Sunday, September 11, 2016

Reinventing the wheel . . .

When we have bigger and better things to do. And it starts with community and the common good. Not crab mentality, a product of our insular instincts – that the world has left us behind.

PHL is back to square one, invoking sovereignty and nationalism. This land is my land! What ever happened to entrusted shepherds? How would we do the accounting on the day of reckoning? Why do we say free enterprise like freedom isn’t unfettered? That check-and-balance must be built into the system?

Surprise, surprise! Ours is a culture of impunity – aka as a state of lawlessness?

This writer, then (1982) based in Manila, remembers being perplexed when an expat friend reacted differently following his proud acquiescence to the Marcos mantra of “disiplina ang kailangan.” And the rest, as they say, is history: People Power turned us into the center of the universe.

Today we’re back to square one, invoking sovereignty and nationalism! Where is Vietnam? We can name another country – once poor like we are – with no difficulty? When will we ever learn? Consider the level of – and persistent – poverty we have against what the rest of the world has accomplished.

“Poverty is the starting point for all societies. What is astonishing is how fast it has receded. In 1820, 94% of humanity subsisted on less than $2 a day in modern money. That fell to 37% in 1990 and less than 10% in 2015.” [Better and Better; The state of the world. The Economist, 3rd Sept 2016]

But we’ve yet to appreciate the relevance of underdevelopment . . . to poverty and . . . lawlessness? And that of the rule of law to our stunted development? “But what concerns me even more is the notion that the President was conducting a scholarly inquiry, a symposium, to ‘provoke thought’ about what it means to be human. If that were true, then the reality is even more forbidding.

“If President Duterte or Father Tabora ever ventured a similar thought about, say, the rebel stragglers who continue to rally behind Nur Misuari, or the communist insurgents who look askance at the ongoing peace talks, and called them less than human, imagine the outcry! Will Father Tabora, a staunch environmentalist and antimining advocate, ever find it advisable to ask: ‘Are pro-mining people even human?’ Will the President, perhaps to confound Beijing, ever ask: ‘Are the Chinese truly human?’

“The question is absurd on its face, and an invitation to violence. It is therefore eminently the province of a university to call out the President on this provocation, not to defend it as an exercise in provoking thought. The real-world consequences . . . are measured in lives and opportunities lost.

“My dear Father Tabora’s language about virtue and vice is similarly problematic. ‘Du30’s anger against illegal drug use is a virtue. Not caring is the vice.’ This is a false choice, which academics should be the first to criticize. Not aligning with Mr. Duterte’s self-righteous war does not mean not caring; pointing out that the kill-the-users approach did not work in many other countries does not mean not caring; looking out for the human rights of drug users (we are not talking even of drug pushers or drug lords here, but mere users) does not mean not caring.” [‘Are they human?’ is a dangerous doctrine, John NeryPhilippine Daily Inquirer, 6th Sept 2016]

What would President Duterte and Father Tabora have in common? With due respect, that they know what they are against? And they’re in good company like the Vatican Curia – against this and against that – and Francis is battling them?

“Mature spirituality creates willing people instead of willful people. We slowly unfold in response to love and grace and freedom, rather than in mere reaction to the illusions of others. Without this insight, religion largely creates rigid, unhappy, and judgmental people. When we try to take charge of our own ‘enlightenment,’ when we try to be fully in control of our own ‘purity’ and superiority, our attitude becomes pushing and demanding—ego assertion, even if it looks like religious ego assertion.

“Immature religion creates people who know what they are against, but have a very poor sense of what they are for. They are against sin, always as they narrowly define it; but they are seldom for love or actually for anything except the status quo where they think they are in control. This is indeed ‘the world’ and will never get them very far if they are trapped within it—unless they recognize this same world as pervaded with heaven . . . The world is good in its wholeness, but our little portion of separated parts is never the whole, so we must leave our addiction to the system to discover the Empire of God. We must always let go of full control over the parts to love and accept the whole.” [Richard Rohr's Daily Meditation, 31st Aug 2016]

What are we for? Or do we know where we want to be? Like to be grown and developed as nature meant?

‘Our religions often stand for the very opposite of what their founders stood for,’ notes Brian D. McLaren, a former pastor, in a provocative and powerful new book, ‘The Great Spiritual Migration.’

“Founders are typically bold and charismatic visionaries who inspire with their moral imagination, while their teachings sometimes evolve into ingrown, risk-averse bureaucracies . . . That tension is especially pronounced with Christianity, because Jesus was a radical who challenged the establishment, while Christianity has been so successful that in much of the world it is the establishment.” [What Religion Would Jesus Belong To (?), Nicholas Kristof, The New York Times, 3rd Sept 2016]

And in the case of PHL, the establishment wants to invoke sovereignty and nationalism? And Juan de la Cruz cries “Amen”! When will we ever learn?

Let’s google “fanatic” – “a person filled with excessive and single-minded zeal, especially for an extreme religious or political cause.” And religious fanatics: “zealotextremistmilitant, dogmatist, devoteesectarianbigotchauvinistpartisanradicaldiehardultra, activist,apologistadherent, etc.” And ideologue: “one whose conduct is guided more by the image of perfection than by the real world.”

Could Juan de la Cruz be a fanatic that is subservient to the hierarchy? Does it explain the why of Marcos – and now Duterte? But what if our system is dysfunctional as the Duterte administration claims to justify extra-judicial killings? Precisely, we’re back to square one!

How many times would we want to reinvent the wheel? Not until we internalize community and the common good – and embrace a sense of purpose? And given our subservience, we need a leadership that can edify us? If that leader is yet to be born, after Marcos and Duterte will come another?

“The world is good in its wholeness, but our little portion of separated parts is never the whole, so we must leave our addiction to the system to discover the Empire of God. We must always let go of full control over the parts to love and accept the whole.” [The writer cannot illustrate crab mentality better than that.]

Because if we can’t see the whole, we will be unable to rise above the vicious circle – of reinventing the wheel . . . time and time again!

Of course we’re not alone. Even the West, having shot itself in the foot (aka greed) and still hurting from the Great Recession, appears to be floundering. With a little help from Obama’s perceived weakness, and not to be outdone, from across the pond, the Brexit. Not surprisingly, Russia and China can’t hide their glee, flexing their muscles to taunt Uncle Sam.

And Trump’s blusters raised the specter of fascism which he finds relishing – that the greater the fear he stokes the more he plays to the far right elements, including the KKK. The good news is level-headed Republicans see through his rants via his teeming ignorance reflected in his inability to debate policy or ideology. Indeed, a wheeler-dealer can be a billionaire. But president? God forbid, so says Bloomberg, the mayor – and the bigger billionaire.

Duterte is Trump redux? Or Trump is Duterte redux? We’re not even in the league of our neighbors. For example, as the outgoing CB Governor of India avers, monetary and fiscal policies are not the be-all and end-all in development. Our economy is driven by the over 10 million OFWs – which we want to gloss over. Didn’t the previous administration brag about raising exports to over $100-B? As of last count we had 15 straight months of declining exports. And we’re less than halfway where we must be.

And we don’t want to play with fire. “Nationalism and fascism are very similar . . . to some extent fascism is a revolutionary form of ultra-nationalism. Both stress the importance of cultural and sometimes ethnic traditions . . . The driving force behind fascism: the secular, ultra-nationalist vision of the nation as a unique historical, cultural, racial, ethnic organism which is now sick/degenerate/decadent/weak which is about to be reborn, regenerated in a new post-liberal ‘new order to become strong.’

“Fascism unlike various forms of nationalism idolizes a leader, a leader cult; whereas nationalism idolizes the nation collectively, not individually.” [Clarian Jones, PhD student in Scottish history, University of Edinburgh]

The bottom line: To keep reinventing the wheel is to be stuck like we are development-wise for decades. Organisms grow and develop. That is what we must be for.

Put another way, if we want to be treated like a Singapore, we must first be a Singapore. People go with winners not losers. Consider: Singapore instead of blaming Malaysia could only smile that the joke which was supposed to be on them went the other way. The tiny piece of land bequeathed to them was meant to be unlivable: for something as basic as water they had to beg their neighbor . . . And Marcos would beg Lee not for water but for money? Do we want to be beggars or choosers?

“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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