Thursday, June 19, 2014

Where are our weak points . . .?

Asked Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle . . . “So let us not point to just a small group. All of us should engage in soul-searching where is the Filipino culture going or where are our weak points. How do we purify our culture, our schools, our system of reward and punishment?” [Parents plant seeds of corruption–Tagle, Jocelyn R. UyPhilippine Daily Inquirer, 11th June 2014]

If it were not Cardinal Tagle posing the question, chances are we would be offended – because of national pride? And it comes from our assumptions and beliefs that we would attribute to our culture and thus is cast in stone? In other words, if it were a weakness, we will simply take it and pay the price – as in decades of underdevelopment and poverty? And thus it reinforces our fatalism? But it is not one and the same as our faith? And precisely because of the dilemma Rizal had to create Padre Damaso?

Or is it simply human nature as in the tendency to take the path of least resistance – more pronounced in Asia because of the instincts of harmony? And why character-building – as in a “system of reward and punishment” – is imperative if man is to overcome his nature? “All of us should engage in soul-searching where is the Filipino culture going or where are our weak points,” so challenged Archbishop Tagle?

But because of his assumptions and beliefs, Juan de la Cruz would be hard put to respond to the soul-searching teed up by the cardinal? For instance, take our economy and the poverty which we see as the object of our desire for inclusive growth; is that coming from the assumption that we must be charitable to the poor? Yet, should we figure out and ask ourselves about causation? An underdeveloped economy with a per capita output or GDP that matches those of other poor nations will have a dire poverty problem like they do?

But then we see the US with its own poverty challenge and we conveniently overlook our meager economic output? How come our neighbors have drastically reduced poverty – and the common denominator being they were the Asian Tigers? What else do they have in common and where we would pale in comparison? Say, good governance or their corruption is not as daunting as ours; world-class infrastructure which is for the world to see; and free market and thus their ability to attract more foreign investments?

Sadly, we would instinctively raise a bogeyman whenever such comparisons are made? For instance, our neighbors are less democratic than we are? And because they aren’t Christians, their population levels are lower? I am making that up, but if we pause for a moment and listen to ourselves rationalize why we are economic laggards or why our neighbors became the Asian Tigers, we would hear ourselves saying something along those lines?

The reality is oligarchy is universal as is corruption; every country is inward-looking to protect its interest; every nation has poverty, etc., etc. Unfortunately, they don’t mitigate our case because we are worse in every respect? “. . . . The Wall Street Journal . . . on ‘Rethinking Economic Growth, pointed out that income inequality was a problem across Southeast Asia, and ‘the Philippines, the country where we’re right now, is the worst of them all.’” [SEC takes clear stand on behalf of stakeholders, Benito L. Teehankee, The view from Taft, Business World, 11th June 2014]

“Over half, or 54%, of the 50 Filipino executives polled in Ernst & Young’s 13th Global Fraud Survey said corruption happens widely in business, similar to the average for emerging markets but worse than the 32% for Far East Asia . . . An even larger 58% of the respondents – described as working at the country’s largest firms – ‘think certain unethical behavior can be justified to help a business survive an economic downturn . . . One in five, in particular, are amenable to misstating financial results.’” [Corruption widespread, Business World, 11th June 2014]

Yet it is not uncommon to read pundits that would make us believe that the world is destined for damnation save Juan de la Cruz? Is that faith or fatalism? How are we to respond to the challenges around us?

In fairness, we also read things like: “Today we have the sad spectacle of former heads of ruling parties convicted of malfeasance in public office . . . This is not surprising given that so-called political parties today are simply groupings of traditional politicians that . . . are bankrolled by opportunistic businessmen and moneymen out to perpetuate their erected monopolies and preserving their rentier class. With media captive also of vested interest . . .” [A failing state, Jose V. Romero Jr., PhD, The Manila Times, 12th June 2014]

“Under these conditions the rule of the oligarchy is preserved . . . The question is why the Filipino people allow this to happen. One explanation is that our people have a penchant for instant gratification . . . Another is that our extended family system supported by subsidies and reinforced by patronage politics is an accepted informal social security system oiled by the pork barrel system and other congressional spoils.”

“What will it take to bring about the politics of principle . . .? A long, rugged and tortuous route is accelerated growths that can fast track higher levels of productivity, incomes and employment! Indeed economic security makes for a less dependent and independent voting population.”

“It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent, but rather the one most responsive to change,” so said Charles Darwin.

How do we develop responsiveness to change? How do we develop a forward- and outward-looking bias as opposed to a backward- and inward-looking one? We can’t if we are ensconced in and wedded to what we proudly call our culture?

Is it prayer time?

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