Guest Editorial | Of Crabs and Rats

AT THE International Rice Research Institute (IRRI), Los Banos, Laguna, years back, researchers were puzzled why rats were still able to invade their experimental rice plots, spoiling their studies as a result, despite the fact that these were enclosed with 2-feet high galvanized iron sheets. So some nights a team made a close monitoring of the area.

The members observed that the field rats in trying to enter and get out from the experimental rice plots stood on the back of one after another in climbing in and out of the enclosure, leaving behind some four rats or so at the bottom of the pile. Those that managed to get over the fence naturally partook of the ripening rice grains inside. Those four or five left behind in the invasion got nothing of course. In getting out of the plots, the rats employed the same manoeuver; another four or five rats had to make the necessary sacrifice, this time, of being hunted and killed by the farm caretakers the following day.
We often heard and read criticisms no less than by Filipinos themselves of the Filipino as possessing a crab mentality.
People with crab mentality accordingly behave like crabs that pull down those who are going up in the effort of those below to go up, too, dislodging those already above them in the process. But do crabs in reality behave this way? If they do, do Filipinos generally behave like them.
The self-flagellation is misplaced. This crab mentality is a tale that may perhaps describe the intramurals, the competition to go up in the promotion ladder and the resulting discontent, jealousy and envy in blue-collar offices and other urban workplaces. It is far from being a Filipino mentality or character. The Filipino possesses, instead, a rat mentality, that character trait to put willingly aside personal interest in favor of something perceived greater or worthier than one’s own.
For instance, stories are commonplace of parents getting buried in debts, sacrificing their own needs and comfort and humbled by the act, if only to provide good education for their kids to secure their future.
And we are familiar with narratives about older children postponing their own education and marriage plans and sacrificing their very own future in favor of their younger siblings’ education and welfare.
Also, we have frequently heard how relatives respond quickly in pooling together resources, to pull one of their own from some grave predicaments. In fact, this disposition to help especially those close to us has become a flaw in our character vividly expressed in the derided practice of nepotism.
And how our spirits are lifted by individuals, who even in their tender age, had risked and lost their lives in some effort to rescue and save those in precarious situations.
Notwithstanding the division, animosity and the rot we find ourselves today, I believe the Filipino will, one day, rise to the challenge and show to the whole world that we are really more rats than crabs.
(William R. Adan, Ph.D., is retired professor and former chancellor of Mindanao State University at Naawan, Misamis Oriental, Philippines.)

Posted in Opinion