Sunday, July 19, 2015

Politics, yes; but nation-building?

Ambivalence if not confusion. That’s how social scientists would characterize our traits and values. “‘We really are not friendly to foreign investors,’ University of the Philippines School of Economics Prof. Ramon Clarete said, citing instances of confusing and incoherent government regulations.” [PHL only ‘half-open’ when it comes to FDI, Bianca Cuaresma, Business Mirror, 15th Jul 2015]

Ambivalent. Confused. Incoherent. Whenever we focus on family we earn brownie points even when the mirror image is negative? Take political dynasty. Is it a reflection of a ‘personalistic’ culture and an inward-looking, self-serving bias and the struggle to define the common good? And our response? To have sectoral representations, for instance, even when their reasons for being are suspect? Is it a reflection of ‘crab mentality’ and chaos?

From fixers to expedite one’s driver’s license to the non-availability of car license plates, for example? That is not what we’re bringing to the 21st century that is highly globalized and competitive? What we ought to bring is the desire to change the world, not to preserve the status quo: (a) a hierarchical system and structure; (b) nurtured by learned helplessness; (c) by politicians gifting caddies with a round of golf and cellphones, senior citizens with adult diapers and Viagra too? Have birthday cakes gone out of fashion? In exchange we’d eliminate terms of office? Do we have the next Marcos in our midst?

But one can be altruistic! Which was running in this writer’s head listening to young Asian-American playwrights from Ma-Yi read excerpts from their works (while we were gathered at a friend’s place by Washington Square in Manhattan.) And they were incredible! They’d appeal even to hard-to-please New Yorkers, spoiled by world-class arts in their many forms.

The Ma-Yi website reads: “Founded in 1989, Ma-Yi Theater Company is a Drama Desk and Obie Award-winning not-for-profit 501(c)(3) organization whose primary mission is to develop and produce new and innovative plays by Asian American writers . . . [It] has distinguished itself as one of the country’s leading incubators of new work shaping the national discourse about what it means to be Asian American today.

“Ma-Yi” is the term used by ancient Chinese traders to refer to a group of islands that is known today as the Philippines . . . We chose this name in recognition of the vibrant culture that existed in Ma-Yi, prior to the coming of the colonizers from the West . . . There were traders of the country of MA-YI carrying merchandise to the coast of Canton in the seventh year of Tai-ping-shing-kuo.”

As friends from Ma-Yi explained, because of their mission, institutions like Yale and Brown would introduce their students to Ma-Yi. And one shouldn’t be surprised with the quality of their output.

And what do we read back home? Thankfully, we have pundits that point us in the right direction so that we don’t take our traits and values for granted? “Taking stock of the hopefuls,” Adelle Chua, The Standard, 13th Jul 2015, First of two parts; “If Grace decides not to run…,”Danilo S. Venida@inquirerdotnet, 13th Jul 2015; “Fragmented into self-interested factions, they are unable to lead nation forward,” JUAN T. GATBONTON, EDITORIAL CONSULTANT, The Manila Times, 11th Jul 2015.”

“Let’s not get distracted by the antics of the personalities – let’s instead put them under scrutiny to see if they can indeed take on the challenges of one of the toughest jobs there is. And then let’s do the math – devoid of soundbites, emotional appeal and other distractions . . . This problem has been noticed by management professionals and academicians, as well. In mid-2003, the Management Association of the Philippines . . . embarked on a project that . . .  would look into what a Philippine president must be . . . The team eventually narrowed down the ‘must’ roles to five: Navigator/ Strategist, Mobilizer, Servant Leader, Captivator and Guardian of the National Wealth, Patrimony and Law and Order. Each of these roles were defined and clarified, with the behavior and competencies associated with each role fleshed out . . . More on the five roles in my next column.” [Chua, op. cit.]

“Transcending politics is the challenge that a transformative leader must confront in the current Philippine milieu. There is too much of toxic and elitist politics. A viable formula to be able to take the challenge will have to be concocted. Changing the mindset of Filipinos toward a global orientation with local footing needs to be pursued. The landscape is changing; the soul must change as well. The aspiration for the common good will have to be highlighted. The support for Poe is likely to swell in the coming weeks. The goodwill can overflow. May that goodwill ignite the sought-after social transformation of all, by all, for all. Let it be the revolution.” [Venida, op. cit.]

“Middle-class Filipinos take pride in the civil liberties they enjoy; but to a great extent Philippine democracy still is permitted only by the broadly equal dispersion of power—which makes it imprudent for any leader or group to try to overpower the others.

“And modernization will not be easy, because the interest groups that resist reform are powerful, organized, and focused—while reform’s potential beneficiaries are weak, scattered and distracted.

“Our next President must find ways of harnessing Filipino idealism—particularly that of our young people. He must point us toward a national purpose. He must set out a series of national goals that will engage our civic spirit . . . Right now, we have no individual, no institution responsible for wider public interests beyond those of the individual and the family. We as a people need to develop a national ‘vision’—a shared preconception of the national future—and a set of national goals that everyone accepts.” [Gatbonton, op. cit.]

In an earlier posting this blog discussed the imperative of sense of purpose not only in private-sector pursuits and even more importantly in nation building. That is, if we want to overcome the perils of a relatively young democracy and underdevelopment. We can be better than South American countries?

“Pope: Corruption is gangrene of people,” Agence France-PresseAssociated Press@inquirerdotnet, 13th Jul 2015. “Look what happened with ideologies in the last century … they ended in dictatorships, always,’ . . .  applause ringing out in response during the gathering attended by Paraguayan President Horacio Cortes.”

“In a question-and-answer session, he denounced corruption, which plagues several countries in South America. But perhaps to avoid offending his hosts, he stressed that it was a recurring problem ‘among all peoples of the world.’

“As he had done on previous stops during his trip, first in Ecuador, and then Bolivia, Francis called for an end to poverty—also endemic in the region—and lamented today’s consumer society.

“‘Putting bread on the table, putting a roof over the heads of one’s children, giving them health and an education—these are essential for human dignity, and businessmen and women, politicians, economists, must feel challenged in this regard,’ Francis told the gathering of business leaders, politicians, labor union leaders and other civil society groups.

“Wealth creation should not be ‘only for the benefit of a few,’ he said to more acclaim, and must be extended to ‘each citizen, without exclusion.’ He urged political leaders not to ‘sacrifice human lives on the altar of money and profit . . . In economics, in business and in politics, what counts first and foremost is the human person and the environment in which he or she lives,’ he said.”

Does the pope understand the imperative of an ecosystem better than we do? Because connecting the dots isn’t second nature to man? Which is what creativity is about, not Pinoy abilidad! For example, wealth creation in an oligarchic economy is meant to benefit a few. On the other hand, wealth creation in the Asian Tigers came about because their leaderships demonstrated commitment to nation building – beyond self and family – which demands connecting lots of dots.

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