Friday, August 26, 2016

At home with insularity

Are we or aren’t we? Whcat if we’d google “insularity”? Insularity is synonymous to narrow-mindedness, blinkered approach/attitude, parochialism, provincialism, localism, narrowness, small-mindedness, pettiness, short-sightedness, myopia, inflexibility, dogmatism, illiberality, intolerance, prejudice, bigotry, bias, etc., etc.”

Would insularity then explain our inability to develop the instincts of community and the common good? And so we want out of the UN? It’s not even surprising. The UN is a much bigger community, the community of nations. And we expect the UN to be perfect – perfectly in sync with the Pinoy worldview?

And what is that worldview? Do we point to history and/or our colonizers to explain what we call destiny? Whatever happened to community and the common good? But do we wear our faith on our sleeve?

“The binary, dualistic mind cannot deal with contradictions, paradox, or mystery, all of which are at the heart of religion. Sadly, a large percentage of religious people become and remain quite rigid thinkers because their religion taught them that to be faithful, obedient, and stalwart in the ways of God, they had to seek some ideal ‘order’ instead of growing in their capacity for love. These are not bad people; they simply never learned much about living inside of paradox and mystery as the very nature of faith.” [Richard Rohr's Daily Meditation, 21st Aug 2016]

“Our biggest problems, bad governance and corruption, are problems about people, not (necessarily) of political structure or political consciousness, not (necessarily) political institutions. They are subjective, not objective, concerns.” [Federalism, for what (?), Florin T. Hilbay, inquirerdotnet, 8th Aug 2016; former solicitor general Hilbay teaches at the UP College of Law, where he offers a course on constitution drafting.]

In other words, do we acknowledge that we are the problem? SolGen Hilbay is talking about federalism yet his treatise has universal application? “People will not wake up to a new constitution that will magically confer upon them the ability to govern themselves well or make them less corrupt.”

And “How do we change from unitary to federal?”, Lito Monico C. Lorenzana, The Manila Times, 10th Aug 2016. “If . . . preconditions are not put in place and we proceed with a transition to a federal government, then we may have a government much worse than we currently have.

“Consider the scenarios: (a) We would have allowed the same personalities and political parties controlled by dynasties into the federal states, each establishing their fiefdoms, possibly with their own private armies and untrammeled looting of the States’ resources; (b) Control by the local elite and oligarchy of the economy and the political structure would result in regulatory capture of government agencies. This would all be fortified by a patronage system flourishing within a much smaller State area and population.

“This will result in inequality, a greater gap between the ‘haves and the have-nots,’ weaken citizens’ participation in governance and eventually destroy democracy. Then the mantra ‘Change is Coming’ would have been a total disaster!”

“[F]ederalism, as a concept, does not really have any content beyond ideas such as having clear lines of separation between the state and the federal government, or dual sovereignty, or subsidiarity, or some other fancy legal term. The truth is that federalism is as federalism does, and only the details of any federalism project can reveal its various practical meanings.

“The relevant question is therefore not whether we should become a federal republic, but what we want to use federalism for. Federalism is but an instrument, a vehicle for carrying solutions in a new constitution. It is a structural platform that will constitute the base in which the nuts-and-bolts solution to our social problems will be grounded and fastened. You cannot judge the beauty of a house by just looking at its foundation.

“The way to unpack the President’s federalism project is through a clarification of purpose(s), by asking which problems he is trying to solve.

“Here’s a basic laundry list: Is this about the inefficiencies and injustices caused by “Imperial Manila”? Does he see our unitary state as a source of the political and bureaucratic bottleneck that has only served as a barrier to provincial growth? Has our Manila-centric politics failed to unlock the vast potential of the other regions, and sapped resources away from them? Is the attention lavished on Manila so undue as to suppress the identities of the various ethnic communities in the country? Is this about the flow of taxes and wealth, such that we need a constitutional re-piping of the channels of resources to allow a more equitable distribution of income? Is this about who gets to control our natural resources? Or is this about the sale of agricultural lands? How will a federal structure change the way basic services are conceptualized and delivered?

“We need to see the fine print so we can compute costs and benefits.

“At the same time, while federalism may be able to offer theoretical advantages, that certainly is only half the picture. How the text of the new constitution will interact with Philippine society is the other half. Will the paper change result in a transformation of political culture and governance? The interaction between law and culture is an entirely separate challenge. Convincing the people to ratify a new constitution is easier than making them change their ways. There are simply no models that can predict the impact of a new constitution on individual consciousness and institutional practices.” [Hilbay, op. cit.]

Why are we unable to build this nation and move from an underdeveloped to a developed state? Isn't it the law of nature? The exception being Bondying?

Do we take self-government for granted? And that Western-style democracy doesn’t suit our temperament and our culture?

Let's dissect that. Do we believe that our human development quotient (HDQ) is cast in stone? Nation-building is not about IQ or even EQ? It is HDQ? That is, we have yet to rise above and beyond the dark ages and pursue an egalitarian ethos?

Parochialism, hierarchy and paternalism go against this ethos and, worse, is an insult to The Creator? Add to that political patronage, cronyism and oligarchy? We may assert high IQ or even EQ, but does our culture explain our HDQ?

The architects of the first democracies of the modern era, post-revolutionary France and the United States, claimed a line of descent from classical Greek demokratia – ‘government of the people by the people for the people’, as Abraham Lincoln put it.”

“We may live in a very different and much more complex world, but without the ancient Greeks we wouldn’t even have the words to talk about many of the things we care most about. Take politics for example: apart from the word itself (from polis, meaning city-state or community) many of the other basic political terms in our everyday vocabulary are borrowed from the ancient Greeks: monarchy, aristocracy, tyranny, oligarchy and – of course – democracy.

“The origin of the Athenian democracy of the fifth and fourth centuries can be traced back to Solon, who flourished in the years around 600 BC. Solon was a poet and a wise statesman but not – contrary to later myth – a democrat. He did not believe in people-power as such. But it was Solon's constitutional reform package that laid the basis on which democracy could be pioneered almost 100 years later by a progressive aristocrat called Cleisthenes.

“Cleisthenes was the son of an Athenian, but the grandson and namesake of a foreign Greek tyrant, the ruler of Sicyon in the Peloponnese. For a time, he was also the brother-in-law of the Athenian tyrant, Peisistratus, who seized power three times before finally establishing a stable and apparently benevolent dictatorship. It was against the increasingly harsh rule of Peisistratus's eldest son that Cleisthenes championed a radical political reform movement which in 508/7 ushered in the Athenian democratic constitution.”

“By the time of Aristotle (fourth century BC) there were hundreds of Greek democracies. Greece in those times was not a single political entity but rather a collection of some 1,500 separate poleis or 'cities' scattered round the Mediterranean and Black Sea shores 'like frogs around a pond', as Plato once charmingly put it. Those cities that were not democracies were either oligarchies – where power was in the hands of the few richest citizens – or monarchies, called 'tyrannies' in cases where the sole ruler had usurped power by force rather than inheritance. Of the democracies, the oldest, the most stable, the most long-lived, but also the most radical, was Athens.” [The Democratic Experiment, Professor Paul Cartledge, BBC-History-Ancient-Greeks-Greek Democracy., 17th Feb 2011]

Why are we unable to build this nation? Can we imagine being in the 21st century and mirroring tendencies from days BC? Wittingly or not, do we justify things archaic as representations of our culture? 

Can we step up to the challenge of self-government and nation-building? “People will not wake up to a new constitution that will magically confer upon them the ability to govern themselves well or make them less corrupt.” [Hilbay, op. cit.]

“If . . . preconditions are not put in place . . . then we may have a government much worse than we currently have.” [Lorenzana, op. cit.] And “The way to unpack the President's federalism project is through a clarification of purpose(s) . . .” [Hilbay, op. cit.] But that demands being forward-looking and not living in the past? And when all is said and done, the future is in our hands?

“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]

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