Saturday, June 4, 2016

Old habits die hard

“From childhood, I was taught never to question anyone in authority, from teachers and doctors to shopkeepers. [Once] I forgot the assignment of taking a toothbrush to school. The teacher yelled at me, and I listened in silence; we all did. I remember that on one of the few occasions that we ate out, my mom forced herself to eat a sundae topped with spoiled whipped cream because she didn’t want to tell the waiter.” [“A Soviet-Era Mind-Set at the Market,” As told to Katya Cengel, The New York Times, 27th May 2016; Andrea Chmelik, 36, who lives in Pismo Beach, Calif., is a writer and stay-at-home mother. She spoke in English to Katya Cengel, who has reported for numerous publications from many countries, including Ukraine, Myanmar, Guatemala and Rwanda.]

Old habits die hard. It’s human nature. Yet it doesn’t follow that people have a license to stay put. It is unnatural, goes against the law of nature? Having spent most of the last 13 years in this part of the world, this dichotomy is so real – and so alive – to the writer. He calls himself a development worker: how can one show these people what innovation and competitiveness in the free market is all about? And Darwin comes to mind. And what a revelation when one day his friends realized – understood, accepted and committed – that we needed a one-year plan, a three-year product-development grid, and even a vision.

Old habits die hard. In PH it isn’t surprising given we're parochial and insular and inward-looking? And the truth hurts and so we don’t truly benchmark as a matter of course because that presupposes being outward-looking? And despite all claims of progress and development Pinoys are frustrated. Very, very frustrated. They know the truth. People visiting the country see it too. Who won, the candidate who was threatening to run, not to run for president? And the one who was supposedly polling last was voted Vice President? 

And it isn’t surprising if those in the Aquino administration would want to be shielded from the frustrations of the people . . . now that the incoming Duterte administration is echoing these frustrations? People expect leadership to problem-solve – and not to do a number like a CYA (cover your ass). Did the incoming leadership indicate that all Aquino appointees are out?

Whatever it is, reality is what a mature democracy must face otherwise we are conveying that we aren't ready nor equipped for freedom? Yet we like to yell independence? Should we then demand freedom from the tyranny by the few? And to seek the rule of law and not nurture a culture of impunity?

Consider: high school economics taught us the difference between a developed economy and an underdeveloped economy. The economic cycle in a more developed economy cannot be compared with that of an underdeveloped economy – that is on a growth trajectory. An SME growing at 30-50% cannot be compared with a Fortune 500 company growing 2-3%, they’re apples and oranges.

What about the laws of small and big numbers? It’s grade school arithmetic not even high school algebra?

And precisely given the attitude and behavior of the upper crust, do we still wonder why Juan de la Cruz elected a foul-mouthed mayor from the backwaters of Mindanao? [As some would know this writer lived and worked in Davao in the early 70’s and traveled around Mindanao.]

Aquino leaves a robust manufacturing sector? If we’re looking inward not outward, we will second that. And that our neighbors are in a worse shape than we are; they being export-oriented while we are isolated from the global economy because we are a consumption economy? And that we can and want to and must be an island unto ourselves? How credible are pronouncements like these? It is a rehash of the boom times we were supposed to experience 30 years ago? What boom times? 

Consider: Thailand’s exports receipts may have plateaued if not on a decline – and its economy is growing less than the 6-7% range like ours. Yet Thailand’s exports are at $214.8-B compared to our $58.65-B. If one is to be ridiculed, is it Thailand or PHL?

What about Vietnam? Vietnam’s industry or manufacturing contributes 38.8% to their economy; and Thailand does 37.7%. And we do 30.9%. And we’re blowing our horn?

Vietnam still lags us in GDP per capita (PPP) but everyone knows except Juan de la Cruz (recall what Obama said while in Vietnam recently?) that they are poised to overtake us sooner than later? Their aggregate FDIs are at $100.5-B. Ours? $58.8-B. Indeed, as beggars we aren’t choosers? And to include Malaysia in the exercise would make us cry – and why benchmarking isn’t our cup of tea?

Do these very basic and fundamental differences no longer shock us? Padre Damaso thought Juan de la Cruz was stupid? We don’t need sophistication (or “orgullo”) to figure out very elementary stuff. These fundamental givens should have made us jump and seek solutions. And why poverty continues to confound us. In the private sector many heads would have rolled with such a pathetic performance. That competition has been eating the company's lunch.

It speaks volumes that we are out of step re the realities of competitiveness. That while we claim we're moving up in the competitiveness ranking, we continue to lag our neighbors. Competitiveness is not theoretical. We are either winning or losing. The fact that millions of Filipinos have lost their souls because of poverty means we’re not competitive. Full stop.

We can’t keep harping on how smart we’ve managed the economy while glossing over our reality, where our income is coming from. It is coming from OFWs, not a well-managed economy. Add BPOs, if you will. We don’t have the basics of a functioning economy that is why over 10 million Pinoys have to seek employment overseas. And the plights of these Filipinos have been documented. It is a social cancer! Cardinal Tagle has spoken about this. Yet paternalism sees it differently?

Consider: We don’t have a sensible power initiative. We have no infrastructure in the strictest sense of the word such that Metro Manila is compared with Calcutta and PH with Nigeria. We have no agribusiness to speak of and no industrialization efforts that meet 21st century yardsticks. In other words, we don’t have the ecosystem that can qualify us to claim a functioning economy. What we have mastered is the politics that engenders a culture of impunity.

Should we pause a moment and figure out if our habits are indeed too hard to die? For example, free enterprise presupposes a people being purposeful (not indolent, so says Rizal) because entitlement is not the norm – and that means the world will not wait for us and can leave us behind. And which it did in fact. We are poised for boom times because the incoming president has an 8-point economic agenda? How many “new dawns” did we have since the overthrow of Marcos?

To be purposely is simply that. That as a people we have the sense of community and the common good at heart – and the right leadership. And that requires assembling and erecting the building blocks of an economy and a nation. It is not “pwede na ‘yan.” An ecosystem gets erected through purposefulness – beyond “Pinoy abilidad.”

Indeed, what is our saving grace? That we’re Christians? “We cannot experience rebirth, being ‘born again,’ without experiencing some very real form of death first.

“Though initiation was forgotten in the West for a long time, more and more people are rediscovering its power as a catalyst to help us pass from life to death and back to life again--dying to the false self so the True Self can live fully.” [Richard Rohr’s Daily Meditation, 28th May 2016]

But kindness and compassion demands that we be thankful to government – and give them slack? It is a government of the people, by the people, for the people? What is reality? Ours is a culture of impunity and not the rule of law – and why it isn’t inclusive and why Juan de la Cruz is poor? And where subservience is a given?

But back to the story on the Soviet-era mindset. “It had been 13 years since I left my native country, but I still return once a year. Each time, I note how much more Western my hometown has become. Communism ended in 1989, with the fall of the Soviet empire, when I was 10, but the changes were slow at first. The bookstore that never changed its window display was no longer limited to selling titles approved by the government. A statue of the Virgin Mary, forbidden under communism, went up in the central square. Restaurants and cafes, once a rarity, began to appear in the brick-­and-­cobblestone downtown. Now every time I return to my picturesque hometown, with its pastel brick houses and 16th-­century clock tower, another childhood landmark has disappeared. The old movie theater, which never sold popcorn because eating was forbidden during the shows, has been replaced by a multiplex cinema.

“So it surprised me, last year, when my mother and I entered the fruit-­and-­vegetable shop near the center square: The items were behind the counter. Although privately owned, the shop was set up like an old Soviet-­style store, where you wait in line and ask an attendant for what you need. As in the old days, a line of people stretched to the door. There were two attendants, older women with the same short haircut that European women of a certain age tend to favor. One would grab the blueberries or cabbages, and the other would ring them up. There was no greeting when a customer approached, just an impatient bark: ‘Next in line.’

“Most customers were older women, but at the front of the line was a college-­age woman. Tall and thin with long hair, she was the legendary Slovak beauty — the type many in the line once resembled. After receiving her order, the woman looked in her bag. She pulled out an onion: ‘This onion isn’t good . . . ‘I’m not taking the onion.’ But this woman was too young to know any of this. She had been raised with choices, exposed to a different life through television and travel . . .” [Cengel, op. cit.]

“Why independence, if the slaves of today will be the tyrants of tomorrow? And that they will be such is not to be doubted, for he who submits to tyranny loves it.” [We are ruled by Rizal’s ‘tyrants of tomorrow,’ Editorial, The Manila Times, 29th Dec 2015]

“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

No comments:

Post a Comment