Saturday, July 11, 2015

E Pluribus Unum

“This motto was born in the early Republic and was central to conveying unity among the newly formed United States. The Latin phrase translates to Out of Many, One and emphasized that although the states were separate, they needed to unite as one.[]

It’s July 4th, a long weekend, that gave this writer the chance to read about its significance. And came across the full-page “spiel” in The New York Times of Carnegie Corporation of New York. “Immigrants. The pride of America. The United States of America remains a land of immigrants. Andrew Carnegie, who founded Carnegie Corporation of New York in 1911, was an immigrant from Scotland. We at Carnegie Corporation salute his legacy, along with the contributions of the millions of other immigrants who have made, and continue to make, our nation strong and vibrant.”

And among the immigrants they paid tribute were two Filipinos: A. Gabriel Esteban, President, Seton Hall and Antonio M. Taguba, U.S. Army Major General, Retired. And on the back page of Section-A of NY Times was a facsimile of “The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America.”

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.”

Andrew Carnegie is no stranger to us Pinoys. “[Napoleon Hill] was given an assignment to write a series of stories of famous men, and his big break came when he was asked to interview steel-magnate Andrew Carnegie. Mr. Carnegie commissioned Hill to interview over 500 millionaires to find a success formula that could be used by the average person. These included Thomas Edison, Alexander Graham Bell, Henry Ford, [etc.]

“He became an advisor to Andrew Carnegie, and with Carnegie’s help he formulated a philosophy of success, drawing on the thoughts and experience of a multitude of rags-to-riches tycoons. It took over 20 years to produce his book, a classic in the Personal Development field called Think and Grow Rich.

“I now understand that he didn’t write about some theory of how to think and grow rich. He wrote from experience his numerous experiences and the experiences of America’s most successful.” [Foreword, Think and Grow Rich, Napoleon Hill, The Ralston Society, Meriden, Conn, 1938]

And Chapter 1 begins with: “Truly, ‘thoughts are things,’ and powerful things at that, when they are mixed with definiteness of purpose, persistence, and a burning desire for their translation into riches, or other material objects.”

“He didn’t write about some theory of how to think and grow rich. He wrote . . . the experiences of America’s most successful.” Yet the human condition instead of embracing success stories or best practices would be critical like we Pinoys have been critical of Singapore, Malaysia and China? And, of course, the West and the US?

“E Pluribus Unum . . . Out of Many, One . . . Definiteness of Purpose . . . Persistence . . . A Burning Desire.” That may be the American perspective, but what does the science say? Autonomy or self-responsibility, a sense of purpose and mastery are the key to positive change because they are what truly motivate a person. And it is not materially different from the findings of Hill. 

If that is the best practice, how do we compare? Instead of land of immigrants, we are an island unto ourselves? Instead of Out of Many, One and of definiteness of purpose – e.g., to move from Third- to First-World – we value a hierarchical cacique system and structure, the great divide? And where political patronage and oligarchy have cut us by the knees? Instead of persistence we waste decades to erect anything of major consequence like NAIA 3 or peace in Mindanao? And instead of a burning desire to move forward we indulge in never-ending politics Philippine-style – which, sadly, has been self-serving? The evidence? Family dynasties!

And what is our instinct like? To seek excuses to justify our failings and/or fall into the trap of fatalism while preserving our oligarchic economy by shutting out the outside world? The evidence? The Philippines is among the more restrictive economies in the Southeast Asian region when it comes to foreign direct investments (FDIs), a recent study by the Economic Research Institute for Asean and East Asia (ERIA) showed.” [Philippines among most restrictive in SEA on FDI, Danessa O. Rivera, The Philippine Star, 2nd Jul 2015]

“This was among the findings of the ERIA discussion paper titled “FDI Restrictiveness Index for Asean: Implementation of AEC (ASEAN Economic Integration) Blueprint Measures” authored by Shandre Mugan Thangavelu of the University of Adelaide-Institute of International Trade. It compared the situation between 2010 and 2014.”

“Growth in foreign direct investments (FDI) to the Philippines is expected to slow down as investors are expected to be cautious with elections to be held next year, real estate and property services firm Jones Lang LaSalle (JLL) said. JLL regional director Leslie Orr said in a briefing yesterday next year’s presidential elections may slow down FDIs to the country as investors are expected to shift to a wait-and-see stance.”[Elections seen to slow FDI growth – JLL, Louella D. Desiderio, The Philippine Star, 3rd Jul 2015]

Is that how we view elections or, because of Pinoy abilidad, we see it as a positive consumption-wise given election spending, really, vote-buying? Is that again the ambivalence in our traits and values? When we know poverty cannot be overcome by such mechanisms – which in fact have undermined good governance and by extension economic development and nation building?

Or is it simply misplaced compassion? Which is a reflection of the condescension that comes with a hierarchical system and structure? Consider that even the Church isn’t exempt: “The Roman Catholic Church should not have “leaders for life” in its ranks, otherwise it would risk being like a country under dictatorship, Pope Francis said Friday.” [Catholic Church should not have ‘leaders for life’ – Pope Francis, Reuters, Manila Bulletin, 5th Jul 2015]

When there is no transparency there is autocracy, and compassion – to compensate for the absence of equality? Take the pork barrel phenomenon, and our complex and flexible budgeting system. “The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has issued a report ‘Philippines: Fiscal Transparency Evaluation’ which, while citing the government’s reform efforts, finds the Philippine budgeting system suffering from an unusually large amount of complexity and flexibility that “budget credibility is undermined.” [Editorial: IMF finds too much complexity, flexibility in Philippine budgeting, Manila Bulletin, 5th Jul 2015]

“Budget outturns differ noticeably from the budget law, the IMF report said. As a result, it pointed out, the annual budget law has become an imperfect indicator of the government’s priorities for resource allocation and service delivery.”

It is not about compassion per se which in the case of the Philippines has masked the nurturing of a cacique system and structure that by definition yields insidious poverty. And it is not about growing rich per se but nation building which demands an altogether different set of beliefs than what we’ve espoused for decades? And there is a science to it.

“Dear Mr. Vice President, I am pleased to hear of the efforts you have made as mayor of Makati to improve the lives of the poor and the need to change the imbalance between rich and poor . . . Chief among our national problems is the rotten political system . . . For too long, the oligarchs and family dynasties in this country have dominated the political system to the exclusion of the marginalized sector. Your own family, sad to say, forms part of the established order that resists change. Nancy has been quoted as saying she favors political dynasties. Why? Are they the only ones out of 100 million Filipinos who can govern the nation?” [Letter from VP Binay, Carmen N. Pedrosa, FROM A DISTANCE, The Philippine Star, 5th Jul 2015]

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