Monday, April 14, 2014

Community sense II

Community sense presupposes interdependence and synergy – or gestalt, where the whole is greater than the sum of the parts. “. . . [P]sychological sense of community is the perception of similarity to others, an acknowledged interdependence with others, a willingness to maintain this interdependence by giving to or doing for others what one expects from them, and the feeling that one is part of a larger dependable and stable structure.” [Wikipedia]

Ergo: PHL’s party-list system and the “Bill filed mandating people participation in budget process” [Jovee Marie N. dela Cruz, Business Mirror, 6th Apr 2014] simply confirm that we indeed suffer from the lack if not the absence of community sense? Are they manifestations of crab mentality? “Crab mentality is broadly associated with short-sighted, non-constructive thinking rather than a unified, long-term, constructive mentality.” [Wikipedia.] Put another way, we want to move closer to direct democracy because representative democracy has not worked for us – given our culture of impunity? And it explains President Aquino’s focus on good governance via “Daang matuwid”?

It is a good starting point but we need to do more – tons more – as a people and individually? But do our parochial instinct and focus on family – and kaklase, etc. – make us unable to recognize and appreciate the broader community? And thus by extension we shall be unable to move forward as an economy or nation? If we cannot trust each other and our elected leaders, how could we “acknowledge interdependence with other” nations in this day and age of a globalized world?

Take Asean or the threat of China, for example. Asean as an economic bloc means a bigger market for everyone. But to play in this bigger arena demands that a country has the requisite foundation: infrastructure and industry. In the private sector, that translates to having the manufacturing capability and the broader supply chain and the competitive products that are marketable. And PHL is deficient across the board? 

What about the threat of China? Again, it is a challenge of interdependence with the rest of the world? For example, Japan and Australia and Germany and Poland and the EU are all looking for support from the US military and NATO. And as we know, some Japanese investors have pulled out of China and relocated to our region. Yet as suggested by a columnist, we must seriously dissect our being of the East as the Chinese are (and recognize that our culture is different from that of the West) and thus must deal with China like another Easterner? Could this be shared by many of us? And given that the US is a former colonizer, the relationship we could have with them would only be akin to that of a superior and a subordinate? 

“PHL: A near-failed state used by the US,” wrote Rigoberto D. Tiglao, The Manila Times, 10th Apr 2014. “What struck me more though reading Kaplan’s book is its scathing criticism of the Philippines, for which he devotes an entire chapter he cruelly titled “America’s Colonial Burden.” It is as damaging to our country’s image—even more, probably—as the 1987 “Damaged Culture” written by another Atlantic Monthly writer, James Fallows was. While my tribal emotions cry “foul”, my reason, unfortunately, agrees with many of his insights.”

Do we not look at ourselves as co-equal to other nations? Of course we are not – given our backward economy that is principally driven by oligarchy on the one hand and our infrastructure- and industry-deficits on the other? And given our predicament, how could we imagine being able to demonstrate a global community sense? Is it about our hierarchical instinct, the lack of community sense or the poor self-esteem of Juan de la Cruz? “Self-esteem [is] defined as the experience of being competent to cope with the basic challenges of life and being worthy of happiness . . . [It] is the sum of self-confidence (a feeling of personal capacity) and self-respect (a feeling of personal worth). It exists as a consequence of the implicit judgment that every person has of their ability to face life's challenges, to understand and solve problems, and their right to achieve happiness, and be given respect.” [Wikipedia]

What does it all mean – that 68 years after our independence from the Americans we are still not ready for representative democracy and/or to be a global citizen? For example, what are the relatively recent adherents to democracy thinking and reading about? “Democratic countries, as a whole, are richer than undemocratic ones; they have less wars; they cope better with corruption. Why then does democracy seem to have lost its attractiveness for so many people today? Democracy, in fact, is a rather rare flower. It first germinated in ancient Athens . . . But later it disappeared from the maps for almost two millennia. Even during the allegedly enlightened 20th century it was rare – the first German democracy did not even survive for 15 years before falling down under the pressure of the Nazis.” [Politics in focus, Bulgaria on air, April 2014]

“In 1941, there were only 11 democracies, in the world, and not all of them matched the term as we know it today (Switzerland, for example, gave women the right to vote in 1971). In short, democracy is not growing by itself under the pressure of natural laws – it requires uninterrupted care. But once the West triumphed in the Cold War and had no enemies, it seemed to believe on the opposite. The naïve attempts made in Iraq and Afghanistan proved that democracy could not just be imposed by organizing elections. In order to make it work, strong public institutions and, most of all, a well informed and active public opinion are needed . . . We are currently living in a time of aggravating confrontations – with Russia, China, the Islamic world, which are naturally causing concern. But they may turn out to be the necessary labor-pains for “the rebirth of history.” Democracy needs opponents. Simply because, as Churchill once said, it is the worst form of government except all the others that have been tried.”

It is the 21st century, but does that mean PHL is equipped to afford democracy uninterrupted care?

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