Monday, April 3, 2017

Institutionalizing tyranny

“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]

Are we surprised why despite Rizal’s admonition over a century ago we still created a Marcos and a Duterte? It comes with the territory, best described as our “culture” and defined as: parochial and insular; hierarchical and paternalistic; political patronage and dynasties; and oligarchic; that what comes out of the hopper is a culture of impunity.

“Journalists on Duterte’s tirade: Mindset of a petty tyrant,”, 31st Mar 2017. “It was a brazen abuse of your immense power as chief executive of this land and only shows how little, if any, appreciation you have of democracy and governance.”

It goes beyond Duterte. We mirror a banana republic the fact that three presidents had to be chased out of Malacañang. Yet Marcos, Estrada and Macapagal-Arroyo have been resurrected? Should we pause and think that through and internalize it?

And by the way, Du30 wants the US to confront China while on the high seas? The Gunfight at the OK Corral? What would have happened if Khrushchev asked his commanders to confront the US blockade of Cuba?

And what about those analysts that are heaping praises and giving credit to PH? Consider: (a) how many credit-rating upgrades we got during PNoy’s time; (b) two years ago we saw how manufacturing was ticking up; (c) and today exports appear to be taking a turn for the better. The halo effect is coming from the 6%-7% GDP growth we’ve been delivering for several years now.

Recall our three income generators – OFW remittances, the BPO industry and tourism – are driving consumption, including local manufacturing and a bit of export, such that our local output matches those of our neighbors. That is the asset side of our ledger; while the liability side says, we lag in exports – big time – and remain the regional laggard. Yet we see 1+1 = 3, erroneously reading our net worth.

The bottom line: we’re nowhere near being the next Asian Tiger. Because we have no game plan to stick to and aggressively drive, we allowed ourselves to be distracted by these accolades – including the self-generated ones as in Narcissus.

For example, we don’t have the platform – i.e., the synergy amongst energy, infrastructure development and industrialization – and the elements that the Four Asian Tigers shared to join the ranks of the world’s richest nations – i.e., fueled by exports and rapid industrialization; and focused on exports, an educated populace and high savings rates.

In other words, these now rich nations that were once poor like us knew what dots to connect – and connected them. While we continue to suffer under the cloud of dualism and either/or debates.

You don’t like narco-politics, then you must embrace EJKs! You don’t like Mexicans and Muslims take your jobs away or put your security at risk, then you must embrace parochialism and insularity! The difference? The US has 3 branches and check-and-balance is supreme.

But back to the analysts. Who are they? They never saw the Global Recession of 2009 coming yet a decade earlier two Nobel Prize winners piloted the collapse of their hedge fund, Long-Term Capital Management – that the financial market had to be rescued to preempt a contagion. And more recently Buffett took them to task for charging premium fees for wealth management services even when they can’t beat the S&P 500 index.

Of course, they can move “hot money” in a split second globally – or as fast as Trump sends out tweets. And we Pinoys celebrate even hot money when it is FDI that we need if we want sustained levels of investment from foreigners. Beggars can’t be choosers yet we say we don’t like Western influence. What are we and who are we?

On the other hand, the “common tao” sees reality with a 20/20 vision because he intimately knows Juan de la Cruz and his poverty. And who among us don’t have an advocacy to help the poor? Yet unwittingly, are we institutionalizing poverty? See above re hierarchical and paternalistic. Recall even Washington owned slaves.

What about our servants or muchachas? Do we expect them to move up the hierarchy or are they part of the family and yet their destiny has been cast in stone? How many of us see it as a positive that muchacha A took care of our oldest daughter? But that is why we enacted “batas kasambahay”!

It is a most glaring demonstration of our hierarchical and paternalistic instincts. And it explains why innovation and competitiveness isn’t us. It is our own caste system. Because innovation is the acknowledgment of the hierarchy of human needs. The Soviet-communist system discounted human needs and where are they today?

For example, they sold most everything in the village store for the equivalent of today’s 50 euro cents, to make them affordable, but without regard whether they were fit for human consumption. Yet the commissars had their version of the US military Officers’ Club, where they had goods and services fit for royalty. Are we any different?

When the writer introduced his Eastern European friends to the challenge of innovation, they were surprised that the first lesson was on Maslow’s hierarchy of human needs. “But we are poor Bulgarians. We can’t even imagine being peddled anything that is not meant to be affordable.”

The writer replays the anecdote every time he is in the training room with new marketing and sales folks. “How many of you wear designer jeans? How many of you have a smartphone?” And then the writer pulls out his trusty Nokia phone: “Who wants this phone?” Nokia once held the distinction of dominating the global cellphone market with cheap phones they sold in India and China. Because they believed in the bottom of the pyramid.

Do we get the drift?

Our creative juices are constricted when we assume that Juan de la Cruz must be peddled only cheap products. It is not only Juan de la Cruz whose destiny we cast in stone. Worse is we defined ourselves as consumers and not . . . innovators . . . and . . . creators a.k.a. “pwede na ‘yan.” And erroneously reading our net worth. [See above re 1+1 = 3. Are we in denial, a symptom of our “Dutch Disease”?]

They are the crux of why innovation and competitiveness isn’t us. And why we fall into dualism and the trap of either/or debates – and enamored by the war on drugs and the war on poverty.

We have forgotten the law of nature, that our muchachas must not be confined to the role of pariah, and have needs beyond the physiological. And not to forget, they are made in the image and likeness of The Creator.

And we have forgotten the laws of physics – and why crab mentality is us.

As well as the reality of evolution and extinction – the risk that comes beyond regional laggard – if we don’t grow and develop.

We all know how much we suffer from our infrastructure deficits. And how embarrassed we are traveling to visit our neighbors. But how can we move from the war on poverty and the war on drugs and thinking livelihood enterprises to thinking rapid industrialization to drive growth and development?

Where are we coming from?

“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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