Thursday, May 25, 2017

Foresight: To contemplate the future

“It is what distinguishes our species . . . Our singular foresight created civilization and sustains society . . . The power of prospection is what makes us wise. Looking into the future, consciously and unconsciously, is a central function of our large brain, as psychologists and neuroscientists have discovered — rather belatedly, because for the past century most researchers have assumed that we’re prisoners of the past and the present.” [We Aren’t Built to Live in the Moment, Martin E. P. Seligman and John Tierney, The New York Times, 19th May 2017]

Does it explain who and what we are, from our instincts to our philosophy or worldview? And why we prefer the status quo over change and dynamism? We’re proud to live in the moment if not in the past. And “bahala na” and “mañana” come naturally that we are a disaster waiting to happen? And we wonder why innovation and competitiveness don’t define us?

For example, Du30 promised to make miracles within the first 3 months or 6 months of his term. Or has that been taken back? (No different from Trump taking back his campaign rhetoric!) Does that sound like contemplating the future or was it retail and transactional politics and business as usual, promising to cater to populist demands, overnight miracles and dole outs? But we believed it because we are clutching at straws, as though it was something new? Marcos promised the Great Society too!

We wanted to spurn the West and go to bed with China and Russia, and now Du30 says China threatened us, as in “or else we declare war.” What about Russia, the flavor of the month? As some would know, the writer and his Eastern European friends are doing business in Russia – and former Soviet satellite states – and reading how gaga we are about Russia is typical of first-timers, like we have a new toy.

In case we have forgotten, Russia – principally an oligarchy – is yet to be a developed economy, propped up by its oil reserves but reeling from depressed prices like Saudi Arabia. But unlike Saudi Arabia, they have not pursued a Plan B on top of a purposely massive development efforts like the Saudis did, giving the world a glimpse of what tomorrow looks like today.

Put another way, China has economic clout but not Russia.

In a recent post the blog talked about “Social Capital – the social networks and the norms of trustworthiness and reciprocity that arise from them, that is, as they create conditions of trust, cooperation, interdependence and safety,” from the John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University.

Imagine Trump, Putin and Duterte. Would they represent the essence of social capital? 

And . . . surprise, surprise, was it Du30 or his Finance Secretary that wanted to reject the EU aid? Is what we call meddling reflective of our culture of impunity that we instinctively hide through parochialism and insularity? Can we internalize the rule of law? Think Nixon or Clinton re impeachment. Or the appointment of Mueller to probe Trump-Russia ties. And if we have forgotten too, rule of law is central to development, including the journey from poverty to prosperity.

We are so hung up on the West that to this day we see ourselves as victim. When will we grow up? Every Asian Tiger – including China – embraced if not begged for Western money and technology. Get over it! We found another excuse to sweep [our dirt] under the carpet!

How we wish as parents we’re perfect. But perfection is not of this world. Recall the 3 Cs of a hardy mindset (from the work of Robert Brooks of Harvard University), the third being Control. Focus on situations where we have influence over not where we have little if any control; you have control only over yourself, you must be the one to change. Develop a problem-solving attitude; why are you unable to succeed in your efforts?

In short, we must grow up! For example, forget about Thailand copying our economic development blueprints, with due respect to Neda’s AmBisyon Natin 2040, and instead let’s invite – via the Asean – Singapore, China and Malaysia to show us how to replicate the Singapore miracle or the Pearl River Delta economic zone or Iskandar Malaysia.

We have yet to demonstrate a track record in development. Beyond benchmarking, we need an experienced group to guide us through a restructuring initiative, to borrow from a private sector practice.

A restructuring initiative is a rethink of the enterprise. For instance, in the case of the Philippines, we must undo the assumption that we are a service economy if we are to replicate the success of the Asian Tigers – Hong Kong, Singapore, South Korea and Taiwan.

According to Investopedia, they: (a) consistently maintained high levels of economic growth since the 1960s fueled by exports and rapid industrialization, which enabled these economies to join the ranks of the world's richest nations; (b) share common characteristics that include a focus on exports, an educated populace and high savings rates; and (c) were resilient enough to withstand local crises, i.e., theAsian financial crisis of 1997, as well as global shocks, including the credit crunch of 2008.

There is a body of knowledge that resides at Oxford University that explains the journey of nations from poverty to prosperity –  to understand the factors that influence economic development and the different development paths that countries across the world have taken.

They are: (a) from anarchy to a centralized state; (b) from centralized to inclusive states; (c) identities and narratives; economic development needs an alignment between power and identities; (d) growth through urbanization and industrialization; exploiting scale and specialization; (e) external influences that matter and must be managed: trade flows, capital flows, labor flows, and international governance rules.

Sadly, we believe that we know better that the answer is Federalism, for example, if not the war on drugs? And consistent with our downward spiral, martial law is now back in the equation. For a people that missed every economic miracle associated with the Asian Tigers, it is high time we step up to the plate.

We are handicapped foresight-wise to contemplate the future of Juan de la Cruz.

The evidence? The declaration of martial law in Mindanao, among countless others, if we’re not running around like a headless chicken yet.

Mindanao’s problem is not new, who can say all it needs is 6 months of martial law? Recall the 6 months to win the war on drugs or to fix Metro Manila traffic? Just like the rest of our woes, they boil down to our bankruptcy in social capital. We are no longer unnerved by a culture of impunity – the consequence of our contemptible rule-of-law quotient. What a pity! Poor 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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