Monday, August 29, 2016

Why we struggle in the 21st century

Call it national pride which every nation has. Still, we better objectively assess where we are in the distribution curve of peoples and nations? Human undertakings – including our efforts to raise PH global competitiveness, for instance – are precisely that, human. Enablers like strategy, structures, systems and even technology are critical. But the ability to pull them together is informed by their mindset and worldview and culture and similar soft elements.

We assumed that being a poor country we can’t be equal to the West? Because we don’t have the means – starting with capital and technology. But we know about Vietnam. And before that the Asian tigers. Singapore’s per capita income is greater than that of the US, for example.

Didn’t we also assume that leadership must be parochial? That it must be hierarchical, and for good measure we expect our leaders to be paternalistic? Is leadership any of the above? What if we add patronage, cronyism and oligarchy? Do they in fact explain why we’re the regional laggard?

Which brings us full circle to global competition and the culture of innovation. What leadership isn’t can be said of innovation as well. Leadership is about getting the best in people and innovation clearly is no different. How do we get the best in people? Not if we don’t see them as equals. Simply put, it’s a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Take the war on drugs. Will the killing field win the war? At what price? Did shock and awe win in Iraq? Or more to the point, has America won the war on drugs? “The drug war is not working, and if alternatives are not considered now, a solution may never be possible.” []

Benchmarking is inherent in the pursuit of excellence – and to get the best in people. But we still believe “Pinoy abilidad” is our ideal? Have we heard about Portugal? “14 Years After Decriminalizing All Drugs, Here's What Portugal Looks Like,” Zeeshan Aleem,, 11th Feb 2015. “In 2001, the Portuguese government did something that the United States would find entirely alien. After many years of waging a fierce war on drugs, it decided to flip its strategy entirely: It decriminalized them all.

“If someone is found in the possession of less than a 10-day supply of anything from marijuana to heroin, he or she is sent to a three-person Commission for the Dissuasion of Drug Addiction, typically made up of a lawyer, a doctor and a social worker. The commission recommends treatment or a minor fine; otherwise, the person is sent off without any penalty. A vast majority of the time, there is no penalty.

“Fourteen years after decriminalization, Portugal has not been run into the ground by a nation of drug addicts. In fact, by many measures, it's doing far better than it was before.

“The background: In 1974, the dictatorship that had isolated Portugal from the rest of the world for nearly half a century came to an end. The Carnation Revolution was a bloodless military-led coup that sparked a tumultuous transition from authoritarianism to democracy and a society-wide struggle to define a new Portuguese nation. 

“The newfound freedom led to a raucous attitude of experimentalism toward politics and economy and, as it turned out, hard drugs. Portugal's dictatorship had insulated it from the drug culture that had swept much of the Western world earlier in the 20th century, but the coup changed everything. After the revolution, Portugal gave up its colonies, and colonists and soldiers returned to the country with a variety of drugs. Borders opened up and travel and exchange were made far easier. Located on the westernmost tip of the continent, the country was a natural gateway for trafficking across the continent. Drug use became part of the culture of liberation, and the use of hard narcotics became popular. Eventually, it got out of hand, and drug use became a crisis.

“At first, the government responded to it as the United States is all too familiar with: a conservative cultural backlash that vilified drug use and a harsh, punitive set of policies led by the criminal justice system. Throughout the 1980s, Portugal tried this approach, but to no avail: By 1999, nearly 1% of the population was addicted to heroin, and drug-related AIDS deaths in the country were the highest in the European Union, according to the New Yorker.

“But by 2001, the country decided to decriminalize possession and use of drugs, and the results have been remarkable. What's gotten better? In terms of usage rate and health, the data show that Portugal has by no means plunged into a drug crisis . . . the proportion of the population that reports having used drugs at some point saw an initial increase after decriminalization, but then a decline.

“Drug use has declined overall among the 15- to 24-year-old population, those most at risk of initiating drug use . . . There has also been a decline in the percentage of the population who have ever used a drug and then continue to do so.

“HIV infection rates among injecting drug users have been reduced at a steady pace, and has become a more manageable problem in the context of other countries with high rates . . . And a widely cited study published in 2010 in the British Journal of Criminology found that after decriminalization, Portugal saw a decrease in imprisonment on drug-related charges alongside a surge in visits to health clinics that deal with addiction and disease.

“Not a cure but certainly not a disaster: Many advocates for decriminalizing or legalizing illicit drugs around the world have gloried in Portugal's success. They point to its effectiveness as an unambiguous sign that decriminalization works.

“But some social scientists have cautioned against attributing all the numbers to decriminalization itself, as there are other factors at play in the national decrease in overdoses, disease and usage.

“At the turn of the millennium, Portugal shifted drug control from the Justice Department to the Ministry of Health and instituted a robust public health model for treating hard drug addiction. It also expanded the welfare system in the form of a guaranteed minimum income. Changes in the material and health resources for at-risk populations for the past decade are a major factor in evaluating the evolution of Portugal's drug situation.

“Alex Stevens, a professor of criminal justice at the University of Kent and co-author of the aforementioned criminology article, thinks the global community should be measured in its takeaways from Portugal. The main lesson to learn decriminalizing drugs doesn't necessarily lead to disaster, and it does free up resources for more effective responses to drug-related problems.”

Aside from the war on drugs President Duterte made other headlines. “Macoy should be kept where he is cherished, not where he can be spat and pooh-poohed on. And it would cost a humongous sum to prevent such possible desecration in terms of additional sekyus (who’s spending for the announced transfer and the year-round security?). No need though for an epitaph saying HERE A LAWYER LIES STILL or HERE A LAWYER STILL STEALS.

“The time has not yet come. The Marcoses still have to acknowledge the gross human rights violations (kleptocracy established by our Supreme Court on July 15, 2003) that occurred in their time, say sorry, and just maybe put up a fund for the treatment and burial of aging ailing victims and scholarships for deserving apos with the talent and integrity of their ancestor. Then, the healing may begin. Meantime, patience, while 75,000 human rights compensation claims are being processed.

“Digong wants a new organization vice the UN. What if only North Korea, Syria and Somalia apply? He still has to acquire the gravitas of a statesman-diplomat. ‘Above all, no zeal,’ advises Talleyrand. Digong may well be a diamond in the rough but he has to stop telling people publicly what he thinks of them and their ancestors, or their sexual orientation. This is 2016. Human dignity matters. It has always mattered. But, he seems to treat serious matters as jokes.

“Gravitas I do not see in BongBong Marcos, either. People talk of how he lost to Leni Robredo by a slim margin . . . That is not how I see it. BB has billions and a well-known name (if controversial), vital in name recall, I am told.

“Raissa Robles had a 2012 story on how BB ‘had a direct hand in trying to withdraw US$213M from a Swiss bank in 1986.’ Ill-gotten wealth. BB has the Solid North. He dissembled about his nonexistent degrees from elite British and American universities.

“Leni comparatively has nothing but a good non-controversial name. She would take the bus to and from Naga, alone (she has security now). Unassuming, I sensed, when she was my grad law school stude in San Beda in 2013. I read somewhere that she candidly admitted having taken the bar exam twice (like Claro Recto, Hillary Clinton and Gerry Spence). The virtue of candor. No talk of bogus Oxford and Princeton degrees.” [Leni’s slam-dunk, LMB and Plaza Miranda, Rene Saguisag, The Manila Times, 26th Aug 2016]

How do we rate or rank Marcos versus Duterte versus Juan de la Cruz? Aren’t we about rank and its privileges? And why we struggle in the 21st century?

And we want to resurrect Marcos in Duterte? Didn’t Marcos show us how to toss oligarchies and dynasties? Now we cheer Duterte whether he tacks left or tacks right, whether he flip-flops or whatever? Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Have our memories deserted us? Are we praying for a despot? Try Putin or al-Assad? Or talk to Eastern Europeans? Visit this writer; he is flying to Sofia on 19 Sept. Hint: they will laugh in our face – you don’t want to be led by the nose!

“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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