Sunday, March 23, 2014

The object of the exercise

What does Juan de la Cruz wish for PHL? Do we want to rise as a nation? “According to a US college textbook, World Civilizations, the rise of nations in Europe in the 19th century arose from a complex combination of the forces of liberalism, nationalism and nation-building.” [Why not nationalism (?), Manuel AlmarioPhilippine Daily Inquirer15th Mar 2014]According to the Concise Encyclopedia, ‘Nationalism is loyalty and devotion to one’s nation or country, especially as above loyalty to other groups or to individual interests.’ Thus, a nationalist identifies fully with his country, placing its interests above that of his class, community, region, clan, family and self.”

If indeed we want to rise as a nation, can we put nation above self? “To test the claim that rent-seekers are on the rampage, we have created a crony-capitalist index.” [Planet Plutocrat, The Economist, 15th Mar 2014] “Countries that do well on the crony index generally have better bureaucracies and institutions . . . [M]ost countries in South-East Asia, including Indonesia, Thailand and the Philippines, saw their scores get worse between 2007 and 2014, as tycoons active in real estate and natural resources got richer.”

The good news is our neighbors are not angels; the bad news is we’re the regional laggards? “Banking giant HSBC revised downward its economic growth forecast for the Philippines over the next two years, citing the country’s poor infrastructure which it described as worse than Sri Lanka . . . Based on HSBC Philippines’ Asia Infrastructure Measure (AIM) data for 2013, the Philippines “ranked the last” in quality infrastructure out of the 11 economies it observed in Asia.” [Kristyn Nika M. Lazo, The Manila Times, 12th Mar 2014]

No one said nation-building is easy. We want success without the struggle, we want fulfilment without hard work. Think of certain people who want to make a fast buck . . . Some get by in work by simply coasting along, afflicted with AIDS. No, this is not the sexually transmitted sickness but an acronym for “As If Doing Something”. . . The TRANSFIGURATION of Christcommemorated . . . second Sunday of Lent brings home the lesson that we cannot achieve success unless we work and work hard.” [Transfiguration: No cross, no crown, Fr. Bel R. San Luis, SVD, Manila Bulletin, 14th Mar 2014]

This blog has talked about problem-solving not only because nation-building is indeed complex but it is also an influence from my old MNC company – where at the headquarters people saw problem-solving as adrenaline-pumping – and which I’ve brought to my Eastern European friends: “the best laid plans of mice and men often go awry.” For example, “[J]oint problem-solving revolves around interests, instead of positions, you begin by identifying those interests—concerns, needs, fears and desires that underlie and motivate opposing positions. You then explore different options for meeting those interests . . .” [Try joint problem-solving, Cecilio T. ArilloDatabaseBusiness Mirror14th Mar 2014]

“Joint problem-solving can generate better results for both sides, saves time and energy by avoiding brinkmanship and posturing, and usually leads to harmonious working relationships and to mutual benefits in the future . . . Effective negotiation requires breaking through each of these six barriers . . . your reaction, their emotion, their position, their dissatisfaction and their power, their ideology.”

In an old posting I talked about how we laid out the offices with my Eastern European friends. Every business unit has R&D and marketing; but these two functions are literally bunched together. [And so I’d smile when I read about how PHL government bureaucracy has remained bureaucratic in this day and age of virtual reality.] And beyond these physical arrangements – and it’s an open office environment so all one has to do is call the attention of people within hearing distance to get them plugged in, aside from the small meeting rooms strewn all over the place – the whole planning and execution process is inherently interactive so that the left hand knows what the right hand is doing. It is also about transparency, teamwork, the pursuit of excellence and competitiveness, among others.

A 2010 study by the People Management Association of the Philippines (PMAP) said that 4 out of 10 fresh graduates and young jobseekers were not hired because they lacked “soft” competencies — critical thinking, initiative, and effective communication skills.  Though many applicants were book smart, they appeared ill-prepared for the challenges of the workplace.” [The educated unemployed, Senator Edgardo J. Angara, Manila Bulletin, 15th Mar 2014]

I witnessed how the West had to grapple and bridge the gap between education and industry; and was part of the efforts at my old MNC company. And by extension my Eastern European friends have also espoused the efforts; and it translates to simplifying the planning and execution process, for instance. It demands lots of problem-solving and lots of classroom work – without the ivory tower. And the object of the exercise is crystal clear to everyone – and that is why they signed up to be part of the enterprise. It is the enterprise above self. And people know what’s in it for them.

“Senator Sergio Osmeña III has finally confirmed what myriad of Filipinos—and even foreigners—have known over the past three years (2011-2013): the lack or absence of competence of Benigno S. Aquino 3rd as President of the Republic of the Philippines . . . What made the disclosure very credible is Senator Osmeña’s being a “key political ally” and a campaign strategist of President B. S Aquino III in the 2010 presidential elections.” [Price of PNoy’s Incompetence, Rick B. Ramos, Insights, The Manila Times, 14th Mar 2014]

That’s not at all surprising. Not even the US could claim competence in its presidents – and why building institutions is imperative, not destroying them like we do via political patronage. And if even in the West where they invented education they have an education problem, what more of PHL? But Juan de la Cruz cannot simplify problem-solving? For example, when we say “nationalism” we mean parochialism which in reality is an ideology? And as the above columnist wrote about joint problem-solving, ideology is a barrier – and why we can’t fix most things?

There are two other elements aside from nationalism quoted above: liberalism and nation-building. “According to a US college textbook, World Civilizations, the rise of nations in Europe in the 19th century arose from a complex combination of the forces of liberalism, nationalism and nation-building.” “Classical liberalism is a philosophy committed to the ideal of limited government and liberty of individuals including freedom of religionspeechpressassembly, and free markets.”[] In PHL because government has been utterly incompetent in providing the basics – as in the rule of law, infrastructure, etc. – we expect it to compensate by expanding its role in industry, for example? Or is this a carryover of our success stories behind oligopoly, i.e., that success comes from political patronage?

“We define ‘nation building’ as a process which leads to the formation of countries in which the citizens feel a sufficient amount of commonality of interests, goals and preferences so that they do not wish to separate from each other.” [] The operative word is sufficient, not absolute, commonality? For example, we can’t define nationalism as parochialism – which wittingly or unwittingly has perpetuated our hierarchical, cacique culture . . . and underdevelopment and poverty? “[O]ne thing that is holding us back is our island mentality – that we think we need to conquer our own island . . . [F]or businesses to be successful, companies must stop being nationalistic to a fault. Don't focus so much on the Philippines. Focus on making products for the world. You don't have to be huge to be global. Have a global mindset regardless of what you do . . .” [Why the Filipino can take the global center stage, Irene Fernando, Manila Bulletin, 16th Mar 2014]

Even if we go by our faith, Christ demonstrated a bias for the “foreign” – the sinners, the non-believers and those from other lands, real foreigners. And thus the parable of the talents was not surprising – it is expected of a “big mind”? And the history of man is one of interdependence. Despite man’s continuing folly – or more precisely, by rogue nations – he has learned to respect territories and the imperative to co-exist, like the barter facility. And as he learns more about his environment, he is confronted with the realization that pollution cannot be contained within territorial boundaries; and so the Indonesians, for example, must recognize the negative impact of local forest practices to the environment and their neighbors.

There is more to globalization than trade. Importantly, it facilitates the sharing and acquisition of knowledge; and it starts with young school kids – right in their classrooms, if not their homes.

What is the object of the exercise? What does Juan de la Cruz wish for PHL? Do we want to rise as a nation?

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