Thursday, June 18, 2015

We're neither here nor there?

“BBL won’t be forced down our throats – Bongbong; Sereno’s 2014 SALN silent on P37-M fees; Not enough; There’s more fantasy in the Philippines; PPP executive sees sluggish infrastructure development; A battle lost, a war to win; Still a lot of work to achieve inclusive growth; Fix MRT, traffic woes; Foreign investments to decline sans ‘economic Cha-cha’ – business groups; Meritocracy or corruption?; Needed: ‘Daang matino’; Belmonte gives up on economic Cha-cha.”

The writer is back in New York and on the train to Manhattan to be with Eastern European friends and their American teammates, there was plenty of time to browse through news reports and opinion pieces from the Philippines, and all the foregoing would give one a sense of where we are?

For example, visionary leadership is something we have yet to have? Proactive isn't the definition of who we are? A sense of purpose is one we have yet to share? Principled we would argue we are? Parochial no doubt we are? Arguably and sadly, we're neither here nor there?

“To no one will we sell, to no one deny or delay right or justice.” Yet just like the US, we aren’t wanting of lawyers! The point was driven home years ago when corporate America benchmarked against Japan Inc., where they had more engineers – and had a thing or two to teach Americans about quality.

The Magna Carta is 800 years old and the Western press acknowledged its history and relevance, and debated its mythology. As far as we Pinoys are concerned, granted we're a young nation, we appear to have taken the rule of law message for granted? We’re no longer outraged by the selling, denying and delaying of justice? For instance, NAIA 3 is back in the news. And it is a grand example of justice delayed and, as sadly, how we can be at home with underdevelopment as an economy, as a nation and as a people? And in the meantime, we get dribs and drabs of news on the pork barrel saga. And they are a grand example of how plunder and pillage have become our normal.

What is our moral compass? Like the barons of old England, we could come together to protest against a Marcos or Estrada of Arroyo? But what about foreseeing a future for Juan de la Cruz? He who is mired in poverty or consigned as an OFW, away from family and keeps our economy going with his remittances, now running at over $25 billion? But who is laughing their way to the bank? And who is celebrating with them?

And we believe that by invoking Filipino first, we can craft an economic model that will lift Juan de la Cruz? But we need benchmarking in our bag of tricks if we are to replicate the feats of the Asian Tigers? Not surprisingly, we’re paying the price for underdevelopment that comes from a pre-21st century economic model, i.e., it is oligarchic and inward-looking and non-inclusive and uncompetitive. The evidence? Inadequate infrastructure and a portfolio (of products and services) that is skewed to services while deficient in agribusiness and industry. Sadly, fighting poverty can’t be the answer to this state of affairs? Not even prayers! As a priest-columnist has said, God helps those who help themselves!

“If, Lee Kuan Yew described Singapore’s success in one word – meritocracy – the Philippines’ failure is for the lack of it. 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 because excellence is shunned and unrewarded.” [Meritocracy or corruption (?), Carmen N. Pedrosa, FROM A DISTANCE, The Philippine Star, 13th Jun 2015]

And so beyond saying we are for peace, how do we propose moving forward in Mindanao? For example, that the MILF has it supporters and detractors shouldn’t surprise us! In a given universe the bell-curve phenomenon will present itself. In other words, that we must think in absolutes in a place that is war-ravaged especially is a myth. Precisely why we fall prey to crab mentality! Rizal had to create Padre Damaso to dramatize absolute reign and more recently, why Francis has been beating up the Curia? It’s not funny when we witness how absoluteness could have such a backlash: “2 Bishops Resign in Minnesota Over Sexual Abuse Scandal,” reports The New York Times, 15th Jun 2015.

Consider: The Japanese invaded us but today we need them on our side – against China? On the other hand, how have we treated Mindanao? Not long ago we even declared total war!   

Does the Irish conflict come to mind? “Between 1969 and 1999, almost 3,500 people died as a result of political violence in Northern Ireland, which is a part of the United Kingdom (UK). The conflict, which has its origins in the 1921 division of Ireland and is often referred to as “the Troubles,” has reflected a struggle between different national, cultural, and religious identities. Protestants in Northern Ireland (48%) largely define themselves as British and support continued incorporation in the UK (unionists). Most Catholics in Northern Ireland (45%) consider themselves Irish, and many desire a united Ireland (nationalists).” [Kristin Archick, Northern Ireland: The peace process, Congressional Research Service Report; 11 Mar 2015; prepared for members and committees of the US Congress]

In other words, what may seem intractable can in fact be resolved. It’s like the challenge inherent in problem-solving and innovation. But they demand: (a) foresight and the setting of lofty goals; (b) critical thinking and the questioning of our assumptions; and (c) the pursuit of excellence. Does our fixed mindset explain our inability to move forward? Do we need to develop a growth mindset? What about our heart? Do we have the heart to overcome seemingly insurmountable barriers?

“The best innovations — both socially and economically — come from the pursuit of ideals that are noble and timeless: joy, wisdom, beauty, truth, equality, community, sustainability and, most of all, love. These are the things we live for, and the innovations that really make a difference are the ones that are life-enhancing. And that’s why the heart of innovation is a desire to re-enchant the world.” [Innovation Starts with the Heart, Not the Head, Gary Hamel, Harvard Business Review, 12th Jun 2015]

“In one of his last presentations as Apple’s CEO, Steve Jobs said his company lived at the intersection of ‘technology’ and ‘liberal arts.’ If he had been the CEO of a different company, Jobs might have talked about the intersection of construction and liberal arts, or airlines and liberal arts, or banking and liberal arts, or energy and liberal arts. To Jobs ‘liberal arts’ was another name for ‘the humanities’ — the encapsulation, in poetry, prose, art and music, of what the ancient Greek philosophers called the just, the beautiful and the good.”

Where are we? Are we seemingly at home with underdevelopment – plus the Mindanao conflict to boot? God helps those who help themselves?

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