Friday, March 3, 2017

People Power: Back to square-one

“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]

The writer is on a plane back to New York (from their annual homecoming.) It is the day after the two Edsa celebrations, one in Edsa and the other in Luneta. Talk of a divided nation, no different from the US. And he wonders how to capture what is happening back home. And the above quote – which he thinks apt – is among those that are reprised to conclude every posting – to keep the blog in the straight and narrow.

“Duterte tempting a coup, says US historian,” Fe ZamoraPhilippine Daily Inquirer, 26th Feb 2017. “The 1986 Edsa People Power Revolution succeeded in dismantling the Marcos dictatorship, but its failure to realize the promised change under democracy paved the way for another populist strongman in the person of President Rodrigo Duterte, an American historian said.

“The dreams of Edsa failed because former President Cory Aquino resorted to localized violence to suppress countryside ferment, said Alfred McCoy, an expert in Southeast Asian studies . . . that investigated Filipino political dynasties and the military institution.

“President Duterte, who won last year, has promised ‘to bring change,’ a vow that has captured the imagination of Filipinos aching for reforms since the 1986 Edsa People Power Revolution ousted Marcos and installed Aquino.

“But like Marcos, Duterte has used ‘localized bloodletting’ even as he promised order and development for Filipinos . . . Rights groups say that since he took office, more than 7,000 have died in his war on drugs.

“All of the new populist leaders around the world, they always promise change, they always say they are the sole owner of change, that they can make the change happen. This is a very unrealistic position.

“In any large complex society, no single individual, not even the head of state, can actually produce meaningful change. It’s got to come from the participation of the citizenry.”

And that’s also why the blog always talks about Juan de la Cruz. As one who commented on the postings said, “you seem to know who we are.” Born and raised. And it helps when one finds himself looking from the outside in. As the writer’s Bulgarian friend would say during his early visits, “we appreciate it when you reinforce the things we do right, but please don’t forget to call our attention whenever we are a disaster waiting to happen.”

Can we Filipinos say that to a foreigner? We are offended when another Pinoy would say it like it is especially when she lives overseas. On the other hand, we want to throw the red carpet to the OFWs because they keep the economy afloat. Of course that is a reflection of our humanity and can be excused. Yet, we must pause and ask ourselves, we see the hypocrisy in the West, and we’re exempt from it? [Consider this example: “The Philippines has the fastest-growing H.I.V. infection rate in Asia, along with Afghanistan. Right now, the Philippines runs the risk of letting the infection get out of control.” The New York Times, 28th Feb 2017.]

In the name of nationalism, we want to keep our borders shut that our Constitution is so designed; yet we talk of our favorite Indonesian interests as though they’re one of us? As the blog has argued, water seeks its own level. So, yes, FDI will flow where they are welcomed. But let’s not be ideologues and omnipotent-like. It is akin to smuggling; we keep our borders sealed while vested interest profits from it.

Consider: “The report likewise saw a definite trend toward emphasizing the global community, from civic literacy and citizenship and global and cultural awareness to social responsibility. Another up and coming skill is the ability to demonstrate flexibility and adaptability—an outcome of living in a fast-paced, digital environment in which information and situations change rapidly. [The] aim is to teach students to not only recognize the fast pace of the digital world but also to take it upon themselves to seek out the new and innovative.” [More on 21st-century skill sets, Butch HernandezPhilippine Daily Inquirer, 11th Feb 2017]

But like Trump, are we proud of our nationalism and isolationism? For instance, Trump hasn’t explained how he can bring back, say, call-center jobs when the pay scales are too low by US standards. It is about interdependence. No country can be standalone; it’s the law of nature. And why water seeks its own level. And best exemplified by the global supply chain behind the iPhones and cars, among countless others.

Which we also forget when we Pinoys say that we are poised to sustain growth because we aren’t export-oriented! Do we recognize why innovation isn’t us? Are we in a race to the bottom, to extinction? Who can be frozen in time? Tyranny and oligarchy clearly want to but not those committed to advance the nation forward!

Arguably, “Most families are ruled by an autocratic parent or both who do not allow open and honest conversations. The same with the dominant religion that purports to have all the answers and does not allow dissent or open discussions.” [Hernandez, op. cit.] But they do swear by love and compassion?

Can compassion drift into tyranny via paternalism which feeds on hierarchy, where rank has its privileges? Not unlike nationalism when it migrates to fascism? And why a culture is self-reinforcing and perpetuating and nourishing. And it doesn’t help when the educational system trains us in logical yet linear thinking when the real world – in the 21st century – demands collaboration and teamwork, and model thinking, beyond individual work.

And so in Singapore classrooms are organized around a computer shared by a small group of kids, creating a powerful learning experience in collaboration and teamwork. Yet a Singaporean acquaintance would share their concern that the Singaporean youth may no longer have the fire in the belly like they had in the past, and could be left behind. And she gave Japan as an example.

What if we examine one of our own major concerns – that of energy – because it is wanting and is the most expensive in the region? What is the desired outcome of an energy initiative? Is it to demonstrate our compassion and desire to help the poor or to accelerate growth and development – to be a competitive, developed and a wealthy nation?

Energy is a fundamental element of the broader ecosystem that is imperative if we are to be an Asian tiger. We must harness energy and infrastructure development and industrialization and raise our ability to attract investment, including FDI and technology. While to accept that services indeed will dwarf industry and agriculture in the makeup of our GDP is wrongheaded.

We don’t need to be economists to think that through. That our neighbors did it one after the other says it is not rocket science. But think Steve Jobs and connect the dots, his definition of creativity. It may mean that we must step on toes – a.k.a. sacred cows – because to submit to tyranny is to love it . . . and perpetuate tyranny.

How much have we borrowed to keep CCT going, for instance? Development efforts will indeed raise the bill for Juan de la Cruz, but that is why government needs greater and greater revenues. But the PH revenue base will remain deficient given we see our world as tied to the past – and why we’re still in our dark ages.

Which comes first, the chicken or the egg? Are we surprised that the jeepney is still around as a key mode of transportation? Can we imagine and visualize a different and a more modern, efficient and productive public transportation ecosystem instead of living with what we got? To change or to reform is not us? And why we can’t act?

No amount of progress and advancement coming from our neighbors can influence us? Because we’re simply inward-looking and parochial and insular? [Consider: Vietnam gains on PHL to top ASEAN PMI, BusinessWorld, 2nd Mar 2017]

Yet we forget that we are getting ahead of ourselves when we commiserate with the problems of the developed and wealthy nations of the West, a.k.a. globalization and technology. Because we can’t keep our eye on the ball. And the ball is simply, we are an underdeveloped economy and an underdeveloped nation. 

Nations rise and fall. Recall Spain conquered a great many lands yet today isn’t considered wealthy. Empires will rise and fall. And it can happen to a US too. But it is not PH that will rise if we don’t reinvent Juan de la Cruz. 

“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]

“National prosperity is created, not inherited. It does not grow out of a country’s natural endowments, its labor pool, its interest rates, or its currency’s value, as classical economics insists . . . A nation’s competitiveness depends on the capacity of its industry to innovate and upgrade.” [The Competitive Advantage of Nations, Michael E. Porter, Harvard Business Review, March–April 1990]

“Learning and innovation go hand in hand. The arrogance of success is to think that what you did yesterday will be sufficient for tomorrow.” [William Pollard, 1911-1989, physicist-priest, Manhattan Project]

“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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