Friday, July 12, 2013

"Our problems are man-made . . .”

"Therefore they can be solved by man." We may not have a Kennedy but we are smart enough? "I hope every American . . . will stop and examine his conscience . . . This . . . nation was founded on the principle that all men are created equal, and that the rights of every man are diminished when the rights of one man are threatened . . . every American ought to have the right to be treated as he would wish to be treated, as one would wish his children to be treated. But this is not the case."

"We are confronted primarily with a moral issue. It is as old as the scriptures . . . Who would then be content with the counsels of patience . . . Now the time has come for this Nation to fulfill its promise . . . The fires of frustration and discord are burning . . . It cannot be quieted by token moves and talk . . . It is not enough to put the blame on others . . . Those who do nothing are inviting shame . . . Those who act boldly are recognizing right as well as reality . . . I have recently met with scores of business leaders urging them to take voluntary action . . . But many are unwilling to act alone . . . Therefore, I am asking for your help in making it easier for us to move ahead . . . I ask the support of all our citizens."

These are two speeches [featured by The New York Times, "When presidential words led to swift action," 9th Jun 2013] about peace and civil rights but no matter, shouldn't every self-respecting Filipino relate to and be seriously concerned about our own moral issue? Says Pope Francis: "The wealthy and the powerful are leading the world down the wrong path." “By imposing restrictions on foreign ownership, charter Philippine lawmakers believed they protected the country’s sovereignty from foreign encroachments.” [Priscilla Tacujan, Ph.D., The Philippine Star, 3rd Jun 2013]

As it turned out, however, these economic restrictions repelled investors and mostly benefitted small interest groups in the Philippines. They are provisions that work against the provision of economic growth and greater employment opportunities. The interest groups that benefited support protectionism in the Philippines and do not want any form of competition, domestic or foreign, to threaten their almost monopolistic access to market shares and government influence." To add insult to injury, our elite class believed that OFWs could use spiritual guidance . . . while they've been laughing their way to the bank from an economy that is riding on the backs of these OFWs? How do we like to call His name in vain? And the then Archbishop Tagle who had looked into the lives of OFWs then shared them during a Lenten retreat organized by some of PHL’s "beautiful people." And to drive home the point, he gave a theological discourse on The Eight Beatitudes which didn't embarrass the retreatants? We could shame even the worst of our colonizers?

My wife and I would later relate to what the now Cardinal Tagle did and why. During the cruise that we took last fall, we shared the dinner table with a handful of Brits; and we were attended by a couple of Filipino waiters and a Filipino headwaiter. More than half of the ship’s crews were Pinoys. And one sheepishly engaged us in conversation: “Please don’t say it to our bosses. This is okay work but the money is not really commensurate . . .” And this was reinforced by two young ladies, a Polish and a Hungarian: “We are very much younger than our Filipino colleagues and we are only doing this for the short-term and taking advantage of the opportunity to travel. Given the cost of living in our country this can’t be a career. To the Filipinos this is their livelihood but away from their families.” And so we were not surprised when another Filipino narrated: “my son just joined the ship; but I did not want my daughter to do it.”

Kenneth Akintewe, portfolio manager at Aberdeen Asset Management in Singapore, observes that family-controlled big businesses in the Philippines dictate the terms of business in the Philippines: “There is a real hesitancy to allow foreigners to come in and have a major say on how businesses are run. Until that dynamic changes, it is difficult to see foreigners being particularly enthusiastic” about investing in the Philippines.” [Ibid.]

Our past will always remind us of who we are and who we have become. As my father always quipped, “We were meant for higher things in life. We can do it, if we only relearn to dream, to hope – to dare and to aspire.” [Sara Soliven De Guzman, The Philippine Star, 10th Jun 2013]

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