Friday, November 4, 2011

“Not in my generation . . .”

That’s probably what Rizal thought too, and so he was hopeful the youth was going to be the future of the Philippines? The wife and 3 Filipino friends, after traveling together, had the sense that the country wouldn’t get fixed in this generation? And it is not for lack of trying? As a Jesuit friend (May he rest in peace!) would lament: ”Juan de la Cruz has to internalize authenticity – to be ‘plastic’ is not authentic?”Don’t judge a book by its cover!’ But we like to present the beauty that is the Filipino, as Imelda would stress. And unsurprisingly, our priority in tourism is a new slogan? (While Mahathir decades ago had as his focus and priority building the Malaysian road network. It was reminiscent of Eisenhower, educated by the autobahn as a soldier! And so the writer would remind his Eastern European friends: “We can’t be running around like a headless chicken competing with these global behemoths!”) And thus we’re proud of our hospitality, our deference to hierarchy and beyond? And we would put our guests in our own bedrooms, offer them to partake of our humble meals – and we do it from the kindness of our hearts?

The problem is when the guest has a standing in society – like a politician or a government official – we effectively set up a conflict of interest? And we can’t get a grip on corruption because its genesis is positive? And when a guest does not respond according to our expectations, we conclude they are insensitive – no ‘debt of gratitude?’ And our expectations rise even higher when it comes to outsiders or foreigners? We expected the Americans to demonstrate greater sensitivity – and when they didn’t, they’d be ‘ugly Americans?’ But they are imperfect; as are the Japanese or Chinese or even Europeans and whoever, and thus would always be ugly? And it would explain why we’re less welcoming of foreign investments than our neighbors?

At 100 million Pinoys, we are a big market and should have a robust economy? But not when our GDP per person is a mere fraction of our neighbors’ and even once deprived satellites of the Soviet empire? We have now accepted the need for stronger institutions – to create a stronger base to build a strong economy and nation? Thus it is encouraging that President Aquino is personally carrying the fight against corruption? (Still, the government has to deliver – e.g., how could we drive a complex initiative like the PPP when we can’t resolve a tax issue with foreign airlines, for example, and when tourism is supposed to be a strategic industry?) And we have other institutions too, like the church and the school? Institutions are made up of humans, and in our case it’s Juan de la Cruz! Wherever it came from we have set very low, if not narrow, expectations for ourselves? (In the vernacular, ‘mababaw ang kaligayahan?’)

Writes the Rector of UST, Education Blues, Manila Bulletin, 16th Oct: “. . . I felt the need to overhaul my vocabulary. The latest educational jargon . . . is now mostly derived from economics, business, and information technology. And these point towards the new directions for higher education . . . it is subject to market forces and, just like any other commodity, comes with a price . . . Given the fast pace of obsolescence of technological tools, schools are forced to spend millions to acquire the latest and the best software and hardware, to keep abreast with the competition . . . Schools are gauged in terms of their functional, not fundamental relevance, to society . . . without regard for a solid humanistic foundation . . .”

Progressive (as opposed to greedy) global enterprises are educated on the confluence of economics, theology and ethics, e.g., “Why Lonergan’s Economics,” Stephen Martin, Assistant Professor, Religious Studies Department, Seton Hall University, 2006 Nov. These companies comprehend the role of education, and as importantly, recognize the responsibility of business. They are committed and heavily invested in education and talent development, knowing full well that in a globalized, highly competitive economy, investment must come in concert with technology, innovation, education and talent development as well as product and market development.

Is the challenge for our institutions then to develop in Juan de la Cruz a “solid humanistic foundation?” But that cannot happen by ‘being an island unto ourselves,’ especially when it perpetuates a cacique system and structure? And having a disproportionate number of entrepreneurs isn’t the answer either – if we’re starved of teachers, priests, nuns, artists, policemen and women, doctors, scientists, among others? And we can’t keep putting the onus on the youth?

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