Poverty => Anti-intellectualism => Brain Drain
By Junelie Anthony Velonta
HAPI Youth Ambassador | HAPI Scholar
At this point, the term “anti-intellectualism” has lost its meaning. It has been used and reused in social media and all over the internet that, even if the usage is correct and the context appropriate, the word does not carry the same heft it used to. As such, hearing or reading anything related to “anti-intellectualism” becomes a chore, or even social media white noise. Think of the words “awesome” and “beautiful.” We’ve been exposed to those two words so much that anything said to be awesome rarely registers awe in the reader or listener, and anything described as beautiful isn’t immediately imagined as something full of beauty. Once a sentence, an essay, or a post contains the word “anti-intellectualism,” it becomes ignored.
The way the topic of anti-intellectualism is tackled is to blame. Often, the term is used when referring to verbal confrontations where one side ignores logical or evidence-based arguments. This is anti-intellectualism in the academic sense. Ignoring the veracity of information or claims is indeed anti-intellectual, as it disrespects the efforts of people who have made physical and mental efforts to achieve veritable and reliable information. However, this disrespect is not all there is to it.
From more than 300 years of subjugation, our culture has unknowingly been shaped to be servile.
Anti-intellectualism can’t be discussed without discussing social inequality. As portrayed by propagandists, anti-intellectualism is a conflict between the educated “elite” and the working class. While this conflict is insinuated for political purposes, there is truth in the rift between the “educated” and the proletariat. It was never really about educational attainment, however. The truth is that the rift between the said groups is more socio-economic in nature rather than academic. A sad truth is that the wealth of the upper class is built upon the exploitation of those below them. Because the members of the upper class are academically educated, the distrust of the working class of the rich is extended to anyone that is educated.
But that is just the most visible aspect of the issue. (It is also the most discussed as it is the face of anti-intellectualism, especially in the country.) If one were to look around and listen, the economic divide gives rise to a side effect often seen but not discussed.
Almost every decision made by the Filipino is backed and shared by the family. Often, it is the family that decides for the individual. For well-off families, children can have greater degrees of freedom as their parents won’t be relying on them after a certain age. The same can’t be said for struggling Filipino families, however. In the latter case, an individual has filial responsibility not just to their parents and siblings, but also to the immediate family. Higher educational attainment isn’t a priority in such cases. In the case that a member of the latter family will have access to college education, courses leading to well-paying careers or those with guaranteed job security are taken instead of those that could fulfill much-needed roles in society. Discussions on these where the individual argues for themself are often met with resistance, even the threat of being disowned, as seniority is seen as the supreme basis for decision making.
Even after graduation, an individual graduate is faced with a job market possessing very few local jobs that pay well. As much of the world sees the Philippines as the land of cheap, outsourced labor, career diversity and progression is not a common thing in the country. While outsourcing jobs, via companies or freelancing, does provide employment to many, it is to the detriment of the Filipino society, as very little of this labor benefits the nation directly. Those that are employed by outsourcing jobs are also often trained in different fields – a missed opportunity given that such training and knowledge could have been used for other purposes. Additionally, the desire to go abroad to work and get a green card or foreign citizenship is an ever-present issue among each generation of graduates.
From more than 300 years of subjugation, our culture has unknowingly been shaped to be servile. This is not our doing, however. A large part of our problems as a society can be traced back to poverty, how the rich make sure that the poor stay poor, and how the government does very little to support the citizens it is supposed to protect and serve. Solidarity between the social classes eliminates anti-intellectualism, but to achieve that solidarity is to face the injustices of the system.