Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Cardinal Tagle’s call for integrity

“[T]he only remedy to the culture of corruption emanating in the society is to develop a culture of integrity.” [Manila Bulletin, 21st Jan 2014][But] what is even worse is that you will be criticized when you attempt to correct these misdeeds. This is the year of the Laity, we are being asked to enter and transform culture.”

“To achieve the culture of integrity . . . start within your families, within the home, and within the school . . . Consistency of words and deeds is one area of integrity . . . Be truthful, be honest . . . Whenever you commit a mistake admit it . . . The culture of dishonesty must be replaced . . . [G]et rid of bias and prejudice, assessing oneself in accordance to competence and diligence instead of connections . . . [T]hey are the hidden ways by which we can transform our culture. They are the needs of our time.” 

Amen! A close family friend has said a couple of times that “we can’t change our culture.” And offered another: “no one wants to be told.” And a third would add: “especially when the words are hurtful – all the more in a soft culture like ours.” This blog is on its fifth year and I’ve heard these words countless times and in varying ways. And especially the last one – i.e., I am not the nicest person [mea culpa!] when it comes to expressing myself and so I would always pull my wife aside when friends and acquaintances would express their anger about the state of the nation. And they were the ones who had asked: “How can you help recognizing you’re overseas?” And that became the signal for me to start the blog.

On the Archbishop’s call for integrity, this blog often talks about my MNC experience and also that of my Eastern European friends. Because integrity is something that is at the core of how they would do things at my old MNC company; and it is what my Bulgarian friends have learned and embraced over the last eleven years and counting. In other words, integrity is not some out of this world experience; it isn’t beyond man’s capacity. It is different from perfection; and as this blog has discussed a few times, perfection is not of this world. Man can err and does all the time but to constantly aspire and manifest integrity is what it’s about.

Yet do we Pinoys find integrity almost unreachable? And does it come from our hierarchical system and structure? And so from the get-go we are integrity-challenged? When something is not transparent, it lends itself to abuse thus undermining integrity? And because we take respect for hierarchy (and elders and authority) as a Pinoy virtue, we take transparency for granted? And human as we are, those in the lower rungs of the hierarchy make their own world – as in self-preservation – and which is why corruption in PHL is universal and is now woven in our cultural fabric . . . thus the call from Cardinal Tagle?

And until we step up to the plate, we would continue to sub-optimize our efforts in moving the nation forward. PHL poverty is driven by underdevelopment. But we like to brush that aside instead of recognizing the reality that our neighbors have drastically reduced poverty as they demonstrated to the world how to be Asian tigers?

So what is going on? Our worldview appears stuck; and sadly it mirrors our bias for the status quo? Yet we would be reminded by Einstein: to keep doing the same thing while expecting a different outcome is insanity? And that is what the family friend means; we can’t imagine being able to change our culture and, sadly, our worldview is simply the extension of that culture? And one of its elements is our inability to raise the bar – “mababaw ang kaligayahan ni Juan de la Cruz”?

To use a sports analogy, when a team is outplayed and outscored by the opponent, the coach would instruct the players to move to and execute “plan B” – something that winning teams would always have in their back pockets. For example, while we are spending tons of money on infrastructure, we must recognize that we are playing catch up. And if we value the “common good” we would demonstrate greater transparency, integrity and a sense of urgency! But that is not what we see?

What we see is the piling of unresolved controversies one after another, replaying similar nightmares to the Bataan Nuclear Power Plant or NAIA 3 or the delays in major infrastructure projects. We don't seem to appreciate and recognize the imperative of infrastructure development in economic development and nation building and the pursuit of the common good? What is getting in the way? Is it the lack of visionary leadership? Is it pure, unadulterated self-interest and thus a culture of corruption and impunity? Is it sheer incompetence? We can't find comfort in measuring ourselves against bygone metrics with the world moving at warp speed – and, closer to home, with ASEAN upon us? And we don't want to be destined as a bunch of losers, if we're not there yet?

Whatever it is, can we visualize Juan de la Cruz – and PHL – moving beyond underdevelopment? Could we heed the call of Cardinal Tagle? Should our institutions follow his lead; better yet if the different sectors of society come together to figure out the future of Juan de la Cruz: where are we; where do we want to be; how will we get there? And it can't be same old, same old?

No comments:

Post a Comment