Thursday, September 29, 2011

The eyes could play tricks

Once we've lost the innocence of youth we call ourselves adults . . . and then create our own world of ‘make-believe’ – that finds us in la-la land, even forgetting that we left the bathroom lights on?

The reason was not simply the crash of the Russian-made Yak-42. It would be senseless to blame the state for a single freak occurrence. It was rather the frequency of such disasters, which have been caused not only by slipshod safety regulations but . . . a rotting fleet of Soviet-era machines whose condition the state has failed to manage . . . If the ruling elite has brought such an era of prosperity, as Putin repeatedly claims, why do Russia's planes keep dropping out of the sky? (Time Magazine, Sept 8th) Says Medvedev: "The value of human life is higher than all others, including the need to support our national manufacturers . . . If they cannot pull it together, we have to buy planes from abroad."

Decades ago friends separately visited Moscow and came back with their favorite stories and souvenirs. And among the souvenirs was a Russian wrist watch that the writer proudly wore. But among the stories was something surprising to Westerners who had been awed by Sputnik: there is no such thing as honest-to-goodness maintenance in their facilities; and the engineers especially were thankful they survived the visit to a refinery, which they thought was a disaster waiting to happen.

Maslow tells us that the human ego is present whether we are rich or poor. One story locals shared with the writer and wife on their first visit to Eastern Europe was the advent of cable TV. They found it so liberating – in their previous life they were limited to black and white and a couple of communist propaganda channels. In fairness, they enjoyed Russian cartoons. The wife wondered why they mostly dressed liked Madonna – when New Yorkers, for example, viewed the Italians as chic. MTV was one of the first Western cable channels they had access to and in no time Madonna was their idol. And window shopping in the city center one day, the wife saw how much hipster jeans were on display. And separately, the writer checked and found out that designer jeans sold for $200 and smart phones for $300. And monthly salary stood at $300 for most people!

A consultant from the West, years ago, ran a couple of programs in one Philippine posh resort and noted that outside his luxurious casita a man with a garden hose was keeping the grass green. And at the end of his visit, he realized that despite the sophistication of the Filipino (or ‘elite prosperity’), we were still an underdeveloped economy – e.g., there are glaring gaps in our ways; and in their aggregate explains our dismal competitiveness rating? The good news is our planes are not dropping out of the sky! Beyond our outdated airport are our gated communities and country clubs. But how does one get from point A to point B? In a world of ‘make-believe’, who cares?

As Maslow explains, one doesn’t have to fully satisfy his basic needs to move up to his ego needs? Poor Nokia, they were sucked into the ‘bottom of the pyramid’ creating cheap cell phones for the China and India markets. While becoming the largest cell phone maker in the process, they paid a heavy price losing the competition against Apple! Why? They failed to compete up the value chain – fundamental if one is to sustain market leadership! Apple (a technology-innovation niche player) went after value leadership and healthy margins – not volume leadership. And with Apple's market value ($350 Billion) now approximating the size of the largest global enterprise, Exxon Mobil, the impact of Apple on the world economy is far greater . . . than to merely be selling affordable goods to the poor?

Is there a virtue or moral in the story? For example: confusing faith with responsibility? Compassion drove us to promote an OFW-driven economy while missing the greater good by neglecting industrialization? The 21st century will impose more challenges which we must confront, not sidestep?

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