Saturday, July 30, 2016

How do we connect the dots?

Consider the following articles about: (a) Pope Francis; (b) a Vision for the future; (c) Philippine agriculture; and (d) All-out support to MSMEs. How do we connect the dots?

“Not by might, nor by power. . .” [Zechariah 4:6]. “Richard Rohr's Daily Meditation,” 22nd Jul 2016. “Perfectionism discourages honest self-knowledge and basic humility . . . We grow spiritually much more by doing it wrong than by doing it right. God doesn't love you because you are good. God loves you because God is good!”

Perfection is not of this world. In other words, a hierarchical system and structure – given its inherent pretensions – is egregious. Not surprisingly, “The Vatican is striking back at conservative critics of Pope Francis’s landmark document on family life, ratcheting up its defense of the pope with new vigor . . .” [Vatican defends pope’s family document, Associated Press, Business Mirror, 23rd Jul 2016]

If we are to connect the dots, we must turn things on their heads – and “begin with the end in mind”? It is encouraging that “The Chamber of Commerce of the Philippine Islands, the original and oldest chamber, tracing its roots to 1886, has adopted the “History Builds the Future: 2030: Five Pillars.” PILLAR I: The Filipino and Education; PILLAR II: Philippine Government; PILLAR III: Infrastructure and Environment; PILLAR IV: Philippine Business; PILLAR V: The Economy.

“As the Duterte administration copes to alleviate the daily struggle of the Filipino, it needs to inspire our countrymen to overcome by visualizing what their future could be.” [Vision for the future: 2030, Melito Salazar Jr., Manila Bulletin, 17th Jul 2016]

How do we flesh up these pillars? For example: “Rural poverty and lack of productivity in Philippine agriculture trace their roots to many causes but the most serious shortcomings are: 1) the problems associated with small, fragmented farm holdings, 2) insufficient linkages of primary producers to markets, 3) lack of product diversification and value adding (processing) especially at the village level, and 4) failure to fully exploit the potential of our vast fisheries and aquatic resources.

“If we were to modernize our agriculture, to make it more productive, competitive, equitable and sustainable, these four major limitations must be addressed.” [Strategic directions for Philippine agriculture (Part I), Dr. Emil Javier, 23rd Jul 2016]

What about the broader industry, can it be more productive, competitive, equitable and sustainable? “The government is bent to give all-out support to micro enterprises in the country with the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) seeking to at least double its 2017 budget, half of which will go to the micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) while at the same time tapping the big private companies to embrace their small brothers become part their overall value chain.

“If we want to do more, double employment, we have to get close to double our budget to R6 billion,” [DTI Secretary Ramon Lopez] said.” [DTI pledges all-out support to MSMEs, Bernie Magkilat, Manila Bulletin, 23rd Jul 2016]

What is the premise of the initiative? “To do more.” Logical yet classic incremental thinking? What if we begin with the end in mind? And seek to attain a virtuous circle while challenging our mindset?

To do more – or even double employment – sounds good, yet “What the Philippines needs is not more jobs but better jobs … The quality of jobs being created was not meeting aspirations of young people entering labor market,’ said Jan Rutkowski, lead economist at the World Bank . . . The scarcity of ‘good jobs’ reflects the structure of the Philippine economy, where low value-added activities predominate. This is partly due to constraints in the investment climate and the high cost of doing business in the formal sector.” [WB cautions vs scrapping contractual work practice, Ben O. de VeraPhilippine Daily Inquirer, 18th Jun 2016]

We need a new paradigm – not more of the same? But what? “Indeed government must bridge the gap to address the needs of the poor, but it would take the combined effort of other sectors in society for economic gains to dramatically impact the bottom of the pyramid.

“It is also important to note that the Philippines’ economic growth has been largely consumer-driven. Tech luminary Dado Banatao . . . alluded to the need to shift from a consumer-driven to a creator economy. He pointed out that innovation and entrepreneurship are the new foundations for economic development and the means to open up opportunities for a wider cross-section of society.

[As an aside, we keep forgetting that OFW remittances, the source of our consumption-driven economy, grew by over 7% the last several years – and would explain why we were approximating China’s growth. And so it stands to reason why the Duterte administration vetoed the new office building plans for the Finance Department and NEDA?]

“Banatao added that growth rests primarily on the private sector’s ability to innovate and invest, as well as to create a generation of entrepreneurs who can respond to both local and global needs. Attaining the dream of inclusive growth means that the private sector cannot simply function on a ‘business as usual’ mode.

“A new mindset. A country such as the Philippines should be able to have the mindset of building ecosystems around sectors that can deliver on inclusive growth. Building ecosystems naturally start by taking a serious look at the challenges faced by SMEs (small and medium enterprises) today, such as resilience, equal opportunities for women, access to finance, and capacity-building.

“Furthermore, beyond addressing immediate challenges, a long-term view must be taken in building such ecosystems.” [Change via innovation and entrepreneurship, Jikyeong Kang, inquirerdotnet, 25th Jul 2016; Dr. Jikyeong Kang is president and dean of the Asian Institute of Management]

We take it as a given that Juan de la Cruz is about populism and compassion and inclusion? But developments in neuroscience have revealed that such consciousness without the benefit of empirical evidence is a fallacy. And what is the evidence? We’ve remained underdeveloped and the regional laggard despite: (a) the windfall from OFW remittances; and (b) our focus on poverty, e.g., CCT?

We may be proud of our consciousness – of compassion and inclusion – yet it hasn’t satisfied the needs of Juan de la Cruz? Nor will it deliver his future? And because we take our assumptions as valid, we succumb to “crab mentality” time and time again – paying a heavy price?

For instance, we still don’t have a good handle on: (a) power; (b) infrastructure; and (c) industry. And they are the building blocks of an economy. But we don’t think “building blocks” – and “think less, think better”? We like to be “holistic” yet calling something “holistic” without connecting the dots into an ecosystem doesn’t make it so.

There are 100 to 300 billion (if not 500 billion) galaxies in the universe yet we appreciate the ecosystem of our solar system depicted by the sun and the 8 planets – that simplified something truly complex for the layperson, including children. But as far as nation-building is concerned, we are “sabog,” neither here nor there? And have yet to figure out that the 7 industry winners from the JFC would be a good starting point to get industrialization going?  

Pareto’s 80-20 rule is an econometric model derived through academic rigor. And more to the point, once we’ve delivered on these building blocks we can move up to the next level. There is no perfect plan. Yet it pays to be crystal clear about “where we want to be” – e.g., to be a developed nation? And to be focused like a laser? It is the magic behind big data and analytics or the separation of the wheat from the chaff.  

Because a developed nation is a wealthy nation – and can afford a more robust safety net. Safety nets don’t deliver wealth. But wealth delivers not only safety nets but prosperity as well. The evidence? The Asian Tigers. Sadly, being in underdeveloped and reactive mode for decades, to be forward-looking and proactive is yet to become instinctive to us?

The writer’s Eastern European friends would articulate the point more profoundly given the dark ages they lived through under socialism – and communist rule. Consider: there was no homelessness nor joblessness. Jobs were assigned by the commissars who had unbridled power. There were no pay levels. Consumer products in local stores were uniformly priced at the equivalent of 50 euro cents. Yet there was no sense of accomplishment and motivation.

It was the reverse. For their self-respect, they would not put in a fair day's work and beat the system. In a town of 80,000 (the wife and the writer's introduction to Eastern Europe) they would be self-sufficient. It was the same size town as their suburban New York town. But there was the strong sense that they were frozen in time.  

There was such ugliness and eeriness when they would describe a communist apartment building, for example. Or how badly and poorly made were the trucks coming out of the local factory. Self-sufficient yet underdeveloped. [It was a mirage and unreal that the system collapsed under its own weight.] There was even a local brewery. Yet when the Danish Tuborg beer acquired the business, the difference in the quality of the facility and the products would be night and day. The underlying factor? Tuborg is a world-class and a globally competitive product. 

In the case of PH, would our hierarchical system structure get in the way of progress and development – as before – given rank and its privileges, including omnipotence?

“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]

Sunday, July 24, 2016

The blind leading the blind

“[T]his runway was built when aircraft were just 50 tons heavy and landing at 80 mph, now it’s more like 300 tons and 150 mph. With construction science of the ’40’s it won’t last long against the science of the 21st century.

“That same runway was closed less than two years ago . . . [T]hey must make sure repair work uses top quality asphalt and workmanship . . . “[I]f Clark is to be an effective diversion airport, it should be provided with enough facilities to handle the volume similar to what it got last Monday . . . [I]t seems we are coming to the point that we have to quickly develop Clark as an alternative airport regardless of plans to develop a new NAIA at Sangley which will take time. This means, we have to fast track the construction of a much larger Clark terminal.

“That ANC interview of young French tourists says it all. They said they enjoyed their stay in the country only to be marred by the mess at NAIA which leaves bad memories of the Philippines for them.” [Lessons from NAIA’s Monday mess, Boo Chanco, DEMAND AND SUPPLY, The Philippine Star, 22nd Jul 2016]

NAIA can’t deal with modern-day aviation traffic? How bad is that compared to the Republican convention? In both cases do we have the blind leading the blind? “[T]his week’s Republican convention has had the charged air of a Roman colosseum, a fraught and strange affair driven by gladiatorial cries, bear-pit politics and calls for retribution against enemies near and far.

“[T]he polarizing billionaire who has swept aside the Republican Party’s once-powerful Washington leadership, forged a powerful new political brand around anger and denunciation, and has now become the party’s nominee for the highest office of the land — and the most powerful job in the world.

“The storied party of Abraham Lincoln, founded on a mandate of containing the spread of slavery, is now headed by a candidate who has divided the country, and the Republicans, like none other in decades . . . Behind the facade of unity, though, frayed edges have become painfully exposed. Mr. Trump’s steamroller success has caused many party grandees, including the two former Presidents Bush, to stay away.

“What all agree on, though, is that Mr. Trump’s stunning victory is rooted in his ability to tap directly into American discontent. Jason R. Anavitarte, a delegate from Georgia . . . said Mr. Trump had ‘turned anger and frustration into a product’ that would be salable this fall.

‘There’s many people who haven’t bounced back from the crash in 2008,’ he said of America’s real estate and economic crisis. ‘They feel disconnected from mainstream politics. He lets all of that anger that people have built up just come out of his mouth’.” [Behind a Facade of G.O.P. Unity, Frayed Edges Painfully Exposed, Declan Walsh, Abroad in America, The New York Times, 21st Jul 2016]

“Andrew Lo [Professor of Finance, MIT Sloan School of Management; Director, MIT Laboratory of Financial Engineering] believed that the crisis was about more than economic forces. In his mind, a human element was at play, most notably the emotions of greed and fear of the unknown.

“During extended periods of prosperity, market participants become complacent about the risk of loss . . . In fact, there is mounting evidence from cognitive neuroscientists that financial gain affects the same ‘pleasure centers’ of the brain that are activated by certain narcotics. This suggests that prolonged periods of economic growth and prosperity can induce a collective sense of euphoria and complacency among investors that is not unlike the drug-induced stupor of a cocaine addict. The seeds of this crisis were created during a lengthy period of prosperity. During this period we became much more risk tolerant.

“In other words, ‘we’ became greedy. As Lo put it, this greed was spurred on by ‘the profit motive, the intoxicating and anesthetic effects of success.’

“When everything began to collapse, our greed then turned into fear. What we feared, Lo argued, was the unknown—in this case, who and what we owed, what our assets were worth, and how bad things really were.” [The Global Financial Crisis of 2008: The Role of Greed, Fear, and Oligarchs, Cate Reavis, MIT Sloan Management, 16th Mar 2012]

It’s been 8 years since the crash of 2008. Where is America and the West, if not the world, today? “After years of rapid internal growth, the world’s biggest hedge fund appears to be slowing down. The $154 billion hedge fund, Bridgewater Associates, run by the billionaire Ray Dalio, is known for hiring hundreds of people every year. Yet it is now telling recruitment firms to cancel interviews with prospective employees . . .

“Over the last two years, the University of California’s Board of Regents, the endowment for the state university system in California, has withdrawn the $550 million it had invested with Bridgewater.” [Bridgewater, World’s Biggest Hedge Fund, Is Said to Be Slowing Hiring, Alexandra Stevenson and Matthew Goldstein, The New York Times, 17th Jul 2016]

Are we seeing ominous signs of trouble again? “The health of America's public corporations and financial markets — and public trust in both — is critical to economic growth and a better financial future for American workers, retirees and investors.

“Millions of American families depend on these companies for work — our 5,000 public companies account for a third of the nation's private sector jobs. And these same families and millions more also rely on public companies to help improve their financial future . . . Our future depends on these companies being managed effectively for long-term prosperity, which is why the governance of American companies is so important to every American.

“We represent some of America's largest corporations, as well as investment managers, that, as fiduciaries, represent millions of individual savers and pension beneficiaries.

“This diverse group certainly holds varied opinions on corporate governance. But we share the view that constructive dialogue requires finding common ground — a starting point to foster the economic growth that benefits shareholders, employees and the economy as a whole. To that end, we have worked to find commonsense principles. We offer these principles, which can be found, in the hope that they will promote further conversation on corporate governance. These principles include the following, among others:

“Truly independent corporate boards are vital to effective governance, so no board should be beholden to the CEO or management.

“Diverse boards make better decisions, so every board should have members with complementary and diverse skills, backgrounds and experiences. It's also important to balance wisdom and judgment that accompany experience and tenure with the need for fresh thinking and perspectives of new board members;

“Our financial markets have become too obsessed with quarterly earnings forecasts. Companies should not feel obligated to provide earnings guidance . . .

“These recommendations are not meant to be absolute . . . But we do hope our effort will be the beginning of a continuing dialogue that will benefit millions of Americans by promoting trust in our nation's public companies.” [Commonsense Corporate Governance Principles, 21st Jul 2016]

If man can mess things up, it follows that he can fix things too? “It is assumed that your experience of your own consciousness clinches the assertion that you ‘know your own mind’ in a way that no one else can. This is a mistake.

“Ever since Plato, philosophers have, without much argument, shared common sense’s confidence about the nature of its own thoughts. They have argued that we can secure certainty about at least some very important conclusions, not through empirical inquiry, but by introspection: the existence, immateriality (and maybe immortality) of the soul, the awareness of our own free will, meaning and moral value.

“Yet research in cognitive and behavioral sciences increasingly undermines that confidence . . . In fact, controlled experiments in cognitive science, neuroimaging and social psychology have repeatedly shown how wrong we can be about our real motivations, the justification of firmly held beliefs and the accuracy of our sensory equipment.” [Why You Don’t Know Your Own Mind, Alex Rosenberg, The Stone, The New York Times, 18th Jul 2016]

“A new map based on brain scan data collected by the Human Connectome Project. The data revealed 180 new regions.

“The brain looks like a featureless expanse of folds and bulges, but it’s actually carved up into invisible territories. Each is specialized: Some groups of neurons become active when we recognize faces, others when we read, others when we raise our hands.

“While an important advance, the new atlas is hardly the final word on the brain’s workings. It may take decades for scientists to figure out what each region is doing, and more will be discovered in coming decades.” [Updated Brain Map Identifies Nearly 100 New Regions, Carl Zimmer, Matter, The New York Times, 20th Jul 2016]

Indeed, an ominous sign that the party – if not the nation – that is proud of its exceptionalism could fall into the trap of the blind leading the blind. Like we all can – including us Pinoys where rank is omnipotent given our hierarchical system and structure? And why Filipinos are under its mercy.

“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]

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

“Healthy self-critical thinking”

“Our shadow is often subconscious, hidden even from our own awareness. It takes effort and life-long practice to look for, find, and embrace what we dismiss and what we disdain.” [Richard Rohr's Daily Meditation, 15th Jul 2016]

“For many of us lifelong Republicans, the convention in Cleveland will be a time of serious self-reflection, a difficult and honest reckoning. Those of us who have chosen not to attend the convention will have a bit more time on our hands to think it over. How on earth did our party produce Mr. Trump as its nominee?

“In every important respect, Donald Trump is a repudiation of Lincoln. Win or lose, on the morning after Election Day, Republicans will have to choose whose vision of the party they want to follow.” [Can We Find Our Way Back to Lincoln (?), Peter Wehner, The New York Times, 16th Jul 2016; Peter Wehner, a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center, served in the last three Republican administrations and is a contributing opinion writer.]

And from across the pond. “The Chilcot Inquiry into the Iraq war finally published after seven years on Wednesday. The 2.6 million word document is the culmination of a huge investigation that was launched by former Prime Minister Gordon Brown in 2009 into the United Kingdom's involvement in the war in Iraq.

“The report, which is estimated to have cost over £10 million of taxpayers' money, has been chaired by former senior civil servant Sir John Chilcot. The report concludes that Blair ‘overestimated’ his ability to influence the US and his the decision to go to war was based on ‘flawed intelligence.’

“Chilcot says the UK's concerns about weapons of mass destruction falling into the hands of terrorists pre-dated the 9/11 attacks.” [CHILCOT: 9/11 'fundamentally changed' the approach to Iraq, Oscar Williams-Grut, Business Insider, 6th Jul 2016]

And the subject won’t go away. “Jean Edward Smith’s biography of George W. Bush goes on sale a day before the former President’s seventieth birthday, and it’s safe to say that no one will be bringing it as a present to the ranch outside Crawford. Smith, a well-regarded practitioner of military history and Presidential-life writing, comes straight to the point in the first sentence of his preface: ‘Rarely in the history of the United States has the nation been so ill-served as during the presidency of George W. Bush.’

“Smith points out that Bush attended no meetings of the National Security Council in the seven months prior to September 11, 2001. In her reports on these gatherings, Condoleezza Rice—Bush’s national-security adviser, workout partner, and something of an alter ego—tended to synthesize disagreements among the participants, leaving Bush with a false feeling of consensus. The President’s own focus was chiefly on matters like stem-cell-research regulation and the sort of educational reforms he had pushed through a Democratic legislature as governor of Texas.” [How Bad Can a President Be (?), Thomas Mallon, The New Yorker, 4th Jul 2016]

“The former president gave a short eloquent speech in Dallas at the memorial service for five police officers murdered by a sniper. In a slap at Donald Trump, a man loathed by the Bush family, W. said: ‘We do not want the unity of grief nor do we want the unity of fear. We want the unity of hope, affection and high purpose.’

“He is right that the world has had too much of the unity of grief, plunged into the random lightning strikes of mass shootings and terrorist attacks. W. talked in Dallas about ‘finding our better selves.’ If only he had found his in office. Instead, his ghosts are never far away. He must watch as riptides from his mistakes continue to rip up the globe.

“A new biography, ‘Bush,’ by Jean Edward Smith, makes the same points that Trump made when he shook up the Republican orthodoxy and tripped up Jeb — that W. ignored warnings before 9/11 and overreacted after.

‘To argue that by taking the actions that he did, the president kept America safe is meretricious,’ Smith writes, adding: ‘The fact is, the threat of terrorism that confronts the United States is in many respects a direct result of Bush’s decision to invade Iraq in 2003.’

“In 2002, Blair affirmed his lap-dog bona fidos by sending W. a note saying ‘I will be with you, whatever.’ The British public deemed Blair a pariah long ago. But it took the British government seven years to conclude that Blair enabled W. to start a war on dodgy intelligence with inadequate planning to control the killing fields of a post-Saddam landscape, a landscape that eventually spawned ISIS.

“W. comes across as a na├»ve, willful, spangly cartoon cowboy. Sometimes, when at last you get a peek behind the curtain, your worst fears come true.” [W., Borne Back Ceaselessly, Maureen Dowd, The New York Times, 16th Jul 2016]

That’s a mouthful coming from the West. What about back home? Why can’t we move forward as a nation?
“THE Philippines, which claims to be the first democratic government in Asia, is actually ruled by oligarchs.' The oligarchs still rule the country, and Filipinos will forever be the victims of their profiteering,' says political science professor Benito Lim of the Ateneo de Manila University.

“Lim says the oligarchs can be controlled but it will require strong political will. Asked if President Benigno S Aquino III, who continues to enjoy high popularity and trust ratings, can do it, Lim responds: 'Mukhang hindi siya pinakikinggan. Maliit ang boses. [It seems nobody listens to him. Weak.]'

“Members of the oligarchy in the Philippines have 'little corners' of their own and hardly get out of their own spheres of industries, apparently realizing that if they resort to competition, one of them will fall.

“Political analyst Alex Magno says oligarchy is a term in political science which applies to a government controlled by a group. Loosely used, oligarchy can apply to the dominance of the national economy by a few individuals or a group.

“Oligarchy breeds political dynasties. Philippine Star columnist Carmen N Pedrosa believes that oligarchy has become a culture in the Philippines. 'Our culture is so deeply imbibed with the ambition for wealth and power. So when we blame oligarchs for the sorry state of our country, we must also look into ourselves and say yeh, but we also want to be oligarchs or be friends with an oligarch because that is the system.'

‘The trouble is that all this is done under cover of democracy,' Pedrosa said. 'We delude ourselves that we are democratic and we have elections to prove that. There will be few who will accept that if we were to think it through, elections merely vote in or vote out leaders from the same small pool of oligarchs or would-be oligarchs. We need to break out of this vicious oligarchic circle,' she stressed.

“Oligarchs won't allow charter change. Senator Manny Villar says oligarchy is the reason why attempts to amend the economic provisions of the Constitution have failed - three presidents (Fidel Ramos, Joseph Estrada and Gloria Macapagal Arroyo) tried to amend the Constitution in the past 15 years, to no avail.

“‘The media, from what I've seen, is also controlled by groups that do not want to change the Constitution,' the former Senate president adds. 'And that is why any proposal [to amend the Constitution] will be killed right away.'

“The statement of Ateneo's Benito Lim is grim: ‘There is harmony among the oligarchs. Filipinos will continue to be at the mercy of the oligarchs.’” [Filipinos to remain at the mercy of oligarchs, Nick Legaspi, Third World Resurgence No. 251/252, July/August 2011, pp 3-5]

What to do? At the end of every posting, the blog replays this quote: “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]

In other words, like we always defer to our faith as Filipinos, indeed development is not a purely secular exercise.

And so back to Richard Rohr's Daily Meditation: “Only an in-depth spirituality can fully accept the paradox of our flawed humanity . . . Our shadow is often subconscious, hidden even from our own awareness. It takes effort and life-long practice to look for, find, and embrace what we dismiss and what we disdain.

“Our problem is not usually our shadow self nearly as much as our over-defended ego, which always sees, hates, and attacks its own faults in other people, and thus avoids its own conversion . . . Liminality keeps one in an ongoing state of shadowboxing instead of ego-confirmation; it can keep us struggling with the dark side of things, calling the center and so-called normalcy into creative question.

“The movement to full wisdom has much to do with necessary shadow work and the emergence of healthy self-critical thinking, which alone allows you to see beyond your own shadow and disguise and to find who you are . . . There are many ways to do shadow work--the work of seeing and integrating your hidden and denied self. One of the easiest ways to discover your shadow is to observe your negative reactions to others and what pushes your buttons. Most often, what annoys you in someone else is a trait in yourself that you haven't acknowledged.”

“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]

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Paying tribute to Alvin Toffler

“Why We Need to Pick Up Alvin Toffler’s Torch,” Farhad Manjoo, Technology, State of the art, The New York Times, 6th Jul 2016. “Even as the pace of technology keeps increasing, we haven’t developed many good ways, as a society, to think about long-term change.

“Look at the news: Politics has become frustratingly small-minded and shortsighted. We aren’t any better at recognizing threats and opportunities that we see emerging beyond the horizon of the next election.

“Mr. Toffler, who collaborated on ‘Future Shock’ and many of his other books with his wife, Heidi, died last week at 87. It is fitting that his death occurred in a period of weeks characterized by one example of madness after another— a geopolitical paroxysm marked by ISIS bombings, ‘Brexit,’ rumors of Mike Tyson taking the stage at a national political convention and a computer-piloted Tesla crashing into an old-fashioned tractor-trailer. It would be facile to attribute any one of these events to future shock.

“Yet in rereading Mr. Toffler’s book, as I did last week, it seems clear that his diagnosis has largely panned out, with local and global crises arising daily from our collective inability to deal with ever-faster change.”

This writer can relate to Toffler in more ways than one. It was the wife who introduced him to Toffler, and “throw-away” society is one memory he has from the book of the then wife to be. And as a family we know throw-away society firsthand – like renting or buying or building homes and selling if not tearing them down. Compare that to the Filipino “ancestral home.” We would fit the contemporary label “citizens of the world,” committed and involved wherever it is we call home – but not in the traditional sense.

A couple of weeks before the Brexit referendum the writer was in the UK. And he had the nagging sense that it would be a win for the Brexit. The driver of the car service that met him at Heathrow was Chinese of Afghan-Indian descent. The lady at the hotel registration desk was Lithuanian while the waitress at breakfast was Romanian. But the driver that took him to the airport was white. And he was the one who poured his heart out. “It will be a Brexit win,” he averred.

“The Brexit vote has caused political turmoil in London, a collapse in the value of the pound, predictions of a recession and economic uncertainty across the country. American investors have postponed a visit to the North of Ireland, and the Nevin Economic Research Institute, a think tank, has forecast a slowing of growth across the whole of Ireland.

“This referendum had nothing to do with Ireland’s economic interests, or even with reform of the European Union. Instead, it was precipitated by a toxic mix of factional fighting and leadership intrigue within the British Conservative Party and the rise of far-right, anti-immigrant groups like the U.K. Independence Party.” [Brexit and Irish Unity, Gerry Adams, The New York Times, 12th Jul 2016; Gerry Adams serves as a member of the Dail, Ireland’s Parliament, for Louth and is the president of Sinn Fein]

And back in Sofia, the writer’s Bulgarian friends were in a jovial mood, bantering about Brexit and reminding him, “you’ve said a few times not to run around like a headless chicken”? In other words, wealthy nations aren’t exempt from shooting themselves in the foot.

But have we Pinoys ceded superiority, innovation and global competitiveness to them? Because we can't imagine being their equals? For example, investment and technology are not beyond our reach. It is just that we chose to be insular. And so our assumption is we have to reinvent the wheel? And not surprisingly we are the regional laggard. 

“Think less, think better.” Which the blog discussed in prior postings. We have to learn how to look outward and benchmark. Which is not to look for perfection because there is none but to pick and choose best practices and success stories of others.

There is caveat though. We can’t be comparing apples and oranges. Misery may love company but ours is borne out of underdevelopment while those in the West come from post-development, more precisely, post-industrialization.

Putting the cart before the horse – or ideology before reality – is a recipe for disaster.

Where developed and underdeveloped economies come together is in what Manjoo calls small-minded and shortsighted? This made the writer ponder more so while reading (and sitting in New York) an email from a colleague in Sofia. “We are working on the concept for our Corporate communication and year-end presents to our people and friends. Our choices are: ‘restart’ and ‘keep growing.’

“Keep growing. We . . . are growing, branching out, and evolving. It’s part of what makes us better, stronger, alive! We hope that we’ll inspire you to keep growing as well, whatever is your calling – or as a person . . . Our business has expanded to 55 markets. The best part is that now we say ‘Hello’ in 18 different languages every day.

“The aggregate area of all our facilities would put us right behind Nauru, Monaco and the Vatican . . . Communication is a vital part of what we do. Printing all of our emails just for a single year would closely match all the volumes of Encyclopedia Britannica.”

How did the writer react? Let’s keep the science of growing wiser in mind. Growth = wisdom as in wise decision making. Growth raises the quality of information in the brain which translates to greater sensitivity to fine-grained differences, e.g., wise behavior and decisions. Growth gives the knack to take the time to gain insights and perspectives. And then would come the capacity to understand the needs of others. Growth brings meaning and contentment. [Clayton, Goldberg, Ardelt, Staudinger, Carstein, et. al.]

But we Pinoys seem to be programed to buy time – like generations – to come around to wanting to move forward progress-wise and development-wise? Yet the longer we stay as regional laggard, the longer we are deprived of the benefits of growth and development?

Let’s put that to a test. With the benefit of hindsight, it is fair to say we failed to recognize that energy or power and infrastructure are ground zero, a must-do from the get-go? That is the price we pay for being ensconced in “underdeveloped” mode, and missed the sensitivity to fine-grained differences?

Moving up the development ladder, we’re faced with another challenge and that is, to distinguish the options that will drive PH economic output and triple the per capita income of Juan de la Cruz against mere rhetoric if not ideology?

For instance, SMEs account for over 99% of registered enterprises and 2/3 of the workforce yet contribute less than a third of economic output. Can SMEs then be the priority option that will triple the per capita income of Filipinos – which is the aspiration of Juan de la Cruz according to NEDA? More to the point, are our SMEs geared to seek and drive innovation and global competitiveness?

A Western financial institution recently pointed out, the latest among the many that have made a similar pitch, that we must expand the drivers of our economy beyond OFW remittances and the BPO industry.

And the effort has been started for us by the JFC and their seven industry winners under the banner of “Arangkada Philippines.” But are we suffering from the NIH (not invented here) syndrome? That beyond all reason we have yet to find the wherewithal to move forward as a nation? Are we indeed under the spell of the elite class alternating every six years to rule PH with impunity?

We failed to prioritize energy and infrastructure, will we fail again to prioritize the industry sectors that will drive tripling the per capita income of Juan de la Cruz? Until we get a good handle on energy, infrastructure and industry, we are sadly just spinning wheels.

And the longer we stay as regional laggard, the longer we are deprived of the benefits of growth and development.

“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]