and environment I can say that it made me realize a lot of things about my home country. In fact I could say that being in the US taught me more about Finland than it did about the US itself.

    In the end I came to the realization that as much as I might have though of Finland as a boring place, I still love it as my home. The last few months in the US I was all done – I wanted to get back home no matter what. There were a lot of very positive sides to Finland that I hadn’t realized until I was somewhere else for a long period of time. Also I came to understand many things about the US that weren’t all that great, after the first euphoria had subsided.

    Guess what I’m trying to say is, staying abroad is a good way to understand your country better and appreciate its culture despite the flaws that you already know so well. Like the saying goes, distance makes hearts grow fonder. Just a few years ago if I was to choose, I’d gladly trade my cultural identity to American and live in the US permanently – without a moment’s hesitation. And now as much as I liked America, I wouldn’t give up Finnish identity and home country for anything.

    Oh man, such a TL;DR again. orz

  4. Michael Says:

    <3 your comments, guys, keep them up! :3

    I will reply later, when I'm more in the mood.

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