Day 215: The Man and the Edible Mentality; ‘Tremble’

Yesterday as I was looking up some information about the taba ng talangka and how it is harvested/made I found out that aside from the food, when you say talangka (crab) to Filipinos it could also be used to refer to someone who has a talangka mentality. That is to say, a way of referring to someone who is prone to jealousy and does not like to see others succeed or surpass them.


If you’ve ever been to a live seafood market, check out the live crabs in their bucket and you might notice where this phrase came from. As individual crabs on the edge of the bucket try to grab and claw their way out of the bucket, the crabs further down and more in the center will actually grab onto the crab and in doing so, pull it back down. This is often why no lids or other means of securing the crabs are needed. They do it to themselves.

So having a talangka or ‘crab’ mentality is akin to the behavior of crabs in a bucket. As we see those around us succeed, rather than feeling either a sense of joy for their crab-frenzyaccomplishment or a sense of inspiration in a desire to emulate them, we are overcome with feelings of jealousy and bitterness towards their success and wish to see them fall; perhaps even going so far as attempting to facilitate that either by sabotaging their attempts or undermining their accomplishments. In the Philippines we call this feeling of envy and bitterness ‘inggit’. When someone experiences a sudden burst of success and prosperity, we don’t want to be them, we want them to go back to being like us. Now to be fair, I don’t want to paint my fellow Filipinos as particularly resentful or envious people. Nor do I want to claim that this is an exclusively or even particularly Filipino trait. I think we can all relate, at least at times, to this particularly destructive feeling of envy. It is I believe, natural and even common, to sometimes feel jealous of the success of others. On its own this does not make us bad or narrow-minded people. I believe it is when we succumb to this tendency and lack the ability to elevate ourselves above this mindset that we become like those crabs in the buckets and turn a momentary reaction into a permanent characteristic.

What’s interesting is that while ‘talangka’ mentality might be a common phrase in the Tall Poppy.jpgPhilippines, most cultures have their own way of expressing this though; further emphasizing that this is a universal and deeply human emotion that we get to wrestle with, analyze, and grow out of. It is part of our experience in growing and improving. In Britain and Australia you may have heard of the ‘tall poppy syndrome’, which is strikingly similar. This comes back to a reference by the Greek historian Herodotus in his Histories series.

Periander had sent a herald to Thrasybulus and inquired in what way he would best and most safely govern his city. Thrasybulus led the man who had come from Periander outside the town, and entered into a sown field. As he walked through the wheat, continually asking why the messenger had come to him from Cypselus, he kept cutting off all the tallest ears of wheat which he could see, and throwing them away, until he had destroyed the best and richest part of the crop. Then, after passing through the place and speaking no word of counsel, he sent the herald away. When the herald returned to Cypselus, Periander desired to hear what counsel he brought, but the man said that Thrasybulus had given him none. The herald added that it was a strange man to whom he had been sent, a madman and a destroyer of his own possessions, telling Periander what he had seen Thrasybulus do. Periander, however, understood what had been done, and perceived that Thrasybulus had counselled him to slay those of his townsmen who were outstanding in influence or ability; with that he began to deal with his citizens in an evil manner.

-Herodotus, The HistoriesBook 5

References to ‘tall poppies’ can be found in recorded debates in Australian government over things like controversial knightings or taxpayer costs and in Britain it is even said that Margaret Thatcher is quoted to have used the phrase when discussing her governing philosophy.

So, while maybe not as extreme as resorting to trying to kill everyone with influence or power greater than yours, I do think we can agree that there is something comfortable, australia-poppyfamiliar, and sometimes regretfully habitual about feeling jealous of others. It is sometimes subtle, sneaking into our subconscious mind and influencing our thoughts. Maybe we find ourselves questioning just how someone got their position in a company or how they are able to afford themselves such seemingly nice and expensive things. Bitterness and vitriol leads us to sometimes accusing those around of us of certain unscrupulous things because we find that temptingly easier than rationalizing the benefit but also effort of genuine hard work. If we do find ourselves resorting to this kind of unproductive and toxic thinking, how do we elevate ourselves out of this ‘bucket’?

We have to realize that success and prosperity is not a ‘zero-sum game’. In game theory, this refers to any sort of game where the win of one person has to mean the loss of another to keep balance. I think one of the reasons why we have this ‘crab mentality’ or ‘tall poppy syndrome’ is because we fear that the success one of our peers achieves and Image result for crabs gifexperiences could in some way mean that there is less chance or room for our own. You may fear that there is only so much success and positive attention to go around and that its limited resource means you have to bring someone down before you can bring yourself up. This is often characterized in communities where upwards mobility is seemingly limited. For example in poor communities where it is difficult to ever leave the environment. I believe this could explain why a lot of Filipinos seem to either relate to, or fear they are the victims of, this ‘talangka’ mentality. When you grow up thinking that there are only so many opportunities out there in the world, you become cynical and jealous and wary of others’ success. From this, we have to realize that there is always room for everyone to succeed. In fact, it is often best to encourage and support the success of others because it keeps us focused on the goals rather than the misses. Not to mention that when I find myself in positions of advantage, I like to reach out to those who have helped and hopefully give them a leg up as well. It isn’t about being the only crab out of the bucket or the only poppy to grow tall. It’s about seeing how many we can work together to see succeed. Unless you’re a crab catcher. Then you make sure all those suckers stay down.

Ultimately, I think it is just important for us to realize that the world is bigger than just our bucket, and that just because one poppy may be taller than ours, the sun will reach both just as much. With the current political climate, I absolutely believe that there are certain peoples of power out there who would totally want us to believe that this is not the case. Right now so many of us are succumbing to the easy and insecure belief that there are people out there trying to ‘get us’ and that their attempts at trying to secure success and livable conditions for themselves somehow impedes on our own. Loud and frighteningly powerful voices are trying to convince us that the world has become an ‘us or them’ environment. I refuse to believe this. It will take the most noble, selfless, and generous aspects of our spirit and dignity to rise above this rhetoric and not tremble and realize that the best thing we can do for our own mutual success is to work towards, or at the very least do nothing to obstruct, the attempts of others to succeed. Don’t be afraid if you happen to catch others leaving the bucket faster than you. You’ll get there also. And maybe even with the helpful claw from the other side.

Day 215

Man: 183 Loneliness: 32


14 thoughts on “Day 215: The Man and the Edible Mentality; ‘Tremble’

  1. It’s been a while since you wrote a post that I find hard to get across how I feel about the subject ….. but this actually hurts me to read. In all honesty and I am being honest here I would gladly be delighted to help someone reach their full potential without any hesitation.

    Envy is not something that I have, I would not swap my life with anyone, nor would I step over or push someone aside to get into what is deemed a better position myself.

    Argh this physically hurts me to write. Love and respect of our fellow human being gives us far more.

    I find it hard to explain how this goes against everything I believe in and this reply is not directed at you personally.

    I’m just shocked

    Liked by 2 people

    • I agree with you, E, but I didn’t understand this the same way you did. I think you would do exactly as you state, no question, but I also think there are plenty of others clawing their way over others. The current state of our government is a good example. But I may have interpreted this writing totally wrong. In that case, never mind.😄

      Liked by 1 person

        • Oh either way I don’t really mind. Hahah. As I mentioned in rugby’s comment, I absolutely still do feel jealousy and envy sometimes. I wouldn’t deny it or even try to. I’m me, prone to the greatest and worst of it all. Hahah.


      • Government is exactly the example I was going for in the end! And it is especially relevant considering you and I have a perspective from the current state of the US government and Elaine has the perspective of the current state of the UK government. Two great nations seemingly succumbing to weaker, baser, reactions.
        I’m not above admitting that I have at times been jealous of others. I won’t even deny that I still do. I don’t let it overcome me though, and I certainly don’t do anything about it other than use it to make me work harder. I don’t think I would ever try to say I no longer feel jealousy nor would I want to. Used properly, it can be a good incentive. Besides, I enjoy feeling the pure brunt of all emotions, the good and the bad. Sometimes I just like to wallow. Hahah. But thinking and feeling is very different from reacting and doing. And I can definitely say, acting on these negative emotions is almost always a recipe for disaster.


    • I had a feeling this would be your reaction/comment when writing this. I was spot on, and I know that will probably bother you a bit. Hahah.
      I’ve no doubt that right now, you do not feel any sense of envy or jealousy towards any other person. Just like I know if you are ever asked the question ‘if you could be anyone in the world, who would you be’ you would always answer ‘I want to be me and I wouldn’t change that’.
      I’m very glad that you have achieved this very noble perspective. And I agree, as I said in my post, that this ‘crab mentality’ is a detriment to our progress, our potential, and our humanity, though it is also a prevalent aspect of many people.
      I do also think though. that with the benefit of time and wisdom and experience, you have become the person you are. That is to say, if you were to really reflect on this, and remember when you were a child, I would daresay you must have experienced even a little bit of that crab mentality, a tinge of the green monster. And as much as it is important to reach beyond that, what I really want is for people to be able to reflect and realize and remember those times that it did come up, and how it felt. I think it’s important to also discuss the times before we are better people! Schoolyard jealousy, sibling rivalry, it’s fine to feel and admit. It humanizes us. Gives us an arc, a development, a story.


  2. I’m with Elaine on this. If anything I’m my own crab – I’ll pull myself down to let someone climb over me – and that’s not healthy either…

    Also,that first gif made me deeply, deeply uncomfortable. Just so you know. I never want to see that many crabs coming at me.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Precisely why I do not agree with Prof Virus’s philosophy. It was never a race, for me. Thanks for those other references; particularly the Greek one. Haha! Glad to know it aint only in Pinoys. These days, in a Filipino class, this attitude is now being told as one of our “cultures” which is sad.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I think it’s both good and bad that it’s like, a self-identified characteristic of Filipinos. Self-awareness is one thing, but then it should be changed. Accepting it just isn’t good enough. But I do think most Filipinos would agree with this identity. Which is a shame.

      Liked by 1 person

      • It’s always a bother for me, though. It has become a part of our way of living. If you were to watch the news here, and the way the reporters (not all, though) deliver them, it’s really both sad and frustrating. Personally, I think most of us are cowards because of this certain attitude we keep associating ourselves with. There is much to be proud of in our heritage and yet we all but focus on bringing out the bad and that is why despite the efforts (best efforts of anyone) we, as a country move so slow when it comes to progress.

        Liked by 1 person

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