• East, west and the ‘Nut Rage’

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    Alice Bustos-Orosa

    Alice Bustos-Orosa

    The most-talked about “Nut Rage” in South Korea about an airline heiress who supposedly delayed a flight after throwing a tantrum about being served macadamia nuts in a packet and not in a bowl. Apparently, after throwing her weight around, the heiress asked that the purser be kicked off the plane, which in turn made the pilot turn the plane back to the departure gate. Vilified by media and ordinary folks on the Net, the heiress supposedly visited the homes of the aggrieved airline staff to apologize to no avail.

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    The father and CEO of the airline then had to issue a public apology to the rest of the country calling his daughter’s behavior foolish. It is also written that at a press conference, the esteemed CEO bowed to those present and was quoted as saying: “I am sorry for causing such trouble. I feel as if I have taught her wrong. Blame me for everything; it is all my fault. I am sorry, I have raised my child wrong. Regardless of the outcome of her investigation, she will be stepping down from all and any position she is currently in.”

    Such father’s actions speak so clearly about how Eastern cultures, including Filipinos, consider that the failures of children reflect a familial and shared responsibility by parents and the entire family. Hence, a son’s or daughter’s shame is one shared by everyone in the family. In social psychology and cross-cultural research, such a perspective is one we have come to know as a collectivist cultural perspective.

    In collectivist cultures, characteristic of most East Asians, particularly the Japanese and Koreans, one’s sense of self is intertwined or interdependent with one’s familial identity. In the collectivist culture, the emphasis is on family and work group goals above individual needs or desires.

    Perhaps not many people realize that our closest cultural ties with our East Asian neighbors lie most in our common values for family and social harmony. Among Filipino families, we often hear of so many narratives about how many sacrifice a lifetime working abroad for one’s children or siblings. It is in an almost selfless desire to succeed with success measured as one’s ability to provide for his family’s needs. Then too, one’s goals are often sacrificed in consideration of others’ welfare.

    In contrast, individualistic cultures, mostly associated with Westerners, emphasize personal achievement even at the expense of group goals. Research has pointed that in this culture, a strong sense of competition is imbued.

    In fact, children are encouraged to be independent and self-subsistent even in their late teens. Hence, it wasn’t at all surprising to read the news in the US about an estranged daughter suing her parents in court to reimburse her college tuition. Such lawsuit would not even make it to any court in Eastern countries for that matter.

    The “Nut Rage” in South Korea does make one recognize the sense of responsibility and obligation that most of us Filipinos and our Asian neighbors accept as part of our culture, our psyche. To make others understand why a father ought to apologize for his daughter’s foolish deeds may be moot in other contexts.

    After all, the Korean father’s actions are an inherent consequence of the value put on family and the collective reputation cared for.

    Perhaps, it is in appreciating the familial and collectivist ethos Filipinos thrive in that we will also grasp the unique sensibilities innate in our very own culture.

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    2 Comments

    1. Yes, Alice. One of the glaring forms of unacceptable behavior in our own culture is the feeling of entitlement and or superiority of some people over others when some persons have been educated in exclusive schools or the family belongs to the upper middle income or rich clan. Why don’t you ask yourself if you had been guilty of any form of misbehavior or discrimination against other Filipinos who have not been granted privileges in life like what you have.

    2. Having been a social worker in Los Angeles County for fifteen years, I have experienced personally the pros and cons of a collectivist and individualist cultures. Part of my job as a social worker is to conduct family study for potential foster and adoptive parents. Without exception all the candidates left home or emancipated themselves right after they turned 18, both genders. My co-workers were very much perplexed when I told them about my findings. With both hands in the air, echoing, “duh”. Ready or not, you sink or swim. You cannot expect your parents to bail you out when things do not turn out to be a grand time for you. If you go back to your parents because you can’t hack it, you are expected to pay rent. I have to say that there seems to be a direct correlation between the number of clients we have and the culture they came from. As I mentioned I have been a social worker for more than a decade and I only had the chance of servicing three Filipino families. One is due to drugs. Another is because mother used belt to discipline her children which left marks and bruises. The third one is the saddest case of all. The teenager was 15 years old who just arrived from the Philippines. Two months after going to school near his home, he hang himself. In all three cases, they had significant number of relatives who stepped in when we had to remove their other children. The trauma was not exacerbated because they were with family. Asians comprise almost ten percent of the population and we have less than 1 percent of them in our case load. The rest comes from the more individualistic culture. When their children are removed from their custody, they are placed into strangers home and that’s where the whole hosts of other psychological and mental health problems brew and stew. In short order, these issues become full blown diagnoses. So when these traumatized children turn 18, they will be in the same place as their parents were, repeating a cycle.