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Walking a fine line betwen critic and crab

April 15, 2012
by FallenAngel

A familiar concept to us Filipinos is the utak-talangka, or crab mentality. Explaining it in the simplest terms possible, I define it as the “if I can’t have it, neither can you” kind of mindset. Take crabs in a pot. In order to avoid that one of them escape from the pot, they all pull each other down, and as a result they all die a collective (and usually delicious for humans) death. Getting hungry?

To give a real world example of crab mentality, let’s say your boss is considering promoting your teammate because of his outstanding work. If you are asked for feedback and what you do is badmouth your teammate simply because you’re green with envy, then that is crab mentality.

Filipinos have the tendency to cry crab mentality whenever one of us criticizes an attempt by another to do a “good” thing. Need an example? Just try to remember the “It’s more fun in the Philippines” slogan. Personally, asking people to fill in the blanks for you using crowdsourcing is asking for trouble, but that’s another story.

I think the way many Filipinos cry crab mentality when we criticize each other, our “idols”, or our government officials is misguided. In fact, it’s actually the wrong usage. I am inclined to think that they’re confusing being crabby with crab mentality, but that’s not even accurate. The way they do it, I see it as a defense mechanism for the Filipino whose sense of entitlement is inborn. Part of this sense of entitlement is that he can do no wrong in his own eyes. Hide your insecurities by making someone else look bad, usually envious or “inggit”. That is the sign of a mature person for you right there.

Perhaps there is another quality to the crab that we’re overlooking. Crabs’ shells are tough. You won’t be able to get at the meat unless you use crack the shell with some sort of object. In comparison, many Filipinos often insulate themselves from criticism. Take your pick as to how they do it. They surround themselves with yes men/attack dogs. They display their credentials for the world to see, and assume it will shut everyone up. Or, they simply pretend they heard nothing.

It is no secret that you cannot agree with everybody. You will always find at least one or two persons in any group you interact with who will not necessarily agree with everything you say. Why is this such a difficult thing to grasp for us Filipinos?

Criticism and healthy exchange of different points of view are important because other people will definitely know things you may not. One of the keys to uplifting awareness of people to issues is to emphasize the shaping of well-informed opinions.

If all we did here at GRP and other critical voice blogs was disparage every one else and say nothing but “The Filipino is mediocre and stupid, and he will never improve”, then perhaps we could be considered as crabs. But that’s not our style. First and foremost, we bring awareness to people that there exists a problem in the first place. We don’t beat around the bush nor do we sugarcoat; that defeats the purpose. Thus, you could consider us the blunt object or nutcracker. Second, we also propose solutions where appropriate. So we’re not just all talk. We may walk a fine line between critic and crab, but we never cross it.

How do we know, then, when a line has been crossed from being a critic to being a crab? There are two sides to this: the person criticizing, and the one being criticized.

As a recipient of criticism, all it takes is an open and discerning mind. You don’t have to believe everything you hear; the most important part is that you don’t succumb to the balat-sibuyas tendencies which Filipinos are so famous the world over for. It is not always a personal attack. It definitely doesn’t have to be about losing face or losing an argument, either.

A piece of criticism can be considered a mirror. It reflects at you an image, though it may not be what you want to see:

“Why does a mirror reverse left and right but not up and down? But it does not reverse at all; it merely reflects what is in front of it. The confusion lies with the viewer.”

Look at the message, not the messenger.

Being a good critic, on the other hand, is merely the other side of being criticized. How do you quantify or even qualify it? While choosing our words carefully is of utmost importance, sincerity I believe is the defining trait. I believe constructive critics are sincere in wanting their target to improve.

We contrast this with critics who simply point out everything that’s wrong with everything else just because it makes them feel good about themselves, or because “no one can be better than them”. We call them nitpickers, fault-finders, or in the vernacular, mga pintasero. These are the crabs to watch out for; they snap.

The journey towards our maturity as a nation is a thousand mile one. Being mature about evaluating ourselves is one single step that needs to be taken. It goes a long way. If we can’t even admit to ourselves that more often than not, we need a good fixing-up, or douse of cold water, then we deserve to forever occupy the pothole we’re currently in.

FallenAngel

Wer mit der Herde geht, kann nur den Ärschen folgen - whoever runs with the flock, can only follow ass.

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10 Comments

  • DaidoKatsumi says:

    In the immortal words of Jay:

    “Crab mentality is for CRAB PEOPLE.”

  • Hyden Toro says:

    An old Chinese proverb states:” The journey to a thousand miles, begins with one single step…” The Filipinos Bloggers have already began this step…I don’t speak for the rest of the Bloggers. However, you can see the intentions of the Bloggers, if: (1) they are just here to contribute their ignorance. (2) they are here, to piss other bloggers, and sow confusions; YellowTard Bloggers do this…or (3) they want to point out the mistakes we have, and want to have better leaders…We don’t want to hurt the feelings of people…we hit you only , because: you are in our lines of Fire…so, get out of the way, if you can’t stand it…

  • K3 says:

    Crab mentality, forgive the language, is one of the stupidest and overused arguments in Filipino conversations, among the ranks of the “What if your mom!?!” and “Inggit ka lang (your just jealous)” arguments.

    The moment the majority of people stop using these arguments means that we’re getting better at debate and logic.

  • Joe America says:

    Fallen Angel,

    Another thoughtful article.

    I am very tall and noticeably white. I observe in the Philippines that if I pass one man on the street, the passing is either non-eventful or courteous. If I pass two men, there is a 33% chance one will crack a snickering joke, one to the another. If there are three men, the chance increases to 67%. If there are four or more men, the snickering jokes will be 100% assured. Same for women, but the snickers turn to giggles.

    Turn to the internet. One-on-one discussion is usually courteous. Get more people involved, and some one in the group will invariably get insulting. Get a lot of people together, as on Get Real Post or any popular blog site, and the insults just fly.

    My point is that snide, insulting criticism is very often for show, for esteem. One-on-one, an issue can get resolved. In groups, it divides people into camps and views harden because “ego” or “face” become the dominant feature of the argument, not the issue per se. I think the challenge is to develop the discipline to hold an individual view that is well-principled, and to avoid the descent into needing to prove oneself to a group. It is not easy.

    • Ross says:

      i think you may have something there….there is this thing called “mob mentality” and sadly even smart people can get that way every now and then…there are so many well meaning and smart people here in GRP…too bad though that sometimes you feel that you can’t express yourself without being clobbered or ridiculed by very smart people…there’s so much ego flying around that if you’re an “ornery” person with a thing or two to say, you would feel their disdain for mediocrity…this is a sad thing..

  • Trosp says:

    According to Maher boy aka Joe America -

    “Fallen Angel,

    Another thoughtful article.

    (He he he, coming from him, it’s a phony praise. So that he can insert himself in the topic. His comment will always be, first, a phony praise, then a clincher or about himself again he he he…)

    “I am very tall and noticeably white.”

    (But then, take note – “You join the gang of courtesy-deficient thugs to talk ABOUT me instead of to me!” according to one of his comments.

    Let’s keep going with his comment on this post.)

    “I observe in the Philippines that if I pass one man on the street, the passing is either non-eventful or courteous. If I pass two men, there is a 33% chance one will crack a snickering joke, one to the another.”

    (Paranoia!? It’s about him again. He’s telling us how his mind works if he came across two men and the probability of his being right -33%. Take note of the word “snicker”. He did not tell us who those men are but your guess would be as good as mine. This dud is civil as civil he could call himself.

    Pwe!)

    “If there are three men, the chance increases to 67%. If there are four or more men, the snickering jokes will be 100% assured. Same for women, but the snickers turn to giggles.”

    (Take note of the phrase “the snickering jokes will be 100% ASSURED”. If he’s referring to those men as Filipinos, I could only speculate that they already know this Maher boy in person. As the one I’m always exposing and rebuking here in GRP and the snicker when they encountered him.)

    “Turn to the internet. One-on-one discussion is usually courteous. Get more people involved, and some one in the group will invariably get insulting. Get a lot of people together, as on Get Real Post or any popular blog site, and the insults just fly.”

    (How about reading it this way:

    Turn to the internet. One-on-one discussion is usually courteous. Maher boy aka Joe America got involved, and some one in the group will invariably get insulted by his lies, dishonesties, and misinformation spins . A lot of people got together, as on Get Real Post or any popular blog site, and the insults just fly to rebuke Maher boy. Dishonest commenter does not deserve civility.)

    (Let’s continue with this dud’s comment and how it should read.)

    “My point is that snide, insulting criticism is very often for show, for esteem (and for rebuking his dishonesties). One-on-one, an issue can get resolved (Not for this dud, he would evade your refutation and will switch to another nonsensical distractions.) In groups, it divides people into camps and views harden because “ego” or “face” become the dominant feature of the argument, not the issue per se. I think the challenge is to develop the discipline to hold an individual view that is well-principled (coming from this dud, it’s a duh!!!?), and to avoid the descent into needing to prove oneself to a group. It is not easy”.

    (It’s easy Maher boy, the magic word is INTEGRITY.

    And this dud really knows the drill on how to give one a phony praise.)

    “Gadzooks, bro. Choked me up a bit on that one. Nice piece…

    (But with a clincher.)

    … Again, we are intellectually aligned.”

    Inserting himself again.

    Pwe!

    Which is worse: purveying misinformation out of ignorance or incompetence, or deliberately and maliciously twisting facts to suits one’s agenda.

  • Jonas says:

    If all we did here at GRP and other critical voice blogs was disparage every one else and say nothing but “The Filipino is mediocre and stupid, and he will never improve”, then perhaps we could be considered as crabs. But that’s not our style. First and foremost, we bring awareness to people that there exists a problem in the first place. We don’t beat around the bush nor do we sugarcoat; that defeats the purpose. Thus, you could consider us the blunt object or nutcracker. Second, we also propose solutions where appropriate. So we’re not just all talk. We may walk a fine line between critic and crab, but we never cross it.

    Overall, there is a tinge of truth in what you said, however, the same cannot be said on the claim about ‘never crossing the fine line between critic and crab.’ Of course it has been crossed and continue to be crossed and it is no surprise because there are really rabid anti-Noynoy on this blog.

    Classifying them as mere critics would be a total lie.

    But in fairnes, I commend this people for being honest to themselves. At least, there’s no more hypocrisy to pull down for expose or discovery. Taking a hard line position on issues and personalities is fine so long as you maintain your composure along the lines of decency and propriety.

  • Mercury says:

    As I read the entry, I remember a particular narcissistic moron who criticizes me with full-force scorn utilizing the crab analogy: you need to crack the shell open to get the meat/the best of it. Be wary, in context that person suggest that he wants you to “improve” but knowing him personally he is a jerk type, the one who’s going to eat the meat; hence, taking advantage of you.

    Good article. :)

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