I have friends who work abroad and who send money regularly back home to a sibling or two. I tell them, why not deposit that monthly amount to a savings account instead? They feel guilty if they’d do that. The parasitic-host relationship requires the consent of the host, and as long as the host allows it the parasite can rest assured of monthly income with not much of an effort. Some parasites suck blood without even a “thank you”.
The human parasite feels entitled to others’ efforts. We all have relatives who expect to be sustained just because they are less fortunate than you are. In some pathological cases the parasite does not request but even DEMANDS to be supported.
This is very common in Pinas: out of many brothers and sisters, one earns most than others, by a wide margin. It can be because the successful one has a good business, or he/she is abroad and earning more than the rest. The siblings who remain in Pinas feel entitled to the efforts of the one successful family member. In most cases, they demand to be sustained: politeness is shunned and help is demanded, not requested. In some cases, the less fortunate siblings appeal to the good graces of the more fortunate, but in all cases the relationship is that of a parasite to a host.
It is NOT a parasitic relationship when the relative you support is doing something for you in return. For example, it is also very common for people to hire a niece to live and work in the house as a maid. A parasite would never work in order to receive support.
I am not advocating that the more fortunate among us refuse to help siblings and other relatives at all. I would like to think that I am generous, and I do help my relatives who are deserving of help. I did help a younger brother through high school and college with irregular monthly remittances, but I regret having done it because decades later the ingrate doesn’t even remember who put him through high school and college! Since then I have resolved to help only those relatives who are deserving.
I have another brother who grew up unable to support himself. He has never held a paid job for more than a year, and has started so many failed businesses nobody can count anymore. He is a complete failure, and yet he is haughty and feels that he is better than everyone else. Everyone can feel it in the way he talks and how he epxresses anger: everybody cowers in fear once he raises his voice. My father spoiled him, and accepted the fatal premise that he (my father) had an obligation to support him for life. Classic parasite-host relationship. When my father was frail and weak, this brother would bang my father’s house door in the middle of the night, and demand that he be given money right then and there, or else. My father couldn’t do anything but cry. He suffered much, all because he accepted the parasite-host relationship as normal.
This same brother is fortunate most of his children grew up to be much more productive members of society than he ever could be. However, he has not changed, and is now sustained by his wife who works, his children who have income, and some monthly revenue he receives from his inheritance. In old age, he is still a parasite.
This is one Filipino “cultural trait” that does not constitute a virtue. There is nothing good about a parasitic arrangement. Millions of able-bodied men and women depend on somebody else’s labor with nothing given in return but the promise of family peace that never comes. Money that could otherwise be invested gainfully is instead wasted.
Is parasitism unique to Pinoys? In Japan, a person who supports a sibling is “erai” or noble; but the whole family demands that such favor be returned, eventually. In the U.S., it is very common for parents to literally let children go at age eighteen, meaning she should survive on her own. It is very rare to find anybody supporting somebody else on the basis of kinship. Parents are expected to save money for their own retirement, instead of expecting their children to support them through old age. When one is married and raising a family, it is enough to visit the parents once in a while; it is very rare to find a family man supporting his own parents. If grandpa lives with the next generation, he is expected to help raise the kids, by reading a book to them in the evening, and by other duties. Most parents in old age prefer to live on their own than live with a married son or daughter.
Of course, the parasitic relationship is never as simple as I make it out to be. It involves a complex web of dynamics that render a host completely unable to pry off the parasite. The most dominant feeling, however, is that of guilt when a parasite is let go. What the host does not know or refuses to see is that letting go is beneficial to the parasite in the long run. The parasite ceases to be a parasite when he is let go, by definition. He has to depend on his own abilities in order to survive, and soon enough learns how to serve others and get paid for it.
The moral here is that, by refusing to be a host, one can avoid parasites.