Sunday, June 21, 2015

Standing on our own two feet

That would presuppose that we are indeed “independent” like we celebrate every year? “And now, what will her future be? Rizal goes on to examine different scenarios and their varying conditions of possibility. At some points, he writes, the impulse for freedom may be strong, but the people are not ready. There might be too much dissension at the top, and general apathy below.” [If Rizal had been a Moro, Randy David, Public Lives, Philippine Daily Inquirer, 18th Jun 2015]

“Political dynasties are the modern resurrections of the discredited monarchs, kings and queens of the Medieval Age. These political dynasties, like the kings and queens of the Dark Ages, believe that political power comes from the bloodline, that political power is inherited, and that political power does not come from the ballot box.” [(SPEECH) Ex-Chief Justice Puno makes a call for ‘bagong sistema, bagong pag-asa,’ Manila Bulletin, 18th Jun 2015; Full transcript of speech made by former Chief Justice Reynato S. Puno at the launch of  Bagong Sistema, Bagong Pag-asa: A Call for System Change’ on June 6, 2015 at San Andres Sports Complex, Manila]

“We will never attain true democracy until and unless we eliminate these political dynasties, for in a true democracy political power cannot be the monopoly of a few but should be in the hands of the many. And we cannot eliminate political dynasties by relying on Congress to pass the necessary law. Because Congress is controlled by political dynasties.”

“The only way to eliminate political dynasties is through the Constitution—by providing a self-executing ban on political dynasties, a ban that does not need any implementing law from Congress.

“Elections in a democracy should be the means by which we can throw out the scalawags in government, the means by which we can encourage the saints to participate in governance. If we cannot do this, our elections will just result in the rigodon of the undeserving, the reign after reign of the incompetent, and the rule after rule of the underachiever. We must put an end to this political insanity. 

“Our country is full of problems, and empty of solutions. Our people are full of questions but without answers. Let us not be part of the problems, let us be part of the solutions. Let us not be part of the questions, let us be part of the answers.”

Recently this blog discussed the elements of autonomy, mastery and sense of purpose as key to successful change. As a practitioner the writer lives with them in the private sector and would confirm the works of social scientists. Daniel H. Pink in his book “Drive: The surprising truth about what motivates us” (Riverhead Books, New York, 1995), for instance, referenced Harry F. Harlow and Edward L. Deci. “Deci’s work uncovered the powerful and significant difference between extrinsic motivation, the kind that comes from outside sources, and intrinsic motivation, the kind that comes from within yourself.” [Janet Choi, The Motivation Trifecta: Autonomy, Mastery, and Purpose; she’s the Chief Creative Officer at iDoneThis]

How does intrinsic motivation figure in a soft culture like the Philippines especially where we value compassion and by extension paternalism and populism? And contrast that to Singapore: “Among modern states, it was Singapore, a city-state in the East, which adopted meritocracy as a major principle of governance. As Lee Kuan Yew himself said the progress and success of his country comes from this principle. The same principle of meritocracy is behind the rise of China as an economic power . . . Not so in the Philippines . . . We neither practice nor understand meritocracy. That is what is wrong with the Philippines and it pervades our entire lives whether it is in politics or government or even in ordinary activities. We do not strive for excellence . . .” [Meritocracy or corruption (?), Carmen N. Pedrosa, FROM A DISTANCE, The Philippine Star, 13th Jun 2015]

Not surprisingly we would read: “ANY government official with a sense of propriety would have resigned by now in shame. But Transportation Secretary Joseph Emilio Abaya, one of President Aquino’s golden boys, has clung to his office for more than two years, even as the transportation system that he is supposed to manage goes to hell in a hand basket. Where do we begin?” [Secretary Abaya, have you no shame (?), The Standard, Editorial, 17th Jun 2015]

Mediocrity, to be sure, is in abundance in this world. Which in fact should be inspiring for a country like the Philippines – that we can be better than others. Indeed we must celebrate the progress we are making in the various global metrics of human and economic development and competitiveness. But there is much more work to do.

And we must have our feet planted on the ground. “I have always welcomed our 1991 Local Government Code for rightly giving due power and authority to the units of government closest to the people and most intimately familiar with development challenges and resources on the ground. I believe that subsidiarity, devolution and decentralization are critical principles of good governance. But the authority to make whimsical rules in defiance of basic and instinctive principles of ethics and good economics is certainly not part of the intent of the law.”[Wanted: enabling government, Cielito F. Habito, No Free Lunch, Philippine Daily Inquirer, 16th Jun 2015]

“While much positive change has already been happening and there are indeed many ‘islands of good governance’ out there, one wonders why too many local government officials still can’t seem to get it. I would have thought that local officials could readily understand that promoting and encouraging vibrant job-creating local enterprises would be the best way to uplift the living conditions of their constituents. But from . . . countless . . . accounts I’ve heard through the years, the actuations of many local governments toward small businesses have been all but encouraging. Is it any wonder that our unemployment rate has consistently been much higher than in most of our neighbors?”

The 1991 Local Government Code was meant to give LGUs autonomy, and if we go by the science, is the foundation of intrinsic motivation. Yet time and again what we hear are efforts to perpetuate political power. Standing on our own two feet as a people and pulling our weight is what autonomy is. In short, it is about taking personal responsibility for the common good. It is not about family and political dynasty. “Family is not license to kill”! What is missing? This blog has discussed the imperative of “shared purpose.”

If indeed we cherish freedom and democracy, we must learn and embrace personal responsibility and the overarching imperative of moving forward as a people and nation. And they demand a shared purpose which comes from an egalitarian ethos. We have to unlearn the value we placed in a hierarchical system and structure.

Is there a role for the Philippine church? It's the 21st century and royalty can't be associated with the church, for instance? Is that why Francis came about – to fight “leprosy”? In industry it has been established that assertiveness is not inherent in everyone; and is a skill that ought to be developed – for both men and women. And if innovative enterprises have a common thread, it is that openness and assertiveness would characterize them – which, not surprisingly, engender creativity.

The third element of successful change – beyond autonomy and shared purpose – is mastery. But first we need to develop a growth mindset so that we can overcome the fixed mindset that we may not be even aware we manifest? A growth mindset lends itself to open-mindedness – the door to curiosity, critical thinking, foresight, lofty goals, among others – as well as mastery, excellence and meritocracy. And when demonstrated by their people is how countries develop from Third- to First-World.

We need visionary – not populist – leadership that can stand above self and vested interests and awaken Juan de la Cruz to be a success, the next Asian Tiger and beyond. To think big, not to think small. We need a sense of purpose that the leadership can articulate. And make Juan de la Cruz embrace personal responsibility and develop the autonomy and mastery to pull his weight. No one can paddle our canoe but us. It is stout-hearted men and women that build a nation! Because they can stand on their own two feet.

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