Sunday, April 29, 2012

Neither here nor there

It appears we demonstrate a more forward-looking character with our politics – e.g., gearing up for the next elections – than with power generation or with our infrastructure or our strategic industries or with our underdeveloped economy or with the well-being of Juan de la Cruz?

Whether the conspiracy theories are correct that the Mindanao power crisis was orchestrated to benefit our fat cats is not as damning as the implied incompetence on our part – living out a self-fulfilling prophecy of a country run like hell by Filipinos? Aren’t we supposed to be a proud people?

International agencies have urged us to get our ducks in a row and tried to show us the way: to learn from the experiences of our neighbors, i.e., fast-tracking the fundamentals like basic infrastructure and strategic industries, and being committed to competitiveness and innovation. Yet, proudly, we instead trumpet our OFW remittances and the growing BPO industry – where even our supposedly largest and smartest enterprises are involved. [A Filipino scientist likens the thinking to our “barong-barong” style – meaning, a lean-to or shanty; as opposed to a properly engineered structure.] Yet, at best, it is about taking the path of least resistance – not characteristic of sustainable, competitive economies, and points to our oligarchic character, common among economic laggards.

If keeping our eye away from the ball is what Filipino 'abilidad' is about, then we haven't seen the worst yet! And infamy could only bring tears to Juan de la Cruz – from living with the worst airport to contributing to the infamous list of most corrupt world leaders to being economic laggards and the least competitive, etc. Maturity which informs a people’s view of reality recognizes the imperative or the need to prioritize. We are well-travelled people and have heard so many times, for instance, that in an airplane emergency, the first priority is to put on our safety vest before we attend even to our child?

We can't have a sensible national agenda if we insist on our intuitions instead of the common good. And parochialism could easily undermine the common good? Whether it is getting the country lit or priority industries developed, personal or local interests must give way to the national agenda or the common good. Ergo: we only have ourselves to blame for our inability to move forward as a people, as an economy and as a nation. For example, how could covering or manning NAIA 24/7 by the Bureau of Customs be a controversy – when we all applaud tourism as a strategic industry? But then the writer remembers a Pinoy crew member aboard the Queen Victoria lamenting: “Cruise ships won’t make port calls in Manila because the Customs folks are deadlier than sharks.” And is that why we can’t simplify things because it demands transparency and the honor system? No wonder the train is bound to keep leaving us behind?
But we can’t even define the common good – because we've assumed, not unlike the French, that our culture is superior? Yet even the French have recognized that reality is something else. The reality is a cultural heritage could have emanated from a biased perspective and hence is fallacious. For instance, in bragging about our ‘abilidad and creativity’ we have undermined transparency and, worse, progress and development. And which explains why we’re stuck with the jeepney, with OFWs and BPOs when our neighbors have moved to much greater value-adding economic undertakings!

But we don't see or raise the imperative of moving to much greater value-adding undertakings because of our deference to oligarchy and hierarchy – who are calling the shots? And so conspiracy theories abound that such deference is why a country of supposedly smart people can't even keep their homes and businesses lit? These are not the Dark Ages! But they are for Juan de la Cruz?

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