Friday, April 25, 2014

It all starts in the mind II

Can we foresee PHL as an egalitarian society or is that going against the grain? And so when we say it is about our heritage and are proud of it and it is our culture, what we truly are saying is: we are a cacique system and structure and thus hierarchical? People call it mindset and if we Pinoys are to build strong institutions that are imperative in a functioning democracy – and level the playing field – we must first get our head in the right place? In other words, we have to go through the process of unfreezing. The mind has no room for new learning unless it unfreezes assumptions, practices, biases and even ideologies. And it is what separates inherently progressive, creative and innovative environments from the rest. The latter are simply marking time if not behind the times. And to Francis, the Curia is a good example of that – because even our faith can't be kept in isolation?

Of course, defenders of the status quo are offended thus the speculation that his papacy could be a short one. “What if, in a Church with two popes, the one in the Casa Santa Marta dies first? When John Paul’s health was waning, people would ask him how they could carry on his legacy. “How do you know that I will die first?,” the old warrior would jibe. Sure enough, John Paul outlasted friend and foe, mindful that it was the sudden death of a pope—John Paul I, who died after a month in office in 1978—that led to his own election, and mindful that he had lived out his marathon papacy only after surviving an assassin’s bullet, in 1981. A third of a century after the death of the first John Paul, people in Rome still bat around the notion that he was done in—poisoned—by enemies of reform. It is never far from the thoughts of the people who look after Francis that his openness to the world—the embraces, the selfies, the spontaneous encounters with ordinary people—makes him a target.” [The Pope in the Attic: Benedict in the Time of Francis, Paul Elie, The Atlantic, 16th Apr 2014]

And talking about institutions, and given the Filipino culture is heavily tilted to the church, the church ought to be the model in renouncing hierarchy – in the same fashion that Francis has done? Does that sound heretical? It all starts in the mind? The school must likewise toss “the ivory tower” label. If in the West industry – the ones that create the bulk of the jobs and, as importantly, collaborate with other sectors if not lead the march of contemporary science and man’s progress and development – find the educational system wanting, it is because ivory tower connotes isolation and thus undermines learning which by definition must be dynamic. Industry or private enterprise in its simplest form is the pursuit of an economic activity.

And an economic activity if it is to be true is sustainable – i.e., a virtuous circle – and is nurtured in an egalitarian society where there is a strong community sense and where freedom and democracy reigns. Conversely, hierarchy or ivory tower – and worse, oligarchy – is anathema to a virtuous circle. And in the globalized, highly competitive 21st century world, it is an imperative.

What about government? It is the microcosm of the institutions of a nation and in the case of PHL, given the influence of the church, and that of the school, how could we nurture public service to be egalitarian when we equate rank to absolute power and privilege – as in Padre Damaso, for example? Not surprisingly, ours is a cacique system and structure aka our heritage and culture? And that is being kind because the reality is it fosters condescension and abuse instead of good governance – which as we now know translates to a culture of impunity? And when the Filipino family is confronted by such a reality, what else will it be like? It will expect paternalism in return – which lends itself to crab mentality? The bottom line: we created a multi-headed monster instead of a virtuous circle? And the evidence: PHL remains the regional laggards and thus our inability to put body and soul together for a vast number of our people.

What then do we need to commit to and wholeheartedly pursue if we want future generations to inherit a better Philippines – and relive its old glory? That we all led by our institutions need to open our minds and toss our assumptions and start building strong democratic institutions. It means for Juan de la Cruz to respect meritocracy instead of our “paki system” – aka crab mentality that seeks short-term gains at the expense of long-term sustainable progress and development. It means for the church to reinforce the virtue of an egalitarian society as opposed to that of a hierarchy. It means for the school to eschew the ivory tower and work across disciplines and beyond – especially in this day and age of warp-speed change, which we can take for granted at our peril.

What about our cacique masters – and oligarchy? In an environment characterized by strong democratic institutions, they will be the pariahs – together with their cohort in the media and elsewhere? In the meantime, it explains precisely why we are the laughingstock of the region if not the world? A nation supposedly of smart people yet unable to feed its own people – because we have consistently failed in being good shepherds to our God-given talents and resources?

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