Monday, January 25, 2016

How Juan de la Cruz lapses into “pwede na ‘yan”

Or why in the old days we had to break-in new cars. Let’s hold that thought for a moment.

This writer in recent postings talked about Dr. Bernard Roth of the Stanford University and his book, “The Achievement Habit.” [And it is an exposition of “Design Thinking.”] He was drawn to Roth’s expertise in “experiential teaching” as well as his story as a student. In his junior year at a local college in New York he was almost placed on probation. Perhaps a carryover from his lazy days in high school . . .  and the rest as they say is history.

Dr. Roth is a “professor of engineering and the academic director of the, a leading expert in kinematics, the science of motion, a pioneer in robotics, and the prime developer of the concept of the Creative Workshop.” His formal education is in the natural science yet became an expert in the social science, particularly motivation and creativity – given his realization that life is about problem-solving. And he has chosen to continue his life work beyond the mandatory retirement at Stanford.

But back to Juan de la Cruz. How did our instincts of “pwede na ‘yan” come into being? If we were a new car in the old days, did we go through the requisite “break-in” process? Why the reference?

When the writer first arrived in Eastern Europe 13 years ago, he was awed by their creativity and took the “break-in” process for granted. Until they realized that creativity – and product development – and problem-solving are both art and science. And in response they established an in-house school with the writer that has become an exercise in “experiential teaching,” meaning, participants learn by doing.

For example, from understanding Maslow’s hierarchy of needs [in “design thinking” lingo it means truly being able to empathize what people’s needs are or in the Philippine setting, why is Juan de la Cruz poor?] they are able to create a product and articulate its reason for being and confidently communicate and market and sell it to the world [not just to overseas Filipinos in the case of Philippine enterprises which reveals our inward-looking bias, restricts our playing field and undermines efforts to develop visionary and strategic leadership]. And in the process the group generates thinking models that reinforce their sense of purpose and values – like to be the best in the business. It also means tossing hierarchy and embracing an egalitarian ethos where the best ideas rule, not rank and privilege.

The outcome? From marketing products in their one small country, they've reached 50 countries, and counting. And from a “cottage industry” they have become a global player, still far from a Fortune 500 but that’s in their crosshairs. In short, they measure themselves against the world’s best and brightest no less.

And then consider: “Pwede na ‘yan” undermines our capacity as a people – or in machine lingo – it undercuts our “rated capacity.” Instead of doing 100 KPH we’ve become accustomed to doing a much reduced speed. In other words, is CCT the need of Juan de la Cruz or is it to slay tyranny?

The writer is in town for their – husband and wife – yearly homecoming. But interrupted at the frontend to be in Singapore before the week is over to join his Eastern European friends based in the city-state for a few weeks.

And in that brief period, spent mostly to recover from jetlag, he and the wife would hear how “pwede na ‘yan” continues to rule Juan de la Cruz. For example, where in the world – friends who shared the story would exclaim – can people not get their driver’s license and car license plates when due and paid for? And whoever is responsible in government gets away with it – “pwede na ‘yan”?

Watching some of the campaign ads on TV, it appears populism remains the preferred message because it’s a proven winner? In short, we’re at home – wittingly or not – to perpetuate a vicious cycle? Surprisingly, even our best thinkers believe palliative measures are the answer to the woes of Juan de la Cruz? Do we accept operating at less than our rated capacity?

In other words, are we accepting that the Thais, Malaysians, Taiwanese, Singaporeans if not Vietnamese and Cambodians are better than Juan de la Cruz? Not for a moment would we accept that we’re inferior! But we have to step up to the plate. We can’t just make “pa-pogi”!

Whatever outstanding qualities we credit ourselves don't stand scrutiny beyond our borders because we are the poster boy of the 1-% non-inclusive economy? The evidence? Our competitiveness rankings remain pathetic despite the slew of credit rating upgrades. 

Why? We have to mean it when we say that we are in pursuit of nation-building. And it doesn’t mean perpetuating political patronage and shutting out FDIs and technology. The fact that we starve in both is the outcome of tyranny? Yet we celebrate oligarchy like we need a hole in the head? Because we’re one with the elite class?

In the meantime, we rationalize our way of life extremely confident that we are guided by logic? Yet as Roth would explain in his book, logic is overrated. And the writer would interpret that to mean the distinction between linear thinking and lateral thinking, the latter being a tool in creativity and problem-solving.

It is also the staple of “experiential teaching.” If life is about meaning, then education and undertakings in general must be about meaning as well?

But to us Pinoys meaning means our faith? As the Jesuits would say, “Jesus is in everything.” That would translate to . . . even in our secular endeavors. But then again, why can’t we get our driver’s license timely or get the basics right – like a reliable public transportation system or electricity for that matter?

And what happened to “Give to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and to God which are God’s”? In other words, we can’t simply invoke faith – or simply pray – when it comes to nation-building? Nation-building is a responsibility that we in fact take for granted when we allow “crab mentality” to rule – and worse, when we tolerate a culture of impunity?

As the Greek philosophers would explain man’s inherent greatness, it is about a sense of purpose and values. But “Pinoy abilidad” has tossed idealism – because we see politics and corruption as universal? Except that we missed the imperative of “net worth” – that our accountants taught us – which is simply the net of our assets minus our liabilities. More to the point, our assets have been decimated – reflected in our being underdeveloped, poverty-stricken and the regional laggard?

Beyond missing the import of net worth is our failure to leverage the opportunity presented by benchmarking. That is, instead of rationalizing the weaknesses we share with other nations, we have to turn the table, pick and choose best practices and embrace them to attain competitive advantage. That would characterize winners – while rationalizing weaknesses would confine losers to the cellar.

For example, MSMEs in most countries are not equipped for global competition. Their worldview is defined by smallness that informs their sense of purpose and values. We are what we think we are. In the case of Juan de la Cruz, we think parochial, paternalistic, hierarchical, political patronage and oligarchy. In other words, we are what we are. Ergo: without government support if not political patronage we see ourselves unable to compete.

Government has its role and indeed ours has been a failure for decades – from infrastructure development to industrial development, the common denominator being good governance . . . that we’re missing in spades.

And the smallness of our worldview plus the absence of good governance equals the perfect storm we constantly suffer. Thus Rizal would conclude, our ills are ours to own.

Theologians would even be more profound. “Jesus Christ became what we are that we might become what he himself is.” “For he was made man that we might be made God.” That’s from Fr. Richard Rohr’s daily meditations, quoting St. Irenaeus and St. Athanasius respectively.

But why do we see ourselves inferior? That “pwede na ‘yan” is our best shot?

We have major concerns in the West Philippine Sea, but at the same time we see ourselves inferior to the Americans? That we would lose our sovereignty because they are the most powerful nation on earth, and must not let them on our soil? Did the Japanese or the Germans or even the Brits lose their sovereignty because the US clobbered them and in the case of the UK begged the Americans to come to their rescue because all of Europe was at risk?

Have we counted how many countries currently host US military bases? Because they recognize hegemony as akin to a designated driver? Or are we that beautiful that America would want us to be a US state? But we can’t even attract FDIs? Are we America’s Donbass or is America Russia?

We are equal to everyone and anyone. But why don’t we see it the way the Creator made us to be? Is it because as Rizal perceived it, we have tyrants in the making – consistent with our hierarchical system and structure? The evidence? (a) Our culture of impunity; and (b) Our oligarchic economy thrives because of who we are – willing participants?

In a country where we made a mockery of the rule of law – turning it into a culture of impunity – we cherish that the debate is about law not wisdom? No different from the days of the scribes and Pharisees? “Our ills we owe to ourselves alone, so let us blame no one . . .” [Rizal]

“As a major component for the education and reorientation of our people, mainstream media – their reporters, writers, photographers, columnists and editors – have an obligation to this country . . .” [Era of documented irrelevance: Mainstream media, critics and protesters, Homobono A. Adaza, The Manila Times, 25th Nov 2015]

“Development [is informed by a people’s] worldview, cognitive capacity, values, moral development, self-identity, spirituality, and leadership . . .” [Frederic Laloux, Reinventing organizations, Nelson Parker, 2014]

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