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Crab Mentality Is Universal

(Part 7 of the “In Defense of the Filipino” series)

IT IS said that we Filipinos have crab mentality and so we do not attain the progress and prosperity we have long been aspiring for, that it is practiced only by us Filipinos, and that we will remain a poor nation if it is not plucked from our selves.

Allegedly, we pull those on top of us so that we can be the ones in the better position; or when it seems that we cannot all go out of our bad conditions, we pull everyone down so that all of us will share the misery; then, we relish it when we have pulled somebody down.

Neighbors defaming neighbors, reporters inventing stories about celebrities, businessmen performing unfair competitions, and professionals dislodging fellow professionals are among the crab mentality practices. Of course, there is the timeless neighborhood rivalry: If a resident buys something, his neighbor will try to outdo him by purchasing a similar but more expensive item. And when politicians fail to deliver their electoral promises of better lives, they chastise the people for not cooperating and rather pulling down others, hence the general failure.

There was that actress who became “world-famous in the Philippines” when she made striking feats in London’s West End and New York’s Broadway theaters.

Her countrymen, who were very proud of her, prayed for her to win the most prestigious stage-acting award in New York. Her victory overwhelmed them. But years later, she pointed out in a television interview that she achieved all those glories because she came out of the Filipino attitude of pulling each other down.

What about the millions of Filipinos who were very proud of her and prayed for her?

Universal attitude. Crab mentality is a human habit similar to what crabs do when put in a basket. If the basket is left with no heavy cover, the crabs inside it will all have gotten out fast in less than an hour. If the basket is weak, they go to one side and cause it to fall toward it, thus freeing them all. If the basket is designed against their escape, they cannot all go out.

They all try to get out of where they are, and in that process pull each other down, whether they succeed in getting out or not. For them, pulling down or stepping on others is a fact of their existence. It is natural for them in the quest for success or when confronting failure.

Crab mentality is also part of humanity. It simply is envy. (Crabs do not envy one another; they just want to be free.)

Humans envy and try to outdo each other because of selfishness and greed, but not all the time. When one envies somebody, one of his natural reactions is to knock him down, but this does not always happen. Each one of us may envy, yet we do not always pull others down. We usually just keep to ourselves those envious feelings and then let them go away.

Other articles by Jon E. Royeca

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Posted by Jon E. Royeca on Jan 19 2010. Filed under Commentary. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

12 Comments for “Crab Mentality Is Universal”

  1. they are not anti-filipino … “binabatukan lang ang sarili
    para makatawag pansin”… most of the time they don’t really
    know what they’re doing … akala nila mabuti iyong ginagawa
    iyon pala …ngek.
    napapansin ko malimit mong ihambing ang pinas sa usa …ikaw
    ba’y…anti-american…di puwede ang papataypatay at tamad
    next gamitin mo ang australia, europa, canada,japan,korea,
    peace i appreciate your writing.thanks

    • No, I don’t compare the Philippines and U.S. There is nothing that can be gained from making such a comparison because the U.S. is miles ahead of the Philippines in almost every discipline of civilization.
      The U.S. is cited profusely in this series because of the abundance of U.S.-related materials available in print and on-line.
      But, as you can see, I have also mentioned about crab mentality in Britain, Ireland, Japan, India, China, and Singapore.
      I am not anti-American. In the 1950′s and 1960′s, during the height of the Cold War, anyone criticizing U.S. policies was labeled as an outright communist. During former Pres. George Bush’s war on terror, anyone who didn’t support or sympathize with the U.S. was a terrorist.
      Now, anyone who criticizes U.S. policies is envious, anti-American, etc.
      Well, that’s their opinion.

  2. Juan De la Cruz

    people who lack self-esteem often drag people down,in order for them to boost their inner neediness in terms of fulfilling their insecurities,it is very humane to feel envious but it is the way we react to it that matters. Compassion with each other,is the only key..lack of knowledge about it makes the situation worst.. “the love of oneself” is the inner core.Filipino can divert the “bayanihan” not only in crisis and enjoyment, but in innovating solution towards poverty,not necessarily making it more complicated.

  3. Juan:

    I believe you. This world is filled with people suffering from varied emotional anomalies, one of which is crab mentality.

    This mentality will always be part of humanity. It can never be erased. However, it can be checked: We must confront people who try to drag us down.

    But to eradicate this trait is unrealistic. Humans will remain human.

    Yes, we Filipinos help one another, recognize our faults and shortcomings, and hail the good that we have and do.

    If there are some of us who try to drag others down, well, like what I always say, we cannot make a perfect world.

  4. I enjoyed reading this. You brought up some very good points. I especially like when you said

    “We Filipinos do not pull our countrymen down. We admire, help, or extol them. If there are envious ones pulling down others, they are just few, and they will always be around because crab mentality is part of human existence.”

    I agree 100%. Crab mentality is indeed inherent in every person and every society.

    However, regarding these:

    –Racism is the worst form of American crab mentality. Since white is the dominant race in the U.S., if one is not white there, he is an outcast, relegated as a lower-class citizen.–

    Where are you getting this information from? I’m assuming you either derived it from a book published in the 1800s, or you just pulled it out of thin air. I do not deny that there is definitely racism everywhere, including here. I am an Asian who lives in America. I’ve lived everywhere, including parts of California where there are more non-whites than whites; in the East Coast, where there are plenty of non-whites, but where the population is still mostly white; and in the middle part of the US, where my family was the only Asian family, and everyone else was white. Never once have I come across this alleged “outcast, relegated as a lower-class citizen” you mentioned. (except for the KKK, which is a small extremist group and shouldn’t be considered as a representation of America as a whole), are you suggesting that there are racist groups that somehow degrades non-whites? If you are aware of such a group, I’d be surprised if the U.S. government has not condemened it. It would have made headlines if what you’re saying is true.

    –Many blacks and other non-whites are picked on or bullied in white-dominated schools–

    Again, if this were true, it would have made headlines. I’ve heard of bullying in schools, but none that were racially motivated.

    –A number of non-white professionals, even if they have excellent qualifications, do not get the same treatment, breaks, and benefits the whites do.–

    yeah, you’re right. If Barack Obama were pure white, they would have appointed him as king of the world. Unfortunately he’s black, so he has to settle as being a president of the United States.

    Also, my boss is Chinese, and he’s only the United States Secretary of Commerce.

    –There are many Christian churches where non-whites cannot enter and worship God. Those churches’ doors warn: “Excuse me! Whites only!”–

    what?? where?? you need to tell me so I can avoid going there. Possibly you’re referring to KKK, but again, this is an isolated group, which does not at all represent white people in America.

    The only reason I brought these up is because I’m having trouble telling facts from personal opinion. Forgive me for being argumentative, it’s just that I live in America, and I know it’s not a perfect nation, but I feel the need to defend it from wrong allegations such as these. Also, you’ve listed some examples of crab mentality in different countries. This is an interesting article and I want to share it with my friends. However, I wanna know first if what I’m reading are facts before I share.

    That story about that woman killing the neighbor’s child — so gruesome, unbelievable how dangerous crab mentality can be!

  5. Cinnamon Toast, thank you for reading and for the comment.

    Regarding those incidents in the U.S. that I cited here, well, you better find them out. They’re in books, newspapers, wire reports, and on online resources. Here are some:

    That gruesome killing of a woman did happen–and it was reported in newspapers and a wire agency (AFP, November 27, 1999).

  6. [...] ‘It is said that we Filipinos have crab mentality and so we do not attain the progress and prosperity we have long been aspiring for, that it is practiced only by us Filipinos, and that we will remain a poor nation if it is not plucked from our selves’ says Royeca for The Philippine Studies [...]

  7. I do not think that the Philippines is a nation that has a clear identity of itself.

    I will give you an example of a product of Filipino Crab Mentality.

    I studied in a Chinese School and I know Chinese Businessmen and they are different from the ordinary Filipino’s

    In the best of my knowledge, The only pure blooded Capitalist Filipino I ever knew was Manny Villar.

    (I am trying to be neutral in politics)

    I acknowledge him as a very virtuous man but many people thinks that he is in of the most corrupt people in the Philippines.

    No virtually known corruption has been done by Manny Villar, All he did was to use his influence to gain money and he was wise.

    Japanese, Chinese, Western Business Ethics (even Muslim ethics) would agree to that.

    “There is nothing wrong in obtaining an achievement for as long as it won’t affect others in a negative manner and share his abundance to the others.

    Even if Manny Villar was to be evil,
    There are other politicians who kill and steal the people’s money and yet they are judged as good even if they do it for the sufferings of others.

    I feel pity for Manny Villar for being judged as a crook.


    For years of observing crab mentality, I have virtually no knowledge of Chinese, Japanese, Spanish and other foreigners being victimized of Crab Mentality.

    I know a Pure Filipino businessmen (I wont tell you his name) who pretended to be a Chinese in order to be successful. When he became succesful, He was discovered to be ha pure blooded Filipino citizen.

    He was asked why he pretended to be Chinese, he said that he was pulled down twice by his Filipino friends.

    Although he was suspected,He was able to prove that he is a meek,virtuous and a committed man, He was then (accepted or benevolently tolerated) by the Chinese community. He married a Chinese, got succesful and lived happily ever after.

    *He is way cooler that you imagine.

    There is an trend in the Philippine Society.

    -Many of the politicians that we are having right now have their political lineage on meztiso’s.

    -The rich people in the Philippines are the people are the one whose origins trace back to foreign origins such as Chinese, Japanese. (They are not blocking the Filipino’s to go into their level.)


    There is something not right and I do not blame Filipinos for it.

    I have nothing against Filipino’s and I apologize if I offended someone.

  8. Hi, Nagisa-san. Thank you for reading.

    China has more than 1.5 million prisoners each year. Source:

    It means that there are also Chinese who commit wrongdoing against their fellow Chinese or other citizens.

    No country is perfect.

    Let me quote this:

    “China is a source, transit, and destination country for men, women, and children trafficked for the purposes of sexual exploitation and forced labor; the majority of trafficking in China occurs within the country’s borders, but there is also considerable international trafficking of Chinese citizens to Africa, Asia, Europe, Latin America, the Middle East, and North America; Chinese women are lured abroad through false promises of legitimate employment, only to be forced into commercial sexual exploitation, largely in Taiwan, Thailand, Malaysia, and Japan; women and children are trafficked to China from Mongolia, Burma, North Korea, Russia, and Vietnam for forced labor, marriage, and prostitution; some North Korean women and children seeking to leave their country voluntarily cross the border into China and are then sold into prostitution, marriage, or forced labor. …”


  9. [...] of dollars you would end up paying here.” I furrowed my brows at this example. First of all, crab mentality is not exclusively Filipino, and it is not even characteristic of majority of Filipin… [link: Web article, 489 words]. I would say that the percentage of Filipinos that possess this [...]

  10. As detestable as crab mentality is, I think it could serve a useful purpose in one aspect of human life: global geopolitics! It’s because I don’t believe any country should ever become too powerful and/or imperialistic so it would be a good thing if everyone else tries to put the wanna-be masters of the world in their place! :)

  11. @ Christmas. Community. « Skytalker, @ Crab Master:

    I agree with you both. Crab mentality happens everywhere, and the powerful uses it to protect their interests.

    Look at history: great nations invade hapless nations.

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