Tuesday, November 26, 2013


Google translate: it’s Filipino for coherence"Manila Bay Resorts to provide thousands of jobs," proudly announced a news item. It’s good news, but is there a catch? Didn’t the World Bank share their findings that our economic model doesn't create the number of jobs we need, not now and not in the foreseeable future? They’ve presented us a new paradigm, i.e., pursue manufacturing? How must we respond? The US bishops, meanwhile, had to do some rethinking given the new paradigm from Pope Francis. And it shouldn’t be surprising if we recall how Einstein defined insanity?

"This focus on the rural poor has, ironically, been one of the major obstacles to alleviating poverty. For decades the national political parties handed out lavish subsidies for work, food and energy – among other things – thus distorting all these markets and perpetuating many of India's basic economic problems . . . [T]his mentality has taken precedence over good governance, efficient regulations, and fiscal sanity. Policies that actually alleviate poverty by promoting economic growth are often enacted quietly and are even guiltily called "stealth reform" by their advocates . . . [T]he political elite still think of India as . . . a victim of larger global forces than . . . one that should be governed by the highest standards . . . Many foreign observers . . . look at India with despair. The country simply cannot reform at the pace necessary to fulfill its ambitions for growth and progress. Everything gets mired in political paralysis, and the governing class remains committed to a politics of patronage and pandering . . . Can the country live up to its potential? Are Indians reformers? Can millions of people mobilize and petition and clamor for change? Can they persist in a way that makes reform inevitable?" [Fareed Zakaria, The rediscovery of India, McKinsey & Company, 19th Nov 2013]

Sounds familiar? Four self-imposed barriers have cut Juan de la Cruz by the knees? They are: (1) The restrictive economic provisions of the Constitution; (2) Failure to address the power crisis; (3) Neglect of basic infrastructure; and (4) Bypassing industrialization. There are other barriers that when added to the above have kept us economic laggards. For example, our hierarchical system and structure has reinforced paternalism and populist demands on the one hand, while perpetuating oligarchy and oligopoly on the other. And the hopelessness they bring drives fatalism and learned helplessness – with the church offering its shoulder to cry on? What about education? If all the foregoing would define our culture, doesn’t education in fact mirror a nation’s culture, such that our paradigm would remain outdated and passé?

In the globalized 21st century, enterprises and nations compete for resources and markets. And their ability to be in the arena is dictated by their infrastructure, in the first place? Simply, without infrastructure, they are less able to attract investment and tap technology, both critical to industrialization and in the pursuit of progress and development? And there is still the requisite education and training that must be equal to the demands not of yesterday but of tomorrow, including competitiveness? What about sophistication? Sophistication is what people saw in the palaces and the lives of Europe’s royalties? It is in the wines that Europeans drink. Yet Einstein defined education not in terms of sophistication but as the training of the mind to think – and not even the learning of many facts!

Foreigners, including experienced foreign-service personnel and journalists, would immediately sense the sophistication of Filipinos. It isn’t surprising because back at home in the West, these are middle-class folks. It was like yesterday when I was on the phone at home in Connecticut talking to the country manager of an Asian subsidiary and he thought he overhead my wife’s voice. Not to worry, I said, she was just reminding me to take out the garbage before I retire.

“The United States is a middle-class society. Most of the country considers itself middle class, and politicians cater to that vast group . . . In India, politicians have generally pandered to the villager . . . Village life in traditional Bollywood movies reflected simplicity and virtue. Cities were centers of crime and conflict, controlled by a small, wealthy, often debauched elite.” [ibid.]

Can coherence exist in a hierarchical system when transparency is absent by definition; and evidence number one is the Vatican? Despite the holiest of objects the absence of transparency has resulted in embarrassments, not coherence, within the church? While in PHL, we want to preserve an old paradigm (which we insist reflects our values?) while expecting a different outcome? Fatalism or insanity?

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