Thursday, September 1, 2011

Faith and responsibility

A committed-Christian friend with an advocacy to lift the poor was the least the writer expected to be critical of the typical Sunday homily. “Sometimes I feel like walking out because we are giving credence to ‘religion being the opium of the poor!” And another adds: “I wish it would, but Christian charity as we know it won’t suffice!” These friends are perhaps vindicated by the legislators who traveled to Mexico and saw firsthand how dole-outs don’t work: a program meant for 5 years has gone 17 and counting? Not even in the US – where the Catholic Church is the largest charitable institution (e.g., soup kitchens, orphanages, etc., etc.) outside the government; and where charitable-giving (of over $300 billion a year) has been institutionalized via tax breaks. Beyond the homeless (that folks behind “Food on wheels” reach out to) one example that would stick in people’s mind (and unsurprisingly, conservatives while pro-life and anti-abortion espouse the ideology of small government) is the three generations of a welfare family in the Northeast: ‘they’ve lived the American dream’ (captured in photos) without the corresponding responsibility of ‘a fair day’s work . . . for a fair day’s pay.’ Indeed, faith and responsibility could be a mouthful?

Give to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s.” Given where we are across the global measures of human dignity – from governance to the gap between rich and poor – our challenge is to take the extra mile and push economic development? For instance, beyond the unresolved NAIA 3 is the unresolved downgrade of our airport, as well as the North Rail project, the Ro-Ro ports deal and worst, the highest-cost yet our unreliable energy supply? How much incremental economic output would we have generated if critical infrastructure projects have been on stream – and why corruption matters; and so does a sense of urgency, and a bias for efficiency and productivity? It is not whether the glass is half-full or half-empty? It is about attracting not driving foreign investments away? That’s the one side of our equation. And the other is: The same half-a-dozen entities continue to dominate our economy. And then we wonder: “Oh, the gap between the haves and the have-nots is getting wider?” And would blame all and sundry? Should we instead own up? Our neighbors are no less patriotic than we are and are subject to the same 21st century reality, including self-serving ODAs from friendly nations?

It matters that our neighbors are outdistancing us because their economic fundamentals are stronger – i.e., robust investment levels have elevated their global competitive instincts? The sad part is no one says they’re smarter – and some of us even dare say we’re smarter? What we need is to overcome an inward-looking bias, our 'jeepney culture', for example? The jeepney represents pride and compassion? Pride in our creativity while providing livelihood to countless? Did we not give more clerical jobs thus livelihood to countless in the old days – when an assistant would pound her Underwood to draft our correspondence, until we were satisfied with the edits? And why the phenomenon of ‘the-assistant-to-the-assistant’ came into being? Now we understand what optimization is as opposed to sub-optimization?

It's nice to remain isolated in paradise, and keep to our definition of the world order – i.e., parochial and hierarchical? But the human spirit is not meant to be limited, but to soar – given our image and likeness? Yet being the only Christian nation in the region doesn’t mean being holier-than-thou?

It will take time before we could be competitive? And while we remain less than committed to competitiveness the Philippine economy shall remain lopsided in favor of a few – because we have unwittingly gone to bed with them . . . effectively restricting competition, and thus investment, technology and the global market? Or is it in fact self-inflicted? Reports Business World, Aug 22nd: “Innovative ideas . . . that could boost productivity and competitiveness are underutilized by entrepreneurs in this city, a study completed last month showed.”

Proud as we are of our faith, we can’t confuse faith with responsibility?

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