Saturday, October 5, 2013

Fatalism and/or insanity

Do we believe that a few points gained (coming from such a low base) in our competitiveness ranking would translate to economic development – i.e., that we would be an inclusive, developed and a model economy? While the Jesuits preach that Christ is in everything, there must be time that is dedicated for work (of course we know the chapter and verse and the song too?) or faith without works doesn’t compute? I learned it after being a lazy student for the longest time to the frustration of my parents. Translation: we are doomed if even our best minds buy into Pinoy fatalism and, worse, conclude that our economy is breaking out and is to takeoff and soar? For example, we will miss our much ballyhooed export target and the similarly hyped rice self-sufficiency. [And in the meantime, and for the umpteenth time, the World Bank and the ADB are urging us to pursue economic and industry reforms. That means beyond the sense of urgency we need the sense of closure so that challenges don’t pile up? Or is that what “que sera, sera” is? “Filipinos not only tend to avoid conflict, but problems as well,” says an expat, a Dane.] Yet one major daily has been heaping accolades on those press releases without vetting them as in "where is the beef” or, simply, who will do what, when, where, why and how? That is insulting, not patriotic – i.e., folks from ex-Soviet satellites could give us an earful! Or is that Padre Damaso redux?
Was Rizal right about our backwardness – and being anti-progress, etc., etc.? How deep in the abyss are we? We won’t recognize it if we’ve ignored what is going on with our neighbors, much less with the rest of the world? It is not surprising that Cardinal Tagle has put his finger into our culture – we don’t hold the keys to heaven nor want to be the modern-day scribes and Pharisees? Francis and John XXIII must both have such courage and conviction to go against backwardness? It’s laughable how some quarters worry that Francis has thrown out the window all safeguards implicit in hierarchy; for example, calling people directly on their cellphones could open the papacy to impersonators. Transparency needs no such safeguards. Didn't our mothers say that honesty is the best policy? 
And I am reminded of the time that I had to read the riot act to the management team of a subsidiary in my old MNC company: “From here on forward, every employee in this subsidiary must be connected to the company’s email system, full stop! [And that was before the age of Yahoo or Google or even AOL.] Communication is fundamental in a functioning enterprise.” I was simply dumbfounded when an employee called my hotel room to request a meeting about something that ought to be out in the open – not uncommon and in fact normal to us Pinoys? And then I realized that the subsidiary was stunting open communication. Fast forward: many years later I would break into a grin every time my Eastern European friends would be quizzing one another, including the big boss. Translation: they’ve developed an egalitarian environment such that the best thinking and ideas would percolate to the top.
From basic infrastructure like power . . . to a vibrant industrial base . . . we are lagging the world! And we will, even after a hundred years, until we overcome our subservience to hierarchy? Or why church secrecy, for example, is abhorrent? And so for a hundred more years we would remain underdeveloped – because we value secrecy and hierarchy over transparency? Ergo: oligarchy, political patronage and corruption are in our DNA? And so we can’t but be fatalistic? Or is it insanity as Einstein pronounced – to be doing the same thing over and over while expecting a different outcome?
In fairness, I am reminded of the Monsignor in our New York suburban parish. [May he rest in peace!] One Sunday he had a word with me: I understand your daughter is going to an Ivy League school – they are very liberal . . . I don’t have to tell you . . . And my response: between the home, her school and the church, I am confident that she is ready for college, wherever. He not only acquiesced; the following year and the next, my daughter was invited to speak to the students at her former high school to talk about how to be admitted in an Ivy. And while she was the first from that all-girls Catholic school to go to an Ivy League school, more followed suit. (It was taken for granted that graduates would move on to a Jesuit college in the state or elsewhere.) The Monsignor was an efficient church administrator and the parish, thanks to the system he institutionalized, has been a model of financial viability; and, more importantly, a true church to the community. He was a friend to most everyone and would visit homes and break bread with families. And just like many of us, he had his favorite Italian restaurant, and had his particular taste of Italian wine. He even introduced my family to Key West (Florida): You want peace and quiet in your holiday, try Key West.

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