Monday, November 26, 2012

From virtuous to vicious circle

PH poverty reduction remains dismal says UN.” [, 28th Oct 2012.] The Philippines’ performance in meeting its Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) has remained dismal with barely three years into the deadline to achieve the objectives set by United Nations member-states . . . The UN report on the MDGs disclosed, among others, that the Philippines was years behind on most of its development objectives.”

Of the seven MDGs, the country got failing grades in four – eradicating extreme poverty, achieving universal primary education, reducing child mortality and sustaining maternal health . . . The UN described as “regressing” and “no progress” the Philippines’ performance in education-related objectives, and “slow” in dealing with anti-poverty reduction, child mortality reduction, as well as maternal health problems.”

We may be doing fine in three of the seven goals but poverty will continue to define us. And so CCT (to address poverty) is a major piece of the administration’s agenda . . . and we assumed it was to be a virtuous circle? We’re not alone in the instinct to intuit or in our “pakiramdam.” Even the legendary Steve Jobs demonstrated “pakiramdam” and opted to pursue alternative medicine when he first learned about his illness. Many of us ‘born again’ Christians that have done discernment exercises and/or discernment training arguably would see discernment as not necessarily supernatural – i.e., that the sciences can’t be dismissed when human challenges clearly say so.

Visiting a museum in Ukraine [and sadly they seem unable to leave their totalitarian tendencies behind] many years ago, my wife came back with one of the most vicious stories in the history of that country. Their anger would still seethe through decades later recalling why despite being the breadbasket of the Soviet empire countless of them had to die to fight for crumbs of bread. The insult had come earlier, being convinced that their food ration was confirmation that the system was indeed a virtuous circle.

Over the last ten years a group of Eastern Europeans (and they have become friends) have experienced the reality of what a sustainable economic activity ought to be. And I wonder what, when, where and how would Juan de la Cruz experience a similar reality? Our problem is that we are proud being long a free market and have assumed that ours is a virtuous circle . . . and so what is there to change? [On the other hand, extreme critics remain radicalized precisely because they’ve witnessed the shortcomings of this supposed virtuous circle. There is no perfect system and ours is not the model to crow about – because it is lopsided yet serves the purpose for many of us. Radical groups make a valid point but they are, because of “pakiramdam” and/or ideology, also jaded?]

We can learn from our architects and builders – and they are world-class – about how they are able to design, build and create a system that is functioning. [We can’t be ever driving our economy on the backs of our Christian charity. ‘Give to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and to God which are God’s.’] It was like yesterday when my Eastern European friends wanted to figure out how a functioning system comes about. And it is beyond “pakiramdam.” And ten years later I sat amazed in their budget reviews for 2013; it was as though I was in a time machine – sitting once again in a business review in a Fortune 500 company headquarters, not perfect but world-class.

These once socialist folks have learned to anchor their thinking in some higher order – to stay ahead of “global trends.” They’ve realized that if they were merely to replicate the product ideas of MNCs and sell them at a cheaper price they could not sustain the undertaking. It was a reminder that their once celebrated food ration was unsustainable, a disaster waiting to happen.  

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