Sunday, September 30, 2012

The Lincoln model

Today’s Republican Party may be able to perform useful tasks with its current hyper-individualistic mentality. But its commercial soul is too narrow. It won’t be a worthy governing party until it treads the course Lincoln trod: starting with individual ambition but ascending to a larger vision and creating a national environment that arouses ambition and nurtures success,” David Brooks, The Party of Strivers, NY Times, 31st Aug 2012. He is a professed Republican supporter yet strives to be objective. But the writer took issue with him when he tried in vain to justify that George Bush was the right person for the right job. “The guy was born in third base yet thought he hit a triple.” And so the swagger: “Mission Accomplished”! And today many Americans still blame him for the extended economic slump in the US – and why Obama appears to be in the running despite over 8% unemployment, in the past a guaranteed loss for the incumbent (and in part helped by Romney's inability to connect with the voters . . . and with a little help from the liberal media.)

In the Philippines – as in many parts of the world especially Europe – we could easily find fault in America. Yet most everywhere people would define success in a very narrow sense – or as David Brooks says of the GOP, “its commercial soul is too narrow.” If the US has countless monuments of this narrow definition of success, Europe has its own share. And the writer, a part-time Europe resident, has witnessed people’s reactions while gawking at its many palaces oozing wealth if not royalty. And thus it was easy to comprehend, for instance, why the tsars had to go. And beyond the palaces, the Kremlin diamond museum would give New York’s diamond district a run for their money.

Since the Philippines is relatively young, we could be going through our own “Gilded Age” except that it’s already the 21st century. And we have to find our own Lincoln who would demonstrate that “starting with individual ambition” is fine “but ascending to a larger vision and creating a national environment that arouses ambition and nurtures success” ought to be the “nirvana.” This blog is about reinventing ourselves – to become more competitive – and the writer defines competitiveness in pretty broad terms to flesh up what economists call the ‘multiplier effect of investment.’ Competitiveness is about investment that is directed to: technology and innovation as well as education or talent, product and market development. It is when investments fuel these building blocks that a broad-based economy is created – and why, for example, Apple has become the largest business enterprise and appreciably impacting the global economy. And to underscore the distinction, the writer speaks to our ‘cacique system’ where capital rules; and which is reinforced as we view the market as confined to the Philippines and/or when we trumpet our ‘consumption economy.’ Unfortunately, they are a reflection of our parochial bias that perpetuates a closed and hierarchical system – and an underdeveloped economy?

Is whatever we are, the good and the bad, unalterable? Juan de la Cruz ought to take offense when Pinoys are viewed as undeserving; for example, border controls could subject Filipino women to indignation. And it doesn’t matter if they look dignified, even bejeweled. The writer remembers the embarrassment of a Pinay trying to get into London; and it was not the first time he has witnessed such a scene. The bottom line: while individual Filipinos may be respected Juan de la Cruz in more ways than one isn’t.

We are a relatively young nation and are still learning the ropes . . . except that many younger ones are leaving us in the dust. Shouldn’t we take offense?

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