Only in the Philippines

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Ask any grade school student if he knows the metaphor, “If I can’t have it, neither can you”, and he will sheepishly venture to tell you that you have an “utak talangka”.

This ascribes to a bunch of crabs in a boiling pot or bucket with one crab trying desperately to escape by climbing up the container, only to have the other crabs pull him down to their ultimate demise together.

Yes! That’s Crab Mentality for you. A more acidic description would be, “spiteful humans desperately trying to bring down those who are more successful by diminishing their importance” (author unknown).

So, my older sis objected to my choice of title for this article, saying that I’m generalizing, and that the phrase, “crab mentality”, can most certainly apply to anyone at any given time, anywhere. Yeah, right. But I retort that nowhere is it more prevalent and, as pronounced, than in our beloved Philippines and by no less than our very own kababayans. Isn’t gossiping and backbiting our national pastime?

Here are a few examples to drive my point: Pia Wurtzbach, who was crowned Miss Universe in 2015, was actually dissuaded several times from joining the Binibining Pilipinas contest because she had already failed to win in two attempts. Manny Pacquiao, despite being World Boxing Champ in several weight categories, was always belittled for not being fluent in English and for lacking a mastery of the laws of the land (no politics here).

I bet you, even the Poor Boy from Lubao (Pres. Macapagal), or the Man of the Masses (Pres. Magsaysay), did not escape such abusive behavior during their time. How much more in offices where competition for the top plum is most fierce and ugliest? And how about in your very own backyard where your “friendly” neighbors won’t hesitate to tear you down the moment they see that you are building a newer and much bigger house than theirs or, that suddenly, you appear to have become affluent than they are?

I understand jealousy, but do we really have to be mean, and put down someone, who is truly trying his best to change his life for the better? Backbiting has become second nature to some.

Beyond our horizons – do you think the hundreds of Pinoys, who gather in Hong Kong’s public park every Sunday, are one cohesive group? Not in your life! There are “friends” and “fake friends” galore. Why can’t we be more like the foreign communities of Indians, Chinese, and Italians? It’s admirable how close-knit and totally supportive they are of each other. As an example, if a countryman of theirs has newly landed in, let’s say, New York, his kababayans won’t even hesitate to help him land a job, or loan him seed money for a small business until he is able to stand on his own feet. You don’t see jealousy, fear, shame, or competitiveness there, do you?

Now, am I just generalizing? Or is what I’m saying the bitter truth? Whatever the case may be, those loathsome traits are traditional hallmarks of a crab.

Knowing all that we know above, let us see if, as individuals, we can equip ourselves to defy and break free of the “crab in the bucket syndrome” and come out victorious as good, kind, and God-fearing individuals.

From the notes of Dwi Surya Purwanti, a renowned KALM counselor, comes these very useful tips:

First, Dwi cautions us to understand why we are being pulled down by a crab to their level. Is it worry, jealousy, bitterness, insecurity, or a grudge that is at the core of such questionable behavior?

Then, she urges us to fight and resist negative criticisms that might not be the truth and are intentionally designed to impede our progress. I would also add that it does no harm to listen to constructive comments as long as it aligns with our goals.

Next, she wants us to develop our self-confidence and hone our personal skills in order to add more value to our character. By doing so, we become stronger and less vulnerable to attempts that will pull us down.

Lastly, Dwi wants us to be consistent with our goals and to be persistent with what we love to do. If all else fails, she advises us to re-evaluate ourselves and our goals, and not to allow failure to affect us. Rather, we should understand why we failed and take measures not to repeat the same mistakes in our next endeavors.

We cannot allow the opinions and maneuvering of insecure and envious people to drive our future. Instead, we should be motivated and let positivity, and joy, inspire us to do better. The road to a successful life may be filled with challenges but that doesn’t mean we can’t persevere and come out as the victor.

As a footnote: I am not a talented cook and so I leave the cooking in the house to Diding and Boj. But even if I can, I will never attempt to cook a pot of crabs or talangka. I cannot stomach the raw sound of claws scratching the sides of the pot and all the shrieking from the poor animals.

However, that does not stop me from enjoying a hearty meal of crabs in coconut juice or just plain boiled crabs dipped in vinegar and hot sauce. Yummy! – NWI