Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Of peasants and serfs

When we have a cleric directing traffic and a cardinal pontificating given our traffic problem that is, as he put it, “reflective of their character as a person” – and this is the 21st century – have we in fact not moved from our modern-day “stone age” when we were peasants and serfs? [Tagle: Behavior amid traffic reflects one’s character, Yuji Vincent GonzalesINQUIRER.net, 26th Aug 2015]

“In her book, ‘Political Booms,’ Lynn T. White of Princeton University explains that ‘the Philippines has just about the longest experience of free elections in the developing world—yet this voting has not done much over many decades for the quality of governance there.’” [The future of Philippine democracy, Christopher Ryan Maboloc, inquirerdotnet, 26th Aug 2015]

“White puts the blame on the system of domination in the Philippines that has fueled its brand of money politics. However, she writes that the political stasis in the country traces back to the time of American occupation in which then-Governor General William H. Taft simply perpetuated the system put in place by the country’s Spanish conquerors who instituted principalias in order to control the local population, creating the hegemonic relation between feudal lord and slave.”

“‘But will I say sorry for the thousands and thousands of kilometers that were built? Will I say sorry for the agricultural policy that brought us to self-sufficiency in rice? Will I say sorry for the power generation? Will I say sorry for the highest literacy rate in Asia? What [am I] to say sorry about?’ the senator asked.” [Bongbong ‘apologizes’ to victims of Marcos regime, inquirerdotnet, 26th Aug 2015]

“Marcos said that, in fact, the general sentiment of the people that life was better during the time of his father is one of the reasons why he is now considering to run for a higher post in 2016.”

Roxas, Quirino, Magsaysay, Garcia and Macapagal. Those were the Philippine presidents that preceded Marcos. They may not have been angels and there may have been corruption even then, but a culture of impunity it was not. And precisely why GMA must have embarrassed her father. But Marcos embarrassed the office many times over. Now we will have another Marcos? What is happening to the country, asked Vice-President Pelaez? Answer: we haven’t moved beyond the age of peasants and serfs, unfortunately!

The writer has lived in the US many years and has internalized the American mantra of “second chances.” But a Marcos will not be given a second chance like the Americans booted out Nixon. The father is not the son. But as the writer’s daughter has told her mother, “mom, it’s eerie but I am like dad and my husband is probably you.” And many times he would tell his family, “I now understand that I’m like my dad even when I purposely led my life to be different” – like my daughter did, diametrically opposed. It’s in the genes!

Why can’t we move forward? “The Millennium Challenge Corp. (MCC), a US government aid agency funding government projects in the Philippines, has identified four obstacles to the country’s attaining sustainable growth.” [US aid agency lists 4 obstacles to PH growth,Jeannette I. AndradePhilippine Daily Inquirer, 26th Aug 2015]

“According to Fatema Z. Sumar, the MCC department of compact operations regional deputy vice president for Europe, Asia-Pacific and Latin America, the MCC identified four challenges to Philippine growth based on an economic constraints analysis it conducted. These are: government implementation capacity; the high cost of transport logistics; the high cost of electricity; and land and market failures.”

In other words, we value political patronage instead of good governance and oligarchy over a competitive economy. Yet, despite our pride in “Pinoy abilidad,” we can’t problem-solve because we tolerate inefficiency, if not mediocrity, that comes when a people value hierarchy and its inherent character of paternalism and populism – expressed in “pwede na ‘yan, kawawa naman, sigue na lang.” In one word, “compassion,” as we define it. And it explains our lack of political will.

What is missing? For example, it is simple and common yet creativity is rare when it is defined as “connecting the dots” like Steve Jobs did. And dots are difficult to even identify and assemble when there is no sense of purpose like nation building that comes with the requisite values of community and the common good.

“Our traffic situation is a reflection of our character; are we giving? Are we hot-headed? Are we impatient or capable of being generous? Tagle said traits like patience, generosity and selflessness can be seen through the public’s behavior on the road.” [Gonzales, op. cit.]

“While calling on authorities to prioritize urban planning, Tagle said compassion for others will help ease, if not solve, the traffic woes that commuters and motorists suffer every day . . .”

Prioritize? But we like to hear “inclusive”? And that is why we can’t prioritize? And fall back on “me and myself” or ‘crab mentality’? It’s a mindset, a frame of mind!

“However, I must also emphasize that the transition to federalism also requires the elevation of the electorate to a higher level of political consciousness. The prevailing culture of patronage, which is the lifeblood of political dynasties, must be addressed head-on. The best way to start this task is to abandon the populist approach some sectors are wont to adopt (i.e., Bagong Sistema, Bagong Pag-asa, Federalism Philippines).” [Toxic brew: Federalism and political dynasties, Michael Henry Ll. YusingcoPhilippine Daily Inquirer, 22nd Aug 2015]

“The obvious danger is that rhetoric and sound bites, while maybe good for catching the attention of the media, can reduce the effort to a caricature and thus diminish its potency to convince the vast majority in the polity. I suggest that we proceed with a clinical and academic approach.

“The advocates of federalism, whoever they may be, must create an environment that is conducive to the integration of the polity rather than its fragmentation. Indeed, they must oversee a process that facilitates the circumspect and level-headed discussion and debate on federalism among all sectors of the community.

“Because federalism is not just a political framework, it is also a frame of mind.”

Without a sense of purpose like nation building and the requisite values of community and the common good, we will always be ruled by ‘crab mentality.’ 

We can’t keep glossing over the reality that our financial resources are coming from OFWs, not a systemic, sustainable and competitive economy. And when our economic managers talk about the imperative of raising tax revenues as a share of GDP, where like in most critical economic yardsticks we're underperforming, they ought to similarly make the overarching business case. And that is, while taxes are a mandatory, they still come from the economy’s income streams. And the JFC’s 7 industry winners are a good starting point!

Managers doggedly drive the top or revenue line while raising margins – via a commitment to investment, technology, innovation as well as people, product, supply chain and market development – so that the bottom line is healthy, sustainable and growing. In order to attain a virtuous circle, as in inclusive! Which, unfortunately, isn't how we define it? There is no free lunch!

Our economic shortcomings are beyond traditional fiscal and monetary policies like increased government spending and poverty reduction. Both are palliatives until we erect a robust economic platform – and it starts with infrastructure and a strategic industry portfolio beyond services.

It’s understandable given that we can’t prioritize vital infrastructure projects nor connect the dots? In the meantime, while the elite class are elegantly displaying their wares, we're reinforcing “the hegemonic relation between feudal lord and slave.”

Not surprisingly, “Falling farther behind,” Cielito F. Habito, No Free Lunch, Philippine Daily Inquirer, 25th Aug 2015. “Back here at home, such political will has traditionally been a rare commodity in government, but when its lack of competence also gets in the way, then we’re in real trouble.”

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