Fernando: Individualism


DO WE practice the same set of values today as we did fifty years ago or even twenty years ago? The value we put on family may never get away since this is one solid mark of our identity as Filipinos. In giving priority to our families, we tolerate the value on nationalism. But one glaring ideal some practice today, which we may hardly admit in words but so obvious in action, is individualism.

Individualism as the word connotes is putting oneself as a top priority in all our undertakings. The source of motivation is the progress of the self whether in wealth, intellect, or social status. In individualism happiness is reaped through individual gains. The attitude is always “what’s in it for me or what do I get in return if I do this?” Morality will always reject this idea because it ignores the common good. The EdukasyonsaPagpapakatao (EsP) Grade 9 Module says that individualism is one hindrance to achieve the common good because a person only acts if this act benefits him/her. The center is the self, not the community.

Without a person seeing a gain in doing such act, he/she will hardly exert an effort to give a hand. An individualist rarely or never practice the act of voluntarism or solidarity. But there is an exception. If in volunteering, the person feels that he/she will be appreciated, thus elevating his/her status as a member of the community, he/she will do it. The primary aim is not the spirit of volunteerism but self-transcendence.

Individualism is not at all a bad idea. Progress can be achieved with the practice of individualism if it is practiced with prudence. It is the idea of individualism that pushes many individuals to reach their highest potential. It motivates excellence and quality. Individualists for instance aim to be the best among their peers. For distinction, they study and work so hard. Not how an ordinary person works. If a person normally works eight hours a day, extreme individualists would extend the work to twenty hours. Oftentimes, they work on their own, separating themselves among many that they may not be distracted. They sacrifice their health, sleeping scarcely, turning the nights into days, just for them to accomplish their projects. They may not put a high value on relationships but they dedicate themselves to their work. Their self-centeredness, no matter how bad it sounds, would pave way to many innovations, formulation of ideas, inventions, and discoveries. Today, the majority benefits on the works.

The practice of individualism is difficult for us Filipinos to bear because it contradicts the values we are known for, community and family. We are proud to say that we always invite a neighbor who happens to pass by our house to join us during mealtime. We celebrate birthdays, anniversaries, graduations through family parties and trips. There is always that sense of community and family. The dawn of the millennium slowly opened us to individualism. First it became a practice in the cities. The fences of houses are enormous and filled with protective elements. (Crime proliferation may be the other factor). Voluntary works are not so much appreciated. People prefer to do something else that give them something in return like money or leisure. Now, houses in provinces are also separated with the exception of those who cannot afford to do it. I am talking about the poor. When there are celebrations today, neighbors are no longer invited.

We may adopt the idea of individualism but only to an extent because as Filipinos with a culture that is strongly rooted in community belongingness, we can never survive its full practice. Filipinos are born to live with others. Our happiness is tied with the joy of our families, friends, co-workers and other members of the community. We hardly go the coffee shops alone. We hardly drink alone. We prefer being with others, save for some, who are not socially inclined, introvert as many call them. It is because our culture and values indicate the significance of others. Many of us are now individualists but it will take years, decades, and even a century to turn this nation into an individualist country.


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